Redskins

Geno Smith and West Virginia roll into Texas

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Geno Smith and West Virginia roll into Texas

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) The last time Texas faced a leading Heisman Trophy contender, coach Mack Brown told his defense ``Don't let him win it against you.''

How'd that work out? Baylor's Robert Griffin III passed for two touchdowns, ran for two more and one week later accepted the trophy in New York.

``They handed it to him at halftime,'' Brown said.

Ten months and a new season later, here comes West Virginia's Geno Smith, the nation's top-rated passer and the guy everyone is comparing to Griffin after his eight TD passes and 656 yards against Baylor last week. The No. 8 Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) and No. 11 Longhorns (4-0, 1-0) play Saturday night.

For West Virginia, a road win in front of about 100,000 Texas fans and a national television audience would not only solidify Smith as the mid-season Heisman favorite, but also send a statement that the Mountaineers have every intention of winning the Big 12 their first year in the league.

``The crowd's going to be rocking,'' Smith said. ``We still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.''

It will be the first trip to Texas for most of the Mountaineers players, but not for coach Dana Holgorsen, who was an assistant at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State before going to Morgantown. He's talked to his team about what to expect: the crowd, the girls and Texas' famous Bevo steer mascot.

``I'm looking forward to it,'' Holgorsen said. ``There will be a lot of people, cheerleaders and (the) longhorn in the end zone.''

So call it the perfect stage for another national statement by Smith, who has been picking apart defenses with a staggering 83 percent completion rate, 20 touchdowns and no interceptions.

``Amazing,'' Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom said.

The challenge for Texas isn't how to stop the West Virginia offense - ``You're not going to stop them,'' Brown said - but how to make the plays that keep the Mountaineers out of the end zone and make the difference at the end.

Force a punt. Recover a fumble. Make an interception.

``This isn't going to be a shutdown game,'' Brown said. ``The guy just scored 70 points. I mean, unbelievable.''

Brown has to ask a lot from a defense playing well below preseason expectations. The Longhorns gave up 576 yards to Oklahoma State and have a bad habit of surrendering long touchdowns. But the Longhorns also have made big plays at critical moments.

In last week's win over Oklahoma State, an interception set up a Texas touchdown. A defensive stand late in the fourth quarter forced the Cowboys to kick a field goal, and that gave Texas the opportunity to win it with a touchdown.

Despite the lapses, Texas still has playmakers galore on defense, starting with ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor, who have combined for seven sacks.

It will be their job to disrupt Smith and force him to throw quickly or on the run. Texas believes Smith's internal clock may be a bit slow after not facing much pressure in the first four games, especially last week against Baylor.

``We still have some swagger,'' Byndom said. ``We know what kind of defense we can play.''

Texas is also counting on its offense to slow down Smith by keeping him off the field. Unlike Baylor, which tried to match Smith pass for pass in last week's 70-63 shootout, the Longhorns are built around a ball-control running game and play-action passes. If Texas can grab a second-half lead, the Longhorns will try to kill the clock behind battering ram tailback Joe Bergeron.

Longhorns quarterback David Ash has been quietly excellent through the first four games. Ash ranks No. 2 nationally in pass efficiency (behind Smith, of course) and led Texas' game-winning touchdown drive last week in the final two minutes.

After going 13-12 the last two seasons with a 2-6 record at home in the Big 12, the Longhorns can make their own statement with a victory: that Texas is indeed fighting its way back into the nation's elite programs.

``It's been a while since we've gotten the opportunity to be in this situation,'' Ash said. ``It's taken a lot of hard work. We don't need to forget that.''

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Need to Know: The best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 20, six days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the cornerbacks are up. They are roughly ranked by Pro Football Focus’ coverage metrics, although I did some juggling based on interception totals and other factors. Prior to this, we looked at the best teamsreceivers, running backspass rushers, and quarterbacks

1. Patrick Peterson, Cardinals—The athletic Peterson has been All-Pro three times and has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his seven years in the league. He hasn’t had a big interception total since he got seven in 2012 but that is mostly because quarterbacks only throw his way about once in every ten snaps he is in coverage. 

2. Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars—I could easily have ranked Ramsey over Peterson. I went with Peterson because he’s been doing it for longer and he’s only 28. Ramsey has justified his No. 5 selection in the 2016 draft. His long arms and ball skills serve him well. He has the size to defend the bigger receivers and the athleticism to be effective against shifty and speedy receivers. 

3. A.J. Bouye, Jaguars—If Alex Smith tries to throw away from Ramsey he will encounter trouble on the other side. It’s been trendy to say that Bouye is underrated for so long he’s in danger of becoming overrated. But he’s not there yet. Bouye was one of four full-time (played at least 60% of snaps) cornerbacks who did not allow a touchdown pass last year and he had by far the most plays in coverage. 

4. Malcolm Butler, Titans—If the Brady-Belichick Patriots don’t win another Super Bowl, the coach’s decision to keep Butler on the bench as Nick Foles shredded the New England secondary will be marked as the end of that era. Maybe Butler isn’t good enough to have made a difference, but it would have been interesting to see. He’s with the Titans now and he will give Smith problems in December. 

