Redskins

Harbaugh sticking with Akers as starting kicker

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Harbaugh sticking with Akers as starting kicker

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) David Akers is keeping his job as San Francisco's starting kicker. For now, anyway.

Coach Jim Harbaugh made the announcement after practice Thursday, two days ahead of the 49ers' NFC divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers (12-5) at Candlestick Park.

``Suffice it to say we feel confident in David giving us the best chance to win,'' Harbaugh said.

The 49ers (11-4-1) signed Billy Cundiff on Jan. 1 to compete with Akers, a 15-year veteran who has struggled this season while making only 29 of 42 field-goal attempts.

He has plenty of supporters in the locker room who still believe he can put the ball through the uprights on the NFL's biggest stage.

``It's nice to see that Akers gets an opportunity to redeem himself, especially in the playoffs,'' safety Donte Whitner said. ``If he does it in the playoffs, I believe that everybody will forget about the misses that he had in the regular season.''

Akers revealed last week he underwent double hernia surgery last February, then re-aggravated the area earlier this season when he slipped on the field during practice. After a Nov. 25 game at New Orleans, Akers returned to the doctor in Philadelphia who performed the surgery to receive an injection.

The left-footed Akers understood why Cundiff was brought in, but made it clear he wants to remain the kicker.

``He responded like a football player does,'' Harbaugh said. ``He competed.''

Cundiff, who missed a potential tying 32-yarder that might have kept Baltimore and Harbaugh's big brother, John, from reaching the Super Bowl last season, will remain on the roster.

Harbaugh said he isn't likely to be among the active players Saturday.

``To be determined - most likely not,'' Harbaugh said. ``He's done a nice job. David's done a better job and is more prepared to give us the best chance to win.''

Akers received death threats last month via Twitter, and NFL and team security got involved.

He missed overtime kicks twice against the Rams this season, with the 49ers losing at St. Louis and tying at home. Akers had a field goal blocked in a loss at Seattle on Dec. 23 that Richard Sherman returned 90 yards for a touchdown.

He missed two more wide left in a home victory against Arizona in the regular-season finale before bouncing back to make two.

The 38-year-old Akers began the season by making a 63-yarder in a season-opening win at Green Bay in which the ball bounced off the crossbar and through the uprights.

Last week, he said, ``I would definitely give that 63-yarder back to make the two kicks against St. Louis.''

Akers wasn't available to the media Thursday.

``I have a lot of confidence in him,'' cornerback Carlos Rogers said. ``I actually thought that was going to be the choice. I thought he should stick with David from the get-go. I think that was just a little pressure to get David back on point. He was a little off. I'm glad he's out kicking. Coach is not the guy that brings in a lot of people, changes a lot of positions.

``We kind of stick who we've stuck with from the beginning of training camp. David's that guy. I've said all along David's going to make the kick to help us win the Super Bowl. That's just been my mindset, since Day 1.''

Rogers would know, too. They faced off for six seasons in the NFC East - Akers for the Eagles and Rogers with the Washington Redskins. Akers made 20 of 22 field goals in their head-to-head meetings, missing only from 50 and 53 yards.

Akers made 44 of 52 field goals during his All-Pro 2011 season, his first in a three-year deal after joining San Francisco. His reliable left leg had seemed near-perfect - causing his teammates to wonder why the Eagles would ever let him go - until this up-and-down season.

When asked whether Akers' playoff experience factored into the decision and gave him an edge over Cundiff, Harbaugh said, ``feel like we've plowed that ground as thoroughly as it can possibly be plowed.''

His teammates were happy to hear the news.

``Everybody respects Dave in this locker room,'' backup quarterback Alex Smith said. ``I know it's been tough. It's not easy. It seems like you only really get noticed when you go out there and fail. Everybody has respect for what Dave is about, what he stands for.

``He's obviously gone through a rough patch. Happy to see him win the competition. I hope it gets him back on track.''

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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.