Pitt gets name recognition after moving to .500


Pitt gets name recognition after moving to .500

PITTSBURGH (AP) When Paul Chryst took over at Pitt in January, he told the Panthers he was making some alterations to their jerseys.

Well, just one actually.

Chryst stripped the names off the back, telling his players the names would return when he felt the team actually started playing like one.

The Panthers didn't balk at the move. The evidence of widespread selfishness - of guys going all-in - was there on the tape for all to see.

``With a new coaching staff coming in here, guys have to earn the coaches' respect and you have to put your time in,'' offensive lineman Chris Jacobsen said. ``Coach Chryst did it as a thing saying we're a team and not individuals.''

It took nearly a year, but the Panthers have finally won Chryst over. The names will return on Saturday when Pitt (4-4) travels to fourth-ranked Notre Dame (8-0), a token of appreciation from Chryst to his players for the way they've hung in there.

Chryst could see things start to come together in recent weeks and after a somewhat sluggish win over Buffalo on Oct. 20, he told his players if they could beat Temple the equipment manager would have a busy week ahead of him.

The Panthers responded with an emphatic 47-17 win, posting their highest point total against an FBS team in 13 years. Ray Graham rolled up 180 yards of total offense, quarterback Tino Sunseri passed for 321 yards and the defense left little doubt.

``A lot of players impacted it,'' Chryst said.

It was the kind of selfless play Chryst has been preaching for months. Not one for easily attained motivational ploys, Chryst insisted the reward was for his team's hard work, not just one solid afternoon against a program it beats with regularity.

``I thought that it was the right thing for this group at this time,'' he said.

The return of the names is a bit of a double-edged sword for the Panthers. Sure, the names are back, but they're back during a week when they face their toughest task of the season.

Resurgent Notre Dame is stirring up the echoes behind a smothering defense led by Heisman Trophy candidate Manti Te'o. Pitt already has one upset over a Top 25 opponent this season, but that was at home in September against a Virginia Tech team that wasn't quite as good as advertised.

The Fighting Irish are no fluky unbeaten. They thumped Oklahoma on the road last Saturday and are surging into the national championship conversation.

Pitt doesn't see itself as a spoiler, insisting this is just another game. Maybe, but it's one they believe they're capable of winning. They might not have said the same thing a month ago.

``I think we're getting better,'' Chryst said. ``I think we've been inconsistent. Two weeks ago I thought we weren't running the ball consistently ... (but) guys are getting a feel for some things. Are we in better shape now than before? I don't know if I can answer that question honestly.''

Chryst expects his players to have provide the answer for him, though Pitt will go into the game shorthanded. The Panthers have lost junior linebacker Dan Mason for the season due to internal injuries to his abdomen he suffered against Temple. It was a bitter blow for one of the team's toughest players.

Mason missed nearly two full seasons due to a severe right knee injury against Miami (Fla.) on Sept. 23, 2010. He returned to the starting lineup against Buffalo - recording a team-high 11 tackles - and made a couple of big stops versus the Owls before going down again.

Chryst said Mason is ``doing really good'' and doesn't have a ``woe is me'' attitude despite the setback. It's that kind of mindset that has permeated the locker room in recent weeks as Pitt deepened its trust in its third coaching staff in as many seasons.

``I think that guys are really starting to buy in and to do things the right way on a consistent basis,'' center Ryan Turnley said. ``That consistency, that's something that's plagued us the whole year and something we need to work on.''


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10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No. 4: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

In a way, the Redskins are quite lucky. Not every team in the NFL has an unequivocal No. 1 corner. Washington has that in Josh Norman

His interception numbers in 2017 did not get the job done, but he still played quite well. Norman got targeted significantly less than the league average, which means NFL quarterbacks actively chose not to mess with former All Pro. 

Still, Norman needs more interceptions than last year. He grabbed none, and he will admit that he must create more turnovers. 

Regardless, Norman is not the Redskins question mark at cornerback. What happens after Norman is the question. 