5. Marshon Lattimore, Saints—Last year’s defensive rookie of the year plays an aggressive style both in press man coverage and when tackling receivers who have caught the ball. An ankle injury sent him out of the game against the Redskins early, perhaps one of the reasons why Kirk Cousins was able to light them up for 322 yards and three touchdowns. 

Best of the rest: Desmond Trufant, Falcons; Brent Grimes, Bucs; Logan Ryan, Titans;k Jaire Alexander (rookie), Packers

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) 6
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 20
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 43

The Redskins last played a game 201 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 51 days. 

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

So, the Orioles made some headlines earlier this week. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but minor league pitcher Asher Wojciechowski exercised his opt-out clause and is no longer with the organization. Please keep Orioles fans in your thoughts during this trying time.

As everyone reading this is undoubtedly already aware, the Orioles *also* made a trade yesterday, sending 26-year old superstar Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return for their once-in-a-lifetime talent, the Orioles received a whopping five prospects from the Dodgers’ minor league system.

Yusniel Diaz, OF, 21

It’s fitting that this trade is being compared to the Erik Bedard trade, which was also a five-for-one, because Diaz could be a poor man’s Adam Jones. He’s not the prospect Jones was, but he could end up being a really nice player.

Talent evaluators are split on his ultimate ceiling. Some describe him as a bona fide stud, and others leave him off their top 100 lists. I’ve seen him ranked as high as 31st overall (by Baseball Prospectus), which, if accurate, is a terrific main piece in a package for a star rental. 

Most consider Diaz’s main flaw as a prospect to be his in-game power, though anyone watching the 2018 MLB Futures Game would be confused by that, as he became the second player ever to hit multiple home runs in the game. It’s possible that more power develops as he matures, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first player to hit for more power once reaching the Majors, but for now, it’s not a strength. I wouldn’t expect him to top 20 home runs in most seasons.

His bat-to-ball ability is his clearest strength, as he projects to consistently hit for a high average. His batting eye, while formerly a weakness, has become a strength in 2018, as he’s actually walked more times than he’s struck out (a rarity in this day and age). That will play well with O’s fans who are tired of seeing their players challenge strikeout records.

Dean Kremer, RHP, 22

Kremer isn’t a major name, which is a disappointment for O’s fans and one of the reasons their haul felt so uninspiring. Compared to more highly-touted prospects like Dustin May, Kremer looks like the team settled.

That said, he’s currently sporting the best K/9 ratio in the minors, and could end up being a diamond in the rough. He’s come a long way since being a 14th-round pick two years ago, and you have to wonder if the Orioles’ much-maligned pitching development can pick up where the much more successful Dodgers instructors left off.

Kremer is also notable for being the first Israeli-born player ever drafted in Major League Baseball.

Rylan Bannon, IF, 22

Bannon was an 8th-rounder last year and is having somewhat of a breakout this season. He’s leading the league in home runs, though playing in a notorious band box of a home park is skewing those numbers.

Bannon is undersized, but has a reputation of a good, if not elite, fielder. He’s a third baseman, but will likely spend some time at second as well. If the power breakout is real, he could end up a solid starter for the Orioles down the road. Again, that’s about all you can hope for in trades of this nature.

Zach Pop, RHP, 21

Pop has been described as potentially a future “right-handed Zach Britton,” which every O’s fan would take in a heartbeat. Of course, he’s not ranked like a future All-Star, as even in the weaker Orioles farm system he’s likely no better than around 25th. 

Still, the filler players in big trades like this are just lottery tickets, and considering his lack of pedigree, Pop seems like a relatively “safe” pitcher with projectability. He strikes out a lot of batters and gets a lot of ground balls, and at the very least can likely become a decent middle reliever.

Breyvic Valera, IF, 26

In a best-case scenario, Valera becomes the Orioles’ Ryan Flaherty replacement. If you squint, you can see somewhat decent upside in each of the other returning players, even despite their modest prospect rankings, but Valera is a clear utility player. 

He gets on base and hits for contact well enough to stick around and has proven capable of defending multiple positions, so there actually might be a spot for him at the end of the Orioles bench.

Overall

This trade has been described as anywhere from adequate and somewhat deflating to a great haul O’s fans should be excited about. Four of the five players have decent ceilings, though the chance of all four (or even just two of them) reaching those ceilings is highly unlikely. It’s just the nature of baseball.

Ultimately, this trade will be judged on the success or failure of Yusniel Diaz, who is the clear centerpiece of the package. Whether or not he succeeds will be partially up to him, and partially up to the front office and player development team.

If this trade is the beginning of the core for the next competitive Orioles team, then it’ll have to be considered a success. If these players each bust out of the league, then it was still the correct decision to trade Machado instead of settling for draft pick compensation, but it will still sting all the more for O’s fans seeing Manny soar to new heights elsewhere.