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Expect air between Washington St and Oregon St

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Expect air between Washington St and Oregon St

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) Washington State and Oregon State will likely recall the days of the old pass-happy Pac-10.

On one side there are the Cougars with new coach Mike Leach's trademark Air Raid attack. On the other are the No. 14 Beavers with sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion, who is throwing with confidence after a trying debut last season.

Mannion was named the Pac-12 player of the week after passing for a career-high 433 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Connor Hamlett with 1:17 left, in Oregon State's 38-35 victory at Arizona last weekend.

The week before Mannion threw for 379 yards - his previous career high - against UCLA.

``I think a year of getting to play for Sean was really, really good. There's nothing like playing for football players in the games, and that's especially true for a quarterback,'' Beavers coach Mike Riley said. ``The other thing about him is he really likes this game and works hard at it and spends a lot of time at it. He's truly a gym rat, he spent a lot of time studying film and studying what he had to do.''

Nationally, Oregon State's passing offense is ranked fourth with an average of nearly 363 yards per game. Mannion is ranked 10th with 350 yards in total offense per game, and eighth with an average of 27 completions per game.

Leach, who knows a thing or two about passing after leading the nation almost every year he was at Texas Tech, is well aware of the problems Mannion can pose.

``Obviously, you've got to play the pass,'' he told reporters this week. ``But on those broken plays when he gets loose, coverage has to hold up because he's got a real strong arm and sometimes when he gets loose, that stuff's way down field, and if you don't attend to it he can hurt you.''

Mannion has a pair of talented receivers to work with. Senior Markus Wheaton had 166 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Arizona.

Wheaton is averaging 134.3 receiving yards a game, just behind teammate and Pac-12 leader Brandin Cooks with 134.2 yards a game for the Beavers (3-0, 2-0 Pac-12). Cooks and Wheaton are ranked fifth and sixth nationally.

On the other side is Washington State sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday, who took over when senior Jeff Tuel injured his right knee earlier this season.

Halliday and Tuel are listed as ``or'' on Washington State's depth chart, meaning either one could get the start on Saturday, but Halliday has reportedly been getting most of the first-team snaps in practice.

Last week Halliday threw for 348 yards and a touchdown against No. 2 Oregon at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. But he also tossed a costly interception that the Ducks returned for a touchdown en route to a 51-26 victory.

Halliday has passed for over 300 yards in three straight games. Washington State (2-3, 0-2) is ranked third in the Pac-12 with an average of 333 passing yards per game as the Cougars adopt Leach's new scheme. Texas Tech led the nation in passing in six of Leach's 10 seasons there.

Halliday's go-to-guy is Marquess Wilson, who had 12 catches for 182 yards against the Ducks and became the Cougars' career leader with 2,893 receiving yards. He's averaging nearly 100 yards in receptions a game this season.

Oregon State's defense is allowing an average of only 83 yards rushing per game, ninth nationally. The Beavers are in the middle of the Pac-12 for overall defense, allowing opponents nearly 399 yards a game.

But they're allowing 315.7 yards passing - last in the Pac-12.

``I think when you're playing teams that are really good at throwing the ball, they're going to complete some passes. It's just a matter of you making some plays. We had way too many catch a long runs last week and that's what we've got to cut down,'' Riley said. ``Guys are going to complete balls. You've just got to make sure that's where they end up, is where they catch them, then you'll get a chance to make some plays.''

Washington State is struggling on defense. They've allowed opponents 20 touchdowns this season, second-worst in the league. They're giving up an average of 472 yards in total offense, 162 yards on the ground and 310 in the air.

The Beavers have won three straight to open a season for the first time since 2002. The three victories match the team's win total for all of last year when they went 3-9.

One of those wins last season was against Washington State. Mannion threw for 376 yards and four touchdowns to beat the Cougars 44-21 in Seattle.

``They're a good solid team,'' Leach said of this season's Beavers. ``They're a team that took their lumps last year, and it feels like this is their year, you know?''

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 


Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

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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Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 168 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

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5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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