Redskins

Schedule about to take tough turn for Bears

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Schedule about to take tough turn for Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears breezed through the first half of their schedule in good shape, leading NFC North at 7-1. Things are about to get much tougher.

Houston visits Sunday night in a matchup of two of the league's best teams, and then comes a game at San Francisco next week between NFC contenders.

To that, coach Lovie Smith said, bring it on.

``I don't want the guys to start thinking, `Hey, let's hold on, something bad's going to happen,''' he said Monday. ``We're a 7-1 team. You are what your record says you are and we're a 7-1 football team. We're a good football team. We're excited about playing the Texans. Each game as you continue to win, the stakes go up a little bit higher.

``We realize that and we're going to embrace it,'' he added. ``We're going to embrace this national stage that we have this Sunday night. I see our team getting better and better. We haven't peaked yet.''

They sure looked good dismantling Tennessee, scoring the most points for Chicago since 1980 on their way to a 51-20 win.

They got four forced fumbles from Charles Tillman, and their seventh interception return for a touchdown when Brian Urlacher ran one back, extending their single-season record. They also matched one set in 1942 with their seventh defensive touchdown, and they kicked the romp off with a franchise-record 28 points in the first quarter even though their offense got off to a clunky start.

It didn't matter because the defense forced three turnovers in the first 13 minutes, leading to 14 points, and Corey Wootton returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.

``Right now, we're talking an awful lot about our defense,'' Smith said. ``But before this season is over, hopefully this week, it's going to shift where we're going to be talking an awful lot about the weapons we have and the offensive plays that we're making. You can look at that yesterday.''

The Bears found their stride on offense in the second half and wound up with 358 yards after being outgained 145 yards to 136 through the first two quarters.

Jay Cutler threw for 229 yards and finished with a 138.1 rating.

Brandon Marshall had 122 yards and three touchdowns receiving. Matt Forte ran for 103 and a score, but the Bears are going to need more at the start if they're going to get by the rest of the way.

``It took a little bit of time,'' Cutler said. ``I think we shortened up some of our routes, just tried to get the ball out quicker, get it in the receivers' hands and get some rhythm that way.''

Only one of the remaining games is against a team with a losing record at the moment and none are against a defense ranked lower than 13th. The next two weeks, the Bears will be facing top three defenses, with Houston ranked third and San Francisco second, meaning the offense could be in for some more difficulties.

``We're not there yet, but we are taking steps forward I think,'' Forte said.

It still hasn't clicked quite the way the Bears envisioned after that busy offseason.

The Bears rank 25th overall on offense and 29th in the passing game, not quite the way they drew it up.

Marshall, their big acquisition, has been everything they thought he would be with 797 yards and seven touchdown catches. He already has more yards than last year's leading receiver Johnny Knox, who had 727 in 14 appearances before a season-ending back injury.

But protection continues to be an issue.

Only Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay has been sacked more times than Cutler, who has absorbed 28 this season. Tennessee got to him three times and he took several more hits, although Smith said the line wasn't to blame for most of that.

Otherwise, he liked what he saw from the offense, particularly in the second half of that game. They'll need more of that with the schedule taking a tougher turn.

``I know we have the Texans next, and I have an idea of some of the other teams we have coming up,'' Smith said. ``But I think this team has enough veterans in the room to stay focused. They know how we do things. They're not looking too far, one play at a time.''

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In addition to being an NFL player, Bryce Love can now call himself a Stanford graduate

In addition to being an NFL player, Bryce Love can now call himself a Stanford graduate

Bryce Love hopes he'll have the opportunity to carry many footballs in his NFL career. But this past weekend, the running back picked up something that'll be just as, if not more, valuable than the attempts he'll be getting on Sundays.

How's a college diploma from Stanford sound? Pretty solid, right?

Oh, how about a college diploma from Stanford in human biology? Yeah, probably something worth hanging up on the ol' fridge, huh?

Well, that very hard-earned and impressive degree is what Love is now in possession of:

Drafted by the Redskins in late-April and walking across the stage at Stanford in mid-June, Love is doing well for himself recently. He passed up the chance to enter the draft early to ensure he graduated, and now he has.

His college GPA isn't known, but once you find out his high school GPA was 4.5 (that's apparently possible) and add that to the fact that he was able to finish up school out west while also churning up yards for the Cardinal, you can imagine it was very, very good. And if his yards-per-carry average as a pro matches or exceeds it, then the Redskins will be thrilled.

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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

WASHINGTON -- Jackson Rutledge may still be years away from the majors, but as the Nationals' 2019 first round pick toured the team's ballpark for the first time on Monday, he sure looked the part as a big leaguer.

At 6-foot-8, