Redskins

McFadden, Goodson return to practice for Raiders

McFadden, Goodson return to practice for Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The slumping Oakland Raiders got a jolt Wednesday when running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson returned to practice for the first time since missing three games with sprained right ankles.

Both backs got hurt in Oakland's 42-32 loss to Tampa Bay on Nov. 4 and were finally cleared to return to practice this week. That loss started the Raiders (3-8) on a four-game losing streak that is the team's longest in four years.

``It's great just to see them in the huddle,'' quarterback Carson Palmer said. ``''It feels like it's been a lot longer than it actually has. But just good to see them in the huddle and see them get reps and see Darren smiling and hitting the hole hard, and same thing with Goody. Good for the team but also good for the offense to have those guys back.''

Coach Dennis Allen said both backs took snaps with the first team at practice and would be evaluated as the week goes on before a decision is made on whether they will play Sunday against Cleveland (3-8).

While Oakland has missed its top two backs, fullback Marcel Reece has been a more than adequate fill-in after moving into the halfback role for the first time in his career.

The former college wide receiver has rushed for 225 yards and caught 15 passes for 175 yards the past three weeks. His 4.8 yards per carry in those three games is significantly higher than McFadden's 3.3 before he got hurt and Reece has six runs of at least 10 yards - one fewer than McFadden in 91 fewer carries.

``Marcel has earned the right to carry the ball some,'' Allen said. ``We'll still use him in that capacity.''

Reece had 19 touches in the seven full games before McFadden got hurt, compared to 62 in the three weeks as the featured back in Oakland's offense. Now the Raiders will need to figure out a way to get Reece the ball more even if McFadden is back in the lineup.

``Marcel is a beast,'' Goodson said. ``''We need to give him the ball all the time the way he makes plays. It helps us out a lot overall for him to be making plays like that. You guys see what he does when he touches the ball. You want to get your playmakers the ball.''

But despite strong play from Reece, the offense as a whole has struggled, scoring 15.7 points per game the past three weeks after averaging 21.4 points per gamer over the first eight weeks.

This has been a rough season for McFadden, who emerged as one of the NFL's most dangerous backs the past two seasons before reverting back to his early career struggles this season.

McFadden has averaged more than 4 yards a carry only once all season, when he rushed for 113 yards on 18 carries against Pittsburgh in September. His 3.3 yards per carry for the season is the worst of any back with at least 100 carries.

McFadden averaged more than 5 yards a carry the past two seasons as he shined under play-caller Hue Jackson. When the team went back to more of the zone blocking schemes the Raiders used early in McFadden's career, he once again struggled.

But he still strikes fear in opposing defenses.

``He's explosive,'' Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. ``He's one of those guys that can score when he has the ball in his hands. It doesn't matter where you're at on the field, they can be on their 1-yard line and this guy can score. When you have players on the field that can score touchdowns, that's what you want. With him not being in there, of course that's hurt them. With him being in there, it's obviously going to help them.''

NOTES: LB Rolando McClain was held out of practice for a ``team-related'' issue that Allen would not elaborate on. ... DT Richard Seymour (hamstring), LB Miles Burris (illness), and DE Jack Crawford (toe) also did not practice. ... The Raiders signed LB Jerrell Harris to the practice squad to take the place of Kaelin Burnett, who was promoted to the 53-man roster last week.

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Drafting a first round QB outside of the top two picks has largely backfired

Drafting a first round QB outside of the top two picks has largely backfired

Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes are two quarterbacks who were taken in the middle of the 2017 NFL Draft's first round, and they serve as two recent examples that you don't have to have a pick at the top of that round to land a star passer.

Problem is, they're basically the only recent examples, too.

In the past decade, teams who've tried to find their franchise signal-caller in the first round outside of either the first or second pick have failed time and time again. Since 2009, those prized QBs have mostly been selected No. 1 or No. 2 overall or mined beyond the first round. 

The following list, compiled by Redskins Talk co-host Mitch Tischler, shows how many mediocre to straight-up bad options franchises have found using picks 3-32:

  • Mark Sanchez — 2009 pick No. 5 — 37-36 career record
  • Josh Freeman — 2009 pick No. 17 — 25-36 career record
  • Tim Tebow — 2010 pick No. 25 — 8-6 career record
  • Jake Locker — 2011 pick No. 8 — 9-14 career record
  • Blaine Gabbert — 2011 pick No. 10 — 13-35 career record
  • Christian Ponder — 2011 pick No. 12 — 14-21-1 career record
  • Ryan Tannehill — 2012 pick No. 8 —42-46 career record
  • Brandon Weeden — 2012 pick No. 22 — 6-19 career record
  • EJ Manuel — 2013 pick No. 16 — 6-12 career record
  • Blake Bortles — 2014 pick No. 3 — 24-49 career record
  • Johnny Manziel — 2014 pick No. 22 — 2-6 career record
  • Paxton Lynch — 2016 pick No. 26 — 1-3 career record
  • Patrick Mahomes — 2017 pick No. 10 — 13-4 career record
  • Deshaun Watson — 2017 pick No. 12 — 14-8 career record
  • Sam Darnold — 2018 pick No. 3 — 4-9 career record
  • Josh Allen — 2018 pick No. 7 — 5-6 career record
  • Josh Rosen — 2018 pick No. 10 — 3-10 career record
  • Lamar Jackson — 2018 pick No. 32 — 6-1 career record
     

That list is one the Redskins — who own the 15th pick in the 2019 draft and who are beginning to be linked heavily to Kyler Murray — should pay close attention to.

