Capitals

End of losing streak may help Purdue turn tide

End of losing streak may help Purdue turn tide

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) One win has kept hope alive at Purdue.

Two more and the Boilermakers could go down as the nation's most improbable bowl-eligible team, with a roster of players and coaches who have routinely defied the odds.

``We're in a playoff situation,'' said sixth-year quarterback Robert Marve, who is playing with a torn ACL in his left knee. ``It just kind of hit me today, we can't lose a game right now.''

Actually, under new NCAA rules, if there aren't enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all the slots, the Boilermakers could still make it in at 5-7. But why try for the long shot when Purdue can still take care of things itself?

The Boilermakers understand what they're up against.

A year ago, they needed to win two of their last three regular-season games to snap a three-year bowl drought. They did.

Now if they can win these next two and finish the regular season on a three-game winning streak, they would likely make it back despite all of the things that went wrong this season - a five-game losing streak that left Purdue out of the Big Ten title chase, four blowouts that had many pondering whether this team had quit on the season, rotating quarterbacks that may have contributed to a lack of continuity, and, of course, the persistent speculation about coach Danny Hope's future in West Lafayette.

Saturday's 27-24 victory at Iowa not only gave Purdue (4-6, 1-5) respite, but a whole new perspective on this season.

Suddenly, the Boilermakers are talking about winning at Illinois (2-8, 0-6) this weekend and again when rival Indiana (4-6, 2-5) visits Ross-Ade Stadium the following weekend in the annual Old Oaken Bucket game.

``A bowl game is a big deal to us,'' Marve said Tuesday. ``This team feels like that's a successful season. No, it's not the season we wanted, but it would be one that Boilermakers Nation could look back at and say we bounced back.''

Judging from what Hope saw last weekend and through the early part of this week, this looks like a rejuvenated team.

Marve, who replaced Caleb TerBush in the starting lineup the previous week, threw for 266 yards and two scores. The Boilermakers topped 200 yards rushing for the first time since September and only the second time all season. A healthier defensive front held Iowa to just 2.4 yards rushing per carry, and Paul Griggs ended the losing streak with a 46-yard field goal as time expired.

Somehow Purdue stayed calm despite playing without offensive coordinator Gary Nord, who was out with a back injury, and facing the win-or-else scenario.

``I think we went into that game relaxed and that's not really been the case this season,'' Hope said. ``I think we were a lot more loose this past weekend. We just kind of let it all hang out and we had a lot of fun. We had a blast, we really did.''

The difference also was as evident at Tuesday's weekly news conference where Hope cracked jokes with reporters, defensive tackle Kawann Short smiled and laughed as he answered questions, and Marve seemed to say whatever was on his mind.

If they keep it up, the Boilermakers just might come up with that big finish that could send them to a second straight bowl game.

``We expected this year to be a lot different,'' Short said. ``But (going to a bowl game) is still big to the team and to make that last effort since that's the last thing we can do.''

Hope still isn't sure whether Nord will be calling the plays this week, though his gut-feeling is that Nord likely won't travel to Champaign, Ill. Nobody can ever be certain how Marve's left knee, the one he's torn the ACL in three times, will hold up. And, of course, the Boilermakers still must prove that last week's strong showing at Iowa was the norm - not the aberration.

But Purdue doesn't care about logic or conventional wisdom.

All they want to do is get the job done and salvage something from a sour season.

``I'm really pumped up and excited about it,'' Marve said. ``I would really like to get this team to a bowl game. It's been a long road, and if we can finish strong at the end, it would really mean a lot to me.''

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Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 24, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The heat is on Jay Gruden

Jay Gruden knows that his Redskins need to win in 2018.

“This isn’t a two- or three-year process,” he said last week. “This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.” 

Jay Gruden gave this answer to a question about Alex Smith, but his words should resonate with the whole team. He’s right. This is no longer a rebuilding team. It’s time for this team to get it together and make a playoff run. 

That puts the pressure on Gruden. 

This is his fifth year as coach of the Redskins. He is well beyond the point where he can credibly point a finger of blame at his predecessor for any problems that are lingering. Only five players who were around in 2013, Mike Shanahan’s last year in Washington. It’s Gruden’s show now. 

His tenure is now the longest for a Redskins head coach since Norv Turner made it nearly seven years, from 1994 through 13 games into the 2000 season. His 49-59-1 run with the Redskins spanned three owners in Jack Kent Cooke, John Kent Cooke, and Dan Snyder. 

It should be noted that Turner’s third and fourth years at the helm closely resembled Gruden’s past two years. Turner’s team went 9-7 in 1996 and 8-7-1 the next year, narrowly missing the playoffs both years. That looks a lot like Gruden’s 8-7-1 and 7-9 records over the past two years. 

Gruden does not want this year’s team to resemble the 1998 Redskins. Turner’s fifth team started out 0-7 before winning four of their last five to finish 6-10. 

Turner kept his job in part because of the team’s uncertain ownership situation after the elder Cooke passed away in 1997. Gruden will not have a similar set of circumstances to help him out if he needs a lifeline in January. 

Gruden wants his fifth year to turn out more like Turner’s sixth season. That team went 10-6, topped the NFC East standings and won a playoff game. 

To get there, he needs a lot of his decisions to go right. While the trade for Smith was not his call, every indication is that he was on board with it. 

Last year, it was his decision to say no, thanks to Wade Phillips, who wanted to be his defensive coordinator and promote Greg Manusky into the job. The results were mixed as the Redskins were sixth in pass defense DVOA but 29thagainst the run. It was viewed as a marginal improvement on defense but the unit still seeme to be more of a liability than an asset. 

This year, the Redskins re-signed inside linebackers Zach Brown and Mason Foster and added defensive lineman Daron Payne with their first-round pick after spending their first-round pick on DE Jonathan Allen in 2017. There will be no excuses for Manusky and, by extension, Gruden if the defense does not improve. 

Joe Barry, Manusky’s predecessor who also was hired by Gruden when Phillips was an option, was out after two years of failing to significantly improve the defense. Any reasonable analysis would have to conclude that Barry did not get an infusion of talent anywhere approaching what Manusky has received in his two seasons. Manusky is getting a second year but he probably won’t get a third if the defense is still considered to be an impediment to the team’s progress. 

And if Manusky has to go, you have to wonder if Gruden will get a chance to hire a third defensive coordinator. 

I’m not sure if there is a certain number of games that the Redskins have to win for Gruden to return in 2019. It feels like he would not survive a 6-10 season or maybe not even another 7-9 finish. On the other end of the spectrum, making the playoffs and winning a game when they get there would certainly punch his ticket for a sixth season. 

Anything in between would leave Gruden in some jeopardy and the call would come down to the vague “moving in the right direction” criteria. 

There are some holes on this team, to be sure. But every team has some and the ones that are well coached figure out how to overcome them. The pressure will be on Gruden to best utilize their strengths and minimize any damage brought about by the weaker points. 

From his statement, it’s apparent that he is well aware of that. 

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  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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I put out a tweet correcting the Super Bowl ring count to two.

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 32
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 60

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 77 days. 

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