Nationals

Road race: Martin, Bucs trample Vikings 36-17

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Road race: Martin, Bucs trample Vikings 36-17

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) After losing a bunch of close games, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally enjoyed a lopsided victory.

At Minnesota, no less, where the Vikings watched their home-field advantage come crumbling down during a romp by rookie Doug Martin.

Martin racked up 214 total yards - including a career-high 135 rushing - and two touchdowns, and the Buccaneers beat the Vikings 36-17 on Thursday night.

``We knew that the crowd was going to be loud,'' Martin said. We prepared for that.''

The Vikings, on the other hand, were caught off guard.

``I didn't do a good job of getting our guys prepared for this. We did not play well. That's extremely obvious,'' Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.

Martin took a screen pass 64 yards for a score for Tampa Bay (3-4), one of Josh Freeman's three touchdown passes, to stretch the lead to 27-10 just 1:21 into the second half. Then Martin, the first-round draft pick from Boise State, capped a drive of more than 9 minutes with a 1-yard muscle into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach for Minnesota (5-3).

``He comes spittin' out of there, and that's what we believe he can do,'' Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said. ``And I think he's just getting better and better.''

Adrian Peterson had a season-high 64-yard run for a score that brought the Vikings within 30-17, but his lost fumble in Minnesota territory in the second quarter led directly to a Tampa Bay touchdown.

The Bucs, only the second visiting team to win on a Thursday night in seven games this season, revived their struggling pass rush with three sacks and flustered Christian Ponder with a heavy dose of blitzes. Ponder finished 19 for 35 for 251 yards, one touchdown and a late interception.

``It is frustrating when you have the momentum on your side and you can feel it shift,'' Ponder said. ``There are always momentum shifts in the game, and we've got to take advantage of them. We didn't do that.''

With a 13-point lead, just trying to keep that clock running as quickly as possible, the Bucs could've gone conservative, but they refused to settle for a punt. Starting at their own 13 with 1:12 left in the third quarter, they plowed their way up the field - Freeman completed four third-and-long passes - and finished off the game with Martin's third-and-goal touchdown run with 7:03 remaining.

``Tackling is just a mindset. Don't get me wrong: That dude is a good running back. He runs hard as all can be. But we've got to tackle,'' said Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who had their only sack.

Freeman went 19 for 36 for 262 yards and, most importantly, no turnovers. Mike Williams had one of the touchdowns and 68 yards on six receptions, and the Bucs held the ball for nearly 38 of the 60 minutes. Martin had a lot to do with that.

``Thursday night, nationally televised game and in the NFL it's Doug's first prime-time game. It's a short week. You've got a lot going on, and Doug's ready to go. The game's never too big for Doug,'' Freeman said.

After a rough start, Harvin finally gave the Vikings some life by grabbing a screen pass for a 32-yard gain and then pivoting to haul in sideline pass over his shoulder for an 18-yard touchdown catch.

But Peterson, who was having no trouble reaching the Tampa Bay secondary with almost every run through the line, had the ball stripped after a spin move by the veteran Barber. The Bucs got the ball at the Minnesota 37, and Williams made a tricky catch in the corner of the end zone for a 3-yard score and a 20-7 lead.

After blowing a 21-7 lead to New Orleans the week before, the Bucs finished strong this time.

``We were just a physical, nasty monster,'' defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.

NOTES: The Vikings fell to 1-11 in their last 12 prime-time games, since the middle of the 2009 season. ... The Bucs have averaged 464 yards of offense over their last three games. .... Ex-Vikings LB Matt Blair, who played on two of their Super Bowl teams, was added to the team's ``Ring of Honor'' during a halftime ceremony. ... Tampa Bay took DE DaQuan Bowers off the physically unable to perform list before the game.

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Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

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USA Today

Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

Stephen Strasburg had the best hitting performance of his career against the Braves Thursday night, going 3-3 at the plate with two singles and a 420-foot three-run bomb. 

He didn't just set personal records but reached rare air in baseball history. He's the second pitcher ever with at least three hits, a HR, and five RBI since the DH debuted in 1973 and the fifth pitcher in the last 50 seasons to get two hits in an inning including a home run. 

Strasburg set franchise firsts with his performance, dating all the way back to the Expos. 

An extraordinary milestone for the Nationals' ace, hopefully Strasburg's performance will inspire the team during a crucial four-game series with Atlanta. 

