Redskins

Mora learning about Bruins after blowout loss

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Mora learning about Bruins after blowout loss

LOS ANGELES (AP) Although Jim Mora's first season at UCLA is off to a largely stellar start, the veteran NFL coach knows he still has much to learn about the college game.

As it turns out, so do his young Bruins.

California exposed many of those knowledge gaps in the Bruins' blowout loss in Berkeley last week, knocking UCLA (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) off its roll and out of the national rankings. Mora is hoping UCLA can repair many of those holes this week before the Bruins begin a tough second half of the season with Saturday's visit from Utah (2-3, 0-2), their only game at the Rose Bowl in October.

Mora and his staff have injected energy and innovation into the Bruins, who are just two wins away from matching last season's total despite all of their upheaval and turnover. But the head coach is still a novice at motivating and handling teenage players, adding an extra degree of difficulty to everything the Bruins are trying to do in their bounce-back season.

``I'm trying to learn more about it every day,'' Mora said. ``I'm not an old, seasoned vet when it comes to things like this. It's a responsibility that I take pretty seriously, but I'm by no means good at it yet. I'm trying.''

Mora's professional approach seems to work for the young Bruins, who didn't always seem to be a tough-nosed team during coach Rick Neuheisel's four seasons. Yet when he watched tape of their loss at Cal, Mora saw his players working hard and competing, but still making mental errors that kept them from beating a previously one-win team.

When Mora went into UCLA's morning meetings Monday, he was pleased by the attitude he saw.

``There wasn't a smile in that meeting room,'' Mora said. ``There wasn't a sound. I appreciate that. They've got a lot going on in their lives, but they're really committed to this.''

Although UCLA got off to a 4-1 start with a highlight win over nationally ranked Nebraska, much of those good feeling crashed down in Berkeley, even if the loss wasn't as bad as the final score suggested. The Bruins were within 12 points and driving in the fourth quarter when Brett Hundley threw one of his four interceptions deep in Cal territory, eventually allowing the Golden Bears to score 14 late points in the 43-17 win.

Hundley had the roughest game of his strong freshman season despite setting a UCLA record with 31 completions against Cal. Mora was pleased by Hundley's reaction to adversity - namely, not much reaction at all.

Hundley chalked up his four interceptions - three in the fourth quarter - to circumstances, not bigger problems.

``Later on, when we had to press the situation, I had to take some chances,'' said Hundley, who also passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns. ``I'm not worried about it. Not everything will always go your way. You've just got to get on and pretty much play the game. That's all it means. You've got to get better.''

Although six games are a small sample of Mora's work, it's clear UCLA's offense is prolific under coordinator Noel Mazzone. The Bruins are averaging 529 yards per game, eighth in the nation and third in the Pac-12, behind Hundley and tailback Johnathan Franklin, who is playing through bruises on his hands and legs.

Franklin is among the nation's leading rushers with 799 yards midway through his senior season despite running behind an inexperienced offensive line, although he played sparingly in the second half against Cal while nursing those injuries.

UCLA's second-half schedule is rougher than its opening half. Following the visit from Utah, the Bruins play two of their next three on the road against Arizona State and Washington State, with a visit from Arizona sandwiched in between, before finishing with home games against powerful Southern California and Stanford.

Mora will keep working on every aspect of his new job down the stretch, hoping to learn just as much as his players from their first year together.

``I'm making more mistakes than anybody around here, I guarantee you that,'' he said. ``If you totaled up all my mistakes, they wouldn't be anywhere near the mistakes the players make.''

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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 25, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Fan questions—The secondary

To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the secondary and we’ll get into those in a bit. But the popular notion that the secondary struggled last year is not accurate.

Do you want to go standard stats? They were ninth in the league in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent passer rating last year.

Do you prefer more advanced analytics? They were sixth in defensive passing DVOA and 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt.

That’s not a great pass defense but it was a pretty good one. It should be noted that they also benefitted from a solid pass rush; they were seventh in the league in sack percentage. Still, you don’t finish in the top third of the league in pass defense without at least a competent secondary.

The question is, will it remain competent? Kendall Fuller was indeed a key player, one of the best slot corners in the league. Bashaud Breeland was inconsistent but he did shine on occasion. But the fact that he is still available as a free agent indicates what the league thinks of him, problems passing the physical notwithstanding. Those two will have to be replaced.

It is likely that Quinton Dunbar will take Breeland’s spot on the outside. That is at worst a lateral exchange if not an improvement. Dunbar has been working for three years to get this opportunity and there is confidence among the coaches and, perhaps more importantly, the players that he is ready.

Orlando Scandrick is the probable starter at slot. He is a downgrade from Fuller, no question about it. If he is healthy—a big if—Scandrick is good enough to get the job done. Don’t let the star he wore on the side of his helmet for so many years blind you to the fact that he’s a solid player.

The depth at slot consists of second-year player Josh Holsey, who played all of nine snaps on defense last year, and rookie Greg Stroman. That’s not ideal but most of the other teams in the NFL have a similar depth chart.

The wild card who could be the difference between this secondary being better than last year or worse is Fabian Moreau. He played only 59 defensive snaps as a rookie but he did show off his speed and hard-hitting style on some of his 349 special teams snaps. During the offseason practices that were open to the media, Moreau was mostly Josh Norman’s backup at left cornerback. The feeling is that he won’t remain a reserve. We will have to see how things sort out during training camp.

There should be some improvement at safety if Montae Nicholson figures out how to stay on the field in his second year. If he struggles with injuries again and Deshazor Everett has to line up alongside D.J. Swearinger for a good chunk of the season, the safeties are no worse off because that's what happened last year. 

The bottom line is that a secondary that was good last year may take a step down in 2018 but the decline should not be steep. And if Moreau can be the player the organization thought he could be when they used a third-round pick for him, it could be just as good if not better.

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.

Tandler on Twitter

I tweeted this in response to a discussion about the relative popularity of the NFL and NBA. Albert Breer’s tweet on the TV ratings for the leagues’ respective drafts was the nexus of the discussion.

Timeline  

Redskins cornerback Josh Holsey was born on this date in 1994.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 31
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 45
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 59

The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 76 days.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.