Redskins

Cyclones return from break to face No. 6 Kansas

Cyclones return from break to face No. 6 Kansas

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) It's been easy to forget that Iowa State still has most of its season left.

Thanks to final exams, the holidays and a quirk in the Big 12 schedule that gave Iowa State a bye week right away, the Cyclones have played just once in 21 days - and that was on New Year's Day against Yale.

The Cyclones (10-3) have lost to the teams they were expected to lose to - No. 21 Cincinnati, No. 24 UNLV and Iowa on the road - while beating everyone they were supposed to beat. But Iowa State also looked sluggish at times against weaker competition like Florida-Gulf Coast, Missouri-Kansas City and Yale.

The Cyclones have gotten away with it so far. But they won't when league plays starts Wednesday night at No. 6 Kansas (12-1).

``We think we can play with any team on any night. I think we can beat any team, and I also think we can lose to any team in the league depending on how we come out and play, depending on what our mindset is,'' Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. ``I like our guys. We've got talent, there's no question about it, Now it's just about going out there and playing together.''

Iowa State also played down to its nonconference competition in stretches last season before rallying to a 12-6 Big 12 finish and an NCAA tournament berth. This year's Cyclones aren't as settled as that group was by early January.

Two of Iowa State's most valuable players, senior guard Tyrus McGee and freshman forward Georges Niang, are still coming off the bench. But their role may be expanded in the coming weeks. McGee has energized his sometimes-lethargic team and scores 13.4 points per game.

Niang is third on the team in scoring and rebounding, and is second behind sophomore big man Percy Gibson in shooting percentage at 52 percent.

Both McGee and Niang were on the floor when Iowa State rallied from 11 points down to beat Yale 80-70. Hoiberg hinted that he might change his rotations, which could mean more minutes for McGee and Niang.

``We're looking at a lot of things,'' Hoiberg said. ``I really liked that group that finished off that (Yale) game the other day. I though Georges gave us great energy. Tyrus does that every game, gives us that spark off the bench. For me, what's more important is finishing games.''

Though the Cyclones have been prone to turnovers and inconsistent defense, they can score and rebound with anyone in the country.

The Cyclones are the only team in the nation to put up at least 70 points in every game this season, and they're seventh nationally at 82 points a game. Iowa State also has outrebounded all but one opponent and is sixth in the nation in rebounding margin at plus-10.8. That's why the Cyclones seem have a strong shot at finishing near the top of a watered-down Big 12.

``We all know there are things we could have done better, things that we're going to improve on. And I think we're at a good place. We've got some good tests and we've learned from our mistakes,'' forward Melvin Ejim said.

But if they don't, the Cyclones know they'll get beaten up in the Big 12.

``If you don't bring it, you will lose,'' Ejim said.

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Kurt Warner believes Dwayne Haskins has the skill set to be a franchise QB

Kurt Warner believes Dwayne Haskins has the skill set to be a franchise QB

When the Redskins selected Dwayne Haskins with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the organization hoped their investment in the passer would result in Washington finding its franchise quarterback of the future.

Whether Haskins becomes that franchise quarterback is still up for debate, as the signal-caller had an up-and-down rookie season. But the Ohio State product seemed to improve by the week and ended the season playing his best football, giving fans hope for the future.

Kurt Warner, a Super Bowl-champion quarterback who had to wait several years before getting his first NFL shot, believes Haskins can eventually develop into that franchise QB for the Burgundy and Gold.

The Super Bowl-winning quarterback joined the Redskins Talk podcast on Tuesday, and spoke highly of the 22-year-old's ability.

"The skillset, without question, is there," Warner said. "We saw that in college, we saw that in moments last year."

Warner explained that one of the things he looks for in young passers is their week-to-week improvement. That's something Haskins did very well towards the end of the 2019 season.

"To me, that's what greatness is all about," Warner said. "It's not about coming into the league and being a finished product. It's about working and getting better all the time."

In his final two games, Haskins threw for 394 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions on 72 percent completion rate. He was on his way to the best game of his brief career in Week 16 against the Giants before an ankle injury ended his afternoon in the third quarter.

"What I saw with Dwayne this year, he did improve game by game," Warner said. "As he got more comfortable with the NFL, as he got more comfortable with the system, he played better and better and made them more competitive each and every time out."

