Redskins

Getting to Brady could be key for 49ers

Getting to Brady could be key for 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) As Aldon Smith chases down the NFL record for sacks, his specialty becomes of particular significance this week when the San Francisco 49ers face New England and the NFL's top-ranked offense.

The Patriots have been vulnerable most often when opponents put quarterback Tom Brady on his back.

Nobody in the league has been better at that this season than Smith. The NFL leader with 19 1/2 sacks, he enters Sunday night's game three sacks short of Michael Strahan's single-season record after recording at least one in seven consecutive games and 14 in San Francisco's past six games.

Brady has been sacked seven times in New England's three losses and only 13 times in the team's 10 wins. How much pressure Smith and San Francisco's second-ranked defense can put on Brady could be the key to ending the Patriots' seven-game winning streak.

That hasn't been an easy thing to do for most opponents. Only once during New England's past eight games has Brady been sacked more than once. He wasn't sacked at all in three of those games.

``It's a big challenge to put pressure on Tom Brady when he's so good with every detail of his game,'' 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday. ``Everything is so refined. There's not a lot of tips you can get or clues even when he's in the shotgun. So it's a big task and that's something that we would like to get done. I think we're up for it.''

Smith has been up for practically every pass-rushing challenge over the past two months, particularly in prime-time games.

He had a career-high 5 1/2 sacks the last time the 49ers played a night game Nov. 19 against the Chicago Bears. Three weeks before that, Smith had two sacks during a Monday night rout of Arizona. In six career games played in prime time, the second-year pro has produced 12 1/2 sacks.

``It's just that feeling that you get again, being in the spotlight,'' Smith said. ``Being back under the lights, that's when everybody got their real love for football. Back in high school under the lights, Friday night lights, you knew it was show time. Everybody just gets up for it.''

The spotlight has been shining bright on Smith as he approaches Strahan's league record set in 2001. Smith is the first player in NFL history to record 14 or more sacks in his first two seasons, and his 33 1/2 career sacks are the most ever by a player in his first two years.

Smith is eager to add to those totals Sunday against a familiar opponent. The No. 7 overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft, Smith will line up in base defensive formations across from New England left tackle Nate Solder, the No. 17 pick in last year's draft.

Smith and Solder faced each other in college when Smith was at Missouri and Solder at Colorado in 2009. As a redshirt freshman, Smith had a college career-high three sacks and four tackles behind the line of scrimmage in that game, a 36-17 Missouri victory.

``I faced (Solder) in college and I was able to beat him,'' Smith said. ``I'm sure he improved, and they do a really good job working well with each other, working as an O-line to protect the quarterback. (Brady) does a good job getting rid of the ball, so getting pressure on him and confusing him and making his job a lot harder are things we have to do.''

The San Francisco defense relies on Smith's impact from the edge to make those things happen.

``It's going to take a lot of pressure, Aldon and those guys getting to Brady,'' cornerback Carlos Rogers said. ``They need to mix up their looks and get him off his spot so he's not sitting back there baking a cake and picking us apart.''

New England is the NFL's highest-scoring team, averaging 36.3 points per game, and in the six games the Patriots have won by more than 10 points this season, Brady has been sacked only three times. In New England's seven other games, Brady has been sacked 17 times and the Patriots are 4-3.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio understands the correlation between getting pressure on Brady and having success against the Patriots.

``Every week's a challenge in this league, but this week it's more of a challenge because of Brady and their offense,'' Fangio said. ``There is no one way to defend Brady, which to me is the definition of a great quarterback. Do you want to pressure him some? Yeah. Do you want to rush three, five, six? Yes. But you've got to do a little bit of everything, because he's really good.''

Smith will be coming with everything he has as he attempts to bring down Brady and break the sacks record.

``It's one of the goals I have,'' Smith said, ``and just have to really keep it going, see if I can make that number even better.''

Quick Links

Redskins vs. Eagles Week 15: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Redskins vs. Eagles Week 15: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

When the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Washington Redskins in Week 1 on the 2019 NFL season, things were a lot different. 

Despite the loss, the Redskins had hopes of contending with veteran quarterback Case Keenum and some offensive talent, while the Eagles and a fully-healthy Carson Wentz were expected to be Super Bowl contenders. Fast forward to Week 15, and that hasn't been the case.

The Redskins struggles have come in bunches. A 3-10 record, Washington has dealt with injuries, off the field problems and the firing of Jay Gruden during the season. Things in Philadelphia haven't gone much better. At 6-7, Philadelphia is still fighting for a playoff spot, but an inconsistent offense has led to an underwhelming year for Wentz and company.

On Sunday, the Eagles will fight to keep their NFC East title hopes alive while the Redskins look to see more growth from rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. The Week 15 matchup may not be what was expected earlier in the season, but it still has implications. Here's everything you need to know about the game.

REDSKINS vs EAGLES WEEK 15

Who: Washington Redskins (3-10) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

What: Week 15 of the 2019 NFL regular season

When: Sunday, Dec. 5, 2019, 1 p.m. ET

Where: FedExField, Landover, MD.

