Redskins

Chargers, Jets struggling to finish line

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Chargers, Jets struggling to finish line

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Norv Turner knows the end is likely near for him with the San Diego Chargers.

General manager A.J. Smith might be out soon, too.

There are two games left to play before an offseason of uncertainty begins. And, the New York Jets' Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum know the feeling.

Regular playoff participants a few years ago, both franchises are struggling to the finish line. And a winter of big changes could be in store.

``It's been difficult, in terms of offensively, and I can only speak for my side of the ball and what I'm able to contribute,'' Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said. ``Not playing up to our expectations and not playing up to the level that we've set and the standard of what we set for ourselves, sometimes it's frustrating because you do everything the right way. You prepare and you work hard. ... Not being able to capitalize on the season, it's been tough.''

Both the Chargers (5-9) and Jets (6-8) are out of the playoff race, and the two will play Sunday at MetLife Stadium, hoping to end the season on a positive note.

Mark Sanchez has been benched by Ryan, who is turning to third-stringer Greg McElroy to make his first NFL start Sunday. McElroy stepped in for Sanchez three weeks ago to rally New York to a 7-6 win over Arizona, and has leapfrogged Tim Tebow on the depth chart.

``This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,'' McElroy said. ``This is a great moment and a great milestone in my career. Obviously, this is something I've looked forward to and I've dreamed about my entire life. I'm thrilled to have this opportunity.''

McElroy, a seventh-round pick out of Alabama in 2011, could be auditioning for a job beyond the next two weeks. The Jets are considering all of their options, including trades, regarding Sanchez and Tebow, so McElroy could very well be in position next season to compete for the starting job with good showings against the Chargers and Buffalo Bills.

``I'm taking it one step at a time, and that's the only way you can look at it,'' McElroy said. ``You can't get caught up in next week against Buffalo. You can't get caught up in the offseason. You can't get caught up in next year. Just enjoy this game and the fact that I'm able to step out there on the field against San Diego. Enjoy it, make the most of it and have fun out there.''

As of Thursday, Ryan hadn't decided whether McElroy's backup will be Sanchez or Tebow - or both. Tebow was expected to be a major part of the offense, but instead has been just a minor role player. The wildcat-style offense didn't produce as expected, and Tebow hasn't gotten many opportunities to remind everyone why he was one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the NFL last season while leading the Denver Broncos to a playoff victory.

``Every opportunity you get, you want to make the most of and I'd have loved to have more of an opportunity to just play quarterback,'' said a clearly disappointed Tebow, speaking in a low tone. ``And obviously, that's my goal. I'll just make the most of these last two weeks and see what happens after that.''

There could be plenty, and Tannenbaum and Ryan aren't even certain to stick around. They helped turn the franchise around in 2009, when the Jets went to the first of their two straight AFC title games. But there's been a lot of disappointment since then with New York missing out on the playoffs two years in a row.

``Right now, I'm not looking further than this game against San Diego and then we have one more game,'' Ryan said. ``We'll see what happens. My focus has to be with those two games and that's it.''

Turner is taking a similar approach despite recent reports that the Chargers will make a move to replace him after the season. San Diego has dealt with several key injuries this season, including to wide receiver Vincent Brown, tackle Jared Gaither and running back Ryan Mathews, who broke his left collarbone in the Chargers' 31-7 loss to Carolina last Sunday.

Turner said regardless of what happens, he would like to continue coaching in the NFL next season, even if it means as an offensive coordinator elsewhere. The Jets could potentially be in the market for one after their offense struggled mightily - ranked 30th overall - in Tony Sparano's first season as the coordinator in New York.

``I think people that know me know that I'm a coach,'' Turner said. ``I like coaching. I want to coach. I think you get to a point where there are things that are important to you. If I continue to coach, I want to be in a good situation, a place where you have an opportunity to win and be in a situation that there are coaches I've worked with and been around.''

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has had his share of troubles this season, just like Sanchez, and has 47 turnovers in the last two years. Despite all that, he needs 210 yards passing to become the first Chargers player with five straight seasons of 3,500 or more yards passing.

San Diego still looks at Rivers as a franchise-type quarterback, and sitting him the last two weeks - as the Jets might do with Sanchez - wasn't in Turner's game plan.

``For our team and for our situation, a change was never a consideration because the things that were keeping us from getting done what we needed to get done had a lot more to do with other spots,'' Turner said. ``I know ultimately the quarterback gets a lot of the credit or blame, but it just wasn't the issue with our team as we went through our season.''

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Landon Collins: 'You never know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're getting'

Landon Collins: 'You never know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're getting'

Kirk Cousins started 57 games during six seasons with the Redskins and, well, um, it's hard to come up with one word to describe his time in Washington. 

There were certainly highs, none higher than the hot streak Cousins went on late in 2015 to capture an NFC East title. The Redskins closed that season on a four-game win streak where Cousins threw 12 touchdowns against just one interception. 

There were also lows. In Week 17 of 2016, the Redskins needed a win in the season finale to get in the playoffs while the Giants had already clinched the NFC East title. The Redskins had everything to play for, the Giants ended up resting a number of their starters. Still, the Redskins lost, and Cousins threw a dagger interception late in the game to seal their fate. For the game, Cousins finished with 287 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, but the pick to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the season killer. 

