Nationals

No action on Cardinals coach until season ends

201212091829665819555-p2.jpeg

No action on Cardinals coach until season ends

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said a decision on whether Ken Whisenhunt remains as coach will be made after the season.

Bidwill called the team's 58-0 loss at Seattle on Sunday ``unacceptable'' and said he has been evaluating the situation on a week-to-week basis as the losing streak has grown to nine games.

``I think not making a rush decision is the right way to go,'' Bidwill said Monday in his first comments on the matter.

He said he and fans have been ``living and dying with each one of these losses. It's extremely hard to watch.''

``We know we can do better,'' Bidwill said. ``I know that there is a lot of emotion around what happened yesterday but I don't intend to make any decisions based on emotion.''

Bidwill said ``there is plenty of responsibility to spread around'' in the losing streak.

``Obviously, injuries have been a factor but I think even with that we expected a much different season than what we've got going on right now,'' he said.

Bidwill, whose father Bill Bidwill owns the team, runs the franchise. He said finances would not figure in the eventual decision.

``Winning football games and staying focused on what's best for winning football games is what we're going to stay focused on,'' he said.

Whisenhunt is due about $5.5 million in the final year of his contract next year.

The evaluation of the entire organization will be more thorough than usual, Bidwill said, adding that's why it's important to have ``a complete set of facts.''

Earlier Monday, Whisenhunt said he knows only one way to respond in the face of increasing speculation that his sixth season in Arizona may be his last.

``I was a college walk-on, a 12th-round draft pick in the NFL,'' he said, ``so I've always been in situations where you had to fight.''

With three games to play, beginning at home Sunday against Detroit, Whisenhunt said he would ``stick with'' what has been successful in the past.

Whether the players are with him remains to be seen.

In the locker room before the Monday team meeting, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said he would keep playing hard for defensive coordinator Ray Horton and fellow defensive linemen. But for Whisenhunt? Dockett said, ``No comment.''

Perhaps it's not a surprising answer since Whisenhunt fined Dockett somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 for his behavior at the end of the previous week's game against the New York Jets.

But it's nonetheless revealing about the reality bubbling below the surface in the locker room, where the defense that had been the team's strong point caved to the tune of 493 yards - 284 on the ground - in Seattle in the face of yet another awful show by the Arizona offense.

Whisenhunt once rode a wave of popularity for leading the Cardinals to a stunning run to the Super Bowl following the 2008 season, then got the team to the NFC West title the following year. But Kurt Warner retired and nothing has been the same since.

Whisenhunt knows his job is on the line.

``I control things that I can control,'' he said. ``Like I said, I understand this business. I have a job to do. I feel disappointed that we haven't done it, but my greatest disappointment is for our fans. They've been so good to me and to us. I feel like I've let them down for not being able to do what we want to do, but it's not for lack of effort and it's not from not wanting to do it the right way.''

The 58-0 loss was one point shy of the NFL record for the most one-sided shutout defeat and the franchise's losing streak is its longest since World War II. And that 1944 team, which lost 10 straight, was merged with the Pittsburgh Steelers due to the shortage of players because of the war.

So, how do you pick up the pieces?

``I don't know,'' safety Adrian Wilson said. ``You tell me.''

Whisenhunt said he felt mistakes, not a lack of effort, led to Sunday's debacle. He said that players must rely on professional pride from here on out.

``They've got to understand that they're going to be watched and monitored,'' Whisenhunt said. ``They're going to be on tape, and that's one of the things that when you're evaluating players you look at. You see how they handle those things, so we're going to continue to work. I think that we have enough of the right guys on our team, especially good young guys that want to do it right that are hurting, that it shouldn't be an issue.''

Defensive end Vonnie Holliday, in his 15th NFL season, said players are ``playing for a job, be it here or anywhere else in the National Football League.''

The coach wouldn't say whether John Skelton or rookie Ryan Lindley would start Sunday. The team added a third quarterback on Monday by claiming Brian Hoyer off waivers from Pittsburgh.

Skelton, three games after being benched, returned and threw four interceptions and fumbled the ball away once. Lindley came on and fumbled, too. Two other turnovers came from Patrick Peterson on punt returns.

