Redskins

Lions QB Matthew Stafford struggling this season

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Lions QB Matthew Stafford struggling this season

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Matthew Stafford was really looking forward to this season last summer.

The Detroit Lions quarterback expected to pick apart defenses by finding one-on-one matchups and throwing to Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles.

If none of those receivers was open, he couldn't wait to connect with Brandon Pettigrew or Tony Scheffler.

And if the tight ends were covered, tossing a short pass to speedy running back Jahvid Best seemed as if it would be good option.

Not so much.

Stafford might have just two of the aforementioned targets Saturday night when the lowly Lions (4-10) host the NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons (12-2).

``There are NFL teams that go through this, and we're one of them,'' Stafford said. ``It's obviously easier when guys stay healthy and you can work with the same guys all year.''

That's what happened for the most part last year when Stafford stayed healthy for a change and had a trio of receivers - before Broyles was drafted - a pair of tight ends and Best to throw to during a 5-0 start.

Since a concussion knocked Best off the field more than a year ago, the Lions have lost almost twice as many games as they've won. Losing Best in the backfield has made the team even more one-dimensional, relying on Stafford to throw early and often.

Stafford finished last season with 663 attempts, the third-highest total in NFL history. With 629 throws this season, he is on pace to easily break the league's single-season mark of 691 set by New England's Drew Bledsoe in 1994.

His attempts this season are up, and he is down in other categories.

Stafford's rating ranks 24th in the league after it was among the best last season. The Lions are 10-0 when Stafford has a 105-plus QB rating, but he hasn't reached that level of production and efficiency in more than a year.

He has thrown 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, a season after breaking out by throwing for 41 scores and getting picked off 16 times. His .595 passing percentage ranks 21st after connecting on 63-plus percent of his passes a year ago.

Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, though, still thinks the 24-year-old Stafford is on track to be one of the NFL's best quarterbacks - ever.

Linehan said Stafford is not the one to blame for his QB rating dipping drastically.

``It has more to do with the continuity of his receiving corps that has not been there,'' Linehan said. ``We didn't have any injuries last year with the guys we were counting on.

``It's not an excuse, but you're not going to have the same rhythm and timing if you've got a revolving door at your skill positions.''

Stafford has been good enough to help Johnson chase a record. He is 182 yards receiving from breaking the single-season mark of 1,848 set by Jerry Rice with San Francisco in 1995.

That's of little consolation for either player, or the team, during the franchise's 10th double-digit loss season in 12 years.

Shaun Hill, Detroit's 32-year-old backup QB, said Stafford will eventually find out this season helped him when he looks back.

``That doesn't take away from the sting of the season, but in the long run, he will be better for it,'' Hill said.

Stafford is hoping he can bounce back quickly from his worst game statistically since the No. 1 pick from the 2009 NFL draft was a rookie.

``The great thing about this league is you got another chance and you got another opportunity to go out and play and play well,'' he said.

It would be tough to play worse.

Stafford completed just 24 of 50 passes for 246 yards without a TD and had two of his three interceptions returned for touchdowns in a 38-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, who had lost nine straight. That extended Detroit's losing streak to six games.

Privately and publicly, Stafford took the blame for the latest setback that gave Detroit the NFL's longest active losing string.

``This losing streak has hurt an awful lot, but good quarterbacks are always going to put it on their shoulders,'' Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.

The Falcons don't feel sorry for Stafford, a former Georgia star, but they're also not getting too cocky about keeping him humbled.

``Sometimes the season doesn't go the way you planned, but he's still playing well,'' Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson said. ``He's right up there at the top in passing yards among all the quarterbacks.''

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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AP Sports Writer George Henry in Flowery Branch, Ga., contributed to this story.

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Follow Larry Lage on Twitter:http://twitter.com/larrylage

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Three things that may prevent Red Wolves from being the new name, even as it gains popularity

Three things that may prevent Red Wolves from being the new name, even as it gains popularity

If you were to compare Washington's search for a new name to the NCAA basketball tournament — that may be the weirdest sentence in sports journalism history, by the way, so if you want to bail right now, go ahead — then the Red Wolves are like the darling 13-seed that's making a run.

At the start of the team's name review, Red Wolves was not on the radar at all. Other choices, like Warriors and Red Tails, were the primary ones folks were talking about. Even Washington FC was being mentioned ahead of Fred Smoot's favorite.

Now, though, the Red Wolves are relevant — at least in the eyes of the fans. But is that proposal really being considered by Dan Snyder and Ron Rivera?

It's difficult to discern what's truly on the table that belongs to those decision makers, but — and as a new member of the pack, this isn't fun to say — there are some things that suggest that Red Wolves isn't as legit of a contender as many would hope.

