Nationals

C Sendlein adds to Cardinals' injury troubles

C Sendlein adds to Cardinals' injury troubles

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) More bad news for the Arizona Cardinals.

Lyle Sendlein, the team's ironman center, is out for the season with a torn left MCL, the latest in a series of injuries to significant players, problems that have figured greatly in the team's losing streak - now at seven games and counting.

``That's the way it's kind of gone this year,'' coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

The problems are especially acute on offense, where quarterback, running back and left tackle have been the hardest-hit positions.

Kevin Kolb, the quarterback when the team got off to a 4-0 start, has missed five games with a rib injury. He's practicing on a limited basis, but rookie Ryan Lindley will get his second start in a row when the team plays at the New York Jets on Sunday.

John Skelton beat out Kolb in the preseason but went down with a sprained ankle late in the season opener against Seattle. Kolb came on to direct the winning touchdown drive, and although he was far from perfect - and under constant siege from a fierce pass rush - the Cardinals started the season 4-0.

He was hurt on a busted play, when running back William Powell missed an audible and there was no one to give the ball to. Kolb took off running and went down hard on his chest, damaging cartilage on the upper part of his rib cage.

Whisenhunt won't say so, but he probably would go back to Kolb if he was sure the quarterback was healthy. Kolb said he isn't sure when he will be ready, and Whisenhunt isn't going to force the issue.

``He isn't going to get in the game until we are sure that he can take a hit,'' the coach said. ``With what happened with him, you just have to make sure that he's cleared to do that.''

Skelton replaced Kolb but was largely ineffective. When he missed several open receivers two games ago at Atlanta, particularly a wide open Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone, Skelton was benched in favor of Lindley. Lindley had some good moments in his first NFL start, but the awful moments were truly terrible. He was intercepted four times, three of them on bad throws, with two returned for touchdowns in a 31-17 home loss to St. Louis on Sunday.

Early in that game, Sendlein - called by Whisenhunt ``one of the toughest guys I've ever been around'' - limped off the field only to return to play the rest of the game on the damaged knee. He has started 80 games in a row since he got the job as an undrafted rookie in the team's 2008 Super Bowl season.

Now the job falls to Rich Ohrnberger, who saw little action in his first two NFL seasons, with New England, but has started twice this year at right guard for Arizona when Adam Snyder was hurt.

``As a backup guy you've got to be ready no matter what the circumstances,'' he said. ``It's just another one of those situations where you get put in there and have got to keep the thing running.''

It's not like the offense had been running like a new Cadillac with Sendlein. A beat-up Nash Rambler is more like it.

The Cardinals rank 31st in the league, ahead of only Jacksonville. In their seven-game skid, they have eight touchdowns.

The injury problems started before the season began when the offensive line, already considered the team's weakest unit, lost left tackle Levi Brown with a season-ending triceps injury. The team moved well-traveled but seldom-used D'Anthony Batiste from right tackle to left, and inserted fourth-round draft pick Bobby Massie at right tackle. The results were disastrous. Kolb was sacked eight times by Miami and, the next week, nine by St. Louis. Eventually, seventh-round pick Nate Potter replaced Batiste, and things have stabilized.

Arizona entered the season thinking that its running game would be strong behind the 1-2 punch of Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams. But Wells opened the season far from full health after offseason knee surgery, then he was knocked out in Week 3 against Philadelphia with a severe turf toe injury. The Cardinals placed him on the league's new injured/designated for return list, meaning he had to miss seven games, plus the bye week, before returning against the Rams on Sunday.

Meanwhile, in early October, the Cardinals lost Williams for the season to a shoulder injury.

The defense, which has more depth than the offense, has had its losses, too.

Outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield is out for the season with an injured left ankle and several others have missed games along the way. Defensive end Calais Campbell sat out the last two games with a calf injury but expects to be back this week.

Having to make so many changes has been a coaching challenge.

``It's more about continuity than anything else,'' Whisenhunt said. ``Guys that work together for a number of reps now are not, so you are going to have mistakes. You are going to have miscommunication. Plus, when you're playing young guys, they don't have the experience. They don't see things, so their reaction times aren't as good. If you look at where Bobby (Massie) was when we played St. Louis the first time and where he was the second time, it is noticeably different, but you don't get that unless you get some experience.''

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Nationals on periphery in Las Vegas

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USA Today Sports

Nationals on periphery in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- Marlins Man walked into a modest eatery Sunday here in Las Vegas to look over the options. His bright orange jersey stood out among the cowboy hats and zombie-like Sunday exodus inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

While another Las Vegas weekend closed, sending an army of roller bags across the casino floor toward the exit and airport, baseball started to creep into the home of the 2018 Winter Meetings. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo wandered across the marble floor. Media members from cities across the country became situated. Television stations raised their studios and radio talkers began to ramble. Everyone is wondering if the show in Vegas will be filled with drama or just another stall along the way to the offseason’s biggest news.

