Redskins

Rivera: Newton right where QB should be in Year 2

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Rivera: Newton right where QB should be in Year 2

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Coach Ron Rivera said despite some growing pains he believes Cam Newton is improving and is ``right where you want a second-year quarterback to be.''

Newton's overall record as an NFL starter is just 9-18 and he hasn't come close this year to matching the numbers he put up as a rookie, leaving Rivera to answer repeated questions about a possible sophomore slump.

Still, Rivera said Carolina's 30-22 victory Monday night over Philadelphia only reaffirms his belief Newton is making steady strides. Newton threw for 306 yards and had four touchdowns - two passing and two rushing - in the victory.

The Panthers expected more of those types of performances this season from Newton, last year's AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. But sometimes it takes time for young quarterbacks to learn and develop, Rivera said.

``People are throwing different things at him now,'' Rivera said. ``They're trying to throw things that have worked against him at him, and he's learning those things and understanding them.''

Rivera said the coaching staff's decision to ``take things off his plate'' midway through the season has been instrumental in Newton's increased production in recent weeks.

The Panthers added several new twists in the playbook during the offseason figuring opposing defenses would be better prepared to stop Newton after getting months to study him on tape.

But midway through the season, with Newton struggling to produce, Rivera and his staff decided to scale back the playbook and simplify a few things for him.

``I think the thing is we put a lot on his plate earlier in the year,'' Rivera said. ``We've taken some of it back and he has reacted to that very well now, and I think we are starting to find the balance that we need with him. The last few weeks he has been outstanding and he has given us chances to win, and this is the first time that we as a team took advantage of it.''

In the past few four games Newton has thrown for six touchdown passes and only two interceptions. In the previous seven games he had five TDs and eight picks. He has six rushing TDs this season, three of those in the past four weeks.

One of the things the Panthers did to help Newton was reduce the number of zone read option plays - ones where Newton has to make a split-second decision on whether to run or handoff.

Instead the Panthers have gone to more traditional running plays and tried to give more carries to running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.

``We are really trying to balance it out and spread it among the other players,'' Rivera said. ``He has really responded very well to those things and it is funny because he did not want us to take anything off, he wanted more, and I think we had to give him an opportunity to take a breath once in a while.''

Rivera said Newton has responded well.

``These last few weeks he has played like the guy that we believe he can become,'' Rivera said.

Another sign of Newton's developing maturation is his ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage, something he did with greater frequency in the win against the Eagles.

``I think he's starting to get comfortable with those things and really as he improves and learns those things he's getting better and better at it,'' Rivera said.

Teammates also see Newton getting more comfortable in a leadership role as he nears the end of his second season.

Newton was careful not to step on the toes of veteran players last season as a rookie. At times this season teammates have questioned his leadership ability, but veteran offensive tackle Jordan Gross said he sees the former Heisman Trophy winner making steady progress in that area.

``The last two weeks I have seen it,'' Gross said. ``He played well last week (in a 27-21 overtime loss to Tampa Bay) and we were not able to win. But he's leading the team. He's on the sidelines talking to the o-line, talking to the receivers, doing everything we all wanted him to do. In the huddle, he's saying the right things. If he can continue to play this way and lead this way, the sky is the limit for him.''

Newton said his biggest challenge this year has been consistency.

It's been a rollercoaster season with a good game followed by a bad one, something he's desperately trying to change.

``I know personally, I feel like with the throws it was kind of high, kind of low, kind of everywhere,'' Newton said after Carolina's win over the Eagles. ``I just want to focus on being more consistent.''

Statistically, the Philadelphia game was Newton's best performance of the season.

Just don't try telling him that.

``Absolutely not,'' he said. ``I think my best game is still yet to come.''

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The 2005 draft link that bonds the Redskins and Packers ahead of Week 3

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AP

The 2005 draft link that bonds the Redskins and Packers ahead of Week 3

Looking back at NFL Drafts can be a frustrating task for Redskins fans. Missed opportunities and botched picks litter the record books, though the organization has made plenty of good picks, too. 

This weekend marks an interesting intersection of past drafts and current reality when Aaron Rodgers and the Packers come to visit the Redskins and Alex Smith.

Way back, in the 2005 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected Smith with the No. 1 overall pick. He was a major prospect and the consensus top pick in the draft coming out of an outrageous year playing under Urban Meyer at the University of Utah. 

