Redskins

Miami still has ACC Coastal chance

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Miami still has ACC Coastal chance

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) There's been one victory in five games since September. The stat sheet shows the worst defensive numbers in school history. And there's still the lingering issue of whether a postseason trip would be forfeited because of the ongoing NCAA investigation.

These are not the best of times for the Miami Hurricanes.

That is, except for this not-so-insignificant nugget: The Hurricanes might still finish the season with a winning record - and also have a chance to call themselves champions.

It was back-to-practice on Monday for Miami, still smarting from the 41-40 last-second loss at Virginia over the weekend. The Hurricanes (5-5) play their home finale on Saturday against South Florida (3-6), then end their regular- and Atlantic Coast Conference season at Duke on Nov. 24. Win the Duke game, and at the very least, the Hurricanes will be able to declare themselves co-champions of the ACC's Coastal Division.

``We're still preparing,'' running back Mike James said. ``We're still working. We still have things we need to do and want to do.''

The trip to Virginia was bad all the way around for Miami, which announced just before the game that it suspended wide receiver Rashawn Scott indefinitely and left linebacker Eddie Johnson and special-teams-standout Gabe Terry home because they didn't fulfill their football-related responsibilities for making the trip. Scott remains suspended, and there's been no indication whether Johnson or Terry will play against the Bulls.

On top of all that, Miami was up 38-28 with 6 minutes left, and went home with a one-point loss.

``It hurts,'' James said.

After having last season completely overshadowed by an NCAA investigation - which still isn't over - and now the chance of the school self-imposing a second straight postseason ban in anticipation of sanctions for compliance violations, it seems like nerves are fraying more than a little bit at Miami.

The school will likely not announce its postseason plans until after the team wins its sixth game and becomes bowl-eligible.

``It's been TMZ since I've been here, right? Let's be honest,'' Miami coach Al Golden said after leaving the practice field Monday morning. ``Yeah, it's been tough. It's been tough on the coaches. It's been tough on me, personally. There's not one minute I go to bed that I don't think I'm fighting that with the team. I'm looking forward to the day where we're focused on our opponents and getting our players better and not talking about all that.''

Miami has allowed 312 points already; the school record is 314. Unless South Florida gets held to 103 yards or less, the Bulls will push the Hurricanes' defensive-odometer over the 5,000-yard mark this season, easily the worst in Miami's proud history.

South Florida coach Skip Holtz said that he sees plenty of talent on both sides of the ball when he watches Miami film, and the Hurricanes don't need any convincing on that front.

But at the same time, there's plenty of work remaining - both on and off the field.

``We're in this to fix it long-term,'' Golden said. ``We just had a 2-minute drive at the end of the game and we didn't stop (Virginia), and there were no seniors on the field. None. Zero. So I think the guys understand that yeah, we didn't get it done, but if you're here long-term and you want to get it fixed, it's going to be all of us that are here plus whatever we add next year.''

With the suspensions, missing players and others like Denzel Perryman and Deon Bush out for the Virginia game with injuries - Perryman should play against South Florida, Bush remains iffy - it all took a toll on the Hurricanes, at the wrong time of year.

Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said he used 21 players on that side of the ball this weekend, about five or six below the norm.

``You try to end the game and you have four guys that you thought could help (not there) and it is for different reasons whether that is injury or personal decisions, that is where we are at,'' D'Onofrio said. ``That part to me is disappointing.''

Still, Miami intends to at least end its home portion of the schedule on a high note.

``Last time through the smoke,'' receiver Davon Johnson said, referring to Miami's pregame tradition of the team entering the field through a haze of white smoke. ``It's going to mean a lot to all of us.''

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After seeing Aaron Rodgers go down in 2017, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix knows how to support a backup QB

After seeing Aaron Rodgers go down in 2017, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix knows how to support a backup QB

It's a new team but the same storyline for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2018.

Last year while with the Packers, Clinton-Dix was there as Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone against the Vikings in Week 6. 

Now a Redskin, the safety is coming off of a game where he and his teammates watched Alex Smith badly break his leg while facing the Texans.

So, in just more than 13 months, he's seen two franchise faces go down with long-term injuries. That means when he talks about how the 'Skins can succeed with Colt McCoy leading the way, he's speaking from experience as opposed to trying to imagine it.

"You just have to rally behind him," Clinton-Dix said Tuesday, just two days before Washington's showdown in Dallas on Thanksgiving. "Colt is a great quarterback, he's a winning quarterback. I have a lot of confidence in him. The way he approaches the game, I have a lot of confidence in that as well."

