Capitals

Giants might be on cusp of another late run

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Giants might be on cusp of another late run

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) With a crushing win over the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants believe this could be the start of another late-season title run.

While no one was ready to predict a third trip to the Super Bowl since the 2007 season, the Giants (7-4) easily played their best game in a month in the 38-10 rout Sunday night that gave them a two-game lead in the NFC East.

``This is when you need to be playing your best ball heading into the cold weather and the playoff atmospheres that we're about to embark on,'' defensive captain Justin Tuck said Monday. ``This is when you want to be playing your best, so that's very important. A lot of times we see teams start hot and end on a cold note. We've been more of the variety of start hot, get cold and then heat up again. So hopefully we can end this season playing our best ball and heading into the playoffs playing our best ball. That's where you want to be.''

The Giants certainly looked a lot like the team that steamrolled opponents in their final six games last season, capturing a second title in five seasons.

However, this also has been an inconsistent team over the past two seasons.

The goal now is stay on a roll, especially with the young and talented Redskins on tap in Washington next Monday night.

A Giants' win almost eliminates Washington (5-6) from the division race. A Redskins' win puts the division up for grabs with a month to go in the regular season.

``It's a five-game schedule,'' fullback Henry Hynoski said. ``We have to keep staying consistent. We can't get complacent and say we just beat up on the Packers so we can beat up on anybody. Every week is big-boy football. We just have to come out and buckle our chinstraps and prepare every week like we did last week. We have to carry that here on out.''

The Giants had all three phases working against the Packers. The slumping offense converted three of four red zone opportunities in the team's second-largest win of the season. The defense sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and forced two turnovers that led to 10 points against one of the league's top offenses. Special teams didn't let Randall Cobb break any big returns.

One thing that has changed since the Giants went into the bye week following losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati was the way the players reviewed games. Normally, coaches watch the film and go over any errors. Cornerback Prince Amukamara said the players now hold a players-only meeting every Monday to go over the previous game, with the offense, defense and special teams each taking an hour or so to discuss the game.

Amukamara called it a debriefing akin to what many armed forces do following a mission. He said the players go over their actions on each play and get good feedback from other players.

Amukamara said the players did it last year, and started doing it again after the Cincinnati game.

``What's great about it is that everyone has a voice, from the scout team to a Pro Bowl guy, so anyone can talk,'' Amukamara said, noting the normal meeting with the coach will take place in addition to the debriefing.

Safety Antrel Rolle said beating the Packers the way the Giants did was an awesome feeling. In typical coach-speak, he added to remain consistent the team has to limit its focus to one team each week and not look at the big picture that also included games against New Orleans, Atlanta, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

However, he said Sunday's game was reminiscent of the way the Giants finished last season.

``Honestly, it felt good to go out there and get a win and get that nasty taste out of our mouths,'' Rolle said. ``Just being on the same page with the guys and going around and flying around and having fun while doing that (was good). I think we had a lot of fun in that game yesterday and we beat a very, very good opponent.''

Coach Tom Coughlin said if the team practices the way it did last week, the wins will follow.

``It started out a six-game schedule, now it's five,'' Coughlin said. ``Every game is critical, every game is important. This week, when we get started, our preparation will be for a divisional game, a Monday night game. Every game is of the utmost importance. I think the players will respond.''

Tuck agrees.

``We don't get down on ourselves just because of a few bad games, and we've had our share of bad games this year,'' he said. ``We all know what we are capable of once we tie it all together. Last night was a showcase of that.''

NOTES: The Giants placed halfback Andre Brown on recallable injured reserve with a broken left leg. He must stay on the list eight weeks, which would get him back for the Super Bowl if the Giants make it that far. With only Ahmad Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson on the roster, Coughlin said the team is considering signing a running back. Former Rutgers product Joe Martinek is on the practice squad. The Giants worked out free agents Mewelde Moore, Ryan Torain and Joseph Addai recently. ...There was no update on T David Diehl's stinger but Coughlin was concerned. S Kenny Phillips aggravated the right knee that he hurt in late September on Sunday night.

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Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 24, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The heat is on Jay Gruden

Jay Gruden knows that his Redskins need to win in 2018.

“This isn’t a two- or three-year process,” he said last week. “This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.” 

Jay Gruden gave this answer to a question about Alex Smith, but his words should resonate with the whole team. He’s right. This is no longer a rebuilding team. It’s time for this team to get it together and make a playoff run. 

That puts the pressure on Gruden. 

This is his fifth year as coach of the Redskins. He is well beyond the point where he can credibly point a finger of blame at his predecessor for any problems that are lingering. Only five players who were around in 2013, Mike Shanahan’s last year in Washington. It’s Gruden’s show now. 

His tenure is now the longest for a Redskins head coach since Norv Turner made it nearly seven years, from 1994 through 13 games into the 2000 season. His 49-59-1 run with the Redskins spanned three owners in Jack Kent Cooke, John Kent Cooke, and Dan Snyder. 

It should be noted that Turner’s third and fourth years at the helm closely resembled Gruden’s past two years. Turner’s team went 9-7 in 1996 and 8-7-1 the next year, narrowly missing the playoffs both years. That looks a lot like Gruden’s 8-7-1 and 7-9 records over the past two years. 

Gruden does not want this year’s team to resemble the 1998 Redskins. Turner’s fifth team started out 0-7 before winning four of their last five to finish 6-10. 

Turner kept his job in part because of the team’s uncertain ownership situation after the elder Cooke passed away in 1997. Gruden will not have a similar set of circumstances to help him out if he needs a lifeline in January. 

Gruden wants his fifth year to turn out more like Turner’s sixth season. That team went 10-6, topped the NFC East standings and won a playoff game. 

To get there, he needs a lot of his decisions to go right. While the trade for Smith was not his call, every indication is that he was on board with it. 

Last year, it was his decision to say no, thanks to Wade Phillips, who wanted to be his defensive coordinator and promote Greg Manusky into the job. The results were mixed as the Redskins were sixth in pass defense DVOA but 29thagainst the run. It was viewed as a marginal improvement on defense but the unit still seeme to be more of a liability than an asset. 

This year, the Redskins re-signed inside linebackers Zach Brown and Mason Foster and added defensive lineman Daron Payne with their first-round pick after spending their first-round pick on DE Jonathan Allen in 2017. There will be no excuses for Manusky and, by extension, Gruden if the defense does not improve. 

Joe Barry, Manusky’s predecessor who also was hired by Gruden when Phillips was an option, was out after two years of failing to significantly improve the defense. Any reasonable analysis would have to conclude that Barry did not get an infusion of talent anywhere approaching what Manusky has received in his two seasons. Manusky is getting a second year but he probably won’t get a third if the defense is still considered to be an impediment to the team’s progress. 

And if Manusky has to go, you have to wonder if Gruden will get a chance to hire a third defensive coordinator. 

I’m not sure if there is a certain number of games that the Redskins have to win for Gruden to return in 2019. It feels like he would not survive a 6-10 season or maybe not even another 7-9 finish. On the other end of the spectrum, making the playoffs and winning a game when they get there would certainly punch his ticket for a sixth season. 

Anything in between would leave Gruden in some jeopardy and the call would come down to the vague “moving in the right direction” criteria. 

There are some holes on this team, to be sure. But every team has some and the ones that are well coached figure out how to overcome them. The pressure will be on Gruden to best utilize their strengths and minimize any damage brought about by the weaker points. 

From his statement, it’s apparent that he is well aware of that. 

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) 32
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 60

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 77 days. 

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