Redskins

Huskies hope to erase painful end to last season

Huskies hope to erase painful end to last season

SEATTLE (AP) For all the firsts Lorenzo Romar has experienced in his decade-plus tenure at Washington, this was one he didn't want his program associated with.

Last March, after the Huskies captured the Pac-12 Conference regular season title, Washington flamed out in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament and left its postseason fate in the hands of the NCAA tournament committee. When the Huskies were bypassed for the NCAAs and forced to accept an NIT bid as a consolation prize, they became the first regular season champion of one of the six power conferences to not get an NCAA bid

Embarrassing as it was hearing that fact repeated constantly, it's now become motivation for the Huskies entering a new season rife with questions about how they will go about replacing two first-round picks in the NBA draft.

``I don't feel like we have this mentality that we have to prove the world wrong,'' Washington forward Desmond Simmons said. ``We do play with a chip on our shoulder, we all have a chip on our shoulder about the fact that we only went to the NIT last year.''

For the last four years, Washington has claimed either a regular season of conference tournament crown. It's the longest run of success at the top of the Pac-12 in Washington's hoops history.

Yet staying there for the 2012-13 season will be difficult. There are questions about scoring with the loss of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten to the NBA, front-court play and defense. Proven depth off the bench is also an issue and there have been changes in Romar's coaching staff.

It's the first time since the early years of Romar's return to his alma mater that Washington has not been expected to be a conference title contender. In some regards, the Huskies like it that way.

``We've got the underdog mentality and the fact we're going to have to come out here and work hard every day and we're going to have to try and grind out games and prove to everyone we're not fifth or sixth. We're trying to be the best,'' guard Abdul Gaddy said.

In many ways, Gaddy will end up being the tone setter for Washington.

On the defensive end, his ability to improve defending the perimeter will be a key considering that aspect of Washington's defense was a problem a year ago. Offensively, Gaddy will be at the head of the Huskies' new high-post offense, moving away from the motion system Romar used since the mid-2000s when Washington thrived on its athleticism.

Romar said the move to the high-post was based off personnel now and for the future. It's the system he was taught coaching on Jim Harrick's staff at UCLA and he saw the Bruins win a national title in 1995. It's proven to work, but will take time for the Huskies to master.

``Sometimes when you change your offense or change certain things you want to do within your team, guys fight it,'' Romar said. ``Our guys have embraced it. I think that's a really important piece in this whole thing.''

Two of the biggest beneficiaries of the new offense will be shooters C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs. Wilcox is Washington's top returning scorer after averaging 14.2 points last season, while Suggs returns after redshirting last season due to a foot injury. Because of how the new offense functions, the duo won't need to create their own shots as much, but should have open looks based off the system.

``There are not a lot of positions to break down one on one like there were last year,'' Wilcox said. ``It's more reading off of screens, what the defense does and finding open slots and the open man.''

Aziz N'Diaye and Simmons are the only proven players in Washington's frontcourt. N'Diaye's strength is at the defensive end, but adding additional offensive production could be important for the Huskies' success. The same could be said of Simmons: defense, a strength; offense, a question.

Behind those two lurk Washington's biggest depth questions. Shawn Kemp Jr., Martin Breunig and Jernard Jarreau will all be counted on in the Huskies frontcourt. Kemp and Breunig played significant minutes last year, while Jarreau redshirted while adding weight to his lanky 6-foot-10 frame.

If Washington can answer those questions and navigate a strong non-conference schedule, they could erase the bitter memories of last season.

``It left a big chip in the fact that's one of the big reasons you come to college. You want to play in the NCAA tournament,'' Gaddy said. ``That's one of the perks of playing college basketball. You get to play in the NCAA tournament, where you get to have all those people come watch you. It's just a great moment you get to live. Us not being able to live in that moment made us upset.''

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

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USA Today Sports

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 

Mostly. 

Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?

Wrong. 

Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.

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Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

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USA Today

Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

ATLANTA—Anibal Sanchez outpitched Mike Soroka and scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, Matt Adams homered and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 on Saturday night.

Second-place Washington pulled within 5 games of the NL East-leading Braves, improving to 33-14 since May 24, best in the majors over that span. Atlanta has dropped four of five.

Sanchez (6-6) got a big assist in the bottom of the fifth when shortstop Trea Turner turned a bases-loaded double play, leaping to nab Nick Markakis' liner and throwing to first to beat Josh Donaldson back to the bag.

Soroka (10-2) allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings. He had won 10 straight decisions, best by an Atlanta pitcher since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux had a 10-decision streak in 2001.

Sean Doolittle got the last five outs, facing the minimum, for his 21st save in 25 chances. He struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. with a runner at second to end the eighth and breezed through the ninth.

Washington went up 4-1 in the fifth when Sanchez reached on an infield single to third, took second on Donaldson's throwing error and scored on Turner's double. Turner took third on Adam Eaton's single and scored on Anthony Rendon's single. Eaton scored on Juan Soto's single.

The Nationals took a 5-3 lead in the eighth off A.J. Minter as Turner singled, stole second and scored on Eaton's single.

Adams went deep for the 15th time, an opposite-field homer that bounced off the top of the wall in left-center and into the stands to tie it at 1-all in the fourth.

Sanchez, who pitched for the Braves last year and helped them win the division, allowed three runs and six hits and has a 2.70 ERA in his last nine starts.

Atlanta led 1-0 in the first when Acuna reached on an infield single, stole second base, advanced on a flyout and scored on Freddie Freeman's single.

Brian McCann's ninth homer, a two-run shot in the sixth, chased Sanchez and cut the lead to 4-3.

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NBC Sports Washington's Michael Stearman contributed to this Associated Press story.