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RB Jacquizz Rodgers could take lead for Falcons

RB Jacquizz Rodgers could take lead for Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) This could be Jacquizz Rodgers' week to be more than a complement to Michael Turner in the Atlanta Falcons' running game.

Rodgers has seen a steady increase in carries and has been the team's leading rusher in two of the last four games. Still, he has remained the clear backup to Turner, who has had more carries than Rodgers in each of Atlanta's 12 games.

That could change Sunday at Carolina.

Turner was limited in practice on Thursday for the second straight day with a left elbow injury. He had a wrap on the elbow, which he hurt in the Falcons' win over New Orleans on Nov. 29.

Coach Mike Smith said he expects Turner will play against the Panthers. Smith said Rodgers has proved he can be the lead back if needed.

``Absolutely,'' Smith said after Thursday's practice. ``Jacquizz is one of many guys we feel like deserves to get touches on our offense. If need be, we think he can take carries that other guys may get in other games.''

Rodgers has a combined 18 carries for 82 yards the last two games - his top totals for back-to-back weeks this season.

``You get a feel for the game when you touch the ball more,'' Rodgers said. ``Things come to you more easily when you have a better feel for the game.''

This week's possible opportunity for Rodgers comes as Turner's production has dipped. Turner averaged 4.0 yards per carry in the Falcons' first eight games and only 3.0 in the last four games. He was held to 15 yards on 13 carries at New Orleans on Nov. 11 and 17 yards on 13 carries at Tampa Bay on Nov. 25.

At 5-foot-6 and 188 pounds, Rodgers can disappear behind offensive linemen, and he is quick and elusive in open field.

Rodgers made his first impact as a rookie last season with his receiving skills. That role has expanded this season, as he ranks fourth on the team with 37 catches for 284 yards and a touchdown.

He has 274 yards rushing with a touchdown and slowly has proved he can be more than a back who plays on passing situations.

``He's been huge for us,'' said tight end Tony Gonzalez. ``I was just talking about that in the meeting room, how big he's been for us this year. With his quickness, his ability to make people miss, he's coming up with plays in the game in our four-minute offense to close out the clock. He's been great.''

Rodgers has never had more than 10 carries in a game. He reached that total for only the third time in his career when he rushed for 49 yards with a touchdown against Tampa Bay. He added 43 yards rushing against the Saints on Nov. 29.

The Falcons have found more ways to get the ball to Rodgers in space, where he can take advantage of his elusiveness. He has had long runs of 43, 20, 18 and 14 yards and is averaging 4.0 yards per carry.

``I'm just making plays when I'm in there so my number can be called more often,'' Rodgers said. ``That's the main thing, taking advantages of my small opportunities that I do have when I get the ball.''

Rodgers said he's preparing for a possible bigger role this week, but he said that is his mindset every week.

``All the running backs, we practice to be ready,'' he said. ``We all practice different situations, preparing just in case we're in that position at any point.''

Receiver Roddy White said Rodgers could produce more big plays if he had more carries.

``He's hard to tackle in space,'' White said. ``I have hardly seen anybody tackle him in space. That's one of the attributes he brings to the team, in one-on-one matchups he doesn't get tackled.

``It's good to have a guy like that you can put out there that's a matchup problem for the defense. He's also good at screens and stuff. The more opportunities we can put the ball in his hands, it will be good.''

NOTES: Asked about Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy's statement that the Panthers are a better team than the Falcons, despite Carolina's 30-28 loss in Atlanta on Sept. 30, White said ``They've got to say something. They're fighting, they're holding on. They're in a different position than we are. They're trying to save the rest of their season and we're trying to prepare ourselves for this playoff run.'' ... Cornerback Asante Samuel (right shoulder) and safety William Moore (hamstring) were held out of practice for the second straight day. Smith said he will ``definitely be very cautious'' with Samuel, who lasted only three plays against the Saints after first hurting the shoulder against Arizona on Nov. 18. ... Defensive tackle Peria Jerry (thigh) practiced on a limited basis.

