Redskins

Plenty at stake - as always - for Army, Navy

201212061455537301251-p2.jpeg

Plenty at stake - as always - for Army, Navy

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Army's Jarrett Mackey hears the same order each day he walks around the barracks at West Point.

Beat Navy and bring home the coveted Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

``Every single time I pass them, it's, `Army-Navy. CIC. Let's go,''' Mackey said. ``I wouldn't say it puts more pressure on us, but it's time. Let's do this. We almost need to do it. We've got to get out there and get the win. It's been way too long.''

Try 11 years.

The Army-Navy series is not only the most patriotic rivalry in sports, it's turned into one of the most one-sided. Navy has won 10 straight, doubling the previous winning streak of either team in a series that stretches back to 1890. It only seems like the Black Knights haven't won in 122 years. Army last beat Navy in 2001 at Veterans Stadium. The Vet has since been toppled.

So has Army's all-time lead in the series.

Mackey, a junior defensive end, wants so badly to be part of the class that ends the Middies' dominance. That alone, is incentive enough. But for the first time in nearly two decades, there is more on the line than just bragging rights.

Winning this game usually makes a season, but this one would mean more than most. The winner Saturday leaves Lincoln Financial Field with the Commander-in-Chief's trophy, awarded to the team with the best record in games among the three service academies. Army and Navy each defeated Air Force, putting the prestigious trophy up for grabs in the regular-season finale for the first time since 2005. Army (2-9) hasn't hoisted the CIC trophy since 1996. Navy (7-4) won it a school-record seven straight seasons through 2009 before giving way Air Force the last two seasons.

``We didn't win much, but we won just enough to bring a little extra drama to this game,'' Army coach Rich Ellerson said. ``From the moment these guys got to West Point, every building and everybody's front door says, `Beat Navy' and `Beat Air Force.' There is so much on the table for them.''

Billed as ``America's Game,'' the Linc will be stuffed with Cadets and Midshipmen standing, bouncing and cheering the entire game. Beating Army has become an annual tradition for Navy. None of the Mids want to be associated with a team that ended the streak.

``They're getting closer and closer,'' Navy linebacker Brye French said. ``The 10 wins have been awesome. But this year is even bigger than all those because it actually means something with the CIC.''

Navy's 27-21 win last season was the tightest margin since the winning streak started. The Mids won by a combined 74-3 score in 2007-08 and four times over the last decade the Black Knights failed to score more than six points. Army lost its 49-46-7 series lead during this decade of football futility.

The Black Knights did beat Air Force 30-22 on Oct. 27 to at least squeeze their way into the rare position of playing for the trophy. That ended Army's 13-game losing streak in service academy games.

``I think beating Air Force brings just a little bit extra to the equation,'' Ellerson said. ``We've had a tough year but that gives us some confidence you might not otherwise see because of that win and that common opponent.''

Navy beat Air Force 28-21 in overtime in early October to steer toward the trophy for a record 13th time.

``I think we're both grateful we have an opportunity to play for it,'' Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said.

There's more football left for Navy after Saturday's tradition-filled spectacle. The Mids play Arizona State in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 29 in San Francisco.

Yes, the outcome and the trophy are important for each side, but this is a game about more than the final score. The run-heavy contests are rarely a treat to watch. But the Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets marching into Lincoln Financial Field - complete with a military flyover - are the moments that make this game one to savor.

``Playing football is the best part of our day,'' Army QB Trent Steelman said. ``It's a struggle for a lot of other teams across the nation. It's our time to get away from everything else that's going on in life.''

For Navy, that escape comes in a tough time for the program. The Midshipmen have been worried daily over the health of third-string quarterback Ralph Montalvo. Montalvo was in a medically-induced coma after he was critically injured in a car accident near his home last on Thanksgiving night.

His family posts updates at caringbridge.org/visit/rafimontalvo/journal. On Thursday, the journal read, ``He stuck his tongue out at us when asked to do so on several occasions. We continue to pray that he will wake soon.''

Montalvo was scheduled to travel to Philadelphia and dress for the Army-Navy game before the accident. The Mids will show support for Montalvo by wearing a sticker that says ``Rafi'' on the back of their helmets.

``The parents are wonderful people and they're hanging in there,'' Niumatalolo said. ``He's a typical academy kid, just a wonderful young man, wonderful American.''

Quick Links

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

redkins_d-line_vs_sd_usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming week, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Defensive line

Additions: Daron Payne (drafted in first round), Tim Settle (drafted in fifth round)
Departures: Terrell McClain (released)

Starters: Payne (NT), Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis
Other roster locks: Stacy McGee, Anthony Lanier, Settle
On the bubble: Ziggy Hood, Phil Taylor

How the defensive line compares

To the rest of the NFL: We are going to have to see about this. Over the last couple of years the D-line has been transformed from an aging group into one where youth is in good supply. Ioannidis is the oldest of the starters at age 24. Allen is 23 and Payne just turned 21 in May. It looks like there is great potential there but we haven’t seen enough of it on the field to make solid comparisons to other lines around the league. Allen missed 10 games of his rookie year with an injury and Ioannidis missed two and was hampered in a few more with a broken hand. Payne, of course, is a rookie. Let’s check back in late October and see how things are going then. 

To the 2017 Redskins:  The primary reason that the line should be significantly better this year is the presence of Payne and Settle on the roster. That means that it is very unlikely that Hood will have to play nose tackle. He has been the starter there for the past two years, forced there by injuries. Jim Tomsula that Hood is not well suited to play the nose. So they have an improvement there. If they get a mostly healthy season out of Allen and if Ioannidis continue to improve this will be the best defensive line they have had since moving to the 3-4 defensive in 2010. 

2018 outlook

Biggest upside: As noted, Payne just turned 21. He seems to have a rare understanding of the game for a rookie. You often see rookies just trying to survive on physical ability early one. Payne has plenty of that, but he also seems to realize that strength and ability alone won’t let him thrive at this level. He pays close attention to his technique during drills, making sure he does things the right way the first time. If he builds on this for the next year or so the Redskins could have a legitimate star. 

Most to prove: Since so many Redskins fans are accustomed to seeing veteran defensive linemen the team signs as free agents play poorly, they automatically put McGee in the “bust” category. But many of his teammates said he was the most consistent player on the line last year. It’s safe to say that he played better than the popular perception. Next year, he will carry a $4.8 million salary cap number and like most players who are not starters but making good salaries, he will need to play well enough to justify that cap number.  

Rookie watch: The Redskins did not expect Settle to be available in the fifth round and he was too good to pass up when he was still on the board. He should get some opportunity as a rookie. He is likely to be the only other nose tackle on the roster besides Payne (sorry, but the numbers make it unlikely that Phil Taylor will make the roster). That could have him active on many game days and that usually means getting some snaps in the rotation. We will see what he can do with his chances. 

Bottom line: The Redskins were last in the league in rushing defense in 2017. It wasn’t all on the line—in particular, injuries to the inside linebackers hurt a lot—but the simple fact is that the organization long neglected the line. The philosophy was to create a patchwork unit from aging free agents. That has changed now with three homegrown players set to start and Settle and 2016 undrafted free agent find Anthony Lanier providing reserve help. It’s going to be a better unit, no question. But improvement over the last several years is a low bar and we’ll find out if this develops into a quality line over the next few months. 

Quote-unquote

Greg Manusky on Payne:

Payne is doing a great job. He’s trying to get acclimated to some of the calls, hasn’t had a lot of mental errors. He’s done a great job. Physical player.

2018 position outlook series

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

 

Quick Links

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually exist. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclomations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!