Later that same draft, all the way down to the 24th pick, Green Bay took Aaron Rodgers out of the University of California Berkeley. At the time, the selection turned heads, as the Packers had future Hall of Famer Brett Favre at QB. 

The Rodgers pick turned out to be pretty smart, to say the least. Smith’s tenure in San Francisco had high points, but nothing that lived up to his lofty draft position. 

Rodgers and Smith have talked about being from the same draft class, and the two have developed a friendship off the field. 

“You know, he's a decent player,” Smith joked about Rodgers on Wednesday. 

“He and I [have] been around each other a lot of time now, always linked, pretty good buddies. Certainly, kind of I think follow each other's career from afar.”

Fair or not, Smith and Rodgers have been linked ever since that 2005 draft. Those weren’t the only two QBs taken that year though. 

The Redskins selected Jason Campbell out of Auburn with the 25th pick. If Rodgers had slipped just one more spot, maybe the Redskins take Rodgers instead.

Just to make one more connection, albeit an odd one, but Rodgers wasn’t even the only guy with that last name taken in 2005.

The Redskins selected cornerback Carlos Rogers with the ninth overall pick. Imagine if they took the QB with the slightly different last name. 

 

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Wizards' 2018-19 storyline No. 4: How will all the expiring contracts work out?

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USA Today

Wizards' 2018-19 storyline No. 4: How will all the expiring contracts work out?

With Wizards training camp set to begin next week, we at NBC Sports Washington are counting down the five biggest storylines for the team as they start a new season. Today, at No. 4, a look at the amount of expiring contracts on the roster and how those situations will work themselves out…

One way or another, what happens for the Wizards in the 2018-19 season will be determined in part by seven players operating in the final years of their contracts. That seven does not include Dwight Howard, who has a player option for the 2019-20 season worth just $5.6 million. If he’s lumped into that group, only the L.A. Clippers have more players entering walk years.

The Wizards players in their contract years include Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre, Jr., Austin Rivers, Tomas Satoransky, Jeff Green, Jodie Meeks and Jason Smith. That will present a unique dynamic to the Wizards’ roster and it may affect guys differently.

Some may thrive, knowing how much money they stand to gain with a big year before free agency. Others may succumb to the pressure as they find their niche on a team with a lot of added depth at several positions.

Let’s start with Rivers. The challenge for him will be going through his contract year while taking a reduced role from what he was used to with the Clippers. Last season, he started in 59 games and averaged 33.7 minutes and 13.2 field goal attempts.

Now in Washington, Rivers has to play second fiddle to two All-Star guards in John Wall and Bradley Beal. The minutes and shot attempts will almost certainly go down in a year where he would understandably want all of his numbers to go up.

Green may also have a smaller role than what he was in Cleveland where he started 13 games and averaged 23.4 minutes. But this is his fourth straight year playing on an expiring contract and knows what he’s getting into. He should be fine.

Meeks and Smith are in an interesting spot because they are longtime NBA veterans who don’t have defined roles entering this season. They, of course, would like to put up good enough numbers to earn their next NBA contracts, but will have a tough time getting minutes.

Oubre and Satoransky are in unique spots because this is the first time in their careers they have played in contract years. Oubre, in particular, has a lot of money on the line as a former first round pick who is just 22 years old.

A big year for him could mean a lucrative contract next summer. He has seen how breakout seasons in walk years has helped Beal and Otto Porter, Jr. get paid and surely wants to follow that same career path. The Wizards would certainly welcome that type of emergence from Oubre, as he could drastically transform their ceiling as a team.

Satoransky, 26, is older than Oubre, but has intriguing potential based on his athleticism and versatility. The problem, however, is that recent history shows his minutes are anything but guaranteed.

Morris is in his own category among the Wizards’ expiring contracts because he’s 29 and probably facing his best opportunity for a long-term payday. Morris also has some money to recoup from taking a hometown discount from the Suns years ago, one that didn’t pay off as he hoped.

Howard, though technically under contract for 2019-20, is susceptible to the same factors as the others on expiring deals. If he puts up strong numbers and helps the Wizards succeed, he could opt out and cash in.

The Wizards are confident the expiring contracts will not be a detriment to their locker room. But in order for that to be the case, the players will need to compartmentalize and focus on the team’s goals rather than their own. For some, that might be easier said than done.

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