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Eagles still trying new things over final 4 games

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Eagles still trying new things over final 4 games

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Cullen Jenkins was shocked to find a sizable media throng in front of his locker more comparable for a playoff week than another meaningless game for the Philadelphia Eagles.

``I think you guys confused me with Nick Foles,'' Jenkins said, laughing.

Don't worry, Cullen. Foles, the rookie QB, had his moment with the media later in the day. But Jenkins, a ninth-year defensive tackle, was needed to shed some light on why coach Andy Reid decided this week to fire defensive line coach Jim Washburn and bring back Tommy Brasher.

Yes, the Eagles' play has bordered on pitiful this season, especially from a punchless line. But Reid's decision to make a change with four games left in a 3-9 season had as much to do with Washburn's prickly personality as it did an underachieving unit. Washburn was known for being abrasive and acting confrontational with other coaches. Stuck in his old-school ways, the approach wasn't tolerated anymore on a lousy team, especially since his unit was one of the main culprits.

Jenkins, who has two sacks this season after combining for 12 1/2 the previous two, said Wednesday it was weird returning to practice and not hearing Washburn and his unique ways of firing up his players. Jenkins defended Washburn's approach but understood others might not see the value of his methods.

``Some people could take it the wrong way,'' Jenkins said. ``Looking from the outside in, they might not understand it. He was just trying to get us to play hard.'

Outside in? Try, inside out. After all, it was Reid who made the call just hours after the team's eighth straight loss, 38-33 at Dallas Sunday night.

Standing on the practice field, Reid declined to rehash all the details of the split with Washburn. His praise of Brasher, in his third stint with the Eagles, really said it all.

``He's all about the team,'' Reid said.

Even with his 14-year tenure seemingly entering the final weeks, Reid is still trying to find ways to fix the problems that have plagued them during this season to forget. Washburn's wide-nine defensive line alignment is all but scrapped. Nick Foles took first-team snaps knowing he'd be the starting quarterback the rest of the season, and Bryce Brown continues to play well in place of injured running back LeSean McCoy.

Despite the troubles, at least on the surface, Reid still sees a determined team.

``I see guys, they're upset that they're not winning, absolutely,'' he said. ``Their preparation, they're working their tail off to get better. That's an important thing at this point.''

At least publicly, Reid doesn't believe his players have quit on him, so he's tried to rid the locker room of the ``me-first'' men that could rub off on the next generation of Eagles. Jason Babin, a Washburn protege, was the first one dumped. Washburn wasn't pleased with the decision to part with Babin and reportedly threatened to quit. So Reid fired him.

The Eagles hoped Washburn's wide-nine 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.

As such, Philadelphia meets Tampa Bay (6-6) on Sunday mired in an eight-game losing streak. It is the worst skid since 1968 and comes from a team that opened the season with Super Bowl aspirations.

Jenkins refused to say if defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was going to drastically alter their scheme the rest of the season.

``I'm not going to sit here and give away any new things that we might be doing,'' he said. ``You'll just have to wait and see.''

The Eagles are still waiting to see if McCoy or quarterback Michael Vick will return this season following serious head injuries. Both players have not yet passed their concussion tests. They will remain sidelined until they do.

With Foles starting, the Eagles are in no rush to bring back Vick for any reason. McCoy could still play over the final four games, if he's cleared, Reid said. Preparing for the franchise's future - as well as concerns with Vick's long-term health - played into Reid's decision to stick with Foles the rest of the way.

``I'm not going to put him in any jeopardy out there,'' Reid said of Vick.

Knowing that, the former Pro Bowl quarterback may have taken his last snap with the Eagles, less than two years removed from a breakout season in which he led the franchise to the NFC East title. Vick would likely have to accept a massive paycut to return to Philadelphia, to begin with, as well as a reduced role. Then again, those might be decisions fit for someone other than Reid this offseason.

Either way, Reid said Vick, 32, isn't finished, even as his numbers over the last two years have declined since that sensational 2010 season in which he finished with a quarterback rating of 100.2.

