Redskins

Pinstripe Bowl forecast calls for snow and scoring

Pinstripe Bowl forecast calls for snow and scoring

NEW YORK (AP) The forecast for the Pinstripe Bowl calls for snow and scoring.

West Virginia and Syracuse play Saturday at Yankee Stadium in a matchup of former Big East rivals and NFL-prospect quarterbacks

Snow is expected to fall in the New York area throughout the day, with accumulations of about 3 inches. Maybe that will help the defenses slow down a couple of offenses that have been among the best in the country this season.

``There are two factors that matter: It's wind and it's wet,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Friday during a news conference with Syracuse coach Doug Marrone at Yankee Stadium. ``Snow doesn't bother us much. If the wind's blowing that makes us miserable.''

In that case the news should be good. The forecast calls for no more than light gusts of about 10 mph.

Marrone said his only concern was making sure there were enough shovels and workers on the field to clear the snow so the sideline and yard markers were visible.

``I already went to Home Depot,'' chimed in Yankees executive Mark Holtzman, who is in charge of running the 3-year-old bowl.

In that case, let it snow.

``That's what makes football fun,'' said Marrone, the Bronx native and Yankees fan who is in his fourth season has head coach of his alma mater. ``The only time you cancel a game is if there is lightning. Other than that the one thing we know for sure is we're playing.''

And if West Virginia is playing that means points will be plentiful. The Mountaineers have scored at least 31 points 10 times this season. Six times in a West Virginia game, the losing team has scored at least 34 points.

Syracuse has shown it should be able to keep up. The Orange (7-5) averaged 36 points a game while winning five of their last six. Cold and snow shouldn't faze the Orange, but remember, they do play in a dome.

``You can say I'm used to this weather because I'm from Syracuse but a lot of times we don't play in this weather,'' quarterback Ryan Nassib said. ``When it's windy and the elements are bad you just have to make more careful reads.''

Another high-scoring affair would be an appropriate way for West Virginia to finish what has been a wild first season in the Big 12 for the Mountaineers, who fled the Big East after last year.

The Mountaineers (7-5) won their first five games this year, including a 70-63 head-spinner against Baylor and a 48-45 thriller at Texas. At that point they were ranked fifth in the country, quarterback Geno Smith was the Heisman Trophy front-runner and Morgantown was rocking.

Five straight losses followed as West Virginia's defensive problems could no longer be masked.

The Mountaineers rallied to finish the season with victories at Iowa State and at home against Kansas.

Holgorsen credited his upperclassmen, especially Smith and talented receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, with helping West Virginia recover.

``They did keep pressing forward,'' he said. ``That's what good players and true leaders do, they step up and say let's try to change some things.''

Not much needed to change offensively. Smith and the Mountaineers are eighth in the nation in total offense at 518 yards a game. Smith has thrown for 4,004 yards and 40 touchdowns, and both Bailey and Austin had more than 1,000 yards receiving. Bailey, a junior who has already said he will skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft, has 23 touchdown receptions.

West Virginia's defense has been as bad as its offense has been good. The Mountaineers rank 123rd (out of 124) in the nation against the pass.

``Just because of what they have done throughout the year, or what they haven't done, doesn't mean they won't be ready,'' Nassib said.

While Smith has gotten plenty of publicity and is expected to be an early round NFL draft pick - maybe even the first quarterback taken - Nassib has been almost as good with far less fanfare.

``Ryan's a great quarterback,'' said Smith, who lost twice to the Orange while playing in the Big East. ``He's put Syracuse on the map again. I appreciate his game. He's a great competitor.''

Nassib has thrown for 3,619 yards and 24 touchdowns, and NFL scouts are well aware of the senior's strong arm and athleticism. Running an up-tempo style offense that is similar to - though not quite as fast as - West Virginia's, the Orange are 21st in the nation in total offense at 473 yards per game.

Syracuse will say goodbye to the Big East, too, after this game. Next season the Orange will play in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Will the Pinstripe Bowl be next to separate with the Big East? The bowl's contract with the Big East and Big 12 has one more year.

Holtzman said it's too soon to speculate what conferences the game will align itself with down the road, but he said he was confident in the game's future.

``We expect this game,'' he said, ``to be part of the bowl landscape for a long time.''

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

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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 benefited 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.