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Fitz held down by sputtering Arizona offense

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Fitz held down by sputtering Arizona offense

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Arizona's offensive woes have limited the team's ability to take best advantage of one of the best wide receivers in the game.

A weak offensive line, erratic quarterback play and a largely ineffective running game have meant that defenses can zero in on Larry Fitzgerald more than ever, and he was already drawing plenty of attention. One of the game's best offensive players plays on one of its worst offenses.

An immensely proud player, Fitzgerald works hard to keep any personal frustration to himself. He knows how good he is, and that must make the offensive struggles of his team even harder to bear.

``I know what I am. I know who I am,''' he said after practice on Thursday. ``That's not going to change based on week to week number-wise. That's never going to change. My focus is more so on just getting it done as a whole. That's really what I think of. I'll get my plays.''

Fitzgerald, who holds virtually every Arizona career receiving record and has numbers over the recent past as good as anyone who has played the game, has topped 1,000 yards receiving in each season since coach Ken Whisenhunt took over in 2007.

Halfway through this season, with Arizona on a four-game losing streak, Fitzgerald has caught 45 passes for 511 yards and three touchdowns. At this pace, he'd pass 1,000 again, but just barely.

His current total is bolstered significantly by his one outstanding performance, nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown against Philadelphia. That game, not coincidentally, is the only thing resembling a one-sided victory for the Cardinals this season, a 27-6 win in Week 3.

``You've got 16 games, 17 weeks of ball, I'll make some shots,'' Fitzgerald said. ``There hasn't been many thus far but it's going to happen.''

The week before that, he had one catch for 4 yards in a 20-18 upset of New England. That was Fitzgerald's worst individual game stat since he went without a catch in the seventh game of his rookie 2004 season. That marked the only time in Fitzgerald's 132 regular-season games that he did not catch a pass.

He did have another one-catch game against Dallas near the end of Arizona's miserable 5-11 2010 season, but at least it went for 26 yards.

The Cardinals (4-4) enter Sunday's game at Green Bay ranked 31st (out of 32 teams) in offense, 31st in rushing and 24th in passing. In the two games since quarterback Kevin Kolb was injured and replaced by John Skelton - losses to Minnesota (21-14) and San Francisco (24-3) - Fitzgerald has nine catches for 81 yards, with a long of 16.

Fitzgerald is long accustomed to defensive attention. He said he's seen nothing new this year.

``Same old, same old,'' he said. ``Just confuse, throw a lot of looks at you, roll over the top. It's the same difference. Nothing special.''

Against the Packers, Fitzgerald will face an unpredictable defensive scheme. The 49ers' defense simply overpowers, the Packers will look to confuse.

``They're all over the place,'' he said. ``They'll have 11 guys and not one of them have their hand down sometimes. You never know where the blitzes are coming from. They're walking all around. It's controlled chaos at times, it seems like.''

Big plays have been few and far between all season, and Fitzgerald said it's important not to force things, even though his ability and size often result in some circus catch over one or two defenders.

``You force it, you're going to get turnovers,'' Fitzgerald said, ``so when you do have favorable looks, you have to capitalize. We've had favorable looks throughout the season, there's no question about it. We can go back over any game. We've had shots. From St. Louis to Seattle to Minnesota. All games we've had shots. We just haven't capitalized on them. It all comes down to execution. When we do have favorable looks, we've got to make it happen.''

Whisenhunt goes to considerable lengths to minimize the ability of defenses to take Fitzgerald out of the game, moving the receiver to various spots in the formation.

``What you try to do is make it harder for defenses to double him,'' the coach said, ``and the only way you can do that is putting him in the slot, motioning him, lining him up in the backfield and moving him out of there. There are a lot of creative things that you do to try to keep that from happening. But you know during the course of a game, you're going to get a matchup, and you've got to try to exploit that.''

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Check out the names on the Wizards' Summer League training camp roster

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Check out the names on the Wizards' Summer League training camp roster

NBA Summer League is right around the corner. While the Washington Wizards continue a search for a new president, they do have one thing pinned down: the Summer League training camp roster.

