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No. 2 Alabama places 4 on AP All-America team

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No. 2 Alabama places 4 on AP All-America team

NEW YORK (AP) Alabama is No. 1 when it comes to All-Americans.

The second-ranked Crimson Tide placed four players on The Associated Press All-America team released Tuesday. Among them was center Barrett Jones, who became a two-time first-team selection.

No other team had more than two players selected to the first team. The Tide also led with six players chosen to all three teams.

Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Stanford and Florida were second with four players on the three teams, though linebacker Manti Te'o was the only Fighting Irish player to make the first team.

Alabama faces top-ranked Notre Dame in the BCS championship game Jan. 7.

Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was the first-team quarterback.

Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones also became two-time All-Americans.

Nine Southeastern Conference players made the first team, more than any other conference. The Pac-12 was second with six players on the first team. No other conference had more than two.

The team was voted on by a panel of 16 AP college football poll voters.

Barrett Jones, a senior who made the All-America team as a tackle last season, was joined on the first team by Alabama teammates guard Chance Warmack, linebacker C.J. Mosley and cornerback Dee Milliner. Offensive tackle D.J. Fluker was picked to the second team and quarterback AJ McCarron was selected to the third team.

Te'o, the Heisman finalists and winner of seven other awards - including the Maxwell, Nagurski and Butkus - is the first Notre Dame defensive player to be an AP All-American since defensive back Shane Walton in 2002.

Manziel is the first freshman to make the first team at quarterback. On Saturday, the redshirt freshman know as Johnny Football became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

Manziel set an SEC record with 4,600 total yards to rank second in the nation.

Heisman finalist Collin Klein of Kansas State was the second-team quarterback.

Ball repeated as an All-American, despite a slow start to the season and some early injuries. The senior is seventh in the nation in rushing at 133 yards per game, scored 21 touchdowns, and set the major college football record for career touchdowns. He has 82 going into the Rose Bowl.

Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, the nation's leading rusher at 146 yards per game, was the other first-team running back.

The receivers were Southern California's Marqise Lee, who leads the nation in catches (112) and was second in yards receiving (1,680), and Baylor's Terrance Williams, who leads in yards with 1,764.

Stanford's Zach Ertz was the tight end.

Joining Jones and Warmack on the offensive line were two junior tackles projected to be high first-round NFL draft picks: Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Michigan's Taylor Lewan.

``Team goals are bigger than individual goals, but one of my personal goals was to be an All-American and it's an unbelievable feeling to reach that goal,'' Lewan said Tuesday.

North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper was the other first-team guard.

West Virginia's Tavon Austin was selected as the all-purpose player, a perfect description of the do-it-all speedster.

Austin was primarily a receiver and racked up 1,259 yards through the air. Late in the season, coach Dana Holgorsen used Austin as a running back and against Oklahoma he the senior set a school-record with 344 yards rushing. He finished second in the nation in all-purpose yards with 230 per game, and returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns.

Tulane's Cairo Santos was the All-American kicker after making all 21 of his field goal attempts.

On the defensive side, Te'o and Mosley were joined at linebacker by the other two-time All-American. Jones followed-up his sensational sophomore season with 12.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss.

Another SEC pass rusher highlighted the defensive line.

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had 13.5 sacks, tied for the most in the nation, playing in only 11 games. He'll matchup against Lewan in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.

``He's very explosive player who plays every play to the whistle and never takes a snap off,'' Lewan said. ``It's a great opportunity to see where I'm at and where he's at and I'm excited about it. But it's not about me or him, it's about the University of Michigan playing South Carolina at the Outback Bowl.''

Florida State Bjoern Werner was the other end. He also had 13 sacks.

At defensive tackle was a pair of Pac-12 players: Utah's Star Lotulelei and Arizona State's Will Sutton, who was the conference defensive player of the year.

In the secondary, Jordan Poyer of Oregon State, who had seven interceptions, was the cornerback opposite Milliner.

Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas was voted to the first team after leading the nation with eight interceptions, including three returned for touchdown. Florida's Matt Elam was the other safety.

