Redskins

GM Reggie McKenzie strives to rebuild Raiders

GM Reggie McKenzie strives to rebuild Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) When Reggie McKenzie took over the Oakland Raiders last January, he knew he had a tough task ahead of him.

The roster lacked depth and elite players after years of bad personnel moves by the old regime led by late owner Al Davis.

Bloated contracts left the team significantly over the projected salary cap, leading to the loss of a few valuable players, and the team had no high draft picks.

Even with those daunting circumstances, McKenzie did not expect the Raiders (3-8) to struggle this much in his first season as general manager.

``Going into this training camp, I liked the prospects of the way it was going,'' McKenzie said Friday. ``I knew where the talent level was, and I knew we didn't have depth to lose players, not one, because I knew it was going to be a drop off. That's without a doubt. But to be where we are now, at 3-8, disappointing. Don't want to be here. I know the fans are not happy, I'm not happy, the coaches, I know the players are not happy.''

The Raiders have lost four straight games and have struggled even to be competitive at times in what McKenzie described as a ``terrible November'' when the Raiders were outscored 169-79 as they fell out of contention in the AFC playoff race.

It was capped by the announcement Friday that 2010 first-round pick and starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain had been suspended for two games for conduct detrimental to the team for a series of transgressions that eventually led him to be kicked out of practice on Wednesday and sent away from the team.

Despite the on-field struggles and the problems between McClain and the coaching staff, McKenzie stands behind first-year coach Dennis Allen.

``I'm still pleased with Dennis,'' McKenzie said. ``It's like, I'm a rookie in this thing, Dennis is a rookie in this thing. So I'm sure he has some rookie mistakes, but overall I'm happy with Dennis.''

McKenzie said everyone will be evaluated after the season, including Allen and all of his assistants. Coordinators Greg Knapp (offense) and Jason Tarver (defense) have come under fire this year and McKenzie said he would have say in the staff for next season.

``This is my football team,'' McKenzie said. ``It's not a dictatorship by any means but it's my football team and I'm responsible. We have a great line of communication so that's not going to be an issue guys, at all. It really isn't. It's my job to evaluate the situation and I'm going to get that done.''

McKenzie was hired last January by owner Mark Davis to take over the football operations that had been run for nearly a half-century by Al Davis, who died in October 2011. McKenzie hired Allen to replace the fired Hue Jackson and quickly began the roster overhaul.

He inherited a roster that lacked depth, was significantly over the salary cap and had few high draft picks to help fill the holes.

After hiring a personnel staff, his first task was to get under the salary cap by restructuring contracts and cutting ties with many of the high-profile and high-priced players acquired in recent years by Davis, most notably cornerback Stanford Routt, pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley, running back Michael Bush, quarterback Jason Campbell and tight end Kevin Boss.

Many smaller moves followed including trades of former draft picks Louis Murphy and Bruce Campbell. In all, 26 players who were on Oakland's 53-man roster at the end of last season are no longer with the organization.

``We're under the cap, we trimmed the guys that we had to,'' McKenzie said. ``But guys, this thing is going forward. We're going to get better from here on out, especially in the player personnel department. That's my quest and we get on that, really, on a weekly basis.''

The roster overhaul has failed to pay dividends on the field. After losing four straight games for the first time in four years, the Raiders are one loss away from their first losing season since 2009.

They haven't even be competitive in recent weeks after a promising October that included a last-second loss at previously undefeated Atlanta and wins over Jacksonville and Kansas City.

They have been outscored 169-79 in the four losses, losing the past three by at least 21 points for the first time in franchise history. The 169 points allowed are the second most in a four-game span since the merger in 1970 and the Raiders are on pace to allow the second-most points ever in a 16-game season.

``The November part of the season has not been good at all,'' McKenzie said. ``That cannot continue to happen. And it's our job to fix it, starting with me. Player-wise, and the coaches trying to get the situations fixed.''

With the Raiders playing out the string in these final five weeks, McKenzie wants to see what players want to remain with Oakland and get a better sense of what he has in some of the younger players.

Rookie receiver Juron Criner has gotten more playing time in recent weeks, third-round pick Tony Bergstrom has been used as an extra offensive lineman and third-string quarterback Terrelle Pryor could play.

Pryor was Davis' last draft pick, taken in the supplemental draft last August. He got on the field once as a rookie and has been inactive the first 11 games this season. He is expected to be active Sunday against Cleveland and could get some playing time down the stretch.

``The only way I can evaluate him, is to play him,'' McKenzie said. ``Now, when he plays, how much he plays, that will be a charge to the coaching staff, but yes. We've got a third of the season left, and this is a good time to try to figure out what works best for him.''

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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 25, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Fan questions—The secondary

To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the secondary and we’ll get into those in a bit. But the popular notion that the secondary struggled last year is not accurate.

Do you want to go standard stats? They were ninth in the league in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent passer rating last year.

Do you prefer more advanced analytics? They were sixth in defensive passing DVOA and 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt.

That’s not a great pass defense but it was a pretty good one. It should be noted that they also benefited from a solid pass rush; they were seventh in the league in sack percentage. Still, you don’t finish in the top third of the league in pass defense without at least a competent secondary.

The question is, will it remain competent? Kendall Fuller was indeed a key player, one of the best slot corners in the league. Bashaud Breeland was inconsistent, but he did shine on occasion. But the fact that he is still available as a free agent indicates what the league thinks of him, problems passing the physical notwithstanding. Those two will have to be replaced.

It is likely that Quinton Dunbar will take Breeland’s spot on the outside. That is at worst a lateral exchange if not an improvement. Dunbar has been working for three years to get this opportunity and there is confidence among the coaches and, perhaps more importantly, the players that he is ready.

Orlando Scandrick is the probable starter at slot. He is a downgrade from Fuller, no question about it. If he is healthy—a big if—Scandrick is good enough to get the job done. Don’t let the star he wore on the side of his helmet for so many years blind you to the fact that he’s a solid player.

The depth at slot consists of second-year player Josh Holsey, who played all of nine snaps on defense last year, and rookie Greg Stroman. That’s not ideal but most of the other teams in the NFL have a similar depth chart.

The wild card who could be the difference between this secondary being better than last year or worse is Fabian Moreau. He played only 59 defensive snaps as a rookie but he did show off his speed and hard-hitting style on some of his 349 special teams snaps. During the offseason practices that were open to the media, Moreau was mostly Josh Norman’s backup at left cornerback. The feeling is that he won’t remain a reserve. We will have to see how things sort out during training camp.

There should be some improvement at safety if Montae Nicholson figures out how to stay on the field in his second year. If he struggles with injuries again and Deshazor Everett has to line up alongside D.J. Swearinger for a good chunk of the season, the safeties are no worse off because that's what happened last year. 

The bottom line is that a secondary that was good last year may take a step down in 2018 but the decline should not be steep. And if Moreau can be the player the organization thought he could be when they used a third-round pick for him, it could be just as good if not better.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler.

Tandler on Twitter

I tweeted this in response to a discussion about the relative popularity of the NFL and NBA. Albert Breer’s tweet on the TV ratings for the leagues’ respective drafts was the nexus of the discussion.

Timeline  

Redskins cornerback Josh Holsey was born on this date in 1994.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 31
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 45
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 59

The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 76 days.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.