Washington moved quick this offseason to lock up Quinton Dunbar off restricted free agency. Dunbar has size and range, and has looked quite capable, in spots. He doesn't have a ton of experience, however, and will be asked to start this fall. The team also signed veteran Orlando Scandrick - from the Cowboys - as a likely nickel/slot corner. 

Second-year man Fabian Moreau will be expected to take a significant step forward this fall. The Redskins would like very much to be able to primarily rely on Norman, Moreau and Dunbar while asking less of Scandrick. 

Don't forget Washington lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason. Fuller got moved to Kansas City as part of the Alex Smith trade, and Breeland remains a free agent.

Redskins coaches won't tell the exact truth, but the the team would love for Moreau to emerge opposite Norman and let Dunbar play in the slot. Or maybe let Moreau emerge in the slot, like Fuller did in 2017, and Dunbar opposite Norman. Scandrick hasn't played a full season since 2013, and the 'Skins brass can't expect that in 2018 for the 31-year-old corner. 

Josh Holsey, Adonis Alexander and Greg Stroman will provide depth at the bottom of the roster. That's two seventh-round picks and a supplemental sixth round pick. While each player provides reasons for optimism, it's hard to think any of the three young players will provide immediate help. They're better focused fighting for a roster spot than a starting spot. 

In 2017, cornerback ranked as a strength for the Redskins. 

In 2018, it's a big question. Elite play from Norman could change much of that equation. 


— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap


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Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Offense

Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 22, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Training camp preview: Offense

Here are some of the big topics surrounding the offense at Redskins training camp along with some of the things I’ll be observing closely when training camp gets underway on Thursday. 

Alex Smith

The subheadline here doesn’t need any elaboration. The Redskins gave up a top-100 draft pick, a promising player, and $71 million in guaranteed money to get him. When asked about the timetable for Smith picking up the offense, Jay Gruden said, “He has got to get it down by the first game.”

That first game is seven weeks from today. Of course, the process has already started as Smith appeared to have a solid grasp of things in the offseason practices. There is every reason to think that he will look good in Richmond. 

The question is, how much will the coaches push him? Will they focus on him having success on shorter, easier throws to build his confidence? Or will they call plays that test his ability to throw deep? Last year in Kansas City his ability to hit on long passes helped transform him from being an above-average quarterback to an MVP candidate. The Redskins need him to be effective deep starting Week 1 and training camp needs to be the starting point. 

The running back rotation

This is primarily about Derrius Guice, who is the most anticipated rookie running back in team history. The Redskins were 28th in rushing yards last year and they bring back the same offensive line (although hoping for better health) and three of the same running backs. They are counting on Guice to be the difference maker. 

But Guice can’t do it by himself. Gruden will be wary of overworking his rookie, who has an aggressive running style and who was banged up for a lot of his last year at LSU. He also may give Guice a light load if he struggles in pass protection early on. Chris Thompson’s role is set. Where do Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine line up? Does one or the other take most of the first-team reps when Guice is getting a rest? 

The difference between being the third back and the fourth is big. The fourth back on the depth chart is unlikely to be active most game days. The active back could get five to 10 carries per game.

Who’s at left guard?

Is Shawn Lauvao going to be the left guard? It doesn’t seem logical that they would put all their eggs in Lauvao’s injury-prone and frequently ineffective basket. Will Ty Nsekhe line up there? Do they think that Tyler Catalina or Kyle Kalis can push for the starting job? Is a trade in the offing? 

Jordan Reed’s health

This does not need much explanation if you’ve been paying attention the last several years. It would be both a good sign and a major surprise if he starts camp healthy and doesn’t miss any time due to injuries. If he’s out there, there is no question that he and Smith will quickly develop chemistry. 

Wide receiver depth chart

The stakes at wide receiver are similar to those at running back. The top backup behind the three starters, who could be any of Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Brian Quick or Try Quinn, will have a regular role in the offense line Ryan Grant had last year. The fifth guy will rarely play, the player who has the sixth spot will rarely play, and the seventh won’t have a job. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Apparently, some teams are worried that their players are playing too much of the video game Fortnite. No, seriously.


Happy birthday to Redskins running back Quinton Dunbar, who was born on this date in 1992.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 4
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 18
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 41

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 49 days. 

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