Capitals

Georgia Southern cruises past Brewton-Parker 79-56

Georgia Southern cruises past Brewton-Parker 79-56

STATESBORO, Ga. (AP) Eric Ferguson scored 18 points to lead five Georgia Southern players in double figures as the Eagles shot a blistering 70.4 percent in the first half of a 79-56 win over Brewton-Parker on Saturday night.

The Eagles (3-5), who snapped a three-game losing streak, were 19 of 27 from the field before the break, with Ferguson hitting 6 of 7 and Cleon Roberts and C.J. Reed both making 4 of 5. Roberts took all of his field goal attempts from beyond the arc.

Georgia Southern led 16-4 early and 48-24 at intermission, then cooled off to 47.6 percent (10 of 21) in the second half as Brewton-Parker (2-10), an NAIA program, outscored the Eagles 32-31.

Reed finished with 16 points, Trey Bussey 14, Roberts 13 and Marvin Baynham 11.

Darrie Stephens paced the Barons with 26 points, making 8 of 12 field goals and 9 of 11 free throws.

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Message received: Boyd, Stephenson know they are in a fight to keep their jobs

Message received: Boyd, Stephenson know they are in a fight to keep their jobs

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Capitals forwards Travis Boyd and Chandler Stephenson were given a very clear message in the offseason. It came in the form of the team signing free-agents Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic.

Both Boyd and Stephenson held depth roles last season, but the addition of two fourth-line players made it clear that the team was not satisfied with their play last season. Now in training camp, they find themselves in a position where they have to compete to earn the roles they played last year.

“It's a competition,” head coach Todd Reirden said at media day. “They know it's a competition. They're well-informed. It's a very clear message. No one in situations where there's competition are wondering what's going on.”

But even before camp started, both players understood what those signings meant for them and why they were necessary.

“I wouldn't sit here and say I wasn't disappointed or a little frustrated I guess watching the signings that we had here,” Boyd told NBC Sports Washington, “But at the same time I think all those signings help the team and I think definitely makes the team and this group of guys obviously a super dangerous group.”

Last season was Boyd’s first full year in the NHL. It got off to a rough start as an injury kept him out for several weeks. When he finally did get into the lineup, he struggled to stay in and found himself cycling in and out for the rest of the season. He finished the season with 53 games.

Boyd said that overall he felt he had a good season and showed he could contribute offensively with five goals and 15 assists in those 53 appearances. He did acknowledge though that the constant cycling in and out wore on him mentally which affected his play.

“There would be times where you would go a week, week and a half in between games,” Boyd said. “You don't really realize how tough that is until you're in that situation. Your ability to create offense in those situations is a lot harder because if it's your first game in a week and a half, for me personally, I probably wouldn't have came out (sic) there in the first period and been trying to make maybe some sort of a skill play at a blue line. You end up taking kind of the easy way out because it was your first game in a week and a half and you don't want to turn a puck over and then all of a sudden as soon as you turn that over a coach is like alright. It doesn't look good.”

That sentiment of the mental grind of trying to stay in the lineup was echoed by Stephenson who saw his production decline from 18 points in 2017-18 to 11 last season.

“I wasn't really just kind of going out and playing, playing freely,” he said. “Just felt like every game it was kind of a mind game for myself just with trying to stay in the lineup. Just wasn't playing and that's the biggest thing that you can't let yourself get to that point. Once you start thinking instead of just playing, it's usually not going to end well.”

If a guy like Alex Ovechkin or T.J. Oshie has a bad game, it does not come with that fear of wondering whether it means you will be out of the lineup. They can move on, but it is more difficult for Boyd and Stephenson who knew one bad game or even one bad play could be the difference between playing or getting scratched and not knowing when your next game will come.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that with so many depth players, that is not going to change this season. Even if they both do make the team, with so many depth players they are going to have to justify their spot in the lineup.

The experience of fighting for playing time last season should help both players with knowing how to deal with that mental grind, according to Boyd.

“Going in and out and playing on the fourth line was something I haven't done,” Boyd said. “I couldn't really tell you how long it's been for me there. Just being comfortable in that situation I think will help. For me, just put a little bit more effort and a little bit more focus on the practices, especially when you get into the grind of the season and once you actually get into the midpart of the season where a lot of days you can come here and really not be feeling that fresh. You might be able to sneak through a practice without really working hard or as hard as you could, but someone who's going in and out of the lineup trying to go 100-percent every day and trying to keep not only your body in that game shape, but also trying to get your mind into making quick decisions still and just trying to be ready for whenever you do get that chance again.”

First, however, both Boyd and Stephenson have to make the team which is not guaranteed.

Washington’s salary cap situation means general manager Brian MacLellan is going to have to find a way to shed salary. That means either Boyd or Stephenson, or perhaps even both players could find themselves on the move. Training camp and the preseason offer them the chance to show the team they still deserve to be in Washington.