Overall, Arizona had just two more first downs (10) than it had turnovers (8).

``After a 58-0 loss like that it's hard to come in to work,'' Skelton said. ``But whether we like it or not we're playing those next three games, and I think guys have enough pride to come out and still work and still try to get better for the rest of the year.''

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx

Quick Links

Michael A. Taylor played winter ball to work on his hitting. Here's why the Nats are hoping it makes a difference

taylordybas.jpg
USA TODAY SPORTS

Michael A. Taylor played winter ball to work on his hitting. Here's why the Nats are hoping it makes a difference

Michael A. Taylor went on an unusual hunt this offseason. He traded the serenity of fishing in Colorado or Florida, among his favorite pastimes, for the noise of the Dominican Winter League.

Taylor joined Gigantes del Cibao, a rare move for a player entering his age-28 season who has played the last four years in the major leagues. The visit to the Dominican Republic did not go well. Taylor hit .143, struck out nine times and walked once in 29 plate appearances. A small sample size, but also an indicator more work is necessary.

Everyone involved with trying to unmask Taylor’s clear talent knew change was necessary. Taylor is quiet, supremely athletic and has delivered eye-popping glimpses of what he can do on the baseball field. Whether that is running down a fly ball in the gap or driving an opposite field postseason home run in a chilled Wrigley Field, he has performed at a level which displays a high ceiling. Taylor has also regularly entered disturbing droughts where he looks overmatched and uncorrectable. Fixing him at the plate, to any degree, gives the Nationals options. They could deploy him or find a future trade partner.

Initially, he was reluctant to go to the Winter League. He previously planned to work with hitting coach Kevin Long in Florida. All parties knew that would happen. The idea to fly south took further development and convincing. Eventually, Taylor agreed. Among the driving forces for the visit -- from the team’s perspective -- was Taylor’s truncated playing time in the second half of the 2018 season.

“Because of the lack of at-bats he had toward the end of the season, it’s always important to see live pitching,” President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo said in December. “We thought it was important to get him one-on-one work with Kevin and really break down his swing and kind of give Michael a fresh start going into spring training.”

Reworking Taylor’s swing began when his appearances on the field all but stopped. Juan Soto’s emergence paired with Adam Eaton’s healthy return to jettison Taylor to the bench. The timing was difficult. Taylor hit poorly in April and May when Eaton was out and an opportunity was available. His .626 OPS and 65 strikeouts in 210 plate appearances showed what happens when things are dismal for him at the plate. His .864 OPS -- despite 15 more strikeouts in just 68 plate appearances -- in June was yet another pop of what could be. Taylor stole 10 bases in 10 tries during the month, meaning he stole a base 39 percent of the time he reached safely.

Then his playing time shriveled: 48 plate appearances, 43 plate appearances, 16 plate appearances in the final three months. His OPS declined each month, too. Taylor quietly walked around the Nationals clubhouse as the season dissolved.

Long started working with him once he was off the field. They tried to shorten everything Taylor did at the plate. The priority is contact. If Rizzo is to be believed, and Taylor’s past performances have shown this to be true to an extent, Taylor is a modest dose of consistency from being a versatile weapon in the major leagues.

“I believe, seeing him as much as I have, you’re talking about a dynamic player,” Rizzo said. “With adjustments, he could be a special type of big-league player. Gold Glove-caliber defender. He’s got a plus-plus arm that’s accurate. He throws a lot of guys out. He’s a terrific base runner, he’s a great base stealer, he’s got big power. If he figures out the contact portion of it a little bit better, you’re talking about a guy who could have five tools. He’s had flashes of it in the past and he just needs to be more consistent in his approach at the plate.”

Where he fits now is unclear. Taylor, presumably, is the fourth outfielder to be deployed as a base stealing and defensive replacement late in games. Perhaps he splits time with Victor Robles in center field. If Bryce Harper returns, Taylor’s future becomes even more clouded.

What he does have is another chance and big backer in manager Davey Martinez. The Nationals made an around-the-calendar investment in Taylor in pursuit of unlocking what they believe still has a chance to exist.

