The review: Two games in, the Mystics sport a 1-1 record following 64-61 win over the Tulsa Shock on Saturday. Obviously, that is ahead of last seasons six-win pace. Averaging 27 turnovers is as well. Despite losing the ball a whopping (but not franchise-record) 32 times and blowing nearly all of a 16-point second lead, Washington survived behind 49 points combined from Matee Ajavon, Crystal Langhorne and Monique Currie. We didnt particularly play well but we were able to come out with the win, said Ajavon, who led all scorers with 19 points. We have a lot of things to work on and we will practice and come out better. Playing the woeful Shock winless this season after three victories last year helped, but the competition is about to go up several notches.The preview: The Mystics finish their season-opening a three-game homestand against the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx (4-0). Led by former Connecticut star Maya Moore, the Lynx have won their opening games by an average of 15 points. The turnovers: The first time they touched the ball against the Shock, the Mystics coughed up possession. There was no containment for the faulty control as it spread throughout the roster each of the 10 players that received playing time had at least two. On Saturday, there were 16 in each half, at least seven in each quarter. There were bad passes and dropped throws. Dribblers lost their handle in traffic and the open court. In some cases, credit the Shocks smart use full court pressure. In other cases, pure head scratchers.Its good to win, however I am not pleased with the types of turnover or the number of turnovers, said Wizards coach and general manager Trudi Lacey, already frustrated after the team committed 23 turnovers in the season opening loss. We definitely have to make better decisions with the basketball. The turnovers were silly, I dont know any other way to put it, and we have to continue to work on that.The return: After missing the opener with a sore knee, Ajavon attacked the basket relentlessly from her wing position and sparked the Mystics early offense in the process. She took 10 free throws in the first half, sinking eight en route to 15 points before halftime. On the defensive end, Ajavon tacked on four steals.It was very nice to have Matee back, Lacey said. She provides a lot of energy and shes tough and thats what Ive asked of the team, she has stepped up and shown a lot of heart and a lot of toughness.The point guards: Usually the ball handling duties fall to this position, but the Mystics are still searching for a clear solution. One of the many newcomers on the retooled roster,Dominqiue Canty received the start against the Shock. Less than two minutes in, the 13-year veteranhad already committed three turnovers. Shefinished with five, matching Ajavon and Langhornes unwanted team-high total. Second-year floor leader Jasmine Thomas tacked on three turnovers in 13 minutes. Including Natasha Lacy, the Mystics' point guards finished with five assists with 10 turnovers.The third quarter: Lacey needs to bottle her halftime speeches or at least find a way to spread out thesubsequent good play throughout the second half. In both games, the Mystics held their opponent to less than 10 points in the third, finishing with a combined 35-15 advantage. In the fourth quarter, opponents have outscored the Mystics 42-23.The Lynx: Washington cannot afford to give away possessions against a Minnesota team which scores a a league-high 90.2 points per game and tops the WNBA in field goal percentage, assists and 3-point shooting. Moore averages 14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and has knocked down 9-of-17 shots from beyond the arc. Seimone Augustus tops the Lynx with 19 points per game.
On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, John Wall went 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, the celebrity softball game and the Summer League.
Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the parallels between Wall and Harper and why Wall has chosen to stay loyal to Washington in his own contract decisions. Plus, can the Wizards really tone down the talking this season?
You can listen to the episode right here:
You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!
Redskins Training camp opens next week, 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.
Additions: Pernell McPhee (free agent)
Departures: Junior Galette (free agent)
Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Other roster locks: Ryan Anderson, McPhee
On the bubble: Pete Robertson
How the outside linebackers compare
To the rest of the NFL: By any measure, the Redskins had a top-10 pass rush last year. They were tied for seventh with 42 sacks and they got a sack on 7.3 percent of pass attempts, also seventh in the league. Looking forward to this year, Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the sixth-best pass rushing team for 2018. Ryan Kerrigan is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches age 30 and Preston Smith is about to hit his prime. After the departure of Galette, the depth is questionable, and we’ll deal with that next. Even without Galette, it’s still one of the best units in the NFL.
To the 2017 Redskins: Some downplay the decision to let Galette walk in free agency, saying he had just three sacks. But his value went beyond that. He had 9 QB hits and 25 hurries, both second-most on the team, in just 258 pass rush snaps. Someone will have to step up and replace that pressure. The spotlight will be on Anderson, who had no sacks after being a second-round pick. He will need to step up for this year’s Redskins pass rush to be as good as last year’s.
2018 outside linebacker outlook
Biggest upside: Since the 2015 season, only one NFL player has at least 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions and it’s Preston Smith. His consistency is an issue but even when he is going for a few weeks between sacks he is getting pressure on the quarterback. Still, there is more ability there. Smith could set himself up for a big payday by breaking through with a double-digit sack season while continuing to make big plays in his contract year.
Most to prove: To be fair, Anderson did not get a whole lot of chances to rush the passer last year, playing just 81 pass rush snaps. Still, there are reasons to be concerned about how much he can produce after a zero-sack, one-hit, three-hurries 2017 debut season. Anderson was not expected to make a splash as a rookie, but more was anticipated. He was drafted where he was in part because of his work ethic. The Redskins hope he will work his way into a significant second-year leap.
Rookie watch: There are no rookie outside linebackers on the roster.
Bottom line: The main concern about the Redskins’ defense this year revolves around the cornerback spot following the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland. The best way to manage problematic cornerbacks is by getting a strong pass rush. The Redskins need to Smith to have a true breakout season and for Anderson or McPhee to be a strong contributor off the bench. Along with the improved defensive line, the pass rush could transform the defensive line into a quality unit in 2018.