Redskins

Northwestern-Penn State Preview Capsule

Northwestern-Penn State Preview Capsule

No. 24 Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at Penn State (3-2, 1-0), Noon (ESPN)

Line: Penn State by 2 1/2.

Series Record: Penn State leads 12-3.

WHAT'S AT STAKE:

Back in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2008, Northwestern is trying for its first 6-0 start since 1962. Beat a streaking Penn State team on the road and the Wildcats might need to be taken more seriously as a Legends Division title contender. Penn State is trying for its fourth straight win under new coach Bill O'Brien. A homecoming weekend victory against Northwestern's tricky offense would give O'Brien's Lions a confidence boost heading into their bye week.

KEY MATCHUP:

Northwestern front seven vs. Penn State running game. The Wildcats can move the ball. That's a given. Defense is another story. Northwestern is last in the Big Ten against the pass but first against the run, albeit against some questionable competition. With their running game finding its stride behind bruising 6-foot-1 sophomore Zach Zwinak, the Nittany Lions might try to play keep-away from the Wildcats' exhausting offense with their own long, sustained drives.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Northwestern: QB Kain Colter. The ``slash'' is back for the Northwestern offense. After playing strictly quarterback over the season's first four games, Colter returned to the quarterback-receiver role he played in 2011 in last week's 44-29 win over Indiana. The result? Nearly 300 all-purpose yards and four rushing touchdowns. Penn State defensive coordinator Ted Roof and his players will have to keep close watch on where Colter is lined up at all times.

Penn State: OLBs Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti. Northwestern's spread offense forces defenders to make open-field stops in space. The athletic Hodges and the fiery, heady Mauti are two of the top linebackers in the Big Ten and play nearly every down. They'll be counted on to keep up with Colter and again spark Penn State's opportunistic defense (11 turnovers).

FACTS & FIGURES

The unstoppable force meets the immovable object: Northwestern leads the Big Ten in red zone offense with a 92 percent conversion rate (13 touchdowns); Penn State leads the league in red zone defense (61 percent, six touchdowns). ... The Wildcats had a school-record 704 yards of total offense last week against the Hoosiers. ... Northwestern had first-half leads over Penn State in the teams' previous three meetings before being turned away late by the NIittany Lions. ... Penn State has outscored opponents 49-0 in the first quarter this season and 76-9 in the first half. ... QB Matt McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing (243 yards per game). He's also scored on four quarterback sneaks to lead the team in rushing touchdowns.

Quick Links

Comparing the 2015 playoff Redskins to this year's team

reed_catch_vs_phil_usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Comparing the 2015 playoff Redskins to this year's team

We don’t know if there will be major changes on the Redskins if they don’t make the playoffs this year but getting into the postseason and getting a win when they get there would make a decision to keep going in this direction very easy.

Yes, a lot of the pressure lies on the shoulders of Jay Gruden but winning games usually comes down to the players on the field. How do the players the Redskins have today compare to those on the last team that made the playoffs?

Here are the players who started in the last playoff game that involved the Redskins, a 35-20 Wild Card round home loss to the Packers, side-by-side with the anticipated starting lineup for the 2018 season with some unscientific comparison of the quality of the two teams.

Offensive line

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
LT—Trent Williams, Williams
LG—Spencer Long, Shawn Lauvao
C—Kory Lichtensteiger, Chase Roullier
RG—Brandon Scherff, Scherff
RT—Morgan Moses, Moses

How do the 2018 versions of Williams, Moses, and Scherff compare to the ones who started the playoff game? They’ll be about three years older but they have gained valuable experience. Remember that Lichtensteiger was activated off of injured reserve the week before the playoff game after missing 11 games with a neck injury so he was not close to 100 percent against the Packers. Josh LeRibeus was center for most of the year. Roullier is at least a good as he was. Long is no All-Pro but he is better than Lauvao. Comparison: Even

Offensive backs and receivers

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
QB—Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith
RB—Alfred Morris, Derrius Guice
WR—Jamison Crowder, Crowder
WR—Pierre Garçon, Josh Doctson
WR—DeSean Jackson, Paul Richardson
TE—Jordan Reed, Jordan Reed

We can debate Smith vs. Cousins all day but we really won’t know until they start playing games. Guice has the potential to be better than the 2015 version of Morris, who averaged 3.7 yards per carry while gaining 751 yards. Reed has his best season in 2015 with 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was arguably the best tight end in the game in 2015. Reed has to demonstrate that he can be that guy again. Crowder will be better than he was as a rookie but there are clear downgrades at the wide receiver positions. Comparison: Edge to 2015

Defensive front

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
DE—Chris Baker, Matt Ioannidis
NT—Terrance Knighton, Daron Payne
DE—Jason Hatcher, Jonathan Allen
ILB—Mason Foster, Foster
ILB—Will Compton, Zach Brown
OLB—Ryan Kerrigan, Kerrigan
OLB—Trent Murphy, Preston Smith

I don’t think we need to go into much discussion here to sort out which team has the better front seven. The interior line plus Brown makes this year’s front clearly superior. Comparison: Solid edge to 2018

Secondary

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
CB—Will Blackmon, Josh Norman
CB—Bashaud Breeland, Quinton Dunbar
SS—DeAngelo Hall, Montae Nicholson
FS—Dashon Goldson, D.J. Swearinger

Breeland was very good in 2015, tallying two interceptions, three forced fumbles, and two recoveries. Dunbar could be a downgrade but I don’t think he’ll be a significant one. This year’s team is clearly better off at the other three positions. Comparison: Solid edge to 2018

If defense wins championships then you have to give the overall edge to this year’s team. But the offense will be important and Smith, Guice, and the wide receivers will need to come through if the Redskins are going to play a game in January of 2019.

More 2018 Redskins

- The secondary: What's the outlook in the secondary?
- Tandler’s Take: The pressure's on Gruden and he knows it

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.

 

Quick Links

Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

ap_17300849478161.jpg
Associated Press

Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

The Washington Wizards have an opening on their coaching staff, as assistant Sidney Lowe has left the team to join the Detroit Pistons.

Lowe, according to ESPN, will be the top assistant on new Pistons coach Dwane Casey's staff. 

Lowe spent two seasons under head coach Scott Brooks in Washington. A D.C. native, Lowe starred at DeMatha High School before playing at NC State and then in the NBA.

Lowe was the head coach at his alma mater for five years from 2006 through 2011, but has otherwise been an NBA lifer. He served as head coach of the Timberwolves in 1993-94 and head coach of the Grizzlies from 2000 to 2002.

The Wizards have several coaching hires to make now. They have a new G-League team set to take the court in the fall and will need to hire a staff sometime this summer. 

With Lowe gone, they could choose to promote from within or go outside the organization.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!