What Taylor doesn’t have is much more time. He’s entering his age-28 season, fifth full year in the major leagues and closing in on the end of low-cost team control. A warm winter trip doesn’t change those facts.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: 

Quick Links

The Future is Bright: How the Ravens' 2018 draft class performed

ravensrookies.png
USA TODAY Sports/AP Images

The Future is Bright: How the Ravens' 2018 draft class performed

Just like that, they're all grown up.

Ozzie Newsome put a bow on top of his 22-year career as general manager of the Ravens when he drafted 11 rookies in the 2018 NFL Draft.

He found the franchise a new quarterback, a couple tight ends and help along the offensive line.

Now that their rookie seasons are over, let's look at how the 2018 draft class performed.

Hayden Hurst

The 25th overall pick missed the first four games of the season after getting surgery on his broken foot during the preseason, and in 12 games never hit his full potential.

Hurst finished the 2018 season with 13 receptions for 163 yards, averaging 12.54 yards per reception and one touchdown. With Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams both free agents, Hurst's 2019 could be huge.

"I really don’t think I was at my best," Hurst said on if fans have seen his potential . "The surgery set me back a good ways. But like I said, the offseason will be huge for me. I’ll be able to get healthy, get stronger and come back ready next year.”

Lamar Jackson

We all know how the 32nd overall pick's season went.

Completing 99 of 170 passes for 1,201 yards and six touchdowns in 2018 on top of 695 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns, Jackson will enter the 2019 season as the Ravens' quarterback of the future. En route to leading the team to their first postseason appearance in three seasons, the QB finished the 2018 season with a 84,5 QB rating.

The Ravens have begun shaping their offense around Jackson's run-heavy style of play, while they'll look to improve his ball security and accuracy.

Orlando Brown Jr.

Brown Jr.  ended up becoming a vital piece of the Ravens' O-line. 

Appearing in all 16 regular season games and starting 10 for an injured James Hurst, the third-round pick didn't allow a single sack in those starts and helped the offense rank second in the league in rushing at 152.6 yards per game. 

 “It’s really been hard-fought," Brown Jr. said on his rookie season performance. "I played against a lot of great players. I think I played well for a rookie, not for a sophomore. I want to be one of the greats in this league. It’s going to take a lot of work to get where I want to be – obviously, that’s All-Pro and being as consistent as I can be for as long as I can be.”

Mark Andrews

Andrews ended up being the tight end to make the biggest impact for the Ravens this season.

Finishing 2018 with 34 receptions for 552 yards, averaging 16.24 yards per carry and three touchdowns, Andrews' 68-yard touchdown Week 16 against the Chargers was the teams longest offensive score of the season. The rookie out of Oklahoma also finished the season ranked as Pro Football Focus' 13th overall tight end in the league.

Anthony Averett

The cornerback out of Alabama served as a backup in 11 games this season, finishing with five tackles.

If the Ravens decide to move on from veterans Jimmy Smith or Brandon Carr in the offseason, Averett could find a more prominent role in 2019.

Kenny Young

The rookie made his presence known early in the season after filling in for an injured C.J. Mosley during the Ravens' Weeks 2 and 3 matchups. 

Young played in all 16 games in 2018, finishing the season with 40 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble. If the Ravens part ways with Mosley, their future still looks bright with Young on the come up. 

Jaleel Scott

The fourth-round pick was placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the season after suffering a hamstring injury.

Jordan Lasley

The fifth-round pick was a gameday inactive since Week 1.

DeShon Elliott

The sixth-round pick was placed on injured reserve at the start of the season with a fractured forearm suffered in the Ravens' preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. 

Greg Senat

The sixth-round pick was also placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the season with a foot injury.

Bradley Bozeman

Bozeman proved his value as a backup offensive lineman appearing in 14 games for the Ravens, including their Wild Card playoff loss.

Zach Sieler

Newsome's final draft pick appeared in two games for the Ravens this season. Inactive most gamedays, Sieler posted a tackle against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9. 

MORE RAVENS NEWS: