McCarthy 'very confident' Capers will return as DC


McCarthy 'very confident' Capers will return as DC

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is not going to lose his job over one ugly game.

Even if it did end Green Bay's season.

Three days after the Packers were gouged by the San Francisco 49ers for 579 yards, coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday he will evaluate everyone on his staff but is ``very confident'' Capers will return as defensive coordinator next year.

``I think it's ridiculous that I have to answer the question, frankly. I'm appalled by it,'' McCarthy said. ``I would not do my job, I would not fulfill my responsibility if I didn't look at the job Dom Capers has done, the job Mike McCarthy's done, what (offensive coordinator) Tom Clements has done, all the way down. I can promise you that's what's going to happen.''

``I don't dig the drama stuff, and I get the concern,'' he added. ``We have great fans, but there's no decisions going to be made today. We have never operated that way and never will.''

The Packers were completely overmatched against Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers in the NFC divisional game. They had no answers for Kaepernick, whose 181 yards rushing were most by a quarterback in a regular-season or playoff game. They had the 49ers in third-and-long several times yet couldn't get off the field. And they were powerless against San Francisco's read-option in the second half.

By the time the game ended, the Packers had given up the most total yards (579), yards rushing (323) and second-most points in the playoffs in franchise history, and fans were ready to take out a ``job wanted'' ad on Capers' behalf.

``I know those are Mike's decisions. My plans are to be here,'' said Capers, who will sit down with McCarthy on Wednesday to evaluate the defense. ``I think we've got a young defense that's ascending. All the statistics point to that. I feel awful about the way we played (against the 49ers) because you want to play your best in that game and we didn't. And I accept responsibility for that. That's my job to make sure that we play better.''

Capers accomplished that during the regular season. After having the NFL's worst defense last year, the Packers jumped to 11th in total yardage and scoring. They were particularly tough against the passing game, ranking in the top five in sacks and opponent quarterback rating - even with defensive back Charles Woodson missing nine games with a broken right collarbone.

Clay Matthews had 13 sacks, second-most in the NFC and a half-sack off his career high, despite missing four games with a hamstring injury. Rookie Casey Hayward tied for fifth in the NFL with six interceptions.

``I've seen us make great strides this year,'' Capers said. ``It didn't look that way the other night, but I've seen us make great strides and I think with the number of young people we've got that we can move forward with this group. Obviously, you always want to add a few things here or there, but what I hope is that game's not a total evaluation of what this group has done this year, because I think there were some very good things that were done.''

But in what is now an ominous sign, the Packers struggled against the run much of the year. Adrian Peterson bulldozed Green Bay for 409 yards in the two regular-season games, and keeping him to just 99 yards in the playoffs was considered a victory. That could be problematic in the future. The spread option is already a staple of the college game, and the success this year of Kaepernick, Seattle's Russell Wilson and Washington's Robert Griffin III is likely to usher in a new era in the NFL of mobile quarterbacks.

``I think that it's something that's here to stay in terms of what we're going to see with these young and athletic quarterbacks because of what it does to you defensively,'' Capers said. ``A lot of that stuff you want to do rushing the passer, it calms you down a little bit because you've got to make sure you're sound if, all of a sudden, the quarterback pulls the ball down and runs with it.''

And that could bring some changes to the Packers.

Woodson can still be disruptive at 36, but he's due $10 million next year and the Packers might decide that's too high. Linebacker A.J. Hawk, who looked as if he was playing in slow-motion at times against San Francisco, is a free agent.

``You've got to put as athletic a team out there as possible because they're going to challenge you on the perimeter,'' Capers said. ``You've got to be able to get us back to assignment football. You've got to be able to play the dive, you've got to have a guy assigned to the quarterback and you've got to have somebody that's fast enough to assign to that quarterback that he just doesn't outrun him. So that affects the type of guy you've got to put out there.''

But Capers is confident he and the Packers can adapt.

``The challenge now is to go back to work,'' he said. ``Make sure we get this fixed so these type of teams we're playing against next year, the same thing doesn't happen.''

