Redskins

Saints draw inspiration from Giants' playoff run

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Saints draw inspiration from Giants' playoff run

METAIRIE, La. (AP) The New Orleans Saints know they are long shots to make the playoffs even if they beat the New York Giants on Sunday.

Still, they haven't given up - taking inspiration from the Giants, who made a postseason run from a position similar to one in which the Saints find themselves now.

``We saw what they did last year,'' Saints cornerback Jabari Greer said. ``We know that it's possible.''

The Giants were on the verge of dropping their fifth game in a row and falling two games behind the Cowboys in the NFC East with three games left. But they went on an improbable run from playoff outsider to Super Bowl champion.

The Giants finished the regular season 9-7. The Saints can get to 9-7 by winning their last four games. Even if they do, New Orleans still would need help to reach the playoffs, but the first step is controlling their end.

``Obviously the margin for error is very tight,'' quarterback Drew Brees said. ``We understand that if we want a shot at postseason play we probably have to win out. We're playing the defending world champs in their house, and the last three don't mean anything unless we win this one.

``The Giants have played in these types of games - playoff games before the playoffs. That's kind of the situation we're in.''

The Saints will have one clear advantage on the Giants: four days of extra rest. New Orleans lost at Atlanta last Thursday and had the weekend off. New York (7-6) lost an emotional division game at Washington on Monday night.

``As everybody knows, football is a tough game, so the more time you have to rest your body is obviously better,'' Saints defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis said. ``But there are plenty of teams that come off a short week and win and there are plenty of teams that lose them. It just depends on how prepared you are to play the game.''

The Saints are banking on a return to form by Brees and the steady improvement of a defense that played its best game of the year against Atlanta.

Brees is trying to rebound from one of the worst two-game stretches of his career. San Francisco intercepted back-to-back passes and returned them for touchdowns on Nov. 25, rallying to beat New Orleans 31-21. He threw a career-high five interceptions against Atlanta, and his botched clock management at the end of the first half cost the Saints at least a field goal as they scored a season-low 13 points.

Brees had thrown 24 TD passes and only five interceptions in his previous eight games.

``I understand the importance of taking care of the football,'' he said. ``Certainly the last two weeks there have been an inordinate amount of turnovers. That's something that can't happen and something I have to fix. But as far as me being cautious and conservative, that's not going to happen. You stay aggressive, you stay confident. If you don't have that as a quarterback in this league, you can't play.''

While Brees struggled, the defense held Atlanta to 283 yards - 92 fewer than any other New Orleans opponent. The Falcons had a stretch of five consecutive possessions without a first down.

Although the Saints still are on pace to break an NFL record for yards allowed in a season, they have become more comfortable in new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's scheme.

``Everybody has a better understanding of exactly what they're doing on the field and what's expected of them in any given call,'' Ellis said. ``We're finally starting to jell together. I wish it could have been a lot earlier, but that this point, we'll take what we can get.''

The next task is duplicating that performance against New York, whose lead on the NFC East has shrunk from 2 1/2 games in early November to one over Dallas and Washington. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said this week his team might have to win its last four to claim the division, putting as much pressure on New York as New Orleans.

The Giants were nearly perfect in that situation last year. The Saints hope it is their turn this season.

``If we take advantage of our opportunities, we'll be all right,'' Greer said. ``We might be the underdog, but we have a chance to do something special.''

Notes: The Saints are healthier than they have been in several weeks. Three players missed practice on Wednesday, and all are backups - offensive tackle Charles Brown (right knee), defensive end Martez Wilson (toe) and cornerback Elbert Mack (illness). Starting safety Roman Harper was limited with a rib injury.

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Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

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Associated Press

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

Even though it was a bright, warm Wednesday in Ashburn the Redskins held their OTA session in the practice bubble because recent rains have left their outdoor fields to soggy to use. Here are my observations from the practice:

—A few Redskins were not present and a few who were there were not participating in the drills. Jay Gruden said that OT Trent Williams is rehabbing in Texas and that LB Zach Brown is in the process of relocating to the Washington area. RB Chris Thompson and OT Morgan Moses were present, but both were spectators. 

— It should be noted that even though Moses didn’t practice and is still rehabbing after ankle surgery, he still participated in the sideline-to-sideline running the team does at the end of practice.

—At rookie camp, RB Derrius Guice was first in line to do every drill. Today, he gave way to the veterans to all take their reps and then he went first among the rookies. 

— “Fat Rob” Kelley never really was fat but he is now lean and mean. He also seems to be a half step quicker than he was in the past. Added competition in the form of second- and fourth-round picks being added at your position will do that to a player. 

—The “starting” offensive line from left to right was Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, and John Kling. The interior could well start the season; the tackle position awaits the returns of Williams, Scherff, and Ty Nsekhe. 

—RB Byron Marshall, who was on the team briefly last year before getting injured, looked very quick with good acceleration.

—CB Josh Norman was back with the group fielding punts. I seriously doubt that he will handle any kicks in games, even preseason games, but perhaps with DeAngelo Hall being gone he wants to be available as an emergency option. Also back with the punt returners were CB Danny Johnson, CB Greg Stroman, WR Maurice Harris, WR De’Mornay Pierson-El, and, of course, WR Jamison Crowder.

—S D.J. Swearinger spent most of the special teams practice on the sideline working on catching passes with his hands extended away from his body. A little while later, he had a chance to make an interception with his arms extended. Of course, he dropped it. 

—It seems like QB Alex Smith and Crowder have some good rapport built already. Once on the right sideline and a few minutes later on the left, Smith threw a well-placed ball into Crowder, who was well covered on both occasions. 

—Eventually, CB Orlando Scandrick caught on and he swatted down a quick out to Crowder. 

—With Brown out, Josh Harvey-Clemons was with the first unit at inside linebacker. He’s still skinny but less so than he was last year. The second-year player was impressive in coverage, staying with Crowder step for step on a deep pass down the middle.

—The play of the day was a deep pass down the right side from Smith to WR Paul Richardson. Stroman was with the receiver step for step on the 9 route but Smith laid the ball out perfectly and Richardson made a lunging catch. Even though it doesn’t have to under the new rule, the catch did survive the ground. 

—WR Cam Sims had a few impressive plays. On one, QB Colt McCoy lofted one high in the air down the right side. Sims kept his focus on the ball while two defenders lost it and made the catch. 

—WR Trey Quinn had his moments. He made a good grab while being bumped by Scandrick. But a while later he dropped a fairly easy one. 

—The running backs all looked good but Guice looked the best of all of them. He had an ability to cut and maintain his speed that not many have. With the warning that they were playing with no pads with no contact and not at full speed, Guice’s vision appeared to be outstanding. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

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 @TandlerNBCS.

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NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

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USA TODAY Sports

NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that allows players to remain in the locker room if they prefer but requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance.

This new policy subjects teams, but not players, to fines if any team personnel do not show appropriate respect for the anthem. 

Teams will also have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction separately though. 

The NFL Players Association released it's own statement after the news was made official.