Redskins

Manning, defense lead Broncos over Panthers 36-14

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Manning, defense lead Broncos over Panthers 36-14

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos were too much for the Carolina Panthers.

Manning threw for 310 yards and a touchdown Sunday helping the first-place Broncos (6-3) rout the Panthers 36-14 to win for the fifth time in six games.

``I didn't know what kind of progress I would make physically,'' Manning said after he missed last season because of injuries.

``I have made some. I continue to have some that I need to make and continue to have to do my rehab. I think we have improved on certain things and part of developing some kind of chemistry.

``This is not a team that has been together for four or five years so we still have some things that we can do better. Anytime that you can learn a little bit about each other, make some progress, and win some games, that is a good thing. But, we still need to get better, especially down this home stretch.''

The Broncos have scored at least 31 points in their past five wins.

After the game, players gave coach John Fox a game ball after winning against the team he coached for nine seasons from 2002-2010.

``There were a lot of motivating factors to help us win this game, and Coach Fox was the biggest one,'' Von Miller said.

Manning threw his 420th touchdown pass to move into a tie for second place on the NFL's list with his childhood hero Dan Marino. He trails only Brett Favre (508).

``I have never felt comfortable kind of being mentioned with him,'' Manning said.

Manning had plenty of help from his teammates.

Linebacker Miller harassed Cam Newton all day and Trindon Holliday returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown as for the Broncos (6-3).

The Broncos sacked Newton seven times, including once for a safety, and Miller pressured him into an interception that Tony Carter returned 40 yards for a score.

Fox spent nine seasons in Carolina before his relationship with owner Jerry Richardson deteriorated when the organization failed to offer him a contract extension.

Fox took the high road after the game.

``You just feel good to win,'' Fox said. ``You put a lot into these things. It is seven days of hard work and countless hours. It's all for naught if you don't win.''

Miller was all over the field and finished with a sack, forced fumble and four tackles for a loss.

``We want to be feared and respected for a relentless pursuit for the ball,'' Miller said.

Denver's defense pressured Newton all day, forcing him to make quick decisions that often resulted in mistakes.

``We changed up our protections, did a couple of things differently and they were still able to break through,'' Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

After a strong start, Newton finished 21 of 36 for 241 yards with two touchdown passes to tight end Greg Olsen. He threw two interceptions.

By the end of the game Newton looked tired, discouraged and a little beat up.

Despite spending much of the day on his back, Newton wouldn't blame his offensive line.

``This is the same offensive line that did an excellent job a lot of times today, so I'm not thrashing them.'' Newton said. ``... I think personally I have to do a better job of getting the football out, getting it to my outlets.''

Miller, selected No. 2 in the 2011 draft, one spot behind Newton, was a disruptive force right from the start. He sacked Newton on the second series and celebrated by imitating Newton's Superman routine, pretending to rip open his shirt.

The Panthers (2-7) appeared ready to give the Broncos a challenge early while playing in all-black uniforms, jumping to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 4-yard pass from Newton to Olsen.

But it was all Broncos after that as they scored 29 straight points.

After a slow start, Manning started to pick apart Carolina's defense.

He had a 10-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley. With the game tied at 7, Holliday put the Broncos ahead with a nifty punt return for a touchdown.

Matt Prater made it 17-7 on a 53-yard field goal.

Early in the third quarter, Charles Johnson sacked Manning and forced a fumble that Greg Hardy recovered.

But on the next play, Miller grabbed Newton's ankle in the backfield as he was trying to throw and Carter stepped in front of the pass near the sideline and returned it for a touchdown and a 24-7 lead. Prater added another field goal and Mike Adams sacked Newton for a safety to make it 29-7.

``I should have thrown it out of bounds,'' Newton said. ``I have to be more mature than that. It's better to be second-and-10 than have a pick-six.''

NOTES: Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil left the game with a shoulder injury in the second quarter and did not return. ... Panthers TE Greg Olsen posted his first career 100-yard receiving game in six seasons. ... The Panthers have not won back-to-back games this season under Rivera.

