Redskins

Pats defense has tough job against balanced Texans

Pats defense has tough job against balanced Texans

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Vince Wilfork's biggest challenge when he lines up against the Houston Texans' powerful offense could come before the ball is even snapped.

Will they pass or run?

The offensive line isn't likely to give much of an indication against New England on Monday night.

``They do a real good job up front of showing you the same look on run and pass,'' the Patriots defensive tackle said Thursday, ``so we're just going to have to rely on technique, good fundamentals.''

Then, once Matt Schaub hands the ball to Arian Foster or throws it to Andre Johnson, the hard work continues for the Patriots (9-3) against the Texans (11-1) in the matchup of teams with six-game winning streaks and designs on first-round playoff byes.

Foster leads the NFL with 15 touchdowns and the AFC with 1,102 yards rushing. Johnson is tied for fourth in the NFL with 1,114 yards receiving and is alone in fourth in the AFC with 74 catches.

``They're a very well balanced team,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. ``If you're stopping the run, you're light on the play-action (passing attack). If you're stopping the play-action, you're probably light on the run. They do a good job of tying those plays together, complementing each other and making you defend all of it.''

Foster has rushed for more than 100 yards in six of Houston's 12 games. He's also the Texans' third leading receiver with 30 catches, two of them for touchdowns.

``I had him out in the Pro Bowl a couple years ago,'' Belichick said. ``Impressive kid, strong, good balance. ... You've got to be able to tackle his quickness and his athleticism, but also have to be able to tackle his size and power to run through arm tackles. He's got a good set of skills.''

Very much like Johnson.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound receiver is averaging 78 catches in his 10 NFL seasons since being taken with the third pick of the 2003 draft out of Miami, where he played with Wilfork, who was drafted with the 21st pick the next year.

``He has the heart of a champion,'' Wilfork said. ``I just remember playing with him in college. He was always quiet, but he was a fireball on the field. He gave us his all. (He's) big, physical, strong, fast, can catch, can run. He's well put together. He's a specimen. He's special.''

Schaub also can throw to tight end Owen Daniels, second on the team with 50 catches, and Kevin Walters. And he can hand the ball off to Ben Tate and Justin Forsett, who are part of the NFL's sixth most productive running game.

``The quarterback will get the ball to the appropriate receiver based on coverage or based on read for that particular play so he's not always targeting one guy,'' Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said.

New England's secondary was vulnerable to big plays early in the season and has allowed the fourth most yards passing in the NFL. But it has improved since Devin McCourty moved from cornerback to safety for the past six games and Aqib Talib was acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played in the last three games.

But Talib is still adjusting after being suspended four games for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances and then adjusting to a new defensive system.

``I could be a lot better,'' he said. ``I can just go down the list on things I can do better.''

On Monday night he might be running downfield alongside Johnson, trying to shut down one of the NFL's best receivers. He and his defensive teammates probably won't get much of a hint of whether the Texans will run or pass on a particular play.

``The biggest challenge is how they run and they pass, everything looks the same,'' Talib said. ``Linemen come off one way on the run and they come off the exact same way on the pass. So you've just got to just be technique-sound and have your eyes in the right spot.''

Notes: LG Logan Mankins and DE Chandler Jones participated in practice on a limited basis. Mankins has been sidelined the past three games with ankle and calf problems, while Jones has missed the last two with an ankle injury. ... The Patriots will honor retired LT Matt Light at halftime of Monday night's game. Light spent his entire 11-year career with New England before retiring after last season.

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

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Need to Know: The forecast for Redskins Park today is a media circus

Need to Know: The forecast for Redskins Park today is a media circus

Here is what you need to know on Tuesday, August 21, three days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

Looking at a few different topics this morning:

—What was going to be a normal, ho-hum Tuesday preseason practice at Redskins Park will now be on hyperdrive thanks to the addition of Adrian Peterson. After mostly ignoring the Redskins for most of the offseason the national media will turn out in force to chronicle the arrival of AD. Yes, it’s AD as in All Day as I was reminded by several Sooners on Twitter in the past few days. I suppose that now that he’s here I’d better get it right. 

Derrius Guice underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL yesterday (see his tweet below). I haven’t heard but I assume that someone will say that the surgery was a success. Looking at a recovery time of about nine months, Guice could be ready for the start of OTAs in mid-May. But given how cautious this organization tends to be with injuries during the offseason program, we may not see him on the field until training camp. 

