Redskins

Eagles fire defensive line coach Jim Washburn

Eagles fire defensive line coach Jim Washburn

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Defensive line coach Jim Washburn was fired Monday, the latest shakeup for the sinking Philadelphia Eagles.

Coach Andy Reid dismissed the abrasive Washburn just hours after the team's eighth straight loss, 38-33 at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. Former defensive line coach Tommy Brasher will replace Washburn.

This was the third major move on defense in seven weeks. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was fired on Oct. 16. Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin was released last week.

The Eagles (3-9) are mired in their worst losing streak since 1968 and searching for answers after opening the season with Super Bowl aspirations.

``I think it's the best thing for the Philadelphia Eagles and this football team that I made that move,'' Reid said. ``This was a move that I made. Nobody else made this move. This isn't a move to save my job. This is a move that I think needed to be done now, and so I did it now.''

Reid is assured of just his third losing season in 14 years, and could be coaching his final games in Philadelphia. Owner Jeffrey Lurie already said the Eagles needed to make ``substantial improvement'' after going 8-8 last year and that a similar record would be ``unacceptable.''

Regardless, Reid has one year left on his contract and is proceeding with important decisions. After firing Washburn, Reid said rookie Nick Foles would be the starting quarterback the rest of the season, even when Michael Vick returns from a concussion.

Washburn's dismissal wasn't entirely a surprise. Washburn was known for having a strong personality and being confrontational with other coaches. He had to be separated from offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg on the sideline during a game against New England last November.

One player, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Washburn often was ``disrespectful'' to other staff members, particularly Castillo.

``I would just tell you that there were things that I was disappointed in and as time went on I just thought it was the right thing to do right now for this football team,'' Reid said. ``It was just something that I had been pondering and working through.''

Washburn was hired on Jan. 19, 2011 after 12 seasons in Tennessee where he earned a reputation as one of the top positions coaches in the NFL. The Eagles hoped his wide-nine defensive line alignment would produce plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. It did at first. The scheme helped the Eagles tie for the league lead with 50 sacks last season, but has resulted in only 20 so far this year.

Washburn's linemen accounted for 46 of those 50 sacks in 2011, including 18 from Babin and 11 from Trent Cole. But Babin had 5 1/2 this year before he was cut last Tuesday, just 1 1/2 years into a $28 million, five-year contract. Babin was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Washburn wasn't pleased with the decision to part with Babin and reportedly threatened to quit. So Reid fired him.

``I don't want to see anybody get fired, but I kind of think from the inside looking out you knew they wanted to do that, especially after our bye week there,'' Babin told reporters in Jacksonville. ``I mean Coach Reid got rid of our refrigerator and our coffee maker in our room. So I could tell there was some feelings between Coach and Wash that were on the surface. You could kind of feel the tension a little bit. I mean, get rid of a guy's refrigerator and coffee maker? I think everybody knew that he probably wasn't going to be here next year anyway.''

Reid said he cut Babin to give more playing time to younger players. Brandon Graham, a 2010 first-round pick, started in Babin's spot and had 1 1/2 sacks against Dallas.

Overall, the line's inability to pressure quarterbacks has made it disastrous for the pass defense. Quarterbacks have picked apart the secondary, especially in the six games since Todd Bowles replaced Castillo.

Tony Romo finished 22 for 27 for 303 yards and three touchdowns for the Cowboys, becoming the sixth straight quarterback to post a passer rating of at least 120.0 against the Eagles. The defense has allowed 16 touchdown passes and has zero interceptions in the last six games.

Reid, though, made it clear the loss to Dallas didn't factor into Washburn's departure.

``It wasn't all about this game,'' he said. ``He's a good football coach and I think it was just maybe a give and take. He's had a great career and he's going to have a great career. That just didn't quite work the way I wanted it to work.''

Brasher served as Philadelphia's defensive line coach in 1985 and from 1999-2005. He worked under coordinator Jim Johnson in his second stint. The Eagles had an outstanding defense during that stretch, which included four straight trips to the NFC championship game and one Super Bowl appearance.