The punter was Ryan Allen, who won his second straight Ray Guy Award last week.

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Greg Auman, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times; Robert Cessna, Bryan-College Station (Texas) Eagle; Bob Condotta, The Seattle Times; Doug Doughty, The Roanoke (Va.) Times; Seth Emerson, The Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and Columbus Ledger Enquirer; Erik Gee, KNML-AM, New Mexico; Garland Gillen, WWL-TV Channel 4, New Orleans; Anthony Gimino, TucsonCitizen.com; Eric Hansen, The South Bend (Ind.) Tribune; Rob Long, CBS Radio 105.7, Baltimore; Austin Meek, The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal; Keith Pompey, The Philadelphia Inquirer; Kyle Ringo, Daily Camera, Boulder Colo.; Keith Sargeant, Home News Tribune, New Jersey; Mitch Vingle, The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette; Adam Zucker, CBS Sports Network.

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AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Mich, contributed to this report.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoap

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Inside the numbers: Will a 1,000-yard receiver make or break the 2018 Redskins?

Inside the numbers: Will a 1,000-yard receiver make or break the 2018 Redskins?

In 2017, the Redskins missed the playoffs while no receiver went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Jamison Crowder led the team with 789 receiving yards.

In 2016, the Redskins missed the playoffs while two receivers went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Pierre Garçon gained 1,041 yards that year while DeSean Jackson posted 1,005 receiving yards. 

In 2015, the Redskins did make the playoffs. That season the team had no receivers go for 1,000 yards, though Jordan Reed got close with 952 receiving yards. 

Is there a lesson here? Is there a takeaway that can help to predict the 2018 season?

Going into this season, no Redskins wideout has ever accounted for 1,000 yards in a single season. In their career.

Former first-round pick Josh Doctson accounted for just more than 500 receiving yards last season, catching 35 of the 78 balls thrown his way.  Crowder was mostly productive, but there was an expectation, fair or not, he would make more of a jump in 2018 than he did. Jordan Reed hardly played. 

To help the group, the Redskins added Paul Richardson in free agency. Last year playing for the Seahawks, Richardson went for 703 yards on 44 catches. The speedster gives the Redskins a true downfield threat the team lacked in 2017, and that could help the whole offense. In fact, it better help the whole offense. 

Still, looking at a top three of Doctson, Crowder and Richardson, it's hard to confidently predict a 1,000-yard receiver from the bunch. 

Could it happen? Absolutely. Any of the three could pop to a four-digit total.

Would you put your own hard-earned cash on the line? That would take some guts. 

Though the Redskins have a new quarterback in Alex Smith, head coach Jay Gruden has been crystal clear the team is not in a rebuilding mode. Washington must win, now, this season, and a minimum goal should be a Wild Card playoff spot. 

How imperative is a 1,000-yard wide receiver to that goal? Let's look back at the past 12 NFC playoff teams. 

Only three of six NFL playoff teams in 2017 had a 1,000-yard wideout. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles did not, but the Vikings, Saints and Falcons all did. 

In 2016, however, five of six playoff teams had 1,000-yard receivers. The only team that didn't, the Cowboys, deployed a heavy run offense that resulted in Ezekiel Elliott going for more than 1,600 rush yards. 

Added together, in the past two seasons, eight of 12 NFC playoff teams had a receiver on their squad go at least four digits. 

One more note: the New England Patriots played in the last two Super Bowls, winning one and losing one. Both years they had at least one receiver get to 1,000 yards (Julian Edelman in 2016, Brandin Cooks in 2017). In 2017, tight end Rob Gronkowski broke the 1,000-yard mark too.

Again, what's the takeaway? Having a 1,000-yard receiver is certainly good, but it's not a must for a playoff berth or a deep playoff run. The Eagles proved that. 

On some teams, an elite wideout makes a huge difference. Watch Giants tape and it's clear what Odell Beckham does for the offense. Watch Falcons tape and Julio Jones does the same. 

On other teams, an elite quarterback makes a huge difference. Duh.  

Of the teams examined, the 2016 Packers came the closest to the 2017 Patriots with having two players go for over 1,000 yards.