The 2020 offseason is crucial for Haskins. It's his first full offseason in the NFL, and seems poised to make a jump in Year 2. 

Haskins dealt with a lot in 2019, rookie or not. Five weeks into the season, his head coach was fired. He wasn't named the starter until Week 9, only due to injury to Case Keenum. Entering his second season, Haskins has a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, and new position coach.

There's little carryover from a season ago. Very few organizations that constantly change in the NFL are successful. 

"For young quarterbacks or players in general, you want to be able to find something you’re comfortable with and grow in," Warner said. "Hopefully this is the only move they make during Dwayne's career and he can get comfortable in that offense and hopefully one day be playing in the Super Bowl as well."

Warner knows plenty about waiting to get his opportunity; he didn't get his first shot in the NFL until he was 28. But he was put into an offense nicknamed 'The Greatest Show on Turf" that featured plenty of weapons -- Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt -- which allowed the inexperienced Warner to thrive.

In his first season as the Rams starter, Warner threw for a league-high 41 touchdown passes on an 8.2 percent touchdown rate, with just 13 interceptions. His 109.2 quarterback rating was the NFL's best that season. The Rams went on to win the Super Bowl, defeating Tennessee.

"I think the other component is finding the right situation, the right system for you," Warner said. When I got back into the NFL with the Rams, I was 28 years old when I got my first start. I was able to have a lot of success early because I found myself in the right system. The offense did what I did well. It played to my strengths."

Washington doesn't have the weapons that Warner's Rams did, but the Redskins have several young assets -- Terry McLaurin, Derrius Guice and Steven Sims -- that have shown promise. Getting Haskins in the right system, one that caters to his strengths, will be crucial in the development of the young passer.

"I believe that is key for players, especially at the quarterback position. You've got to find a system," Warner said. "In this case in Washington, they need to build a system around what Dwayne Haskins does well. That's how you thrive. That's how you get to and win Super Bowls."

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'Still unbelievable': Ex-Redskins Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller reflect on Super Bowl journey

'Still unbelievable': Ex-Redskins Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller reflect on Super Bowl journey

Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller spent a combined six seasons with the Redskins, yet neither corner won a playoff game during their tenures there.

Therefore, you can excuse them if they're having a hard time expressing what it's like now being in the Super Bowl together with the Chiefs.

"It's still unbelievable," Breeland told JP Finlay at SB LIV's Media Night on Monday. "I can't even find the words to fathom how I feel about this opportunity."

In fact, the last time Breeland and Finlay chatted, the former was literally asking the latter where to purchase tickets for the NFL's biggest spectacle. He shouldn't have much trouble getting inside of the stadium this time around, though.

"I ended up not even going to that game," he said. "I told myself I wasn't going to the Super Bowl until I got a chance to play in it. Couple of years later, it came true."

Breeland's path to the Chiefs was quite bumpy. After playing for the Redskins for four years and departing after 2017, he inked a well-earned three-year deal with the Panthers. However, he cut his foot during a trip to the Dominican Republic, causing him to fail his physical with Carolina and voiding his contract.

Breeland eventually joined the Packers halfway through 2018, and then he signed with the Chiefs this past offseason. His compensation with Kansas City doesn't come close to what he could've had with Carolina, but a Super Bowl appearance plus his two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 2019 could help him cash in when free agency begins in a few months.

Fuller, meanwhile, took a much more direct route to the now-AFC champions. The Burgundy and Gold's 2016 draft selection was a part of the shocking Alex Smith trade and he's now concluding his second campaign with his second pro team.

The fact that the pair is reunited again and one win away from reaching the top of the sport isn't lost on Fuller, especially after some of the struggles they experienced with the Redskins. 

"It's been fun," he said. "After we won the AFC Championship game, me and [Breeland] were just kind of sitting on the bench looking at each other, knowing how far we came."

The key to K.C.'s rise, according to Breeland, has been their unity. The almost 28-year-old didn't directly call out Washington for lacking a similar closeness, but his comments don't exactly require much parsing to realize the comparison he's making.

So, while he and Fuller are obviously looking ahead to the 49ers, the following comment from Breeland's brief reflection on his past is telling about what the Redskins need to fix on their end.

"Throughout crunch time, everybody pulls together," Breeland explained. "I've been on different sidelines when things go bad, a lot of people start bickering and pull apart from each other. Those were the times that [this team] got closer and pulled together the most."

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