``Having Tommy Brasher back here again brings back a very loyal, loyal assistant coach that I've had here for a number of years, who understands exactly what I'm about and what I'm trying to get done with a young defensive line,'' Reid said.

The Eagles visit Tampa Bay (6-6) next Sunday.

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AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Jacksonville, Fla., contributed to this report

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Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the seasons

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USA Today Sports Images

Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the seasons

The news about Arie Kouandjio’s quad injury didn’t sound good when NBC Sports Washington broke it a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t sound any better when Jay Gruden said that they were seeking a second opinion. 

And now we have word that Kouandjio will be out for the season, per multiple media reports. While there was some initial hope that he might be able to play at some point this season, he is likely to be put on injured reserve soon. 

The corresponding move is expected to be the signing of guard Isaiah Williams, per JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington. He spent training camp with the Redskins in 2016 and 2017 before being released in the final cuts. Last year he also spent time with the Chiefs and the Colts but he has yet to appear in an NFL game. 

At worst, the Redskins have lost their starter at left guard. Kouandjio was set to compete with Shawn Lauvao for that job. Lauvao, who has been the starter at left guard going into the season for each of the last four years, would have been tough to unseat, but the 26-year-old Kouandjio may have had the inside track.

And at best, the Redskins lost experienced depth. Last year, when injuries hit hard along the offensive line, Kouandjio was re-signed and he started six games. It’s tough to lose experienced depth before the players even put pads on.

We will see if the Redskins make a move to shore up the guard position. Over the next couple of weeks, teams will be evaluating their veteran players and their rookies to see if they have younger and cheaper options. That could lead to some serviceable players getting released or some quality options being put on the trading block. 

The Redskins likely are set to get four compensatory draft picks in 2019, which would give them a total of 11 selections. They certainly could afford to deal one of those picks if they are offered a chance to upgrade at left guard. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby has been largely overshadowed in the headlines of the Eastern Conference Final by Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

After two games, Vasilevskiy was one of the bigger storylines for how poorly he played in giving up 10 goals in just five periods. The next three games after that, the storyline changed to how well he was suddenly playing and how he had helped the Lightning steal two wins in Washington and take a 3-2 series lead after Game 5.

Holtby was not mentioned much. His play was not the reason the Caps went up 2-0 or the reason they went down 3-2.

But if the Caps hoped to force a Game 7, they needed him to at least be a reason why they won Game 6.

Holtby responded in a big way. With his team facing elimination, Holtby registered his first shutout of both the regular season and the playoffs.

"It's a perfect time," Devante Smith-Pelly said after the game. "He's been great all year. Obviously an up-and-down year for him personally, but the way he's bounced back, he's been amazing all throughout the playoffs."

Holtby is now just the seventh goalie in NHL history to record his first shutout of the season in a game in which his team faced elimination.

Holtby, however, was not concerned with the stats or the shutout.

"The only reason it’s good is we won," Holtby said of his shutout performance. "Aside from that, it’s just good for [the media], I guess you can write about it. But for us it’s just that W."

Vasilevskiy made a number of jaw-dropping saves, especially in the first period, but Holtby matched him save for save as both teams battled for the first goal. With the score knotted at zero, Holtby made a toe save on Anthony Cirelli on a 2-on-1 opportunity to keep the Lightning off the board. He really upped his game in the third period as Tampa Bay made a late push to tie it. He turned aside 10 shots that frame including a nifty snag on Nikita Kucherov and a glorious glove save on Ondrej Palat.

Holtby's performance ensured the Caps would live to fight another day...for now.

As the series shifts back to Tampa Bay, Washington will again be facing elimination. This time, however, so will their opponents.

Anything can happen in a Game 7. In a winner-take-all game, it may come down to who has the better goalie on Wednesday and Holtby seems to be picking a good time to up his game.

"Braden has been the backbone of our hockey club," Barry Trotz said. "You can’t go anywhere without goaltending and he’s been solid. ... Braden is a true pro, he works on his game, he finds ways to make a difference and he does."

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