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‘The Redskins love Alabama guys’: Washington could run old draft playbook in 2020 to fill huge need

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‘The Redskins love Alabama guys’: Washington could run old draft playbook in 2020 to fill huge need

Perhaps no position group on the Redskins has more questions or uncertainty than the wide receivers.

Josh Doctson enters the final year of his rookie contract, and has yet to record over 550 yards in any of his three professional seasons. Washington signed Paul Richardson to a five-year deal in 2018, but he just played in just seven games for the Burgundy and Gold in 2018 before having season-ending shoulder surgery. Second-year receiver Trey Quinn is expected to fill the role in the slot after Jamison Crowder departed for the New York Jets this offseason but has yet to prove anything on the NFL level. 

The Redskins addressed the position during the 2019 NFL Draft, selecting Terry McLaurin in the third round and Kelvin Harmon in the sixth round. But it's unclear how much either one will contribute to the Washington offense in 2019.

So, it's likely the Redskins will need to address the position during the 2020 NFL Draft, and probably very early on it. Well, this works in Washington's favor, because the 2020 wide receiver class is loaded. 

On a recent episode of the Redskins Talk podcast, J.P. Finlay and Pete Hailey spoke with NFL Draft expert Jordan Reid (no, not the Redskins' tight end) about the top wide receiver prospects heading into next year's draft, and which players the Redskins could potentially target.

Before diving into the top 2020 prospects, Reid gave an initial assessment of the current Redskins' receivers.

"The Redskins just don't have that headliner, top go-to guy," Reid said. "They were expecting Josh Doctson to be that when they did draft him in the first round of 2016. But he's had some injuries, and he's already come out and said he's looking forward to free agency. That just not something you want to hear."

Reid was high on McLaurin, though, the first receiver the Redskins selected in 2019.

"They drafted Terry McLaurin in the third round, I liked him a lot even going back to the Senior Bowl," he said. "I think he's going to have a really good year, not just as a receiver but the special teams phase as well. He's going to flash in a lot of ways."

As far as the 2020 draft wide receiver class, one school stands on top, and it's a school the Redskins are very familiar with: Alabama. The Redskins used their first-round picks in 2017 and 2018 on 'Bama guys and signed another Crimson Tide alumni this offseason in safety Landon Collins.

"We know the Redskins love Alabama guys, and there's a lot of [wide receivers] coming out this year," Reid said. "It's not just Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs is another guy that's getting a lot of steam. They're going to have the chance to get the receiver they want. This is a very special wide receiver class."

Crimson Tide receiver Jerry Jeudy is the consensus top receiver in next year's class, but Reid believes his speedy teammate could challenge him for that spot by season's end.

"With Ruggs, I think he's a bit more as far as polished a route runner [than Jeudy]," he said. "I think his hands are a bit better, and I wouldn't be shocked if he runs below a 4.3 at the combine. He can absolutely fly."

If the pair of Alabama receivers currently hold the top two spots for best wide receiver prospect, there's another guy who's right on their heels: Oklahoma's Ceedee Lamb.

"He reminds me a lot of DeAndre Hopkins coming out," Reid said on Lamb. "He's not a thick guy, but he plays much stronger than what he indicates. Very reliable hands, and his body control is out of this world. He had a one-handed catch against UCLA, it didn't count, but it's truly amazing."

As a true sophomore, Lamb totaled 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018. Sure, it may have helped to have Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray under center, but Lamb has proven he's an elite talent.

Two other prospects Reid is keeping an eye on are Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. and Texas' Collin Johnson.

"He's not as polished as some of these other guys, but he's more of a do-it-all type of receiver," Reid said on Shenault Jr. 

Where Shenault may be a do-it-all receiver, Johnson plays to his 6'6 size.

"He's a really good route runner," Reid said on Johnson. "It's just a matter of how consistently can he separate, and how fast he is. If he goes to the Senior Bowl, I think he can light it up."

While many of these guys seem like sure-fire guys, there's still a full season of football to be played before the draft. Players will rise, but just as many, if not more, will fall off.

"You just have to let this play out, that's what happens with the draft process," Reid said. "Guys fall off, and then you have guys that come out of nowhere. Quinton Williams from last year is a prime example. He was a 270-pound defensive end at this time last year; we had no idea who he was and he ends up being the No. 3 overall selection."

But if everything plays out close to how it's expected to, this wide receiver draft class will be one to remember. 

"This class is special man," Reid said. "I think it's going to rival 2014, with Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and all those guys, Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams too. It's going to be very similar to that. It's very special."

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