``Can he still play? Yeah, absolutely,'' Reid said. ``He can still run, he can still throw. Smart kid.''

And while Vick waits its out, his team will continue to grind it out knowing more changes are on the horizon. Lineup shuffling and transactions on the coaching staff are prices teams pay for losing in the NFL.

The Eagles have learned that this year ... the hard way.

``Whatever the reasons are, it's just something that happens,'' Jenkins said. ``Especially when you're not winning.''

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NOTES: S Kurt Coleman (sternal contusion) did not practice. Coleman has 61 tackles and two interceptions this season. ... The Eagles are 0-2 vs. the NFC South.

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Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

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Associated Press

Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

The Washington Wizards have an opening on their coaching staff, as assistant Sidney Lowe has left the team to join the Detroit Pistons.

Lowe, according to ESPN, will be the top assistant on new Pistons coach Dwane Casey's staff. 

Lowe spent two seasons under head coach Scott Brooks in Washington. A D.C. native, Lowe starred at DeMatha High School before playing at NC State and then in the NBA.

Lowe was the head coach at his alma mater for five years from 2006 through 2011, but has otherwise been an NBA lifer. He served as head coach of the Timberwolves in 1993-94 and head coach of the Grizzlies from 2000 to 2002.

The Wizards have several coaching hires to make now. They have a new G-League team set to take the court in the fall and will need to hire a staff sometime this summer. 

With Lowe gone, they could choose to promote from within or go outside the organization.

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Nationals look to halt red hot Tampa Bay Rays in 2-game series at Tropicana Field

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USA TODAY Sports

Nationals look to halt red hot Tampa Bay Rays in 2-game series at Tropicana Field

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays, routinely using relievers as starters to deal with a rash of injuries, are pitching their way to victories.

The Rays (37-40) go into a two-game interleague series against the Washington Nationals with the momentum of a three-game sweep of the American League East-leading Yankees. New York hadn't lost three games in a row at any point all season, but the Rays pulled it off, capped with a 7-6 win in 12 innings on Sunday at Tropicana Field.

"That's the best team in the league right now, them and the Astros ... I think coming home from that we had confidence and it all carried over into that series," said Rays rookie first baseman Jake Bauers, who won the game in the 12th inning.

Since beginning their experimental use of relievers as "openers" to start games, the Rays have a 3.07 ERA, and entering Sunday's game, that edged the Yankees for the best ERA in baseball since May 19. They've won five of seven games to again challenge .500, and Sunday's walkoff home run by Bauers was their second this season, after totaling one in three seasons from 2015 to 2017.

The Nationals (41-35) had gone 3-9 in their last 12 games before Sunday night's rain-delayed game against the Phillies, dropping into third place in the National League East. They'll send out Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08 ERA), who has no wins in his last four starts and his ERA has risen from a sterling 2.10 to 3.08.

Gonzalez lasted only four innings in his last outing, giving up five hits and two runs against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday. For his career against the Rays, he's 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA, though he's only faced Tampa Bay once since 2012. That was a rough 2015 start at Tropicana Field, lasting 3 1/3 innings and giving up five earned runs on eight hits, walking more batters than he struck out. For his career at Tropicana, he has an 11.25 ERA.

The Rays will have an actual starter on the mound in Blake Snell (9-4, 2.48), who is in line for an All-Star appearance after the first three months of his season. He has just one loss in his last seven starts, and while he has never faced the Nationals, he has generally fared well in interleague play, going 3-2 with a 2.33 ERA in eight career starts.

Tampa Bay, hoping to build on its current momentum, has a tough week ahead, with two games against Washington, then another four against Houston to close out the homestand.

Washington goes from St. Petersburg to a weekend four-game series at the Philadelphia Phillies before returning home for a week.

The Rays got a head start with a Sunday afternoon game and the Nationals saw their prime-time game delayed by rain, keeping them on the field beyond midnight and still needing to fly to Florida for the two-game stopover.

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