The 2018 class is too young to judge, and as mentioned earlier, the 2017 class is providing quality returns. But none of the other names on that list have turned into anything useful, not to mention anything resembling special.

Of course, if you go back farther into the past, you'll find that QBs like Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers were snagged during the meat of the first round, so it's not impossible. However, the last 10 years have shown it can be very difficult to nail a pick in that range.

The logic feels simple: The truly elite talents, such as Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, are snatched up immediately. The QBs who are found in the mid- to late rounds, meanwhile, are given more time to develop and/or find themselves on rosters that have been built up more.

Those non-elite first-rounders, on the other hand, are generally caught in between: not skilled enough to help turn around a team singlehandedly but, because they're high investments, they're forced into those tough situations and end up floundering.

There's no doubt that the 'Skins need a new hope under center. Where they should commit to that hope, though, is something that must be considered.  

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Dozier and Long a match made in launch angle heaven

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Dozier and Long a match made in launch angle heaven

Brian Dozier came to a realization following his rookie season in 2012. Why not hit the ball more often in the air and accentuate a strength? Instead of drilling to fix a weakness -- like opposite-field hitting or even ground ball rate -- choose to club away, in the air, to the pull side, as often as possible.

No en vogue terminology explained Dozier’s pursuit of six years ago. Omnipotent terms like “launch angle” remained shrouded and in development. Dozier didn’t need a phrase. He just needed to do what worked more often.

The idea took with career-altering results. Dozier hit 18 home runs, then 23, then 28, then 42. Pull-side fly balls turned him into an All-Star and commodity at second base. His new one-year deal with the Nationals brings him a hitting coach who is elated by the idea of hitting up and over.

Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long is the effervescent patriarch of launch angle. “We want to hit it over the shift,” Long will tell anyone willing to listen. Do damage, hit bombs, whatever slang term is preferred. Just hit the ball in the air. On the ground equals outs. In the air produces runs.

Melding a second baseman in search of a reboot after a down year with a hitting coach who is going to trumpet a cause the infielder already backed could be a powerful formula.

“When I changed my approach at the end of 2012 going into 2013, there was no launch angle, any of that stuff, but looking back at it now that’s kind of exactly what it was,” Dozier said Tuesday on a conference call. “We just didn’t have a name for it. “[It’s] recognizing your strength and doing everything you can to be really good at your strength rather than try to tweak weaknesses and stuff. And one of those strengths for me is hitting the ball in the air to left field, left-center field. Once I kind of got that part of it, I really enjoyed doing that. It’s going to be a fun year with a hitting coach that kind of sees the same thing, whether your strength is hitting the ball in the air or hitting the ball the other way, I believe in really honing into your strength and really running with that. Some guys’ strengths aren’t hitting the ball in the air, which is fine.”

The numbers coinciding with Dozier’s rise from eighth-round pick to among the league leaders in homers from 2014-2017 are stark. His fly ball rate increased year after year until peaking in 2016 at 47.7 percent, the same season he hit 42 home runs. His 120 OPS-plus in that span showed what kind of work he performed in Minnesota’s cool and spacious Target Field.

However, 2018 brought a significant recession when an April bone bruise in his left knee hindered him throughout the season. Tuesday, Dozier explained the importance of load bearing and stability from his front leg in order to execute his upward swing. Instead of landing on the front of his foot, the knee bruise pushed him back to his heel, opening his hips early. Grizzly results followed: 21 homers, a .215 average, sub-.700 OPS.

Dozier said Tuesday his knee is healed. Finally receiving a break from baseball following the World Series allowed him to recover. That’s also when he had to decide his future. Dozier wasn’t sure how the market would react to his down season following years of being one of the heaviest second base bats in baseball. He said he received multiple offers -- some providing more years and money than the Nationals’ one-year, $9 million deal he settled on -- before selecting Washington. Conversations with his ex-Minnesota teammate Kurt Suzuki, in his second stint with the Nationals, and former Washington outfielder Josh Willingham, who played with Dozier in Minnesota, too, helped sway his decision.

“It just seemed like a really good fit,” Dozier said.

That is applicable to this coming partnership between Dozier and Long. In the air, often and to the pull side. It’s a subtle pairing that could help Dozier return to the 30-home run mark, and the Nationals to receive inexpensive bop from an infield spot.

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