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Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- It might be quite a while before we see John Wall on the court playing for the Wizards again.

It was already well-known Wall will miss extended time as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon, a rehab that usually takes at least 11 months. But it is starting to sound more and more like he won't play in the 2019-20 season at all.

Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis shared that harsh reality on Monday during a press conference at Capital One Arena.

"Our highest-paid player, our five-time All-Star, may not play at all next year. He probably won't play at all next year," Leonsis said.

If Wall follows the general timeline for the surgery, he could come back sometime early in 2020. A 12-month recovery would have him return in early February.

If Wall missed all of next season, he would return to start the 2020-21 campaign after a 20-month recovery. That would be nearly double the rehab time many players have taken for the same injury over the years. He would be 30 years old by then.

But Wall and the Wizards have reason to be extra patient. He is entering the first season of a four-year, $170 million supermax contract. Punting the first year, even if he is making $38 million, could be worth it in the long run if it means he returns to his All-Star form.

The Wizards are also likely to have a gap year of sorts anyways. They retooled their roster with young, inexperienced players. The odds they make the playoffs this season are lower than they have been in years. The Wizards are taking the long view and they know getting Wall's rehab right is paramount.

Leonsis and team officials currently get daily reports on Wall's progress. After making the supermax investment, they are taking extra measures to ensure he is holding up his end of the bargain. The Wizards closely monitor his weight and have a rotation of physical therapists working with him every day.

If it were up to Wall, he would be more likely to return next season. The team is the side taking extra caution.

"Trust me, nobody wants to get back to the court more than John Wall," GM Tommy Sheppard told NBC Sports Washington. 

"But I've tried to manage this with him and say there is no calendar or clock that is going to tell you to come back. You're going to come back when you're 100 percent healthy. Anybody who has watched him in the playoffs play with broken hands and all of the aches and pains he's had over the years and he still showed up and played at a high, high level. You know you need to monitor him a little more than most. That's the kind of player that is going to try to sneak back on the court any time he can."

What Leonsis said publicly has been the belief behind the scenes in the Wizards organization for quite some time. They are preparing for next season as if he won't play, 

"We have to see if John Wall comes back and how he looks and how he plays," Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington. "If John Wall can come back at 80 percent the year after [in 2020-21], I would be really happy because then we would have a great, great backcourt."

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Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Over the 2019 offseason, the Washington Redskins periodically released episodes to a new series called "Redskins 365". Here, viewers can get an all-access look into all the important moments leading up to the 2019-20 season. In episode 1 titled "The Future Starts Now" the Redskins begin their journey toward improvement following the conclusion of the 2018-19 campaign.

The episode begins immediately following the disappointing end to Washington's season as players participated in locker cleanout day. A somewhat somber atmosphere, the likes of Shaun Dion Hamilton, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams reflect on the season and look ahead to 2019.

Following that, it's on to the additions and changes on the coaching staff. Head coach Jay Gruden gives his thoughts on new defensive staff hirings Ray Horton and Rob Ryan as well as Kevin O'Connell's jump to offensive coordinator. Ryan and O'Connell also explain their excitement for next season in their respective roles.

With the coaching staff puzzle becoming clear, the episode transitions to the NFL Combine. Gruden along with Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams, President Bruce Allen and Director of College Scouting Kyle Smith take you through the Combine process. Discussions about the interview process and what the Redskins are looking for in players give insight into how evaluations are done. 

The Combine portion has a heavy focus on players Kyler Murray, D.K. Metcalf and Montez Sweat among others. Released on March 20, one can see and hear from Sweat before the idea of him becoming a Redskin came to fruition and listen to Metcalf's thoughts on Jay Gruden.

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Chad Englehart also makes an appearance, discussing his viral moment with Ed Oliver at the combine and the fraternity-type bond conditioning coaches in the NFL share.

Washington's journey toward success in 2019 began the moment the clock ran out on the 2018 season. Episode 1 of "Redskins365" picks up right in that preliminary stage.

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