Browns' Shurmur gets defensive on punt


Browns' Shurmur gets defensive on punt

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Browns rookie linebacker Craig Robertson walked into the locker room Monday wearing a black T-shirt with ``Fourth & Inches'' written across the front.

Apparently someone forgot to tell him ``4th-and-1'' was in fashion.

Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur defended his decision to punt on 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 17-13 loss to Indianapolis, a choice that didn't sit well with new owner Jimmy Haslam, who folded his legs in his suite and frowned as the Browns lined up to kick the ball back to the Colts with 6:38 left.

Shurmur, who fell to 5-18 in his second season, reasoned there was still enough time left for the Browns (1-6) to give the ball back to quarterback Andrew Luck. With two timeouts, Shurmur hoped to pin the Colts deep in their own end of the field, force them to punt and get the ball back with a chance to win.

That's what happened, except for the win part, as the Browns failed to convert on a 4th-and-6 with less than two minutes left and dropped their 11th straight road game.

Still, Shurmur felt he handled the situation properly. Given another chance, he wouldn't change a thing.

``I would do that again,'' he said.

Haslam's dissatisfied reaction to the punt came moments after the truck-stop magnate, whose $1 billion purchase of the Browns was approved last week, had angrily swiped his hand at the air when rookie Josh Gordon dropped a certain touchdown pass at the goal line. Gordon failed to handle rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden's perfect throw under pressure, a miscue that cost the Browns a possible win.

The error was emblematic of Cleveland's so-far lost season - a string of near misses.

``When you're fighting for inches, fighting for victories, it's important you make every play,'' Shurmur said. ``There was a lot that went on in the game and, of course, we're all focusing on really a handful of things. And if one or two of those handful of things go the way that we all would like them to, then the outcomes are different.

``But that's the same in every game. Every game you watch played yesterday involved a handful of things that could've determined the outcome for either team. That's real.''

And for Shurmur, the new reality is that Haslam is watching his every move, analyzing his every decision. Shurmur said he was unaware of Haslam's emotional response, which was caught by television cameras. The two men have exchanged text messages, but Shurmur said they had not discussed his conclusion to punt.

``No, I haven't talked to him about that, and I haven't watched the TV copy, so at this point it wouldn't be right for me to comment on it,'' Shurmur said. ``Games are emotional and we all have attachment to a team and a game. I try to keep my emotions in check.''

Another issue hanging over from Sunday was the condition of Browns running back Trent Richardson, who played with a rib injury and was benched after gaining just 8 yards on 8 carries. Richardson wore a flak jacket to protect the rib cartilage injury, but it was obvious that he wasn't himself and Shurmur decided to sit him.

Shurmur indicated there was a chance Richardson could miss some time. The Browns will host San Diego this week and Baltimore on Nov. 4 before their bye. Shurmur said Richardson will be evaluated on a weekly basis.

``If he's ready to play, he'll play,'' he said. ``If we see this is bothering him to the point where he can't perform, then we'll make those decisions as we go.''

Following the game, Richardson acknowledged he wasn't running as hard as usual. He said Shurmur made a ``smart'' decision in resting him, but the first-round pick also indicated his injury is perhaps more severe than he or the Browns are letting on.

Shurmur said Richardson prodded him to stay on the field.

``Trent wanted to play that whole game,'' Shurmur said. ``He was constantly trying to convince me to keep him in there, and I've got to evaluate it the way I see it, and there were some things happening out there where we weren't having efficiency running the football that were no fault of Trent's.

``But I'm watching the player and we try to make decisions based on what's best. He's a warrior and he's going to be a great player around here for a long time, and he wanted to be in the game and that's important for everybody to know. But when I look at it, I want to make sure that we consider him, his health and everything as we move forward.''

The Browns only gained 55 rushing yards against a Colts defense that allowed 252 on the ground the previous week against the New York Jets. Without Richardson at 100 percent, Cleveland's offense was missing a vital component, but Shurmur wouldn't use that as an excuse.

``We need to be better,'' he said. ``Rushing yards as a team is a team thing, just like stopping the run is a team thing, just like stopping sacks is a team thing, just like getting a bunch of completions is a team thing. A combination of things has to get better there.

