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Giants can't allow 49ers to get to Manning again

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Giants can't allow 49ers to get to Manning again

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The NFC title game was the low point for the New York Giants' offensive line last season.

While Tom Coughlin's team won the contest and went on to win the Super Bowl, most of the linemen recall it was the game they let quarterback Eli Manning down, literally.

Or as guard Kevin Booth put it: the game the line almost got ``Eli killed.''

Manning was sacked six times and hit six other times in the 20-17 overtime victory. The exhilaration of winning was coupled with more than a certain amount of soreness walking off the field. His uniform bore the signs of the attack: grass stains, mud and anything else that was on the field.

When the Giants (3-2) meet the 49ers (4-1) in San Francisco on Sunday in their first matchup since the conference championship, protecting Manning will be the No. 1 priority for Pat Flaherty's offensive line.

``That game was certainly something that we thought about all (offseason) even though we won the Super Bowl and we beat them in that game,'' guard Chris Snee said Wednesday. ``We still walked away saying that we didn't play well, we didn't do our job up front. That can motivate you though the offseason.''

Manning, who earned his second Super Bowl MVP in beating the Patriots in the title game, downplayed the hits, particularly in relation to the number of passes he threw that day. He unloaded a career-high 58 for 316 yards and two touchdowns, including what was then a go-ahead 17-yarder midway through the fourth quarter to current 49er Mario Manningham on a third-and-15 play.

``We also had 64 dropbacks last year,'' Manning said. ``You throw the ball that many times, you're going to take hits. Hopefully, we can have a good balance of the run and pass. You're going to get hit sometimes playing quarterback. You don't worry about that. Hopefully, you'll have enough time to get the ball out for the routes to develop and guys are getting open.''

The offensive line has done an outstanding job this season, limiting opponents to five sacks. Manning has had three games where he hasn't been sacked. The 49ers, however, have one of the top defenses in the league. They're No. 2 overall, giving up an average of 81.4 yards rushing and 181.2 passing.

Opponents have gained an average of 3.98 yards on first down - best in the league - and scored on just 22.2 percent of their possessions - third best overall.

``They have a good defense,'' center David Baas said. ``You've got to give them credit. They touched Eli way too many times, so that's something that we've got to focus on. Eli is tough and I feel like he's definitely somebody that will stand in there no matter what. But that's our job. We've got to keep him clean.''

Left tackle Will Beatty said the line has watched videotapes of last year's conference championship but he noted the 49ers are not the same team. They have some new schemes and new stunts.

``You still got to go out there and have fun,'' Beatty said. ``It's still a game. You're not looking at them as they're unstoppable. They're not looking at it as we're unstoppable. So, it's men going out there playing the game they love to play.''

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said he remembers seeing Manning getting up after every hit and competing.

``He is a magician,'' Harbaugh said. ``The things that he gets out of, gets into, the throws that he makes, things that he sees when he is able to execute, those are the words I would use to describe him. Also just a football player.

``That's about the highest compliment you can give a football player cause it encompasses so many things. That's the way we look at him.''

The Giants anticipate another hard-hitting game. Both contests against San Francisco last season were played at a very high tempo, and the 49ers seemingly are on a roll after outscoring the Jets and Bills, 79-3, over the past two weeks.

``They're playing awesome, they're playing great and they, especially the last two weeks, definitely played together,'' Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck said. ``Offense, special teams, defense and their coaching staff has them playing at a very high level and everybody knows about their talents.

``We've definitely got to go up there and play one of our best games to have an opportunity to beat them. But we have talent in this room and we'll be ready to play and I think it's going to be a great game.''

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NOTES: TE Martellus Bennett (knee), DT Rocky Bernard (quadriceps), LB Chase Blackburn (hip), RB Andre Brown (concussion), WR Hakeem Nicks (foot-knee), S Kenny Phillips (knee) and CB Corey Webster (hand-hamstring) did not practice Wednesday. ... Coach Tom Coughlin said Nicks is improving and might practice this week. ... The Giants signed former Rutgers RB Joe Martinek to the practice squad.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

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