The Wizards open Summer League play in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 6, when they take on No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Mini camp begins Tuesday and runs through Thursday. Players will participate in a two-hour practice each day.

Here is the training camp roster:

Noah Allen, G/F, Hawaii (Capital City Go-Go)
Armoni Brooke, G, Houston
Elijah Brown, G/F, Oregon (Grand Rapids Drive)
Troy Brown Jr., F, Oregon (Washington Wizards)
Dontay Caruthers, G, Buffalo
Troy Caupain Jr., G, Cincinnati (Orlando Magic)
Corey Davis, G, Houston
Dikembe Dixson, F, UIC (Capital City Go-Go)
Kellen Dunham, G, Butler (Capital City Go-Go)
John Egbunu, C, Florida
Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
Vince Hunter, F, UTEP (AEK Athens Greece)
Garrison Mathews, G, Lipscomb
Tarik Phillip, G, Ukraine (Petrol Limpija Ukraine)
Admiral Schofield, F, Tennessee
James Thompson IV, F/C, Eastern Michigan
Jeff Withey, C, Kansas (Lavrio B.C. Greece)
Tony Wroten, G, Washington (BC Kalev-Cramo Estonia)

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Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin, and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s matchup:

Region: Fourth line forwards

Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

 

2018-19 stats

 

Noel Acciari (27 years old):72 games played with the Boston Bruins, 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points, 12:59 TOI

 

Playoffs: 19 games played with the Boston Bruins, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 13:10 TOI

 

Marcus Kruger (29 years old): 74 games played with the Chicago Blackhawks, 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, 10:25 TOI

 

Playoffs: None

 

Hockey-Graph contract projections

 

Noel Acciari: 2 years, $1,180,934 cap hit

 

Marcus Kruger: 1 year, $861,030 cap hit

 

The case for Noel Acciari

Plays a lot bigger than his 5-foot-10, 205-pound frame. A perfect fit at right wing on the fourth line for Washington. The native New Englander, who played at Providence, is a home-grown Bruin and might not want to leave home, but Boston also might not have the cap space to give an obvious fourth-line player a decent raise. The Capitals might not, either, but for now, they really only have to add in RFA Jakub Vrana’s new contract and figure out what they’re going to do with RFA Andre Burakovsky. 

 

Acciari is renowned for his character and toughness. He was a college captain for Providence and helped the Friars win an NCAA title in 2015. There’s never been a shot he’s unwilling to block. Acciari sustained a broken sternum in the second round against Columbus and a blocked shot with his right foot in Game 7 of the Cup Final left him in a walking boot.  

 

Acciari’s offensive upside is limited, but he did have 10 goals in 2017-18. He was a key player for the Bruins in the past two Stanley Cup playoffs and chipped in two goals in this year’s playoff run that came within a game of a championship. Acciari would help on Washington’s penalty kill, too. In 111:52 he was only on the ice for 11 power-play goals against. Only two Boston forwards were on the ice more short-handed.  

 

The case for Marcus Kruger

 

A different skill set here for the smaller Kruger (6-foot, 186 pounds). Don’t expect even double-digit goals from him, either. But Kruger will likely cost less than $1 million and can be a valuable penalty killer, where Washington needs help. That’s huge for a team that is now dealing with an $81.5 million salary cap, which is $1.5 million less than expected. Add in the overage bonus for defenseman Brooks Orpik from last season and you’re in trouble at just over $80 million.   

 

Kruger played seven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and one disappointing one with the Carolina Hurricanes. Kruger has plenty of Stanley Cup experience, too, playing for Chicago’s 2013 and 2015 Cup winners. He has 87 postseason games and a triple-overtime game-winner in the Western Conference Final to his name in 2015 in Game 2 of that series against Anaheim. 

 

A defensive specialist, only two Blackhawks forwards played more short-handed minutes than Kruger (132:46) last season. There is risk here. Kruger was traded to Carolina in 2017-18, but was placed on waivers after 48 games and spent the rest of the season in the AHL before being traded to Arizona and then back to Chicago. But part of that stemmed from how much he was making on a $3.08 million cap hit. At a bargain-basement price, Kruger is more palatable. 

 

Who’s your pick? Vote here.

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