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Colts' Luck gives himself mid-term grade of C

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Colts' Luck gives himself mid-term grade of C

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck is a fine quarterback and a pretty tough critic.

Less than 24 hours after leading the Colts to their fifth win while breaking one rookie record and tying another, the No. 1 overall draft pick walked into the Colts' locker room Monday and promptly described himself as average. Really.

``A `C' is average, so I think I'd give myself a `C','' Luck said when asked for a grade.

Had Luck used a similar standard in the classroom, he might not have an architectural design degree from Stanford yet.

But there's nothing average about Luck's fast start.

After spending the previous two seasons being billed as the NFL's next big thing, the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up has exceeded the hype over his first eight pro games.

He's already won three more games than Indy did last season with three veteran quarterbacks. On Sunday, against a good Miami defense, Luck broke Cam Newton's single-game record for yards passing (432) by throwing for 433 in a 23-20 victory. He also tied the rookie record set by his predecessor, Peyton Manning, for most 300-yard games in a season (four) and continues to maintain the pace for a historic season.

Through eight games, he is 190 of 336 for 2,404 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. At this rate, he would shatter Sam Bradford's rookie marks for completions (354) and attempts (590) and Newton's record for yardage (4,051). With a slightly stronger second half, he may even challenge Manning's rookie record for TD passes (26) and he's still a long way from approaching Manning's first-year record for interceptions (28).

He's already beaten two of the other five rookie starters (Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill) and has surprisingly pushed the Colts into the playoff discussion.

Numbers alone can't tell the tale. Despite being under heavy pressure, Luck has managed to elude defenders and even shake off Green Bay's Clay Matthews to make a key pass in a game-winning drive, and he's rallied the Colts to three fourth-quarter wins.

To teammates, Luck has been everything they expected - and more.

``That guy is mature far beyond his years,'' defensive end Fili Moala said. ``You can't say enough good things about him, from him as a human being to him as a football player to him as a teammate. He's the kind of guy you really want your kids to grow up and become. He's a professional, he does it with class and he'll be a good one for years to come.''

The toughest part of this season was supposed to be the endless comparisons to Manning. So far, Luck has had little trouble measuring up.

Manning has exactly the same amount of wins and yardage as Luck this season, though Denver's quarterback has thrown for twice as many touchdowns and leads the NFL with a quarterback rating of 108.6.

But Luck has had a better rookie season than Manning did.

Luck has thrown and completed more passes in his first eight games, has thrown for 531 more yards, completed a higher percentage of passes than Manning (56.5 percent to 55.1), thrown half as many interceptions (16 to eight), just one fewer touchdown (11 to 10) and has a better quarterback rating than Manning did at that time (79.0 to 64.5).

Of course, the game has changed over the last 14 years. There's now a bigger premium on passing, rookie quarterbacks play earlier and are expected to win earlier than they did then, too.

While some now contend Luck has more talent around him than Manning did then, they might forget that in '98, Manning had Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, receiver Marvin Harrison, two veteran tight ends and two tackles who became longtime cornerstones in the Colts' offense.

Luck, in comparison, has relied primarily on the sure hands of Reggie Wayne; Donnie Avery, who is trying to come back from two lost seasons, an offensive line that is finally rounding into form and a large cast of other rookies.

He's also had to learn more than Manning did then. Interim coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Manning's position coach in '98, has said the Colts' didn't use the no-huddle offense extensively until Manning's second season. Luck is already running that this season.

``There are probably only a few throws he'd like to have back,'' said Arians, a 20-year NFL assistant. ``He's kept us in games. He's won games. The way he's played in the two-minute phase and now the no-huddle phase has been excellent. He's been dynamite on third down the last two games.''

Now can he keep it up? The second half of this season begins Thursday at Jacksonville (1-7).

Arians remembers that's when Manning really took off in 1998, and Luck knows there's plenty he can improve upon, too.

``The victories are what I judge things on. I think I've got to cut down on the turnovers and putting touchdowns on the board,'' Luck said. ``I think perfect would be to win every game, and not have any incompletions or interceptions.''

If that's the grading scale, good luck.

But Arians has no problem giving Luck an ``A.''

``That doesn't surprise me,'' Arians said with a chuckle when asked about Luck's own grade. ``He's comparing him to himself. I'm comparing him to all the other guys I've ever had.''

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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USA Today Sports Images

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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