Redskins

Coach's challenge convincing owner of his plan

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Coach's challenge convincing owner of his plan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Mike Munchak has been around long enough to know that five wins in a season isn't good enough in the NFL.

The Tennessee coach's challenge will be convincing owner Bud Adams, his boss for 30 seasons as a player and coach, is that he needs more time to turn the Titans back into a winner.

Munchak is only the seventh Hall of Fame player to be an NFL head coach since the 1970 merger, the fifth to coach the team he played for. He wraps up his second season Sunday against Jacksonville (2-13) with 15 players on injured reserve, including four of his starting offensive linemen out for the final month.

``I don't feel good about where we're at,'' Munchak said. ``I feel good about a lot of things, the pieces of the puzzle we do have. I feel good about a lot of things that can get fixed real quickly.''

After last week's 55-7 loss to Green Bay, Adams, who turns 90 on Jan. 3, made it clear he wants answers from his front office and Munchak after the season finale on what's gone wrong with a team that went 9-7 in 2011, one of three winning records since the 2003 season when this franchise last won a playoff game.

Munchak, who has a four-year contract, cautioned that turning around a franchise can take more than just a season or two. He lost his first offseason as a head coach to the NFL lockout in 2011 and has had just one offseason to teach a team largely built through the draft.

``We have a short period of time to fix it, but I feel very confident that we will, and sometimes it takes longer than two seasons to do that ... so I think you have to make a decision and look at who we have on our roster, who we're playing against, what we're doing,'' Munchak said. ``You have to figure out where we're headed and we'll see. I feel good about how we're going to get there, and it will be up to Mr. Adams to decide if he agrees with me.''

When Munchak was promoted from assistant offensive line coach to the team's coach on Feb. 7, 2011, he joined fellow Hall of Famers Raymond Berry, Mike Ditka, Forrest Gregg, Art Shell, Bart Starr and Mike Singletary in making the transition from player to NFL head coach. Singletary, the most recent, went 8-8 in his first full season with San Francisco only to be fired after going 5-10 in 2011.

Veteran Matt Hasselbeck helped cover up some of this team's rebuilding needs in Munchak's debut season.

When the Titans decided in August to go with Jake Locker as their starting quarterback, they opened with their youngest roster in both average age and experience since 2006.

The eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft wound up missing five starts after hurting his left shoulder twice in the first four games. When Locker returned in November, the Titans had lost two starting offensive linemen from August, which reached four of the five by Dec. 2.

``We knew the transition of a new quarterback is definitely going to add to that, but when you're adding a new quarterback and then you're adding all these injuries, it's hard to get anything in sync,'' said Munchak, who is 14-17 as head coach.

Receiver Nate Washington, one of the few veterans on this team, said Wednesday he thinks Munchak has handled a difficult season the best he can.

``He's put blame where it need be as well as he's looked himself in the mirror in front of us,'' Washington said. ``He's told guys at the end of the day, we all have to go out and do our job.''

Munchak has made several moves this season trying to jumpstart his team. First, he convinced coordinators Chris Palmer and Jerry Gray to move from the sideline to the coaching box, then fired Palmer on Nov. 26.

With the Titans nine points shy of tying the franchise record for most points allowed, Munchak may have to make other changes to his coaching staff.

He also talked veteran offensive coach Tom Moore into joining the Titans for the final month to help new coordinator Dowell Loggains.

Munchak understands building can take patience. He wasn't part of a winning team himself until his sixth season as a player, and he has had fellow Hall of Fame players such as Elvin Bethea, Kenny Houston and Warren Moon talk to his Titans about surviving and thriving in tough seasons.

He brought in Kevin Carter a couple weeks ago as a reminder of how the Rams went from 4-12 in 1998 to winning the Super Bowl the next season.

``Adversity builds character, and we're going to find out what we're all about,'' Munchak said.

If he gets the time.

NOTES: Chris Johnson (ankle) and RB Jamie Harper (ankle) did not practice Wednesday along with LB Colin McCarthy (concussion), C Kevin Matthews (right ankle), CB Ryan Mouton (hamstring), TE Craig Stevens (concussion), WR Damian Williams (foot) and LB Will Witherspoon (chest). WR Kendall Wright (rib) was limited after missing last week's game.