The suspension to Evgeny Kuznetsov could also provide Boyd specifically a chance to impress.

With Kuznetsov out, Lars Eller is expected to move to the second line to replace him. That leaves an opening at third-line center.

This training camp was already important with Boyd fighting for his job. Now here is a chance to earn a third-line role to start the season and perhaps exhibit himself for the first three games until Kuznetsov returns.

“I can't even tell you how big it is,” Boyd said. “A chance to be in a role other than the fourth line if I am in that spot for these first three games, I'd love that. I'd love the chance, I'd love the opportunity. It's just a great opportunity for myself to showcase that I'm back from last year. I put on 10, 11 pounds over the summer so I've got some more weight to me this year, I feel like I'm moving well, I'm skating well I just want to go out there and, if I do get the chance in the first three games, go out there and show what I can do and hopefully show the coaching staff that hopefully I can play.”

As for Stephenson, he is taking a more relaxed approach to camp. If the pressure of staying in the lineup affected his play last season, he is determined to make sure the pressure of a competitive training camp does not drag him down.

“That'll just handcuff yourself and put you in a bad spot because you might be expecting something when it's not happening,” he said, “But for the most part, it's just a competitive camp. Come in, have fun, do what I can do and just do everything I can to stay here. I want to be here.”

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What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

At 0-2 and facing the pressure of a lost season very early in their schedule, it's not a secret that the Redskins need a victory Monday night against the Bears. 

In fact, it's beyond a need. It's beyond a must. The Redskins are desperate to get their first win of the year and stave off the questions that come with a terrible start. Jay Gruden and most of his staff are in the penultimate years of their contracts, and that's not an easy spot to be in if a team is losing. 

Washington's players know the situation. Washington's coaches and front office know the situation. But, how can they win?

  1. The Bears strength comes on the defensive side of the ball, where they rank 3rd in the NFL in points allowed and 4th in yards allowed. Chicago's defense has given up just 24 points this year, Against the run, Chicago is giving up less than 70-yards-per-game, and combined with the Redskins inability to run the ball, that looks like a serious mismatch. Where Washington might find success is throwing the ball. In a Bears win last week in Denver, Broncos QB Joe Flacco threw for more than 280 yards. Chicago has some vulnerabilities at cornerback, and Gruden along with offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell will need to scheme to take advantage of the passing game.
     
  2. Speaking of the passing game, Redskins QB Case Keenum probably needs to play his best game in Washington to get a win. Keenum has been pretty good so far this season, particularly at not turning the ball over. He has no interceptions in two games, and while there have been a few close calls, he must keep the ball away from the Bears fierce pass rush of Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. To make matters more complicated against the stout Bears defense is that Keenum has to protect the ball but also capitalize on big plays when they develop. The Bears offense is struggle city, so if Washington can make a few big plays and get on the scoreboard, Chicago might not be able to keep up.
     
  3. The Bears offensive struggles begin with QB Mitchell Trubisky. In two games, he's completing fewer than 59 percent of his passes and averaging 174 passing yards-per-game. Compare that to Keenum, who's completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 300 yards-per-game, and the Redskins should have a decisive advantage at the game's most important position. Trubisky is dangerous with his legs, but so far this year has been reluctant to run, with just four rushes for 19 yards. The Redskins defensive front needs to show up for this one; pressure on Trubisky could lead to turnovers. Turnovers could lead to early scores and good field position, which helps a lot against Chicago's defense.
     
  4. While Chicago's defense has been terrific, that might not be the Redskins biggest hurdle on Monday. Just playing on Monday night is an immense struggle for Washington. The team hasn't won a Monday Night Football game since 2014 and hasn't won at home on Monday night since 2012.
     
  5. The Redskins have a mountain of injuries, so don't expect to see Jordan Reed or Quinton Dunbar. Also, Trent Williams continues to hold out from the organization, and it was reported over the weekend that Reed might be considering retirement after sustaining his seventh concussion in the preseason.
     

News & Notes

  • Redskins RB Chris Thompson needs four receptions to pass Earnest Byner for No. 3 all-time on the Redskins list of catches by a running back. 
  • If rookie WR Terry McLaurin catches a touchdown against the Bears, that would be his third straight contest with a score. No Redskins rookie WR has done that since Hall of Famer Charley Taylor in 1962. 
  • Jay Gruden is 2-0 against the Bears. 
  • Redskins rookie LB Cole Holcomb was college roommates with Bears QB Mitch Trubisky at the University of North Carolina.
     

They said it

Jay Gruden on the prospect of opening the year 0-3:

"You have to feel it without a doubt. If you don’t feel it then you’re numb, you’re not a football player. There’s nobody that likes to lose in this locker room. Not a lot has to be said when you lose one game, let alone two in a row in your division against the Cowboys and Eagles, one at home. We’re already in a hole a little bit, so everybody understands there’s a sense of urgency, for sure."

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