Bucs young DBs set to be tested by Peyton Manning


Bucs young DBs set to be tested by Peyton Manning

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Greg Schiano didn't have to follow the NFL closely over the past decade-plus to keep up with the exploits of Peyton Manning.

Tampa Bay's first-year head coach was an assistant with the Chicago Bears when Manning began his NFL career in 1998. But while Manning was collecting MVP awards, Schiano was toiling in the college ranks; he spent two years as an assistant at the University of Miami and the next 11 transforming Rutgers into a Big East contender.

Still, even for Schiano - who never paid much attention to the pro game until he returned to the NFL - Manning's accomplishments with the Indianapolis Colts were virtually impossible not to notice.

Now Manning has his full attention.

The four-time league MVP and the Denver Broncos face the Buccaneers' porous pass defense this week. Schiano is doing everything he can to make sure his young, inexperienced secondary is prepared for the challenge.

The Bucs are first in the NFL in run defense, but are 32nd against the pass.

``You have to be careful because you can't try to in four days create a whole new defense so you can confuse him. That won't work. And probably the fact of the matter is, what you think could be this great idea to confuse him, he saw it about six years ago and then again three years ago,'' Schiano said Wednesday.

``We've just got to go out and play our defense and play the best we can, and know they're going to make some plays,'' the coach added. ``There's not anybody in this league who's kept them from making plays in the passing game. We have to make sure we don't let them go off in the run game. ... If they can run the ball, it's going to be a struggle.''

Manning has completed nearly 68 percent of his passes for 3,260 yards, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions while getting acclimated to a new system and teammates. The Broncos (8-3) have won six straight following a 2-3 start, and last week's 17-9 victory at Kansas City moved him ahead of Hall of Famer John Elway for the second-most wins by a starting quarterback in league history.

The Bucs, meanwhile, are trying to remain in playoff contention, despite having a secondary that's without the starting cornerback Schiano began the season with.

Aqib Talib was suspended four games last month for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances and subsequently trade to the New England Patriots while serving the ban. The NFL took the same action this week against Eric Wright, also for using Adderall without a prescription.

With Talib no longer with the team and Wright, who signed a five-year, $37.5 million as a free agent last March, sitting out with an Achilles tendon injury, Tampa Bay started former seventh-round draft E.J. Biggers and undrafted rookie free agent Leonard Johnson at cornerback in a 24-23 loss to Atlanta.

Johnson has missed tackles this season and on a pair of 80-yard touchdown plays, including Julio Jones' long catch-and-run for the Falcons.

Biggers has 19 career starts in four seasons, but the departure of Talib and loss of Wright have stripped the team of much of its depth at cornerback. Recent additions LeQuan Lewis and Danny Gorrer also saw action against Atlanta and figure to get plenty playing time again Sunday.

``We have some young guys who don't have much experience, so we're kind of just playing our hand as we feel best,'' Schiano said. ``It's going to be a challenge. But they're 8-3, so three teams figured out a way to do it. That's our goal. We're trying to be the fourth.''

Schiano reiterated that to have any chance of minimizing the damage Manning can inflict through the air, the Bucs have to contain Denver's running games.

Tampa Bay has allowed a league-low 81.5 yards rushing.

``We've got to make sure we stop the run. We know he's going to make some throws. You'd like them not to be big plays,'' Schiano said.

``If you can limit the big plays, they're going to catch the ball underneath and we're going to have to tackle well. When we play man-to-man coverage we're going to have to be on our guy and try to deny him the ball, and when we have deep safety help we're going to have to use that help.''

The Bucs are yielding 315.5 yards through the air, yet have managed win five of seven following a 1-3 start to climb back into playoff contention.

One of the keys to the turnaround has been the defense's knack for forcing timely turnovers, and the Josh Freeman-led offense's ability to convert opponent's mistakes into points.

That's why Manning said he's not licking his chops in anticipation of facing what - at least on paper - appears to be an overmatched defensive backfield that also includes rookie Mark Barron and 16-year veteran Ronde Barber at safety.

