Redskins

SCarolina sackers face formidable Michigan front

SCarolina sackers face formidable Michigan front

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) With an All-American on each side, South Carolina's sack-happy defense faces Michigan's formidable offensive front in the Outback Bowl.

The 11th-ranked Gamecocks (10-2) topped the SEC with 40 sacks this year, including a school-record 13 by All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

``We have a chemistry out there,'' Clowney said. ``Everybody watches each other out there. We all get to the ball. Everybody just wants the same goal ... we all want to win.''

The 19th-ranked Wolverines (8-4) allowed a Big Ten-low 15 sacks, due in part to an experienced line anchored by All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan.

Lewan could be playing in his last collegiate game on New Year's Day. He plans to announce after the Outback Bowl if he will enter the 2013 NFL draft.

``At the end of the day, it's not about me, it's not about Jadeveon Clowney, it's about the University of Michigan and USC,'' Lewan said. ``He's a great player. I have tremendous respect for him, but at the same time I'm an offensive lineman. I'm supposed to block. It's my job to block people.''

Lewan could be playing in his last collegiate game next week. He plans to announce after the Outback Bowl if he will enter the 2013 NFL draft.

``I have an idea of what I'm doing,'' Lewan said. ``I'm almost positive I know what I'm doing. I'll play football on Tuesday, January 1st, and then I'll make my decision. I'll talk to the coaches about it, and we'll go from there.''

Lewan, right guard Patrick Omameh and left guard Michael Schofield have made a combined 97 starts for Michigan.

``I trust my offensive line,'' Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson said. ``I know they'll lay it (all out) for me, so I've got to do the same for them.''

Robinson has been throwing the ball at practice. Nerve damage in his right elbow knocked him off the field Oct. 27 at Nebraska, keeping him out for the next two games and limiting his ability to throw in the final two games of the regular season.

Clowney won the Hendricks Award this year as the best defensive end in college football. The sophomore generated a buzz the past few weeks after saying a defensive player can win the Heisman Trophy next year and that it could be him.

``I'm going to play like I've been playing, and if it comes out that I win the Heisman, then I win the Heisman,'' Clowney said. ``But if I don't, I just don't.''

Clowney has been surprised by the interest generated by his Heisman comments.

``Somebody brought it up to me, and I was just like `it's out there for me.' All the awards out there are for pretty much for anybody who wants them,'' Clowney said. ``I didn't even bring the Heisman up. So, I just laughed. It's just something to get everybody talking about.''

Clowney finished sixth in this year's Heisman voting, which was won by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

``He's a free-spirited young man,'' South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. ``He's definitely as good a pass rusher, I think, as I've coached. He pretty much does what we ask him to do all the time as far as being a good teammate and all of that. We'll worry about that (the Heisman) when then they start voting next year.''

Clowney also establish a South Carolina mark with 21 1/2 tackles for loss this season.

``He's a freak of nature,'' Gamecocks linebacker Damario Jeffery said. ``One of those guys that comes around every hundred years.

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One side of the Redskins' offensive line is struggling, and it's not the one you expected

One side of the Redskins' offensive line is struggling, and it's not the one you expected

One side of the Redskins' offensive line is made up of a 36-year-old tackle who showed up on July 31 and a guard who's played a grand total of two games at the position. The other side, meanwhile, features a third-round pick who signed a pricey extension in 2017 at tackle and a two-time Pro Bowler at guard.

The first pair, somehow, is holding up OK through two contests this year. It's the second pair that's having trouble. And no one really expected that to be the case.

In Washington's Week 1 loss against Philadelphia, Morgan Moses — the one with the hefty contract — committed two penalties, a holding and a false start. Another holding call was declined.

In the team's Week 2 loss to Dallas, meanwhile, Brandon Scherff — the one with the Pro Bowls — was whistled for holding twice.

Beyond the penalties, though, Moses and Scherff haven't helped out the running backs. At all.

So far, according to the NFL's logs, the Burgundy and Gold have had 11 runs to the left for 46 yards, which comes out to an average of 4.18 yards per carry. There have been 14 carries to the right, on the other hand, for just 27 yards, which comes out to an average of 1.92 yards per carry.

To be fair, it's not like Donald Penn and Ereck Flowers are totally tearing it up at left tackle and left guard. But those stats show they've been surprisingly effective as run blockers and, overall, they're giving the Redskins all they could've hoped for. Moses and Scherff simply aren't.

Now, on the list of problems Jay Gruden's squad is facing, the defense's discouraging start is at the top, while injuries and poor adjustments follow. They need to seriously evaluate how they're trying to stop opposing offenses and what they are (or aren't) doing at halftime.

But Moses and Scherff's slumps are high up on that list of problems as well, because they were supposed to be two reliable veterans and pave the way when they were asked to.

Instead, they're holding the offense back, sometimes literally, sometimes because of sloppy play. The right side of the O-line is currently on the wrong side of things, which wasn't supposed to be the story up front.

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Talent, scheme or coaching, something needs to change for Redskins defense

Talent, scheme or coaching, something needs to change for Redskins defense

After two games, the Redskins defense clearly does not appear ready for some of the expectations that arrived before the season. That's obvious. What isn't is why. 

In consecutive losses, Washington's defense has given up more than 30 points-per-game and more than 400 yards-per-game. With just two sacks, the defensive front hasn't generated much pressure at all. The sack numbers are low, but opposing quarterbacks aren't taking many hits or pressures either. Heck, on Sunday against Dallas, Dak Prescott completed every pass he threw during the second half. 

Before the year started, the Redskins defense looked poised for a breakout. The team had strong young talent up front with Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis. The edge rushers were a pair of first-round picks in veteran Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Montez Sweat. Landon Collins was supposed to provide Pro Bowl play at safety. 

It just hasn't worked. 

The biggest Redskins struggles have come on third down. The defense just can't get on the field. In a Week 1 loss, the Eagles converted 11 of 17 third downs and went on long drives throughout the second half. Against the Cowboys in a Week 2 loss, Dallas never punted in the second half.

Against Philly, the Redskins gave up 4 yards-per-carry, which is usually a losing formula. Against Dallas, the Redskins gave up more than 6-yards-per-carry, which is definitely a losing formula. 

There are plenty of stats to show how bad the Redskins defense has been. These are just a sample. The bigger issue, however, is why it's happening.

And there aren't easy answers.

Injuries are a part of the equation. Losing Allen hurts a lot, as does losing cornerbacks Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau for the Dallas game. But still, injuries aren't a full explanation. 

Scheme is part of the problem. The Redskins tend to play conservative defense, without much blitzing or disguised looks. And if the defensive front isn't getting home, it's big trouble for the secondary when the quarterback has plenty of time. 

Coaching is a problem too. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is in charge of the conservative scheme. He could change that, and maybe should change that, but so far he has not. In his post-game comments, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said his staff isn't "reaching" the defensive players yet. That doesn't sound like a vote of confidence. 

Players also need to play better. Sweat, Ioannidis and Kerrigan aren't generating much pass rush, and that's a major problem. Josh Norman needs to be better too. 

There are no easy fixes here. There's no silver bullet, no singular answer. 

Gruden said there would be no coaching changes because it's so early in the season. That doesn't mean the questions won't keep coming. 

"There are no excuses to be had. We have to look at ourselves, and we have to play better," the coach said of his defense after the 31-21 loss to Dallas.

"We’re minus a couple pieces in the secondary, that has an issue. But really, we should be better than this."

Through two games, the Redskins defense should be much better than it has been. Gruden knows it. Fans do too. 

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