This was the second straight year the Packers were eliminated in the divisional round. While some teams would be thrilled just to make it to the playoffs, the Packers, with more NFL titles than anyone else, are not one of them.

``The goal around here is not just to win 12 games, not just to win the division championship,'' McCarthy said. ``Our goal will always be the same here. I do appreciate the support, concern and I understand the disappointment of the fans, but this is the best organization in all of professional sports. We have the resources, we will make the right decisions as we move forward.''

NOTES: McCarthy praised TE Jermichael Finley, who could wind up elsewhere because he has a history of being undependable and is due a big raise. ``I really felt Jermichael Finley was a different man, a different player from the bye week on. ... I feel very good about the way he finished the year,'' McCarthy said. ``But we obviously have to look at the first half, too, and make sure that's part of the evaluation because we're all judged on 17 games.'' ... While McCarthy wouldn't discuss specifics, he did acknowledge the roster will look different next season - as it always does. ``Change is constant, and I think everybody understands that,'' he said. ``It has been around 20 percent for us, the way your roster changes every year, and that will probably hold true this year.''


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Projecting the Caps' opening night roster after the first day of training camp

Projecting the Caps' opening night roster after the first day of training camp

Training camp for the 2019-20 season has officially opened for the Capitals who first took to the ice on Friday.

There has been a lot of talk through the offseason and a lot of people working the “Armchair GM” tool on CapFriendly trying to figure out what the roster will look like. After hearing Todd Reirden and Brian MacLellan speak, plus seeing the team take the ice on Friday, we have at least a rough idea of what the team may be thinking in terms of lines. The news of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s suspension, plus the fact that his cap hit will not count during his suspension, also dramatically changes the roster plans for the start of the season.

There is still an entire preseason to play and a lot of questions that need to be answered, but here is an early projection for the opening night roster for the Caps based on the first few days of training camp.


Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie Carl Hagelin - Travis Boyd - Richard Panik Breandan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway Chandler Stephenson

Suspended: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov’s suspension frees up a significant chunk of cap space for opening night. That creates a lot of possibilities for some players who otherwise would not have made the team to stick around through the first week of the season. If there is a prospect who impresses throughout the preseason, however, this can change. A solid performance for Connor McMichael, for example, and perhaps it is not farfetched to think he could play a few games before getting sent back to juniors. As a junior player, he could play up to nine NHL games in a season without burning a year of his entry-level contract.

For now, I am going pretty vanilla with my projection and including Boyd and Stephenson

Training camp lines should always be taken with a grain of salt, but this is how the top nine has looked on the wings. At center, Kuznetsov has been skating on the second line with Vrana and Oshie with Eller on the third with Hagelin and Panik. No doubt Eller will move up to the second line in Kuznetsov’s absence.

As for the fourth line, there were two different lines skating with the likely candidates. Leipsic and Boyd were with Brett Leason -- which I would not read into, I don’t think there is any chance Leason is a serious candidate to make the team this year -- while Dowd and Hathaway were with Stephenson.

Both Stephenson and Boyd enter camp with something to prove. Frankly, if the team had faith in them to play a fourth line and penalty kill role, they would not have gone out and signed Leipsic and Hathaway a.

"It's a competition,” Reirden said Thursday of Stephenson and Boyd. “They know it's a competition. They're well-informed. It's a very clear message. No one in situations where there's competition are wondering what's going on.”

The Kuznetsov suspension puts Boyd on the third line for now and gives Stephenson a second chance to prove he belongs to stay. I see Boyd primarily being an extra this season and Stephenson most likely headed to Hershey once Kuznetsov returns.


Michal Kempny - John Carlson Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas Christian Djoos

It seems doubtful that Kempny will play in the preseason, but the goal is for him to be ready for the start of the season. He has yet to skate with the team in practice, but he seems far enough along that he looks to be on pace for Oct. 2.

The Caps will eventually need to make a tough decision somewhere to shed salary and I believe that will mean moving Christian Djoos. If a team suffers an injury in training camp and wants to make a deal, I could see that happening. For now, like with many of the forwards, Kuznetsov’s suspension means the Caps have an extra week to make that decision. For now, I will keep him in the lineup, but I would not be surprised if he is playing for a different team by the start of the season.