The point here is not to drag Cousins. He was the most durable and most stable quarterback the Redskins have had in decades. He never got hurt, and while he turned the ball over, he could deliver downfield strikes and run the team's offense at all times. 

The point here is to say Cousins is not always the most consistent QB, and that's backed up by Redskins safety Landon Collins.

"Like I was with the Giants, you never know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're getting. Right now they're getting Pro Bowl Kirk Cousins over there," Collins said on Monday.

Collins faced Cousins plenty of times when the safety played for the Giants, and New York found plenty of success against the quarterback. In nine career games against the Giants, all as QB of the Redskins, Cousins threw 12 interceptions. 

So when Collins talks about slowing Cousins down, it's not from a hypothetical place. 

"Pressure. Pressure. When I was with the Giants, I know we put a lot of pressure on him, put a lot of guys in his face, a lot of blitzes, lot of different systematic fronts and stuff like that, disguises," the Redskins safety said. 

Cousins will come into Thursday's game against the Redskins on fire. He's thrown 10 TDs against just one INT in the Vikings last three games, all wins. In Detroit on Sunday, Cousins went for more than 300 yards passing with four touchdowns and wasn't sacked once. 

"Right now he's playing like a Pro Bowl Kirk Cousins," Collins said. "We would say at the Giants, 'You don't know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're going to get.' Right now they're getting Pro Bowl Kirk Cousins, and he's playing at a high level right now."

At 1-6 the Redskins defense doesn't scare anybody. The team has had some success upfront, however, causing pressures and getting to passers. Washington has 16 sacks on the season and the front five has gotten things going after a very slow start.  

Cousins isn't unique. Pressure causes turnovers for defenses. Players on both side of the football know that, and that's what Collins want to see in Minnesota against Cousins.

"That's the biggest game plan: try to force him into mistakes. Right now he's playing at a high level, so it's going to be hard. He's playing against a lot of good teams and he's been going against a good defense. That's probably made his skill level and his play much better."

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

10.21.19 Rick Horrow interviews Abby Warner

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USA TODAY Sports

10.21.19 Rick Horrow interviews Abby Warner

In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick interviews Indy Women in Tech Summit Co-Chair Abby Warner and shares the biggest sports business stories of the past week.



LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST EPISODE HERE

1. Top cyber protection software provider Acronis is leading the way in data protection for the modern enterprise. Sports partners include Boston Red Sox, NIO Formula E, Arsenal FC, ROKiT Williams Racing, SportPesa Formula 1, Manchester City FC, and more. Trusted by the world’s leading sports teams across the world, Acronis ensures they have the latest technology backing up, storing, and protecting their valuable data. “This event will bring to life the vision… that we’ve been building across all facets of our business during the last five years,” Serguei Beloussov Acronis Founder and CEO said in advance of last week's inaugural Acronis Global Cyber Summit. The summit welcomed over 600 IT professionals to hear from world-renowned experts and business leaders shaping the future of cyber protection, including Herjavec Group CEO Robert Herjavec, Security Analyst and Researcher at Tel Aviv University Keren Elazari, and American former FBI counter-terrorism and counterintelligence operative Eric O’Neill, along with Acronis founder and CEO, Serguei Beloussov.

2. ISC exec Grant Lynch drives into sunset. Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 1000 Bulbs 500 at Talladega Superspeedway marked the final race of Rick’s friend longtime track Chairman Grant Lynch’s tenure, and ISC put out a video thanking him for the 26-year run. Lynch joined the track in January 1993, and over the years he has become one of NASCAR’s most well-known and respected track executives, influential behind the scenes and constantly doing media appearances. Lynch is retiring after this year and is set to be replaced by Talladega’s vice president of marketing and sales Brian Crichton. Daytona International Speedway, the flagship track of Talladega’s parent company, ISC, released a montage Sunday morning with several senior executives sharing their memories and thanking Lynch, including NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton, ISC President John Saunders, and Chief Innovation and Development Office Craig Neeb. Alas, we won’t know the outcome of Sunday’s playoff race until Monday, as rain delayed the race’s conclusion. Talladega also unveiled their new $50 million infield renovation this past weekend – which will serve as a lasting legacy to Lynch.

3. Merging Vets and Players (MVP) charity teams up with the Atlanta Falcons to reduce military and veteran suicides. According to KOAM News, the MVP charity aims to bring together combat veterans and retired professional athletes to help them adjust to life outside their professions. The organization has set up chapters in four major U.S. cities, and the Atlanta branch is working closely with the Atlanta Falcons. MVP was founded by FOX’s NFL insider, Jay Glazer, and Nate Boyer, U.S. Army Green Beret Veteran and former NFL athlete who played for the Seattle Seahawks in 2015. After recently running some physical activities as a group, MVP coaches run “The Huddle” – a 1:15 long support group where participants are coached to be proud of their scars. Some of MVP’s ambassadors include former NFL players Michael Strahan, Olin Kreutz, and Chris Long, who have struggled with retirement. By crossing the interactions between NFL and combat veterans, both ex-players and veterans can help express their emotions and struggles in a positive way.