2017 New England did it with Cooks (1,082) and Gronkowski (1,084), 2016 Green Bay almost got there with Jordy Nelson (1,257) and Davante Adams (997). 

While Gronkowski and Nelson are excellent players, the common denominator is obviously the elite play of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. 

For the 2018 Redskins, what does it mean?

The Redskins don't have an elite wideout like Jones or Beckham. The Redskins don't have an elite quarterback like Brady or Rodgers. 

The best path for Washington's offense might be balance, and trying to emulate the Eagles model from 2017. Carson Wentz played most of the season at an elite level, but he spread the ball around to a number of targets and leaned heavily on his tight ends. It helped that the Eagles ran the ball very well too. 

Could the 'Skins do something similar? Alex Smith is known to spread the ball around, and if Jordan Reed and Derrius Guice can produce this fall, the offenses might be similar. 

The answer can't be force enough balls to one wideout to ensure a 1,000 yard season. That won't work. 

There might be another way to consider. Of the three NFC teams that made the 2017 playoffs without a 1,000-yard wideout, two found a lot of success throwing to a running back.

The Panthers leading WR was Devin Funchess with 840 receiving yards. Their second best receiver? Rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. 

The Rams leading WR was Cooper Kupp with 869 receiving yards. Their second best receiver? Running back Todd Gurley.

See a pattern?

Before breaking his leg in November, Chris Thompson had more than 500 receiving yards. He still finished as the team's fourth-leading receiver despite playing only 10 games. 

The offensive path to playoff success for Washington might not hinge on a true 1,000-yard wideout like it does for many teams. Full, healthy seasons from Jordan Reed or Chris Thompson could make up for deficiencies at other skill positions. It also remains possible Doctson, Crowder or Richardson make the four digit leap. 

Having a 1,000-yard receiver seems like a nice option for a good offense, and that's proven by nearly 70 percent of recent NFC playoff teams. Still, other paths remain to the postseason, and increased production at tight end and running back can go a long way. 

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Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

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Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

WASHINGTON -- A teenager among men, Juan Soto has impressed his teammates on the Washington Nationals with his maturity and, even more so, his potent bat.

Soto hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning, and Washington beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Thursday night in the deciding matchup of a three-game interleague series between neighboring rivals.

Soto, a 19-year-old rookie, is batting .326 with 16 RBIs in 28 games. Starting in the cleanup spot for the first time, he drew a walk and delivered the game's pivotal hit.

"I think we're all amazed every single day," Washington ace Max Scherzer said. "He puts together great ABs. He has antics and has some flair. He's a great young player. He's just enjoying himself."

Bryce Harper led off the eighth with a double off Mychal Givens (0-4) and Trea Turner followed with a single. After Anthony Rendon struck out, Soto hit a liner into the gap in left-center.

"He's got unbelievable poise," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Soto. "No matter what the situation is, he goes out there with a game plan."

Whatever that plan is, it's effective.

"I just try to be focused and keep working," Soto said.

Rendon homered for the Nationals, who received seven strong innings from Scherzer and flawless work from their bullpen.

Newcomer Kelvin Herrera (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Sean Doolittle got three straight outs for his 20th save in 21 tries.

Seeking to end a rare run of two straight losses, Scherzer left a tied game after allowing two runs -- both on solo homers -- and striking out nine.

Afterward, the right-hander heaped praise upon Soto for the manner in which he's adapted to playing in the big leagues.

"He has a great feel for the strike zone," Scherzer said. "To have that type of eye, it's remarkable for him to be able to do that at this time and this age and this level."

Activated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, Colby Rasmus homered for the Orioles in his first at-bat since April 6.

"Me and Max, we go way back, so I felt real good," said Rasmus, who had been sidelined with a hip injury.

In addition, Rasmus made an outstanding throw from right field to the plate, nailing Wilmer Difo on a tag-up play in the seventh inning with the score tied.

Mark Trumbo also homered for Baltimore, his sixth of the season and third in four games.

Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman gave up two runs and four hits over six innings. The right-hander was lifted with the score tied, leaving him winless in his last seven starts.

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