Redskins

Recovered from rough start, Packers back on top

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Recovered from rough start, Packers back on top

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) It wasn't too long ago that the Green Bay Packers were in a bad place, lagging at the bottom of the NFC North with a - gasp! - losing record while folks picked apart their flaws as if they were some sideshow on Dr. Phil.

Well, well. Look at them now.

A five-game winning streak that's tied for best in the NFL has the Packers (7-3) atop their division and in position to start the playoffs at home. (Yes, they have the same record as the Chicago Bears, but Green Bay owns the tiebreaker after beating its rivals to the south in September.) With four of the last six games against NFC North opponents and some of their many ailing players beginning to get healthy, the Packers are right where they want to be.

``We're happy to be back up there, especially after starting 2-3,'' Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday. ``We're kind of getting on a roll. But even like we said at the beginning of the season, it's all about playing the right way in December and moving forward. We're not quite to December. We're gaining momentum as we go, but we know we need to play our best late in the season and into the playoffs.''

As if they needed any reminder, the Packers play the New York Giants on Sunday night. Those would be the same Giants who came on strong at the end of last season, knocked the Packers out of the playoffs and went on to win the Super Bowl for the second time in five years.

``Watching the playoff game, I mean it wasn't fun. I think that's obvious,'' coach Mike McCarthy said.

Neither was the start of this season.

Green Bay had about as rough a start as it gets. Stunned in the opener by San Francisco, the Packers seemed to have things back on track with their win over Chicago the next week. But then came the Inaccurate Reception out in Seattle, and the injuries began piling up. The low point was blowing an 18-point, halftime lead in Indianapolis.

Instead of falling apart, though, the Packers pulled together. They each took responsibility for the losses, and didn't argue when McCarthy preached a return to the fundamentals. When key players went down - Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson, Cedric Benson and Clay Matthews, just to name a few - guys stepped up to fill the holes.

Little by little, the Packers got better. So did their record.

After scoring a total of 57 points in the first three games, Green Bay has averaged 29.4 in the last seven, fourth best in the NFL. Rodgers has been the league's best quarterback over that span, with 24 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passing rating of 117. The defense is second in the NFL with 33 sacks, and rookie Casey Hayward is tied for second in the league with five interceptions. Since Week 4, Green Bay has allowed a league-best 84 yards rushing per game - no small thing with winter coming and four cold-weather games left.

``It's been impressive to watch simply because I think, last year, with having so much success, we didn't experience the losses and the, for lack of a better word, that lull,'' said Jennings, who practiced Wednesday for the first time since Nov. 1 surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle. ``But we've experienced some adversity this year and we've overcome it. Guys have stepped up to the plate, made plays when their numbers were called and we haven't really missed a beat.

``There was a time there where it was kind of like, OK, we had to fill everything out and guys had to kind of get comfortable in their roles. Once everybody got comfortable, we started rolling again.''

The Packers now have the third-best record in the NFC, behind Atlanta and San Francisco, and would host a wild-card game if the season ended now.

The tough start may actually make the Packers more dangerous come December and January, too. The defense, so maligned last year, is much improved, and it actually bailed out the offense last week in Detroit. Forced into larger roles because of the injuries, youngsters like Hayward and Randall Cobb have become big-time players who could be cornerstones of the Packers for years to come.

As for that long list of injuries, it should get shorter in the coming weeks. Jennings isn't ruling himself out for Sunday night's game, despite only being back at practice the one day. Matthews could return in the next week or so, and Benson and Woodson are ahead of schedule in their rehabs.

Yes, the Packers are back in the conversation these days. And unlike a few weeks ago, they don't mind what people are saying about them.

``It's still early, but it's nice to be in the lead and have, for a lack of a better term, your destiny in your own hands,'' B.J. Raji said. ``But like I said, it's still early and we still have a lot of games to play. The key is to maintain it, and keep the lead.''

Notes: LB Clay Matthews (hamstring) is ``doubtful'' for this week's game, McCarthy said. ... CB Sam Shields has had a setback, and McCarthy said his ankle injury is more serious than the team initially thought. ``It's going to be a couple of weeks,'' McCarthy said.

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Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

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Associated Press

Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

The sudden resignation of Barry Trotz as the coach of the Stanley Cup champion Capitals is the most stunning Washington coaching departure since Joe Gibbs retired from the Redskins about 13 months after the team won its third Super Bowl in a 10-year span. 

In the years leading up to Gibbs’ departure, there were some rumblings that he might leave. As early as 1986, John Madden said that Gibbs was a candidate to burn out of the profession early. During the 1989 season, Gibbs said that he was contemplating retirement, but he retracted his words the next day. In 1990, columnist and TV pregame panelist Will McDonough reported that Gibbs would retire after the season. Retirement rumors popped up again in early 1992, just two days before Super Bowl XXVI. Again, Gibbs denied them. The Redskins easily beat the Bills to claim their third championship in 10 years and there was no apparent reason why such a successful coach would think about leaving. 

Redskins fans had become so used to hearing the Gibbs retirement reports that many just started to tune them out. So on the morning of March 5, 1993, when reports of Gibbs’ resignation as coach started to circulate, many were in a state of denial.

That turned out to be wishful thinking. The fans were given a hard jolt of reality when the team announced a noon press conference. 

There the coach was on TV, as promised, confirming the news. He said it was a family decision. 

“Every year, we get away and talk about it,” Gibbs said. “We always reach the same conclusion. This year, it was different. The boys didn’t encourage me one way or another, but they understood when I told them what I was thinking. I think Pat’s happier than anyone. This isn’t an easy lifestyle for a coach’s wife. The coach is the guy who stands up and hears everyone tell him how great he is. The wife is the one waiting at home alone while the coach is spending every night at the office. 

“I wanted more time with my family. I wanted more time with my sons. I look at this as a window of opportunity with them and I couldn’t let it pass.” 

Although he has been diagnosed with a condition that has caused some pain and some difficulty in sleeping, Gibbs said that health was not a factor in his decision. 

Richie Petitbon, the team’s longtime defensive coordinator, was named the team’s new head coach. It had to be one of the shortest job interviews ever. 

“I get a call from Mr. Cooke who tells me Joe has retired and that he wants me to coach the Redskins,” Petitbon said. “After I picked myself up off the floor, I said yes.” 

After hearing the news, most Redskins fans had to pick themselves up as well.  

Petitbon lasted only one season as the head coach and the other eight head coaches who followed, including Gibbs himself in a four-year second stint, have been unable to get the Redskins back to the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, the Caps’ head coaching job is widely expected to go to Todd Reirden, who was Trotz’s top assistant just as Pettitbon was Gibbs’. 

Washington fans hope that the Caps have better fortune with Trotz’s successors. 

More Redskins

- 53-man roster: Roster projection--Offense
- 53-man roster: Best players 25 or younger

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

 

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents, and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices, they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 


Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

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

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 170 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

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