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Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

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USA TODAY Sports

Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

More than 100 days remain before the Redskins take the field in meaningful NFL action.

Any and all excitement needs to be tempered, significantly, because what happens on a practice field in May without pads does not represent what will happen in September, October and beyond. 

Still, the Redskins group that took the field this week for OTAs showed promise. 

New quarterback Alex Smith looked crisp, connecting with a variety of wideouts and commanding the huddle. New wideout Paul Richardson made the best play of the session when he streaked down the field past rookie cornerback Greg Stroman and hauled in a deep pass from Smith. The play showed Smith's ability to identify open receivers downfield, as well as Richardson's ability to go up and grab a contested catch. Even Stroman, the seventh-round rookie, positioned himself well, he just fell victim to a perfect pass and tremendous athleticism.

That was only one play in a two-hour session. Again, don't take too much from May, when players don't wear pads or engage in any of the violence that the NFL is predicated upon. But the OTAs do serve a purpose, both for players and coaches, and there were nuggets to absorb and try to project for the fall. Here they are:

  • Jay Gruden made clear he's not concerned about the health of his offensive line. Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are recuperating from offseason surgery, but Gruden believes both are on track for when things start to matter. It's a good thing the coach isn't concerned because this was the 'Skins line in OTAs (left to right): Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, John Kling. Should that lineup take the field this fall, there will be trouble. 
     
  • The Redskins lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason, and the secondary depth will be something to watch throughout training camp. At OTAs, newly signed veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick lined up opposite Josh Norman in the team's base 3-4 defense. In nickel and dime coverage, Quinton Dunbar lined up opposite Norman and Scandrick moved to the slot. As things progress, it will be interesting to see if Dunbar surpasses Scandrick in base coverage, and what becomes of 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau. Stay tuned.  
     
  • Rookie running back Derrius Guice looked every part of the first-round talent many judged him to be before draft season rumors caused him to slide to the late second round. Guice cuts with authority and is able to see holes before they form and patiently wait to hit the open space. Guice also looked fine in pass-catching drills, one area that was a question coming out of LSU (but that says more about LSU's prehistoric offense). Watching the Redskins offense work, it seems clear Guice will be the heaviest used runner this fall.
     
  • That said, don't count out Robert Kelley. He looks leaner and plenty quick, showing a few impressive runs during the session. Byron Marshall also looked good, and Gruden pointed out his success in his post-OTA press conference. The running back group will have plenty of competition all the way through Richmond. 
     
  • Jonathan Allen has switched jersey numbers from 95 to 93. Rookie Daron Payne is now wearing 95. Payne and Allen both went to Alabama, both are huge, and both play defensive line. The number switch will take some getting used to. 
     
  • Zach Brown missed the OTA session as he was moving, and interestingly in his spot with the starting defense was Josh Harvey-Clemons. The second-year pro out of Louisville showed impressive speed in coverage, and remember he played safety in college and performed quite well. He has ball skills and great size to be a coverage linebacker. Some were surprised when the Redskins kept JHC last season at the cut to 53, but his development appears to be paying off for the organization. 
     
  • Another linebacker that made a play was Zach Vigil. He impressed for the Redskins late last season and was running the Washington second-team defensive huddle. At one point, Vigil broke through the line of scrimmage and blew up a run play. That prompted D.J. Swearinger to yell from the sideline, "OK Zach. OK ZACH!"
     
  • Speaking of Swearinger, the Redskins defensive captain seemed in midseason form when it comes to yelling encouragement on the field. Nobody hypes up the defense like Swearinger, particularly when the secondary makes a big play. On one pass Dunbar made a nice diving play to break up a pass, and Swearinger and Josh Norman got very fired up, shouting and jumping around. The entire defense responded. Little stuff like that helps disrupt the monotony of offseason work. 
     
  • Jamison Crowder looks jacked and quick. The end. 

 

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.