Hamilton's record day sparks Arkansas past Tulsa


Hamilton's record day sparks Arkansas past Tulsa

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Even a dismal year for Arkansas hasn't tempered the performance of Cobi Hamilton.

The wide receiver's latest act of excellence helped the Razorbacks rally for a 19-15 win over Tulsa on Saturday, keeping their slim bowl chances alive. The 11-catch, 177-yard performance also highlighted a record-breaking season by Hamilton, who has made the extraordinary look routine.

Hamilton set the Arkansas single-season receptions record in the win, breaking current Minnesota Vikings rookie Jarius Wright's mark of 66 catches in a season. The senior now has 69 catches for 1,077 yards - only 40 yards short of Wright's school single-season yards record of 1,117.

It's a mark Hamilton figures to break next week when the Razorbacks (4-5, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) travel to No. 12 South Carolina.

``It means a lot as far as a personal goal, but hopefully (we) get the team to win,'' Hamilton said. ``We want to finish these last three games out and play hard, play Arkansas football and just finish well.''

Hamilton's two biggest catches Saturday came on the Razorbacks' game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Trailing 15-13 to the Golden Hurricane (7-2, 5-0 Conference USA), who appeared poised for their first win over Arkansas since 1976, Hamilton caught 41- and 14-yard passes on back-to-back plays - giving the Razorbacks the ball at the Tulsa 1-yard line.

Dennis Johnson, who finished with 109 yards rushing on 22 carries, ran in to for his second touchdown of the game one play later to give Arkansas the lead for good - a refreshing feeling following a last-second loss to Mississippi a week earlier. The Razorbacks, after beginning the season ranked in the top 10, must now win two of their last three games to earn bowl eligibility for a fourth straight season.

``That's an improvement from last week, of course, but we've got to do better,'' Hamilton said. ``We don't want to make it that close. There's 80,000 people up there nervous, and me included, so we want to make it better and hopefully we finish well next week, a better start and a better finish.''

Arkansas' relief following the win was equaled by the Golden Hurricane's disappointment.

Tulsa rallied from an early 10-0 deficit and outplayed the Razorbacks for much of the game. Quarterback Cody Green, returning from a shoulder injury that kept him out two weeks earlier against Rice, was 15 of 18 passing in the first half before struggling to a 7-of-15 effort in the second half and finished 22 of 37 for 222 yards.

Tulsa outgained Arkansas 203-158 in total yardage in the first half, but it trailed 13-12 after a pair of failed extra-point attempts and a missed 42-yard field goal by kicker Daniel Schwarz. Tulsa, which has now lost 18 straight to the Razorbacks, allowed only one Arkansas score in the second half - Johnson's game-winning touchdown.

``Arkansas has jumped out on everyone early with the way they move the ball,'' Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said. ``Dennis Johnson is something we don't practice against or face often. Once we got up to game-speed defensively, we were OK.

``I love the way our team competes and plays, and it sticks in your gut because I felt that we should have won.''

Johnson's touchdown was set up following Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson's two big completions to Hamilton, who leads the SEC and is 4th nationally with an average of 119.7 yards receiving per game.

Hamilton spent much of the last three seasons in the shadows of former Arkansas receivers Wright, Greg Childs and Joe Adams - who were each taken in the fourth round of April's NFL draft. The 6-foot-3, 209-pound Hamilton, however, has evolved from overlooked to last man standing this season for the injury-riddled Razorbacks.

With tight end Chris Gragg once again out with a leg injury, Hamilton was one of the few proven options at receiver for Arkansas. That was just fine by Wilson, who finished 21 of 31 passing for 272 yards and has looked for Hamilton at every opportunity this season.

``Any quarterback has one really good receiver that they feel very comfortable with,'' Wilson said. ``All the greats: Montana-Rice, Brady-Welker, a number of different relationships there, and for me this year.

``Last year it was Wright, this year it's Cobi. You've got to have a guy you go to when it's crunch time, and he's done an incredible job. I think he's one of the best receivers in the country.''

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 

Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

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

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Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 168 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

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5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera


5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C.