TV Channel: FOX

Live Stream: Stream on FuboTV, Pregame and postgame coverage streaming on NBCSportsWashington.com

Radio: Redskins Radio Network

Spread: Eagles, -4.5

Over/Under: 38.5

Weather: 48 degrees, mostly cloudy

REDSKINS at PACKERS TV SCHEDULE:

8:30 a.m.: Pro Football Weekly

9:00 a.m.: Redskins Talk: Week 15

10:00 a.m.: Inside the Redskins

11:00 a.m.: Redskins Coaches Show

11:30 a.m.: Redskins Nation

12:00 p.m.: Redskins Kickoff Live

4:00 p.m.: Redskins Postgame Live 

REDSKINS 2019 SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Redskins at Eagles (L, 32-27)

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, Cowboys at Redskins, (L, 31-21)

Week 3: Monday, Sept. 23, Bears at Redskins, (L, 31-15)

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Redskins at Giants, (L, 24-3)

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, Patriots at Redskins, (L, 33-7)

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Redskins at Dolphins, (W, 17-16)

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, 49ers at Redskins, 1 p.m. (L, 9-0)

Week 8: Thursday, Oct. 24, Redskins at Vikings, 8:20 p.m. (L, 19-9)

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Redskins at Bills, 1 p.m. (L, 24-9)

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Jets at Redskins, 1 p.m. (L, 34-17)

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, Lions at Redskins, 1 p.m. (W, 19-16)

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Redskins at Panthers, 1 p.m. (W, 29-21)

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Redskins at Packers, 1 p.m. (L, 20-15)

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Eagles at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Giants at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Redskins at Cowboys, 1 p.m.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

Quick Links

Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

While watching the Wizards take on another rebuilding team, as they did on Saturday night in their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, it's only natural to compare the stages of those respective rebuilds and wonder which team is closer. That may be an even more interesting question with a game like Saturday's that matched the Wizards against a team doing things a decidedly different way.

In a sense, the Wizards are where the Grizzlies were last season. Memphis had unexpectedly bottomed out the year before, enough to land Jaren Jackson Jr. in the draft. And, like the Wizards this year, they were holding onto their core veterans, in their case Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol.

But the Grizzlies didn't bounce back into playoff contention like they had hoped and ended up trading both Gasol and Conley, and arguably too late. The Wizards wish to avoid that fate with Bradley Beal and John Wall.

Neither the Wizards (7-17) or Grizzlies (9-17) are a good team right now and both would like to be back in the playoff mix sooner than later, maybe even next year. So, who is closer?

The Grizzlies have the more impressive young core with Jackson and Ja Morant. Both are just 20 years old and they each look like future All-Stars, if not All-NBA talents.

Jackson is averaging 17.6 points and 1.2 blocks while shooting 40 percent from three on six attempts per game. He's a two-way unicorn who can make plays like a guard and has potential to become an elite rim protector.

Morant is the early favorite for rookie of the year, averaging 18.7 points and 6.4 assists while shooting 42.6 percent from long range. He has future star written all over him with a game reminiscent of a young Wall or Russell Westbrook.

The Grizzlies appear to have hit on their high draft picks, but have also nailed later ones, the type of moves that separate the best front offices. Brandon Clarke, the 21st pick this past June, looks like a steal. And Dillon Brooks, a second round pick in 2017, is a solid young player.

But the Wizards also have an emerging young core with Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner. None of them are as good as Jackson or Morant, but they are good players on the rise. And, most importantly, the Wizards have Beal.

While Jackson and Morant could someday be stars, Beal already is one and he's signed long-term. Potential is a commodity in the NBA, but nothing is guaranteed for young teams and young players. Just look at the Bulls and Hawks this season.

Now, the Grizzlies do have something the Wizards would absolutely love to have and that is real financial flexibility. They have close to $70 million in salary coming off the books this summer and have the second-lowest payroll committed for next season of any team in the NBA, second only to Atlanta.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are strapped with Wall's supermax contract which, depending on how he returns from a torn Achilles, could be an albatross for years to come. Though cap space doesn't mean the Grizzlies will be able to lure free agents, as Memphis has never been mistaken for a prime destination, but it's a preferable spot to be in. Wall's deal may prevent the Wizards from keeping players they would otherwise re-sign, when Memphis should have no such problem.

So, so far we have the Grizzlies with a better young nucleus and a much better salary cap situation. The Wizards, though, have the proven star and may have two if Wall returns to form.

But here's what may give the Wizards the edge, or at least secure a push. The Grizzlies have to give one of their next two first round picks to Boston by way of a 2015 trade. It is top-6 protected this year and unprotected in 2021 if it doesn't convey this June. That could be a major problem for a team trying to build through the draft.

Also, the Wizards are lucky to be in the Eastern Conference. Though the Grizzlies geographically should be in the East, they remain in the West which has been the superior conference basically since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls.

There is, of course, no definitive answer to the root question of this analysis. The easiest way to settle it would be to say the Grizzlies have a higher ceiling at this point because of Morant and Jackson, but the Wizards probably have the more likely path to the playoffs next season, given they play in the East and have two guys with a track record of getting there.

But as we compare the teams, keep in mind what Memphis wanted to do and what they ended up doing in terms of trading their veteran stars. The Wizards don't want to take their rebuild that far, but sometimes things don't go according to plan. Just ask the Grizzlies.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: