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Fisher regime quickly producing results

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Fisher regime quickly producing results

ST. LOUIS (AP) Jeff Fisher began rebuilding the St. Louis Rams' confidence when he was hired in mid-January. Now they've got the results to back it up.

Heading into a three-day break and a 10-day gap between games, the Rams (3-2) have more to savor than just knocking off previously unbeaten Arizona. They've already topped their win total from the dismal 2011 season with 11 games to go, and they're 3-0 at home for the first time since 2003.

``To be in this position and to have this franchise above .500 is a beautiful thing,'' middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. ``I'm happy to be a part of it.''

Far from satisfied, too. Never too early to start thinking about next weekend's game at Miami.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan and Laurinaitis, an Ohio State alum, are driving to Columbus, Ohio for the Ohio State-Nebraska game on Saturday.

``But I'm downloading all the Dolphins stuff,'' Finnegan said. ``So, football won't be too far away from me.''

The key to the 17-3 victory over the Cardinals was a fast-improving defense that sacked Kevin Kolb nine times, the Rams' best total in 14 years, with very little blitzing. End Robert Quinn, one of three first-round picks on the line, had a career day with three sacks.

The Rams, who totaled six sacks the first four games, stopped Arizona twice inside the 20 in the final minutes.

``It's a new mindset overall,'' Quinn said. ``We knew we had it in us, it's just really fitting the pieces and getting them to click together. Everything is starting to jell.''

On his third sack, Quinn stripped Kolb and Williams Hayes recovered at the Arizona 47 with less than two minutes to go to stop the Cardinals' final chance.

``We knew they were going to come,'' Fisher said. ``I hope keep coming.''

Rookie corner back Janoris Jenkins had his best game of the year with three pass breakups, and also filled in ably on punt returns after Amendola was injured in the second quarter.

``He's just coming right along,'' Finnegan said. ``It's just exciting to have somebody like that you can mentor to, but doesn't really need it.''

Amendola could be out several weeks with what the Rams have described vaguely as a shoulder injury. Amendola, who was second in the NFL with 31 receptions after Week 4, was seen pointing to his right collarbone before leaving for X-rays and could be out a month.

``Obviously, losing Danny is big,'' quarterback Sam Bradford said. ``Everyone knows that he's a big part of our offense. A lot of what we do runs through him.''

Fisher was mum on the injury, saying he'd have an injury report on Wednesday. Amendola showed his emotion before heading in for X-rays when he flung his helmet into a wall with his left arm.

``I'm not commenting on any injuries from the game,'' Fisher said. ``It's a competitive issue. If Danny's going to miss a game, I'll discuss the timing, which I'm sure that he's going to miss a game.''

The defense took the pressure off an offense that's scuffled lately. Tight end Lance Kendricks' first-quarter touchdown reception was the first TD for the offense in three games.

Bradford had one of the worst days of his career, completing only 7 of 21 passes for 141 yards and enduring an 0-for-12 funk that included an end zone interception by Patrick Peterson. There were some drops, but he also threw too high, led receivers by too much, or not enough.

``A lot of little things. It was nothing major,'' Bradford said. ``We just never really got ourselves in rhythm. Fortunately, our guys up front were able to get the run game going in the second half when we needed it.''

Bradford emerged in time to hit rookie Chris Givens, the fastest player on the team, in stride on a 51-yard touchdown pass that put St. Louis up by 14 points early in the fourth quarter. Givens had a few drops earlier in the game.

``I told him I was going to come back to him,'' Bradford said. ``I'm never going to lose confidence in those guys. He's young, he's learning.

``Obviously, he made a great play for us when we needed it.''

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10 changes that would make the NHL better

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USA TODAY Sports

10 changes that would make the NHL better

Hockey is one of the most incredible, compelling sports in the world. As fun as it is to watch on TV, it is even more compelling in person and fans in North America are treated to the best hockey in the world as played in the NHL.

But the NHL's not perfect.

SEE THE 10 CHANGES THAT WOULD MAKE THE NHL BETTER HERE

Just like every sports league, the NHL is always adjusting and making changes to the game in order to improve it through things like rule changes, expansion, playoff formats, etc.

No sport is perfect and hockey is not without its flaws, but there are a number of clear changes that could be made that would improve both the game and the league.

 SEE THE 10 CHANGES THAT WOULD MAKE THE NHL BETTER HERE

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Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Defense

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 23, three days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Training camp preview—defense 

Here are some of the big topics surrounding the defense at Redskins training camp along with some of the things I’ll be observing closely when training camp gets underway on Thursday. I looked at the topics on offense yesterday

Lining up the line

Will Phil Taylor, who seems to be a long shot to make the team after they drafted two nose tackles, get some run with the first and second teams? Also, this is a young group and Jim Tomsula will have a lot of opportunities to teach. Watching him interacting with his line and going over the details of line play is fun to watch.

Spaight vs. Vigil

The two starting inside linebacker starters are safe and the team is intrigued enough by the potential of both Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaun Dion Hamilton to make them likely bets to make the 53-man roster. That leaves Zach Vigil and Martrell Spaight competing for the last ILB roster spot. 

Spaight is a known quantity who has been a mainstay on special teams since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2015. They kept him over Vigil in the cut to 53 a year ago. But last year when injuries hit, Vigil started over Spaight. In a way, this is Round 3 between the two. 

Ryan Anderson

We know what outside linebacker starters Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith can do. Pernell McPhee will be good for four or five sacks and perhaps a forced fumble or two. Anderson, who was the team’s second-round pick last year, is a big question mark. He played 193 snaps in 14 games, but he barely dented the stat sheet with no sacks and just 11 tackles. Anderson is a hard worker and they need him to produce.

The pieces of the cornerback puzzle

This is discussed in some detail here by JP Finlay and I’ll look at it later this week. To pick out one detail, I want to see what the rotation in the slot is. Right now the guess is that Orlando Scandrick is the starter but who will be behind him? That’s important because Scandrick has missed 25 games in the last three seasons due to injuries. 

Apke’s progress

Fourth-round safety Troy Apke displayed impressive makeup speed during offseason practices and that let him make some plays on the ball. But he needed that speed too often as he had issues in coverage. You need to be more than just fast to play in the NFL. If Apke is going to be an alternative if injury problems strike Montae Nicholson again, he needs to start making some progress while he is in Richmond. 

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) 3
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 17
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 40

The Redskins last played a game 204 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 48 days. 

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