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Safety

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Safety

Training camp opens in three days, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope. Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Safeties

Additions: Troy Apke (drafted in the fourth round)
Departures: DeAngelo Hall (not re-signed)

Starters: D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson
Other roster locks: Apke
On the bubble: Deshazor Everett, Fish Smithson

How the safeties compare

To the rest of the NFL: The Redskins’ safeties have been a sore spot ever since the tragic loss of Sean Taylor in 2007, continually ranking as the worst units in the league year after year. That started to change last year with the signing of Swearinger and the drafting of Nicholson. They were major contributors to one of the league’s better defenses until injuries struck. Their depth is questionable as will be discussed below but the Redskins have a solid safety tandem at the top of the depth chart if they stay healthy. 

To the 2017 Redskins: This depends on Nicholson’s health and how quickly Apke can get ready to contribute. The rookie’s speed could add a dimension that the defensive backfield doesn’t have but he has a lot of rough edges to smooth out. If he can round into form and play in some three-safety formations, the unit could be notably better than last year’s. 

2018 outlook

Biggest upside: By now, most of you have heard of Jay Gruden saying that Nicholson is the defensive equivalent of Jordan Reed because he changes what they can do when he is out there. His speed and tackling set him apart when he is out there. But there are legitimate concerns about his ability to stay on the field after a shoulder injury and a concussion kept him out of half of the games last year. If he can play, Nicholson has Pro Bowl potential. 

Most to prove: The Redskins are Swearinger’s fourth NFL team in five years in the NFL. He was cut by the Texans and the Bucs. The Cardinals put him on their practice squad for a week during the season before promoting him to the 53-man roster. Arizona made little effort to retain him when he became a free agent last year. Swearinger played well in Washington last year but he didn’t get much recognition. He wants to take the next step and show the teams that let him go that they made a big mistake. 

Rookie watch: We touched on Apke above. Some questioned the draft pick, which seemed to be based on the combine stopwatch that measured his 4.34 time in the 40. If Nicholson is healthy, Apke’s development will be an interesting side story. Should one of the starters miss multiple games, his ability to perform in the NFL will be critical. 

Bottom line:  There will be a lot of competition behind the starters. Apke seems safe because of his status as a fourth-round pick. The team values Everett as a special teams contributor and he started eight games last year. They also like Smithson and they brought him up to the 53-man roster late last year to make sure they could retain his rights. And Quin Blanding, an undrafted rookie who had a stellar career at Virginia, could work himself into the conversation for a roster spot if he performs in Richmond. If Nicholson plays, the outlook at safety could be much better in 2018 than it has been in over a decade. 

Quote-unquote

Gruden’s quote on Nicholson’s effect on the defense:

Montae I think is really an important piece. Very similar to the way Jordan Reed is on offense, Montae is on defense. He can cover so much ground.

2018 position outlook series

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

 

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Carmelo Anthony to sign with Rockets on minimum contract, report says

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Carmelo Anthony to sign with Rockets on minimum contract, report says

After over a week of speculation, it appears that Carmelo Anthony will indeed sign with the Houston Rockets, as a new report from the New York Times has confirmed Anthony's plans.

Marc Stein notes that Anthony will join the Rockets once he clears waivers and will sign a veteran minimum contract. Anthony will make about $1.8 million from the Rockets on top of the $27.9 million he received in his buyout from the Atlanta Hawks. Anthony was first traded from Oklahoma City to Atlanta.

Anthony teaming up with James Harden and Chris Paul is big news, though his acquisition does carry some risks. The Rockets had a good thing going last year, as they finished one win short of a berth in the NBA Finals. They were up 3-2 on the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals and lost the last two games after Paul got injured.

Adding Anthony, it would seem, could help push them over the top. But Anthony isn't the player he once was and there are questions about whether his style is conducive to winning. Anthony has traditionally been at his best when he's a large focus of the offense and he won't be in Houston.

Plus, the Rockets let some important players walk at Anthony's position. Trevor Ariza signed with the Suns and Luc Mbah Moute went to the Clippers. There will likely be a noticeable drop-off on defense.

There is a chance, however, that Anthony thrives in Houston's system. Head coach Mike D'Antoni has set up a structure of isolation ball while spacing the floor with three-point shooters. Anthony could succeed if he can make his possessions count and score more efficiently with less shots. Last year he wasn't able to do that, as he shot just 40.4 percent from the field, but he also wasn't operating in as lethal an offense as the Rockets.

Anthony going to the Rockets represents an interesting point in the career of a guy who will someday be in the Hall of Fame. This should be the best team he's ever played on and if things go right, he could rewrite some narratives about his inability to win in the playoffs.

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