``We need to do a better job doing it - call better plays, block better, run better. That's it. I wish I could give you some theorem that makes it happen that way, but we just need to do it.''


NOTES: Shurmur said DT Phil Taylor will begin practicing this week. He's been out all season since undergoing surgery to repair a chest muscle he tore lifting weights. ... Shurmur said the team would not be trying out new punters. Reggie Hodges averaged 41.4 yards on five kicks, but only got off a 21-yarder in the fourth when the Browns were trying to pin the Colts deep. ``We're going to work with the guys we have,'' Shurmur said.


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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

Terrelle Pryor made a number of highlight reel catches last year during training camp, and it appears the Redskins defense didn't like it. 

Washington's marquee free agent signing last season, Pryor came into Richmond with sky-high expectations. Throughout the training sessions last August, Pryor put on one-handed displays at the Jugs machine and often made big catches in team drills. It's also important to remember there was never any live tackling during these drills, leaving defenders at a distinct disadvantage. 

Zach Brown remembers the scene quite well, and thinks it will look very different this summer when Pryor comes to Richmond as a member of the New York Jets. 

"That’s going to be something right there. The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now," Brown said on Inside the Locker Room on the Team 980 (full audio here).

Brown explained that Redskins coach Jay Gruden would not allow the defense to hit Pryor last year, even when the wideout did some showboating. 

"Jay ain't here to protect you anymore," Brown said.

The Redskins linebacker explained that he tried to explain to Pryor that the one-handed catches from training camp would not translate in the NFC East, where players get hit hard. It doesn't seem like Pryor listened, as he finished the season with only 240 receiving yards on 20 catches in nine games. 

"The boys were already hot for what he was doing last year," Brown said. He added, "Try to one-hand something while you’re with the Jets, you’re gonna catch a forearm."

One incident that supports Brown's comments came when Bashaud Breeland got thrown off the practice field last training camp. Breeland got mad that he wasn't allowed to get physical with Pryor at the line of scrimmage, and the scene blew up. Breeland eventually got sent off the field after arguing with coaches. 

The Jets visit the Redskins for three days of practices beginning August 12th. The two teams then square off in the second preseason game on August 16th. 

Brown will get his chance at Pryor, assuming the wideout plays. Pryor finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve, but is expected to be fine once training camp begins in New York. 



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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 12

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 12

We're just a couple of weeks away from the midway point of the 2018 Major League Baseball season, which means many casual fantasy baseball players have collectively turned their attention to the gridiron. This is good news for those of you still interested, because outside of the truly competitive leagues, it's about to get much easier to navigate the waiver wire and make winning trades.

That said, we'll still be here all season long, providing advice for anyone looking to gain a competitive edge in their fantasy leagues. There's a lot to digest in the upcoming week, as many teams (including the Washington Nationals) will play a full seven game slate. It's an especially great time for stars in baseball, as a whopping six players are on pace to record seasons with 8.7 Wins Above Replacement or higher, but there's still plenty of great options beyond the obvious guys.

NOTE: Don’t expect to see guys like Bryce Harper or Trea Turner mentioned too often. They are clear must-starts every week. Don’t overthink it.

Week 12 (6/18-6/24)

One Nationals pitcher to start: Max Scherzer

We won't often include a guy on the level of Mad Max in our recommendations, but consider this a statement against the other pitchers. With Stephen Strasburg on the DL, Gio Gonzalez is really the only other startable option in the rotation, and while he's a fine play against the Orioles, he's not a sure thing. Scherzer is the best pitcher in baseball, so when in doubt, it's easy to fall back on his name. For now, feel free to use Gonzalez if needed, but the only clear, recommendable one this week is Scherzer.

One Nationals position player to start: Adam Eaton, OF

Consider this your reminder to not get cute and just start Adam Eaton whenever he's healthy. When he can manage to avoid time on the disabled list, he's consistenly been one of the best players in Washington, and an absolute must-start in fantasy. Yes, he's hitting "just" .286 in five games since returning from the DL, but there's no reason to believe he won't bounce back to one of the top hitters in the National League once he gets back in the swing of things. As long as he's hitting at the top of the Washington lineup, he'll be one of the top run producers in baseball.