The team is excited about prospects Alex Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary. Alexeyev, however, is dealing with an upper-body injury and there is no timetable for when he may return to the ice. Fehervary, meanwhile, has received nothing by rave reviews. Like with the forwards, the Kuznetsov suspension could open the door for a player like Fehervary to get a game or two.


Braden Holtby Pheonix Copley

I’m not ready to predict this yet, but with Kuznetsov’s salary off the books for the first week of the season do the Caps consider keeping Samsonov and starting him against the New York Islanders in the second game of the season?

The Caps face a back-to-back with the Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes. I assume Holtby gets Carolina since it is the home opener, but what about the Islanders? Washington has to get their young goalies starts this season and Kuznetsov’s suspension gives them the ability to do so without putting Copley on waivers.

But is it too early? It’s worth watching to see how Samsonov and Vanecek play in the preseason to see if either may be ready for a quick start at the start of the season.

“We’re not going to force it,” MacLellan said. “Based on performance, we’ll evaluate it. … I’ll go with Scott Murray and we’ll see how they do in camp. We like all four of our goalies. We have four good goalies, we feel. We have a lot of depth. Vanecek played well – he was an all-star at the AHL level last year, and I’d like to see him get games. I’d like to see Samsonov get games. Copley has continued to improve, so it’s going to be a competitive situation.”


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The Redskins need these three to be at their best in Week 2 against the Cowboys

The Redskins need these three to be at their best in Week 2 against the Cowboys

Come about four o'clock on Sunday afternoon, the Redskins and their fans will either be feeling quite good with a 1-1 record or the exact opposite of quite good thanks to an 0-2 start.

Washington will of course need Case Keenum to try and come close to replicating what he did in the opener against the Eagles and could really use a vintage Adrian Peterson Performance. 

Beyond them, though, who needs to be on point for the Redskins? These three absolutely qualify.

Ryan Kerrigan

The Burgundy and Gold's defensive line is down two players already and will be relying upon a couple of guys who basically just arrived. They may have trouble generating pressure up the middle thanks to that, meaning Kerrigan better be ready to do so on the edge.

If the home team allows Dak Prescott to stand in the pocket and pat the ball like Carson Wentz did in Week 1, then it'll be another long day for the entire unit. But if Kerrigan, who plays especially well against division foes, can be a constant threat to Prescott, then that'll make a big difference.

In 2018, Kerrigan forced a game-changing fumble at FedEx Field when facing Dallas. Hopefully he can follow that up with another productive outing this year.

Paul Richardson

Richardson had a fine stat line versus the Eagles, but he did have one drive-killing drop and didn't come up with any of the deep catches he's being counted on to create. Terry McLaurin was clearly the star of the receiving corps, while Richardson played more of a supporting role.

Now, perhaps McLaurin will shine again. Even if he does, Jay Gruden would still love for Richardson to also contribute with a splash play or two. Keenum showed he's willing to take chances downfield, so Richardson will need to use his speed and give Keenum a target for those chances.

The Redskins' most obvious path to a win Sunday will be to pound the ball with Peterson and control the clock as best as they can. That said, if Richardson can flip the field and help the offense score quickly instead of trying to string together 10-play drives, that'll make an upset more likely.

Greg Manusky

Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, after just one game in the role, is drawing comparisons to Sean McVay. He brings his offense loaded with playmakers to Landover for Week 2, and will be squaring off with Manusky's group. It's on Manusky to match Moore.

Manusky had a tumultuous offseason and the defense's Week 1 showing in Philadelphia didn't do much to improve his standing as defensive coordinator. And as mentioned earlier, he'll be rolling out a D-line that's missing some major talent as well as a secondary that has injury issues as well.

Those won't be viable excuses for another game in which his players can't get off the field on third downs or force any turnovers, though. His defenders simply have to play better, sure, but he's going to have to put them in positions to succeed as well, or else he'll be scrutinized even more.