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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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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

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NHL Stanley Cup Final 2018: Capitals vs. Golden Knights full schedule announced, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

NHL Stanley Cup Final 2018: Capitals vs. Golden Knights full schedule announced, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are the only two hockey teams left standing and will meet to decide the 2017-18 NHL Stanley Cup champion.

The Capitals advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1998, thanks to a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Golden Knights, in their inaugural season, shocked the NHL world, defeating the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets to become the first team in major American professional sports history to reach the championship game in the franchise's first season.

The Capitals and Golden Knights met twice during the regular season, with Vegas coming out on top in both games. The Golden Knights blanked the Caps 3-0 in the Caps' first trip to Sin City, and bested the Caps 4-3 at Capital One Arena on Feb. 4.

Game 1 of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC and is available to be streamed online by using the NBC Sports App.

NBC Sports Washington will broadcast pre and postgame coverage of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights,  with Caps FaceOff and Caps GameTime preceding Capitals vs. Golden Knights puck drop and Caps Extra and Caps OverTime following the end of each game. 

2018 STANLEY CUP FINAL HOW TO WATCH

Game 1: Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Wednesday, May 30
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBCSN
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 3: Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Saturday, June 2
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBCSN
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 4: Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Monday, June 4
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 5 (If Necessary): Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Thursday, June 7
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 6 (If Necessary): Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Sunday, June 10
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 7 (If Necessary): Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Wednesday, June 13
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)
 

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