Redskins

DeCoud sets pace for Falcons with 6 interceptions

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DeCoud sets pace for Falcons with 6 interceptions

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) After Asante Samuel intercepted Eli Manning's first pass on Sunday, the cornerback approached Falcons teammate Thomas DeCoud, who leads the team in interceptions.

DeCoud says Samuel joked ```I'm about to catch you.'''

Not so fast.

``I said `OK, but just wait,''' DeCoud said. ``I ended up getting mine. We can joke about it like that.''

DeCoud, a safety, added to his team lead with his sixth interception later in the Falcons' 34-0 win over the Giants.

Samuel has three interceptions but is trailing both Atlanta safeties. William Moore has picked off four passes, giving the Falcons the NFL's only tandem at the safety positions to each have four or more interceptions.

Falcons coach Mike Smith said DeCoud and Moore should be considered one of the league's top pair of safeties.

``I think our two safeties have played as well as any tandem in the league,'' Smith said after Tuesday's practice for Saturday night's game at Detroit. ``They're making a lot of plays on the ball. ... They've been very productive and when their opportunities have come, they have not missed.''

DeCoud was a third-round pick in 2008. Moore was a second-round pick in 2009.

Smith said the two safeties ``are really coming into their own in terms of their maturation processes, Thomas in his fifth year and William in his fourth.''

Another key has been first-year defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's scheme, which gives the defensive backs more freedom to create big plays.

``It's kind of a combination of the new scheme and the reins being loosened a little bit, and also the kind of work we did in the offseason,'' DeCoud said. ``Both William and I paid a lot of time, a lot of attention, to our ball skills and our ability to get the ball when it's in the air and make plays on it.''

Moore's four interceptions, one shy of his career high set in 2010, have come in only 12 games. He has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury and his status is uncertain for the game at Detroit.

Moore ran on the side but did not practice on Tuesday. Veteran Chris Hope started the last two games as Moore's replacement.

Hope, in his 11th season, is an authority on top safety tandems. He began his career with four seasons in Pittsburgh, including two seasons starting alongside Troy Polamalu. Hope then played six seasons with Tennessee, where he was paired with Michael Griffin at safety.

Hope, 32, said DeCoud and Moore deserve to be mentioned with the elite players at the position.

``It's been a blessing to sit back and watch those young guys mature into what I think are two of the best safeties in the league,'' Hope said. ``I've had the opportunity to form two of the best safety tandems in the league myself. To see those two guys come in and play at the level they've played all season has been good.''

Moore is third on the team with 75 tackles and has two forced fumbles. DeCoud has 64 tackles.

``Those guys are flying around back there,'' said linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. ``They're making plays. They're covering guys. A lot of safeties sit back in the middle of the field and make the plays. Those guys do a lot. Mike Nolan has a great plan for them to get down in the box and they do a good job with their disguises. That's one of the biggest things a lot of people don't see.''

DeCoud said the safeties would receive more recognition if the Falcons (12-2) can win in the playoffs. Atlanta can clinch home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs if they beat Detroit.

``I think we're right up there at the top, but until we can get a little hardware on our hands, that has yet to be proven,'' DeCoud said.

NOTES: Backup OL Joe Hawley returned Tuesday from a four-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Smith said the Falcons have a one-week roster exemption before they must make a move to clear a spot for Hawley, who was center Todd McClure's top backup before the suspension.

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Dwayne Haskins reflects on bond with Kobe Bryant from pre-draft workouts

Dwayne Haskins reflects on bond with Kobe Bryant from pre-draft workouts

Terrible news hit America on Sunday when word came out that basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter and seven others. 

A tragic event for a man and a player that made an impact far beyond basketball. Bryant was known for many things, but more than any, it might have been his competitive spirit. A five-time NBA champion and an 18-time All-Star, Bryant's play was defined by a fluid game and an unstoppable spirit. 

For Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins, he got to see some of Bryant's spirit up close. Last year, before the NFL Draft, Haskins trained at Bryant's gym in Los Angeles, and their encounters made an impression on the signal-caller. 

"He's definitely a guy that brings a lot to the table as far as how he trains, how he prepares and what he expects out of his teammates. Very, very demanding," Haskins said of Bryant. "I want to be able to have that other tool, being able to have that edge that Kobe had. Of course, I play like that, but I'd be able to lead like that. That's why I studied Kobe."

Haskins is one of many young athletes that grew up watching Bryant, and for plenty, idolizing Bryant. 

After the news broke Sunday, Haskins reacted on Twitter.

Haskins said it well: RIP to a legend. Gone too soon. 

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Scott Brooks has a simple reason for why Bradley Beal should be an All-Star

Scott Brooks has a simple reason for why Bradley Beal should be an All-Star

WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal was not picked as a starter for next month's NBA All-Star Game through a voting process that included fans, the media and fellow players. Now it is up to NBA head coaches, who select the seven reserves for each conference.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is not allowed to vote for his own player, but believes Beal has a good chance to be picked based on one simple reason. He can tell how much opposing coaches respect Beal each and every night the Wizards play a game.

"Brad's an All-Star. I know that because every night I get to see it. Every night I get to see the defensive schemes against him. He gets double-teamed I want to say every game. That tells me that coaches feel the same way," Brooks said.

Brooks doesn't lobby other coaches to vote for his players, but said others have tried to persuade him in the past. He will "respectfully listen," he says, but believes it is important to do his own research and make his own choices.

"We all take pride in our choice," Brooks said. "It's an elite group and it's hard to get in."

Though Beal isn't a starter, he has a good case for being a reserve. This season he is averaging 28.1 points (third in East), 6.3 assists (10th in East) and 4.5 rebounds per game. 

If Beal doesn't make the All-Star team, it will likely be blamed on the Wizards' record. They are 15-30 and some of his competitors could get credit for being on better teams.

Brooks, though, believes other coaches should consider the circumstances Beal has been in. He says he takes that stuff into account with his own vote.

"There's a lot of factors that go in," Brooks explained. "It's situations. Guys that are on teams that are not playing well... are they not playing well because of him or are they not playing well because they have a lot of young guys, or because they're injured? A lot of players are injured. We've had a lot of injuries this year."

Beal has been an All-Star each of the past two years. We will find out on Thursday if he is in for the third time.

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