Redskins

Howell taking charge for No. 20 Wolfpack

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Howell taking charge for No. 20 Wolfpack

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Richard Howell doesn't mind all the attention going to his more heralded North Carolina State teammates. The senior is focused on ensuring his team meets its potential as an Atlantic Coast Conference contender.

The 6-foot-8 forward is providing interior toughness and relentless rebounding for the No. 20 Wolfpack. And heading into Saturday's home game against top-ranked Duke, Howell doesn't want N.C. State to squander any opportunity to claim the league title it was picked to win in the preseason.

``I just feel like it's my last year and I can't go out there with the same intensity I went out with last year,'' Howell said. ``I don't want to look back and say, `Damn, I could've played this game a little harder.' At the end of the game, I want to know that I did my best and went as hard as I could ever second I was on the floor.''

That attitude has been invaluable for the Wolfpack (13-2, 2-0). On a team with preseason ACC player of the year C.J. Leslie, preseason all-conference pick Lorenzo Brown and projected rookie of the year Rodney Purvis, Howell's presence inside has been critical.

He's started every game of the past two seasons for N.C. State, which has won nine straight and has the chance for its first 3-0 ACC start since the 1988-89 season.

Second-year coach Mark Gottfried motivated Howell to shed 20 pounds and get in better shape before last season, which Howell closed with a 16-rebound performance against Kansas in the NCAA round of 16. Now Howell has added a more vocal leadership role, including promising Gottfried after a 20-point loss to Oklahoma State in November that he would ``never let my team come out and play like that again.''

``He's just doing a lot more things,'' Gottfried said. ``And he's a senior. He steps up. I've always felt like seniors, they approach things a little differently when they're a senior. They start to realize that this is it, no matter what - this is their last year. Things start to matter a little more than sometimes they do when they're younger.''

Howell is averaging 12.7 points and 9.9 rebounds while shooting nearly 63 percent from the floor. He has eight double-doubles on the season and pulled down a career-high 19 rebounds against Norfolk State on Dec. 15.

``He just adds a dimension to our game,'' senior guard Scott Wood said. ``It makes it that much better, just being determined to go find the ball and having the knack to get a rebound when we need it is huge.''

Howell's presence alongside Leslie will give the Wolfpack the ability to counter Duke center Mason Plumlee, while the Blue Devils (15-0, 2-0) will be short-handed up front with 6-10 forward Ryan Kelly out indefinitely with a foot injury.

``We've got to box him out,'' Plumlee said. ``Sometimes his best shot is a missed shot because he just goes and gets it and gets closer to the basket. He's a tough player, plays physical and he's a high-motor guy inside and around the basket.''

Howell said he didn't start playing organized basketball until middle school because he was focused on playing football as a running back growing up. It explains some of his physical style, from muscling up shots in traffic to beating opponents to rebounds despite the fact he isn't a high flyer.

``I just think it's all about heart,'' Howell said. ``If I'm in the right position or even if I'm not in the right position, I feel if you just want the ball half the time and you have the desire to go get it, then you can get it. ... You've just got to go take it even if they're trying to block you.''

But Howell has also had to control that style to stay out of foul trouble, a frequent problem last season that often left him sitting for long stretches. Gottfried said the coaches have worked with Howell on understanding when to gamble for a steal or rebound and when to back off.

Howell fouled out in both of N.C. State's only losses this year to Oklahoma State and Michigan, and played 19 or fewer minutes in both games.

Howell said the tactics include assistant coach Rob Moxley shouting his name from across the practice court every time he starts to reach on defense. He laughed it off, but was quick to say he's more comfortable when everyone's not focusing on him.

``I'm not one that kind of likes all the attention,'' he said. ``I want to do good for my team. Whether it's me or someone on my team, I just want someone to get that credit.''

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Kurt Warner believes Dwayne Haskins has the skill set to be a franchise QB

Kurt Warner believes Dwayne Haskins has the skill set to be a franchise QB

When the Redskins selected Dwayne Haskins with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the organization hoped their investment in the passer would result in Washington finding its franchise quarterback of the future.

Whether Haskins becomes that franchise quarterback is still up for debate, as the signal-caller had an up-and-down rookie season. But the Ohio State product seemed to improve by the week and ended the season playing his best football, giving fans hope for the future.

Kurt Warner, a Super Bowl-champion quarterback who had to wait several years before getting his first NFL shot, believes Haskins can eventually develop into that franchise QB for the Burgundy and Gold.

The Super Bowl-winning quarterback joined the Redskins Talk podcast on Tuesday, and spoke highly of the 22-year-old's ability.

"The skillset, without question, is there," Warner said. "We saw that in college, we saw that in moments last year."

Warner explained that one of the things he looks for in young passers is their week-to-week improvement. That's something Haskins did very well towards the end of the 2019 season.