One Nationals pitcher to sit: Erick Fedde

We likely would have advised against starting Fedde regardless of matchup, given his relative struggles in his two starts with the Nats this season. He's got a nice 9:2 strikeout-to-walk rate, but the ERA sits at an unsightly 5.91. What makes matters worse is the matchup; Fedde is once again slated to face the vaunted New York Yankees lineup. In New York, he allowed two home runs in just five innings, and while Nats park isn't the hitter's haven that Yankee Stadium is, the sluggers in their lineup make for a daunting matchup in any city.

Fedde probably isn't owned in most leagues, and there's no reason for that to change, even with his spot in the rotation likely secure as long as Strasburg isn't throwing.. 

One Nationals player to sit: Daniel Murphy, 2B

Nats fans were understandably rejoicing when Daniel Murphy returned to the lineup last week. It's always fun when one of your stars is back on the field after missing so much time. Still, like most players who haven't face in-game pitching in several months, Murphy has been slow to re-adjust at the plate. He's recorded just two hits in 15 at-bats, has only walked once, and has yet to notch an extra-base hit of any kind. His OPS is below-.200, and while no one should expect that to last, there's no need to rush him back into your lineups either.

It would be pretty tempting to slot Murphy into your 2B or middle infield spot now that he's healthy, since you likely drafted him to be one of your studs, but given his lengthy absence, the nature of his original injury, and his slow start since returning, it's probably a good idea to leave him on your bench for a week or two. Once he starts driving the ball again, he can start to return value for you, but there's no reason to let him drag you down in the meantime.

Any 2-start pitchers for the Nationals this week?

Given that the rotation is currently in a state of flux, we can't confidently say any starter will get two starts. Fedde looks like the most likely candidate, but as we outlined above, he's still a pitcher you want to avoid for now.

Any 2-start pitchers worth streaming around MLB this week?

One of my favorite sleepers this week is Domingo German. One of the most surprising stats in all of baseball right now is that among starting pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, German has the second best swinging strike rate, behind only Max Scherzer. Swinging strike rate is a great stat to use when projecting future strikeout potential, and German's 15.9% is mighty impressive. German has a start at home against the Mariners and on the road against the Rays, so while it's not a cakewalk week, it's not especially daunting either. As an added bonus for those in points leagues, German is RP-eligible, giving you some extra roster flexibility.

The walks are a little high (21 in 53.3 innings) which has let to an elevated WHIP and ERA, but it's a good rule of thumb to follow the strikeouts when identifiying quality fantasy pitchers, and considering most of the two-start guys this week are obvious studs who are certainly already owned in your league, German is the exact type of option you should be looking to stream.

One player you might not realize you should pick up: John Hicks, C/1B (Tigers) 

This is a sneaky move, the kind that could easily get overlooked in most fantasy leagues but could provide a great return on investment. With Miguel Cabrera's unfortunate season-ending biceps injury providing an opening in the everyday lineup in Detroit, Hicks (who is catcher elgibile) will be taking most of the team's at-bats at first base going forward. While he's probably not worth rostering as a first baseman in most leagues, catcher is a notorious black hole in fantasy baseball in recent years, and this season might be the wost yet.

Hicks will maintain catcher eligibility all season long, yet he'll play the far less demanding first base every day, giving him less wear and tear on his legs, less concern with running the pitching staff, and most importantly, regular at-bats in a surprisingly not-atrocious lineup. Hicks isn't the type of guy you'd refer to as a league-winner prior to Opening Day, but he could make a real impact on a championship roster in the second half of the season.

One player you might not realize you should drop: Jake Junis, SP (Royals) 

Junis isn't the type of pitcher that I'd classify as a must-drop, but you shouldn't hesitate to move on if there's a clear better option on the waiver wire. Junis started the season strong and looked like a legitimate breakout player, but he's allowed six earned runs in each of his last two starts. A poor two-start stretch isn't the end of the world, which is why I'm not suggest that everyone jump ship regardless of team context. That said, he doesn't have the pedigree of a top pitching prospect, and he plays for one of the five worst teams in baseball, meaning you can't expect many wins even when Junis is throwing well.

At the very least, you prbably should leave Junis on the bench for the time being, and again, if there's an option you've been eyeing on the waiver wire, now is the time to strike. Don't feel bad if that means leaving Junis behind to free up a roster spot for your team.


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