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A puzzling pair of games for QB Manning, Giants

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A puzzling pair of games for QB Manning, Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) For seven weeks, the New York Giants had one of the most balanced and lethal offensive units in the NFL.

Run, pass, early, late, you name it. The defending Super Bowl champions could do it all, ranking first in big-play ability (plays of 20 yards or better).

Then, out of nowhere, quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants (6-3) began to struggle offensively, especially in Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. And as they search for answers, with a trip to Cincinnati on tap, their lead in the NFC East isn't so comfortable, despite what the numbers say.

In each of the last two games, the offense has become bogged down. After completing better than 63 percent of his passes over seven games (169 of 265), Manning has converted at a clip of 47 (25 of 53) the last two, a span in which the Giants are 1-1.

Of course, the struggles of the rest of the division have masked New York's lack of production. As Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas - all with just three wins headed into the Eagles' matchup with New Orleans on Monday - continue to plod along, the Giants are still in first place. But with two division losses already, New York knows it needs to right the ship ... soon.

A more consistent running game will help. Leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw had 316 yards combined in wins over Cleveland and San Francisco, but in the three games since, Bradshaw has mustered only 169.

So what gives? Is it time for a November swoon?

``We're going to continue to stay positive and win some games at this time of the year. It's just a matter of us getting on the same page. I'm not worried,'' receiver Victor Cruz said. ``We just have to attack the problem areas and get back on track, beginning this week.''

After the Bengals (3-5), the Giants will have a bye. So, there's an opportunity for a little momentum switch. After all, Cincinnati has lost four in a row.

``No one likes to lose or play poorly,'' Manning said. ``We have to see where we can do better and above everything, you have to look at yourself first. I'm responsible for a lot of it. I'm where it starts. Our offense is not playing up to its potential. We didn't execute as well as we hoped to.''

Manning was asked if the offense is in a slump.

``Whatever you want to call it, that's fine,'' Manning said. ``It's just not playing good football. I have to make better throws and not leave some plays out there. I have to make better decisions with the ball. I didn't play well last night. There's no hiding it. I have to play better. That's all I'm worried about. The only way to get the bad taste out of our mouths is to play better football offensively.

``I know I'll bounce back and start to play better.''

Giants coach Tom Coughlin wanted to hear no part of a November slump.

``You can talk about that all you want,'' Coughlin said. ``The facts are the facts. I didn't see anything like that at the end of last season.''

The Giants, who were 7-7 at one point last season, went on to win their last six games, including the Super Bowl over New England. But the coach isn't worried about last season anymore.

``I can't explain all of the problems,'' Coughlin said. ``I don't think much has changed. We're just not clicking the way we were. We were the No. 1 big-play team and now two weeks later, we have nothing to show for it.''

After watching film Monday, Coughlin noticed that there were some problems between Manning and his receivers in terms of broken routes. Most notably, Cruz and rookie Rueben Randle broke off from original routes, leading to incompletions.

``There's no way that you can have a lack of communication and be successful in the passing game,'' Coughlin said. ``That has to be ironed out.''

Manning's quarterback rating on Sunday was 41.1.

``We haven't had the ability to hit the deep ball like we had been doing and the way we like,'' tight end Martellus Bennett said. ``It seems like the other team has more people in coverage, but that's about it. We have to make those plays.''

Members of the offensive line believe the last two weeks amounted to nothing more than a hiccup.

``We just need to get our confidence back. It's not a time to think this is a new trend,'' center David Baas said. ``I always feel that we have the ability to go down the field and score. It just didn't happen the way it usually does.''

Cruz, who has caught 57 passes for 717 yards and seven touchdowns, knows things will change for the better soon.

``We have a very good offensive football team,'' he said. ``We're able to do a lot of good things. We just have to get back on the right track and understand we have the ability to keep doing good things. We have to keep going forward and prepare ourselves the right way.''

And struggles or not, everyone feels that Manning will bounce back and regain his form.

``He has the ability,'' Coughlin said. ``I have faith in who he is and how he works. He's resilient. He plays with pride. I know he'll come bouncing back.''

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NOTES: Middle linebacker Chase Blackburn, who sat out Sunday, said his hamstring felt much better and thought he could practice if the team had a workout Monday. He will wait to test it Wednesday after a scheduled day off. ... The Giants are 1-1 vs. the AFC North.

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

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USA Today Sports

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 

Mostly. 

Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?

Wrong. 

Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

The Wizards sought to add an assistant coach with a strong defensive track record this offseason and they did just that Saturday evening by hiring Michael Longabardi, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. 

Longardi, 46, has spent the last three seasons as a defensive coach on the Cleveland Cavaliers' staff. He was initially hired by former Cavs' head coach Tyronn Lue in 2016 when the team claimed their first championship in franchise history. 

Before joining the Cavaliers, Longabardi held assistant coaching roles with the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, and most notably the Boston Celtics, in which he and Lue served under head coach Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau from 2007 to 2013.

Longabardi was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Xaverian High School, a private Catholic school. He then went on to play basketball at Newberry College where he earned the nickname "Mr. Defense."

Just a day after reports broke that Tommy Sheppard would be promoted to a permanent general manager position, the organization is making yet another move in hopes of improving overall culture and team defense.

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