We know Rizzo turned in his homework early. Patrick Corbin’s money and introduction arrived late last week. Corbin, presumably, is the Nationals’ largest offseason expenditure. Surprising comments from Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner to 106.7 The Fan on Friday made that seem to be the case. He described Bryce Harper as all but gone, speaking wistfully, if not definitively.

Which means Rizzo is here for smaller shopping and the rest of baseball waits on Harper and Manny Machado.

A look through the Nationals shows few remaining gaps. Rizzo publicly contends he feels all right about starting the season with a Wilmer Difo/Howie Kendrick platoon at second base. The outfield is clear without Harper. Joe Ross and Erick Fedde will fight for the final rotation spot. Two new catchers have arrived. The bullpen was upgraded. Rizzo didn’t wait and watch what other teams were doing.

“We like the club we have at present,” Rizzo told NBC Sports Washington last week. “But, we’re never satisfied. There’s tweaks and combinations we can go after. We’ll be looking for values out there. What works for us, how do we construct the periphery of the roster. You can never have enough pitching and we’re always on the look for good starting and relief pitching. That could be something we attack either via the free agent market or trade market.”

One thing the market remains full of is left-handed relievers. The Nationals currently have three. One of which is Sammy Solis.

Washington decided to tender him a contract and the sides reached a one-year deal. There was consideration not to tender him a contract, which would have ended Solis’ time with Nationals. Instead, he’s back despite two back-to-back poor seasons following a strong 2016. Last season was a wreck. Solis finished with a 6.41 ERA. The other two lefties, Sean Doolittle and Matt Grace, were excellent. So, are the Nationals in the market for one more left-handed reliever to be sure?

“We’ve got right now on the roster three really competent left-handed pitchers,” Rizzo said, “in Doolittle, Grace who had a magnificent season last year and Sammy Solis, who we feel is a bounceback candidate. We feel good about the left-handed spot. We feel good about our bullpen as a whole.”

The Nationals were mid-pack last season in relievers’ ERA in both the National League and Major League Baseball. Their bullpen does appear close to done: Doolittle, Trevor Rosenthal, Kyle Barraclough, Koda Glover, Grace, Solis, Justin Miller and Wander Suero are eight quick spots down there.

One upside here for Rizzo is he can wait. He doesn’t need to jump at the flush reliever market, which includes several decent left-handed options, because of the team’s prompt signings. A discount may arrive later. A factor to remember in regard to Solis is the Nationals would only be on the hook for 1/6th of his salary if they cut him in spring training. That’s a small penalty if someone in West Palm Beach appears more capable.

Washington also needs a left-handed bat off the bench that can play first base. Matt Adams, Justin Bour and Lucas Duda are names that could fill that slot. None will rattle the meetings.

This is life on the periphery, as Rizzo puts it. Will they talk to a lot of agents here? Yes. Will they consider an upgrade at second base? Of course. Are they part of the gigantic Harper and Machado storylines unlikely to conclude in Las Vegas but en route to dominate the conversation? Not really. At least not if Lerner’s public declaration is filled with flat facts. They offered Harper, he can do better elsewhere, and now life is quieter, even in Las Vegas.

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When asked about the defensive decline, DJ Swearinger gives response 'they want' him to give

When asked about the defensive decline, DJ Swearinger gives response 'they want' him to give

A frequent question Redskins players have had to face this past month is, in some form or another, "What's wrong with the defense, and what's changed?"

Washington's defense was, for the most part, effective and at times dominant during the team's 6-3 start.

But in this losing streak that extended to four games after the disgraceful performance against the Giants, the unit has been a trainwreck on top of a dumpster fire. 

DJ Swearinger was the latest 'Skin to be asked the increasingly common question in the FedEx Field locker room postgame. His response was noteworthy.

"We just didn't execute, we just didn't get the job done," he said. "That's the answer they want me to give."

Swearinger attracts some of the largest media crowds when he speaks because he's passionate and never holds back with his quotes.

However, some recent comments from No. 36 about the Redskins' practice habits caught Jay Gruden's attention to the point where the coach explained in one of his weekly pressers he'd prefer the safety keep those thoughts in-house.

So, is Gruden or another coach or front office person the "they" that Swearinger referred to following the Giants blowout? You'd have to assume so.

Regardless, it's obvious that he wanted to say more, but instead, he kept his full, unfiltered opinion to himself — this time. If things continue to trend downward and his frustration continues to trend upward, though, don't expect him to keep giving the answers "they want."

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