"To me, that's what greatness is all about," Warner said. "It's not about coming into the league and being a finished product. It's about working and getting better all the time."

In his final two games, Haskins threw for 394 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions on 72 percent completion rate. He was on his way to the best game of his brief career in Week 16 against the Giants before an ankle injury ended his afternoon in the third quarter.

"What I saw with Dwayne this year, he did improve game by game," Warner said. "As he got more comfortable with the NFL, as he got more comfortable with the system, he played better and better and made them more competitive each and every time out."

The 2020 offseason is crucial for Haskins. It's his first full offseason in the NFL, and seems poised to make a jump in Year 2. 

Haskins dealt with a lot in 2019, rookie or not. Five weeks into the season, his head coach was fired. He wasn't named the starter until Week 9, only due to injury to Case Keenum. Entering his second season, Haskins has a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, and new position coach.

There's little carryover from a season ago. Very few organizations that constantly change in the NFL are successful. 

"For young quarterbacks or players in general, you want to be able to find something you’re comfortable with and grow in," Warner said. "Hopefully this is the only move they make during Dwayne's career and he can get comfortable in that offense and hopefully one day be playing in the Super Bowl as well."

Warner knows plenty about waiting to get his opportunity; he didn't get his first shot in the NFL until he was 28. But he was put into an offense nicknamed 'The Greatest Show on Turf" that featured plenty of weapons -- Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt -- which allowed the inexperienced Warner to thrive.

In his first season as the Rams starter, Warner threw for a league-high 41 touchdown passes on an 8.2 percent touchdown rate, with just 13 interceptions. His 109.2 quarterback rating was the NFL's best that season. The Rams went on to win the Super Bowl, defeating Tennessee.

"I think the other component is finding the right situation, the right system for you," Warner said. When I got back into the NFL with the Rams, I was 28 years old when I got my first start. I was able to have a lot of success early because I found myself in the right system. The offense did what I did well. It played to my strengths."

Washington doesn't have the weapons that Warner's Rams did, but the Redskins have several young assets -- Terry McLaurin, Derrius Guice and Steven Sims -- that have shown promise. Getting Haskins in the right system, one that caters to his strengths, will be crucial in the development of the young passer.

"I believe that is key for players, especially at the quarterback position. You've got to find a system," Warner said. "In this case in Washington, they need to build a system around what Dwayne Haskins does well. That's how you thrive. That's how you get to and win Super Bowls."

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'Still unbelievable': Ex-Redskins Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller reflect on Super Bowl journey

'Still unbelievable': Ex-Redskins Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller reflect on Super Bowl journey

Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller spent a combined six seasons with the Redskins, yet neither corner won a playoff game during their tenures there.

Therefore, you can excuse them if they're having a hard time expressing what it's like now being in the Super Bowl together with the Chiefs.

"It's still unbelievable," Breeland told JP Finlay at SB LIV's Media Night on Monday. "I can't even find the words to fathom how I feel about this opportunity."

In fact, the last time Breeland and Finlay chatted, the former was literally asking the latter where to purchase tickets for the NFL's biggest spectacle. He shouldn't have much trouble getting inside of the stadium this time around, though.

"I ended up not even going to that game," he said. "I told myself I wasn't going to the Super Bowl until I got a chance to play in it. Couple of years later, it came true."

Breeland's path to the Chiefs was quite bumpy. After playing for the Redskins for four years and departing after 2017, he inked a well-earned three-year deal with the Panthers. However, he cut his foot during a trip to the Dominican Republic, causing him to fail his physical with Carolina and voiding his contract.

Breeland eventually joined the Packers halfway through 2018, and then he signed with the Chiefs this past offseason. His compensation with Kansas City doesn't come close to what he could've had with Carolina, but a Super Bowl appearance plus his two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 2019 could help him cash in when free agency begins in a few months.

Fuller, meanwhile, took a much more direct route to the now-AFC champions. The Burgundy and Gold's 2016 draft selection was a part of the shocking Alex Smith trade and he's now concluding his second campaign with his second pro team.

The fact that the pair is reunited again and one win away from reaching the top of the sport isn't lost on Fuller, especially after some of the struggles they experienced with the Redskins. 

"It's been fun," he said. "After we won the AFC Championship game, me and [Breeland] were just kind of sitting on the bench looking at each other, knowing how far we came."

The key to K.C.'s rise, according to Breeland, has been their unity. The almost 28-year-old didn't directly call out Washington for lacking a similar closeness, but his comments don't exactly require much parsing to realize the comparison he's making.

So, while he and Fuller are obviously looking ahead to the 49ers, the following comment from Breeland's brief reflection on his past is telling about what the Redskins need to fix on their end.

"Throughout crunch time, everybody pulls together," Breeland explained. "I've been on different sidelines when things go bad, a lot of people start bickering and pull apart from each other. Those were the times that [this team] got closer and pulled together the most."

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