The defensive back is just the latest to compliment how McCoy prepares, something he's been doing for years now, just waiting for his next opportunity to come up. Now it's here, and Clinton-Dix wants the defense to make things as easy as possible on the passer.

"Find a way to give more," he said about what he can do to contribute from the other side of things.

Rodgers did eventually return for Green Bay, but by that time, an inexperienced Brett Hundley had slogged through a 3-6 record, and the Packers were too far out of the playoff hunt, even for Rodgers.

This time around, McCoy's veteran presence is something that's easing Clinton-Dix's mind. 

"I'm not worried about Colt," he said. "I'm excited to watch him go out and play."

Clinton-Dix was worried about McCoy at one point, though.

The defender played for Alabama from 2011-2013 but was paying attention to the signal caller when Texas squared up with the Crimson Tide in the 2010 BCS National Championship. That was a contest that McCoy had to leave early on after hurting his shoulder.

That exit affected history, according to Clinton-Dix.

"If it wasn't for him getting hurt back when he was playing against the Alabama boys, I'm pretty sure we would've never won that game."

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Nats could add another catcher beyond Suzuki, but don't expect it to be J.T. Realmuto

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Nats could add another catcher beyond Suzuki, but don't expect it to be J.T. Realmuto

The story of his signing was simple: Mike Rizzo came to Dan Lozano, Kurt Suzuki’s agent, early and with a direct offer. He told Lozano that Suzuki was “their guy” in this offseason’s hunt for a primary catcher. Suzuki, 35, was pleased Rizzo offered a two-year deal instead of one. His former team, the Atlanta Braves, also offered him a contract at the end of the season. Suzuki declined, hopped into free agency, and decided promptly to return to Washington.

Boom. The end. 

“[Rizzo] told my agent from day one that I’m their guy,” Suzuki said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “Whether I’m a guy that catches 120 games or 90 games, or whatever they want me to do, I just told them I will be ready to do whatever you want. And he said I am going to play, obviously. I just said, ‘Whatever you need me to do.’ So whether that’s 80, 90, 100, 120, it really doesn’t matter to me.”

The question is what the Nationals will need him to do. Room remains for another veteran catcher since Suzuki will reportedly average $5 million annually on his contract. That long-rumored Nationals target J.T. Realmuto could be that veteran catcher is doubtful. There is little reason to pay Suzuki and then trade a high-end prospect in a deal for Realmuto, since that trade would put Realmuto behind the plate for roughly 130 games. A $5 million backup is an ultra-expensive one, especially for a team shaving pennies. Which is why Suzuki is in line to be the starter throughout the season.

“I think at this point of my career, I got no ego. I’ve never had an ego,” Suzuki said. “It was just the point where [Rizzo] said I’m their guy, whether I’m a guy that’s going to catch 50 games or I’m a guy that’s going to catch 120 games. He made it clear that he is going to bring me in to help the team win. And that’s the bottom line.”

He will help. Nationals catchers were among the worst in the league offensively last season. Matt Wieters was injured much of the year. Pedro Severino showed he had no chance at the plate. Spencer Kieboom hit .333 in September. That run was only good enough to pull his average to .232 and his on-base percentage to .322. Not great.

Suzuki’s offense has improved the last two seasons. His OPS+ was above 100 each year in Atlanta, marking two of the three times that happened in his 12-year career. He was an All-Star the other season he reached triple digits. 

Suzuki is not an analytics buff. He didn’t change his offseason routine that focuses on exercise and clean eating via food supplied by his wife, Renee. So, what gives at the plate?

“Honestly, I have no idea, just being honest,” Suzuki said. “Obviously, I started my career off doing pretty well and then kind of hit a little slump. And then the last two years at age 33 and 34, kind of had like a renaissance I guess. And I really haven’t changed much. I go out there and I don’t really think about launch angle and all these analytical things. I go out there and I just try to do some damage.”

He did mention an interesting idea. Suzuki explained relaxing at the plate is crucial to him. Pitchers throw harder now. Much harder on average than when he arrived in the major leagues in 2007 as a 23-year old playing for Oakland. Which means he is going to let them do the work by supplying velocity. He just wants solid, not Herculean, contact. The plan has worked the last two seasons.

But how Suzuki is defensively will be in question. Baseball Savant provides catcher “pop” times, which measures the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder’s projected receiving point at the center of the base, and Suzuki was 93rd out of 108 (Kieboom was 36th, though he played much less).  

All of which hints another veteran catcher could be coming along, the same way the Nationals opened last season with Wieters and Miguel Montero. Suzuki is the start. A coming veteran is a backup. Kieboom and Severino are the emergency plan. Realmuto is a dream lost.

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