Redskins

Indianapolis preparing for Pagano's return

Indianapolis preparing for Pagano's return

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Colts head coach Chuck Pagano can resume coaching whenever he's ready.

On Thursday, Dr. Larry Cripe, told The Associated Press that Pagano had been cleared to return and that it was up to the coach and the Colts to determine when that will happen, and how much Pagano will do. Pagano's physician is not imposing any restrictions, either.

Pagano is expected to return to the team complex as early as Monday.

``Medically, I see no reason he cannot come back when he's ready to try and come back,'' Cripe said. ``Coach has done a great job with this, and I trust him.''

Cripe said he gave Pagano the good news the last time they met, though he declined to say when that happened.

Pagano has not been on the sideline since a Sept. 23 loss to Jacksonville, Indy's only home defeat this season.

Three days later, he was diagnosed with leukemia and immediately began the first of three rounds of chemotherapy. Players and most of the assistant coaches were told Oct. 1, the day the Colts returned from their bye, that Pagano was taking an indefinite leave from the team and that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would fill in as interim coach. The team has left the light on in Pagano's office since then.

On Nov. 5, Cripe said the disease was in ``complete remission'' and that Pagano would undergo two more rounds of chemotherapy to ensure all the cancer cells had been destroyed. Pagano is scheduled to take oral medication and be closely monitored by doctors for the next two years.

During treatment, Pagano stayed in communication with players and coaches through phone calls and text messages; watched tape of practices and games; occasionally showed up at the team complex; and has spoken to the team before and after home games.

All the while, doctors continuously monitored Pagano's white blood-cell count to make sure the recovery was progressing.

But the Colts always pegged the Dec. 30 regular-season finale against Houston as the date they hoped to have Pagano back on the sideline - a goal that now appears likely to be met.

``I love that guy and I would love to see him in person on the sideline,'' Cripe said when asked if he would attend the Dec. 30 game. ``To me, the bottom line is that he's done what he needed to do, and he's done it with the clear goal that he wants to be coaching as soon as he can.''

Officially, the Colts (9-5) have not said when Pagano will return.

On Wednesday, Arians told reporters the team was keeping its fingers crossed and that it would be a ``great Christmas present'' if Pagano returned on Christmas Eve. When asked if he was ready to coach his final game, Arians responded: ``Heck, yes.''

Players are eager to get him back, too.

``It's going to be crazy. It's going to be a great moment, just having him back on an everyday basis with the team, knowing that's what he really wants, back with us coaching and back on the sideline,'' safety Antoine Bethea said. ``Obviously we know it's going to be emotional. It's going to be a great time.''

Cripe has given Pagano the same advice he does all of his patients: Don't try to do too much too fast.

``Look, if you get pooped out, adjust,'' he said.

What Pagano will find when he gets back is a vastly different team.

In early October, many still considered Indy one of the league's worst teams. Now, the Colts are a confident group on the verge of clinching their first playoff berth of the past-Peyton Manning era with a win Sunday at Kansas City or a Steelers loss.

The Colts are also chasing history.

With a win Sunday, Arians would tie the NFL record for victories after a midseason coaching change (nine) and the Colts would become only the fourth team to go from two or fewer wins to 10 or more the following season.

When Pagano was still coaching, Andrew Luck was trying to get comfortable in his new NFL surroundings, too. Now he owns the league's rookie records for most fourth-quarter comebacks (six), most victories by a No. 1 overall draft choice in the modern era (nine), and most yards passing in one game (433). He needs 26 attempts, 47 completions and 74 yards passing to break the NFL's single-season rookie records in all three categories. He still has an outside chance of catching Peyton Manning's rookie record for TD passes (28). Luck is currently 308 of 564 for 3,978 yards with 20 TDs and 18 interceptions.

But it was Pagano's illness that Arians credits for making all of this possible.

``They found a reason to play and when a team finds a reason to play, they'll overcome some things,'' Arians said. ``Chuck's illness took everybody, even strangers that we would bring off the street on Wednesday and we'd play on Sunday, and they'd fight their tails off. When you have guys playing hard for 60 minutes, you're going to win some games because most teams in this league don't play hard for 60 minutes.''

Most expect the transition from Arians back to Pagano to go smoothly. Coaches are anticipating the day-to-day operations will essentially remain unchanged from the script Pagano followed before taking his leave.

``We would always talk back and forth about what was good, what was not good and how we were going to try and defend our next opponent. So we're going to go back to that,'' defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said.

He added: ``When he comes in, we're ready to roll, same thing. It's uncharted territory I guess you would say.''

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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.