These three factors especially come to mind, and while they may dampen the howl of those in love with this particular name, they still need to be brought up.

Rivera's "two names" comment

Back on July 4, just after the franchise announced they'd be reviewing the use of the word "Redskins," Ron Rivera told the Washington Post that he and Snyder had come up with a "couple of names," two of which he "really" liked. 

If those two names, whatever they may be, are still at the top of that pair's list, it doesn't feel like the fans' devotion to Red Wolves will matter as much as they crave it to. The apparent honing in on those replacements happened well before the social media push for the Red Wolves really started.

Is it possible their preferences have since changed? Of course. Is it also possible that Red Wolves is in the group that Rivera approved of early? Sure, but that seems less likely. 

Regardless, for those pumping up just how strong the Red Wolves movement is — and it's quite strong — there's still a fairly good chance the guys heading up this effort trimmed their list down long before the movement even got going. That means this surge may not be as effective as those leading it believe. 

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The desired military tie-in

Another important piece in all of this is Rivera's intent to have the next name honor the military. That's something he made clear in the original statement about the review as well as in that interview with the Post.

Now, before you leave this page to yell on Twitter and Instagram and wherever else you go to yell, yes, there was a Navy helicopter squadron known as the Red Wolves that was active until 2016. So a tie-in does exist.

The point here, however, is that Warriors and Red Tails satisfy this requirement as well. The former is an obvious one — basically anyone in the military is a warrior in some respect — while the latter would pay tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen.

Who knows just how much say Rivera has in this complicated situation, but if his opinion does carry real weight, then it's totally reasonable to expect a name that honors the military in some way. And while landing on the Red Wolves would accomplish that, the two other more mainstream options would, too. 

A potential trademark issue

Some have pointed out that the Arkansas State Red Wolves are in a battle over that name with a Tennessee pro soccer team and are now wondering how that could impact Washington's pursuit of the moniker.

Here's what D.C. trademark lawyer Scott Zebrak told NBC Sports Washington about those kinds of possible problems.

"How closely similar are they in look as well as sound? Because it may be that you have protection for what’s called a composite mark where it’s multiple words together and not one word standing alone. It may be the 'Washington X,' not just 'X.' Those are the kind of confusion issues that you sort through."

That would indicate that Snyder and Co. would have a path to securing the Washington Red Wolves as the replacement for Washington Redskins, but perhaps he'd just want to avoid that fight altogether. Zebrak also explained that while money can help in these kinds of showdowns, whoever has more doesn't always win.

Conclusion

Any of these three factors on their own may not be enough to eliminate Red Wolves, but a combination of them or all three of them could prevent that beloved sobriquet from materializing. Red Wolves has its fair share of positives — it begins with an "R," it would fit in the fight song and it'd be unique — but it's necessary to look at the other side in addition to the bright side.

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Washington's name change talks have reportedly been going on for 'several months'

Washington's name change talks have reportedly been going on for 'several months'

Washington announced it would be retiring the "Redskins" name 10 days after a statement declaring they'd conduct a "thorough review" of its controversial moniker. The review was seemingly in response to key sponsors putting significant pressure on the organization to change its name. 

Around the time of FedEx's formal request for a name change and Nike removing team merchandise from their website was the time reporters started to dig for information regarding a possible name change including NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Dan Snyder and the league had been talking about the team's name for months, according to Rapoport. 

"This has actually been going on for a long time," Rapoport told The Sports Junkies Tuesday. "One thing I know about Dan Snyder, and this was maybe in more so when Bruce Allen was in charge, [he] loves secrecy. He loves to do everything kind of behind closed doors, so these talks were going on for, really months before we knew what was happening.

"On one hand, it's good because it really does show that this is not necessarily something that FedEx and Nike just forced [Washington] to do," he said. These were going on several months before and I'm kind of glad they went in this direction, I think it's the right one."

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Based on commissioner Roger Goodell's statement on July 3, the league had been in contact with Snyder and the organization for a 'few weeks' prior to Washington's "thorough review" announcement. But several months? Yeah, Goodell and Washington definitely left that part out. 

The fact that both the team and the league had a nice head-start on the situation could bode well for those hoping for a new name before the start of the 2020 season. Rapoport even revealed his understanding that a new name would go along with the old name's retirement as sort of a package deal. As we know, this was not the case. 

RELATED: NAME CHANGE EXPECTED TO BE BUTTONED UP BY TRAINING CAMP, PER REPORT

"That's what I was told for probably more than a week," Rapoport said. "When I was kind of tracking this and seeing what's going on it was, 'Alright there's gonna be a name change soon' and then it was 'Alright there's gonna be a name change in 24 hours' and then 'Actually we're just going to retire the name.'"

So for now, the old name getting retired will have to do. 

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