—Speaking of injuries, there were over a dozen players who were not participating in practice on both Saturday and Sunday. As I noted here a couple of days ago Jay Gruden has become very tight-lipped when it comes to giving out information on injuries. And teams are not required to give out any injury information at all during the preseason. So it’s hard to sort out veterans’ days from players with minor injuries that are being rested because the game isn’t until Friday from injuries that are reasons for legitimate concern. The first injury report will come out two weeks from tomorrow, so we are mostly in the dark until then. 

—I’m hearing from fans and some in the media that undrafted free agent Cam Sims is a lock to make the 53-man roster. I would suggest pumping the brakes. He has a great opportunity and I have him on the 53 in my last prediction. But he has been erratic. The Jets preseason game, where he made a big-time error when he had a pass bounce out of his arms, turning a completion into an interception then made some key, acrobatic catches was essentially a microcosm of his training camp. He needs a strong finish both in practice and in the two remaining preseason games to get locked into a spot. A few plays like the botched reception and he could be on the outside looking in. 

—Montae Nicholson quietly had a good camp and he has played well in two preseason games (he was one of the few starters to play against the Patriots). He struggled in coverage in the early part of camp. The Redskins are changing their scheme to play left- and right-side safeties instead of free and strong. That means that Nicholson, who played free last year, had to learn the coverage responsibilities for both positions on both sides of the field. It took him some time to get up to speed and during that time it was not unusual to see Nicholson trailing behind a receiver who had a couple of steps on him. He is not immune to making mistakes or just getting beaten on occasion (news flash: NFL rules are set up for DBs to get burned). But he should get the job done most of the time and be the player the Redskins hope he will be. 

Bureau of statistics

Nicholson’s 40 time at the NFL Combine in 2017 was 4.42, the third fastest among safeties and tenth fastest Amon all defensive backs. 

Trending on social

The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:00; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 3 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 11 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 19 days

In case you missed 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


 

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Baltimore Ravens crash Andrew Luck's homecoming with 20-19 preseason win

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Baltimore Ravens crash Andrew Luck's homecoming with 20-19 preseason win

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Baltimore Ravens spoiled Andrew Luck's Indianapolis homecoming.

They picked him off before allowing a completion, and Terrell Suggs nearly chopped the ball out of Luck's hands on a sack. The Ravens then secured a 20-19 preseason win over the Colts by stopping a late 2-point conversion run.

Luck was just OK in his first home start since Jan. 1, 2017. But he did receive a roaring ovation from the crowd when he took the field, led the Colts to one score and apparently emerged unscathed after going down twice on sacks.

"Not too sharp, certainly red-zone turnovers are a negative, missed a couple of throws I'd like to hit," he said. "And I didn't feel like we, as an offense, got into any semblance of a sustained rhythm."

Expectations were high following a solid start in Seattle.

This time, the Colts (1-1) looked sloppy.

Luck missed his first three throws, the third winding up in the hands of Ravens safety Anthony Levine Jr. Luck rebounded to finish 6 of 13 for 50 yards and set up 45-year-old Adam Vinatieri for a 57-yard field before leaving in the second quarter.

If Luck had his way, he might have played longer. But first-year coach Frank Reich wasn't taking any chances with Luck's surgically repaired arm.

"We just never found a rhythm for him and some of his balls were not his best balls," he said. "But I still have a lot of confidence we're headed in the right direction."

Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens looked better.

Flacco went 7 of 9 for 72 yards and one touchdown. Jackson then showed flashes of what helped him win the 2016 Heisman Trophy.

Jackson was 7 of 15 for 49 yards and a TD and carried four times for 26 yards before giving way to another Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III, in the fourth quarter.

Indy still had a chance at the end after Tarell Basham recovered a fumble at the Ravens 9. Five plays later, Phillip Walker threw a 9-yard TD pass to Zach Pascal with 2:24 left. But the Ravens (3-0) stopped Walker on the 2-point try, recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

"Happy to get the win," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We did a lot of things that weren't winning football, especially in the second half."

The Ravens made it tough on Indy all night.

They stopped Indy twice in the red zone and nearly had a third when Jordan Wilkins fumbled the ball into the end zone, where it bounced right into the hands of receiver Chester Rogers.

Flacco gave the Ravens a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter when he hooked up with John Brown on a 7-yard score, and Jackson's masterful hurry-up drive at the end of the first half ended with Justin Tucker's 38-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.

When Colts rookie Nyheim Hines fumbled away the opening kickoff of the second half, Jackson hooked up with Chris Moore on a 7-yard TD pass to make it 17-10.