Redskins

Malzahn swiftly hires vet, protege as coordinators

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Malzahn swiftly hires vet, protege as coordinators

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) New Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was flanked by his fresh-faced protege, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, and silver-haired defensive boss Ellis Johnson on Friday.

He introduced the 29-year-old Lashlee and 60-year-old Johnson at a news conference three days after his hiring. Lashlee will make $350,000 a year while Johnson received an $800,000 salary, though Auburn hasn't released the lengths of their deals or other terms.

Lashlee's hire seemed almost a foregone conclusion.

He spent three years as Malzahn's quarterback at Shiloh Christian High School in Arkansas and has worked under him in the prep ranks and at three different colleges, including their initial stop in Auburn.

``He's one of the bright, young and up-and-coming offensive minds in all of college football,'' Malzahn said. ``He's been my right-hand man at three different stops in college. At Arkansas he was my right-hand man. I relied on him a lot here at Auburn. He deserves a lot of the credit for our offensive success that we had and of course this past year at Arkansas State, just did a phenomenal job. I know exactly what I'm getting.

``He's going to give me the flexibility to help with the offense and at the same time be a head coach and do the things that head coach has to do.''

Malzahn said the two will collaborate on play calling duties in an offense built upon a relentlessly fast tempo and a style that is heavy on the run and play-action passes. It worked well enough in 2010 that the Tigers won a national title and quarterback Cam Newton took the Heisman Trophy. Lashlee spent last season as Malzahn's offensive coordinator at Arkansas State after a year running the offense for FCS team Samford.

``Our identity as an offense will be to play fast and physical,'' Lashlee said. ``That will be ingrained in our guys from Day One. You can't have one without the other. We will play extremely fast and we want to be very physical at every position.

``We'll have a physical downhill running game, we'll also be explosive in the passing game and be very aggressive taking vertical shots down the field and stretching the field horizontally. That's our philosophy. We want to make teams defend the whole field. I think the biggest intangible and thing we've got to instill as an offense, and this has always been our philosophy, is discipline.''

They've got an uphill battle. Auburn ranked 115th in total offense last season. Lashlee and Malzahn are familiar with all three quarterbacks who started games: Kiehl Frazier, Clint Moseley and Jonathan Wallace.

Lashlee said that familiarity is a plus but they'll still install the offense ``like they've never heard it before.''

He broke the national record with 171 career touchdowns passes under Malzahn and led Shiloh to three state championship games and two titles.

``One of the most beneficial things I have is that I played quarterback in this system and now coach in it,'' Lashlee said. ``When I'm coaching quarterbacks, I can identify with them even moreso than most. I know what they're seeing. I know what they're thinking. I've done those drops. I've thrown that route. I know all that. Not only am I telling them, `here's what you should do,' but they know I've done it.

``It sometimes adds some credibility and resonates better. I get what they're going through.''

Johnson, whose hiring was announced on Thursday, can relate to the challenge of defenses facing Malzahn's offense.

His South Carolina defense faced Malzahn and Newton twice in 2010, losing in the regular season and the Southeastern Conference championship game. Johnson would grumble that the proliferation of hurry-up styles ``is starting to deteriorate some of college football.''

He's backtracking now.

``Did I say that? Translated into Latin, that means, `Somebody help us, we can't stop this,''' Johnson said. ``All of us defensive coordinators complained over the last 5-15 years. Gus wasn't the first one but he kind of put it in warp speed.''

His base defense is a four-man front with two inside linebackers and five defensive backs.

``It will be our foundation,'' Johnson said. ``But Coach Malzahn wants an attacking, multiple defense, and that's what we're going to be. You can only be as multiple as your talent allows you to be. As we evaluate personnel on this football team, we'll find ways to create packages that complement that 4-2-5.''

The coaching change has potentially taken a toll on a recruiting class that has been ranked among the top 10. Recruiting Web sites reported Friday that five-star linebacker Reuben Foster of Auburn High School has decommitted.

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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.