Colts seek consistency after rollercoaster start


Colts seek consistency after rollercoaster start

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Colts look competitive and tough one week, inexperienced and out of sync the next.

The learning curve for a young NFL team can be steep.

A little more than one month into the first season of a massive rebuilding project, Indianapolis' biggest battle is getting everybody to play at the same level all the time.

``To me, it's more about confidence in themselves and doing their job,'' center Samson Satele said Wednesday. ``They're young guys, but they play good. It's just learning the process.''

Honestly, things aren't that bleak in Indy (2-3) compared with last year's 2-14 debacle.

Andrew Luck is the NFL's first rookie to top 1,200 yards passing and win two of his first four games, and he's still on pace for a record-breaking rookie season. Reggie Wayne is sixth in the league in receptions and third in yards even though he's already had his bye week. Indy's pass defense is ranked No. 3 in the NFL.

A win Sunday over Cleveland (1-5) would not only put the Colts back at .500, but also would surpass last season's victory total.

What has raised eyebrows, however, is the disparate performances the Colts have had.

At home, Luck is a solid 73 of 132 for 899 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. In two road games, he is 45 of 89 for 589 yards with one touchdown, five interceptions and two lost fumbles - three of those turnovers coming in last weekend's 35-9 blowout loss to the Jets.

That's not good enough, and the No. 1 draft pick knows it.

``We're trying to find a level of consistently playing well,'' Luck said.

The Colts are one 80-yard TD pass away from being 3-0 in Lucas Oil Stadium, where they have outscored opponents 70-69. On the road, they've been blown out twice - 41-21 at Chicago and last week.

Indy's defense limited its first two opponents, Chicago and Minnesota, to a combined total of 209 yards rushing. Over the last three weeks, the Jaguars, Packers and Jets averaged 192.7 yards per game.

And those dramatic shifts have not just shown up in different games, but also different halves and different series.

Initially, there were questions about Indy's slow second-half starts. Everything changed against Green Bay when the Colts put themselves in a 21-3 halftime hole and then could almost do no wrong over the final 30 minutes as they rallied for a shocking 30-27 win.

Part of the explanation may be the continually evolving roster.

``The challenge (for consistency) is the difference in the faces, guys having to learn to different jobs,'' offensive coordinator and interim head coach Bruce Arians said. ``If we put the 11 guys we started with out there, it wouldn't be much of a challenge.''

Indy has certainly had its share of injuries, especially on defense.

Cornerback Vontae Davis has missed the last two games with an ankle injury. Inside linebacker Pat Angerer has yet to play a down after fracturing his right foot in the preseason opener. Defensive tackle Brandon McKinney tore his ACL in the preseason and went on season-ending injured reserve in August.

Pro Bowlers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, now converted linebackers, have been on the field together for exactly two series this season. Freeney hurt his ankle in the season-opener and didn't return until the Jets game. Mathis sprained his left knee late in the Packers game and didn't even travel to New York.

On Wednesday, the Colts added another new name, signing Lawrence Guy off the Packers practice squad.

Davis and Angerer are both listed as questionable this week along with Mathis, who is healing faster than anybody anticipated.

``Actually, it was supposed to be three or four weeks,'' Mathis said when asked about the initial prognosis ruling him out two to three weeks. ``But I don't take it too well when people say I can't be on the field.''

Mathis didn't like watching the Jets game on tape, either.

While Arians acknowledges getting everybody on the same page for every play takes time, he's hardly the patient type. The 60-year-old longtime NFL assistant has repeatedly said he doesn't intend to spend years fixing the offense, he wants to win now - a line that has often been uttered by the likes of Freeney, Mathis and Wayne.

So instead of waiting to get it right, Indy is trying to find ways that will smooth out this bumpy early season ride.

``It really boils down to the details and just doing your job,'' Mathis said. ``Whatever the coaches put forth, you have to do. If they're putting forth a game plan, you have to understand that it's really to let you know if you do this this weekend, you'll win.''

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

USA Today Sports

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 


Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?


Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.


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Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

USA Today

Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

ATLANTA—Anibal Sanchez outpitched Mike Soroka and scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, Matt Adams homered and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 on Saturday night.

Second-place Washington pulled within 5 games of the NL East-leading Braves, improving to 33-14 since May 24, best in the majors over that span. Atlanta has dropped four of five.

Sanchez (6-6) got a big assist in the bottom of the fifth when shortstop Trea Turner turned a bases-loaded double play, leaping to nab Nick Markakis' liner and throwing to first to beat Josh Donaldson back to the bag.

Soroka (10-2) allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings. He had won 10 straight decisions, best by an Atlanta pitcher since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux had a 10-decision streak in 2001.

Sean Doolittle got the last five outs, facing the minimum, for his 21st save in 25 chances. He struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. with a runner at second to end the eighth and breezed through the ninth.

Washington went up 4-1 in the fifth when Sanchez reached on an infield single to third, took second on Donaldson's throwing error and scored on Turner's double. Turner took third on Adam Eaton's single and scored on Anthony Rendon's single. Eaton scored on Juan Soto's single.

The Nationals took a 5-3 lead in the eighth off A.J. Minter as Turner singled, stole second and scored on Eaton's single.

Adams went deep for the 15th time, an opposite-field homer that bounced off the top of the wall in left-center and into the stands to tie it at 1-all in the fourth.

Sanchez, who pitched for the Braves last year and helped them win the division, allowed three runs and six hits and has a 2.70 ERA in his last nine starts.

Atlanta led 1-0 in the first when Acuna reached on an infield single, stole second base, advanced on a flyout and scored on Freddie Freeman's single.

Brian McCann's ninth homer, a two-run shot in the sixth, chased Sanchez and cut the lead to 4-3.



NBC Sports Washington's Michael Stearman contributed to this Associated Press story.