``Look at the film. Statistics can be very misleading,'' Manning said. ``I tell you what I see. I see a defense that's dominant against the run, it has created a lot of turnovers. I think they're No. 1 in interceptions caused the last four weeks. And what you also see by watching the game film is how their offense is taking those turnovers and turning them into touchdowns.''

Bucs tight end Dallas Clark, a close friend and one of Manning's favorite targets while they were playing for the Indianapolis Colts, said he's not surprised by the way the 36-year-old quarterback has played since returning from a neck injury that sidelined Manning all of 2011.

``I would never bet against him on his determination. ... Just being around and seeing all the hard work he's put in, you knew he was going to surprise a lot of people,'' Clark said. ``He gave great commitment and dedication to getting back and everything that you have to do to overcome an injury as an athlete.''

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That time new Wizard Troy Brown dunked on No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley


That time new Wizard Troy Brown dunked on No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley

Back in high school, the newest Washington Wizard Troy Brown was an athletic freak. So much so that Brown dunked over the No. 2 pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, Marvin Bagley III.

Playing at Centennial High School from Las Vegas, Nevada, the 15th overall pick went straight at the dominating 6-11 Bagley and posterized the man.

Now from the other side: 

Although both were merely kids at the time (an each a few inches shorter), still you cannot question the confidence and athleticism of the Wizards' top pick. 

Heck, Brown is still athletic.

Now Oregon never got the chance to play Duke this past season, but Brown will get two chances for another poster on his wall with Bagley now on the Sacramento Kings. 


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Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

DALLAS — Hours after being named head coach of the New York Islanders on Thursday, Barry Trotz made his first public comments since stepping down in Washington earlier in the week.

And, from the sounds of it, his departure was mostly a business decision.

“Yeah, obviously, I love the D.C. area,” he told reporters on a conference call. “But when it came to the business aspect, from my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere [given] what we did together. So I decided that it was better to just move on.”

“I thank the fans,” he added. “I’m glad we could get it done. I said we could get it done in four years, and we did.”

Although the value of his contract with the Islanders has not been publicly disclosed, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Trotz is set to earn “at least $4 million” per year—or more than twice what he was earning in Washington.

A source told NBC Sports Washington earlier this week that Trotz, who directed the Caps to their first Stanley Cup two weeks ago, sought $5 million per season for five seasons. The five-year term, that source said, was a non-starter as far as the Caps were concerned, given the relatively short shelf life of NHL coaches and the fact that Trotz had already been in Washington for four seasons.

When it became clear that the sides weren’t going to close the considerable gap between their positions, Trotz offered to step down and the resignation was accepted, making the 55-year-old a free agent.

When “I got the [counteroffer], I guess I knew it was time to go in a different direction,” he said.

In New York, Trotz replaces Doug Weight, who was fired earlier this month along with GM Garth Snow. Lou Lamoriello, a longtime NHL executive, took over for Snow and immediately started a search for a new head coach.

Once Trotz became available, it didn’t take Lamoriello to zero in on the NHL's fifth all-time winningest coach. The two met, exchanged ideas and quickly realized that they had found a good fit in one another. Trotz said he's already reached out to the Islanders' star captain, John Tavares, who could become the biggest prize on the free agent market on July 1. 

And, like that, Trotz now is the coach of a Metropolitan Division foe. The Caps and Isles will face off four times next season, beginning with a Nov. 26meeting in New York.

It’ll be weird, for sure. But professional sports is a business. And all sides involved in the Trotz saga were served a painful reminder of that this week.

Asked if he felt wanted in Washington, Trotz said: “Well, I’ll leave that up to the Caps to answer that. I think, absolutely. We just won a cup together and so I don't think that was an issue. I think it was more principle.”

In the end, Trotz wanted to be compensated like one of the top coaches in the game. And now he will, settling in behind big market coaches such as Toronto’s Mike Babcock ($6.25 million per year), Chicago’s Joel Quenneville ($6 million) and Montreal’s Claude Julien ($5 million).

“It’s good to be wanted,” he said. “It happened really quickly because you go from one emotion of winning the cup to the next emotion of leaving the team that you just won the Cup with, and you have to make some quick decisions. I know the timing of it—end of the season, the draft coming up, free agency [and] all that—there was some urgency on that. Both parties knew that, so we went to work at it and got it done.”