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Colts face Texans with 4 starters inactive

Colts face Texans with 4 starters inactive

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Four Indianapolis Colts starters will be inactive for Sunday's game against Houston.

Defensive linemen Antonio Johnson and Cory Redding, center Samson Satele and safety Tom Zbikowski are out with injuries.

Coach Chuck Pagano has said all week that starters who are healthy will play. Those who are injured will sit out because Sunday's result has no bearing on Indianapolis' playoff position. Indy (10-5) is locked into the No. 5 seed.

Houston (12-3) can clinch the AFC's top seed and a first-round bye with a win.

Indy's other inactive players are running back Delone Carter, offensive tackle Tony Hills and receiver Nathan Palmer.

Houston's inactives are linebacker Brooks Reed; cornerbacks Alan Ball and Stanford Routt; offensive linemen Antoine Caldwell, Andrew Gardner and Cody White; and nose tackle Terrell McClain.

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This story from Bradley Beal will get you excited for Rui Hachimura's rookie year

rui_hachimura.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

This story from Bradley Beal will get you excited for Rui Hachimura's rookie year

WASHINGTON -- Even though he does two separate media scrums every time he addresses reporters, one in English and then one in Japanese, Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura is a man of few words.

As he looked ahead to his first NBA game - Wednesday at the Dallas Mavericks (8:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington) - in which he will be in the starting lineup, he didn't say much more than he is "excited." He said his mother is expected to be in attendance, but he won't be nervous.

So if Hachimura won't say much about himself, perhaps a story from Bradley Beal will suffice. The Wizards' All-Star shooting guard shared his first impressions of Hachimura, the Wizards' 2019 first round pick, in an interview with NBC Sports Washington.

When asked which player had impressed him the most, Beal said "Rui," but it didn't start out that way. Beal said he was skeptical when Hachimura first showed up at the Wizards' practice facility ahead of the preseason for informal workouts.

"I didn't really watch Rui much in the Summer League. I didn't watch much of him when he was playing in the World Cup games," Beal said. "I was like 'what are we raving about?'"

But then Beal, who prides himself on his work ethic and practicing and playing even when the training staff tells him to take a break, showed up one September day to the Medstar Performance Center in Southeast D.C.

"Sure enough, he comes in the gym and he's the first one in here," Beal said. "He's working out and he's getting his weights in. When he's on the floor, he's working out and he's in a sweat. Then, he steps on the floor to play pick-up and it's like 'damn, what can't he do?'"

Beal said Hachimura scrimmaged with his new Wizards teammates for three straight days and was making shots from all over the court. He showed the versatility that made him a star at Gonzaga University with strong finishes at the rim, deft midrange jumpers and a confident three-point stroke.

"I like a lot of what I see out of him," Beal said. "I love the fact he doesn't necessarily have a position. We can mold him into what we want him to be."

There was one play in particular that caught Beal's eye. A shot bounced off the rim and Hachimura snatched it out of the air with one hand, casually turning to dribble up the floor. It wasn't a normal rebound where he went up and scooped the ball like most players would. He palmed it with ease, as as if it were an orange.

"I didn't know he could do that. I didn't know his hands were that big," Beal said in amazement. "From that moment, I was like 'he's going to be a problem.'"

It didn't take long for Hachimura to wow one of the NBA's best players. Now it's time for the rest of the league to find out what he can do.

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Trying to stop Lamar Jackson isn’t easy — neither is blocking for him

Trying to stop Lamar Jackson isn’t easy — neither is blocking for him

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson has excelled this season at keeping opposing defenses on their toes.

The problem is it keeps his teammates in limbo, too.

Jackson is one of the shiftiest players in the NFL, and when he breaks the pocket, there’s no way of knowing what he’ll do. That means there’s no way of knowing what the next step is as an offensive player, either.

“One of the best things about Lamar is how versatile a quarterback he is,” wide receiver Miles Boykin said. “No play is ever dead. We have two plays every time we step out there. If the first play doesn’t work, Lamar is going to find something with his feet or he’s going to find something on a scramble.”

Jackson has 576 yards rushing and three touchdowns so far this season and is on pace for over 1,300 yards rushing on the season. 

Sunday in Seattle, his legs carried the Ravens to a 30-16 win over the Seahawks. And while Seahawk defenders tried their best to slow Jackson down, his teammates did their best to anticipate.

“You just let him do his thing,” guard Marshal Yanda said. “That’s about the easiest way you could say it. Block them as long as we can, if he breaks the pocket and he goes, obviously try to cover him as much as we can down the field.”

As an offensive line, the Ravens' front five must make a determination once Jackson breaks the pocket on what to do. They could go downfield to try to get a step on the defense and risk an illegal man downfield penalty, or stay back and protect Jackson if he decides to set and pass the ball.

Sometimes, though, Jackson makes the decision easy.

“I think if they’re ever in that situation and they feel a breeze going by them, they say, ‘Hey let’s go,’” offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris said with a chuckle. "We better follow that breeze.”

After the original play breaks down, Jackson’s ability to extend sometimes leaves his teammates wondering exactly what he’ll do next.

“Sometimes he’s scrambling, and we’re all out there like, ‘Do we block? Do we try to get open?’” Mark Ingram explained. “You’re trying to be there for him, but he’s just doing crazy stuff.”

When Jackson breaks out of the pocket and the Ravens officially head into a scramble drill, there’s a few set tips that help the rest of the offensive weapons.

Marquise Brown says he has a set responsibility — but can’t share exactly what it is. Willie Snead was a high school quarterback, so he’s at least got some idea of what Jackson wants to do when he breaks the pocket. 

The only thing the Ravens can do is drill it and expect the unexpected when he breaks the pocket, because they certainly don’t want to quell what makes Jackson so special.

“You definitely don’t want to dull that,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “You want to let it happen naturally, let his natural talent take over.”

As a receiver, the main job is to get open. Whatever happens after that is up to Jackson.

“I don’t know what he’s going to do half the time,” Boykin said. “I just have one job, and that’s to get open. If you get open, Lamar is going to find you.”

While the Ravens’ offense might have trouble locating — and deciding — Jackson’s next move, it’s been enough to keep opposing defenses at bay. And Baltimore will take that trade-off every day of the week. 

“We don’t know where Lamar is going to be,” D'Alessandris said. “We have a good idea, but if he’s elusive enough to move, sustain your block and let things happen. I think that’s worked out pretty good for us so far.”

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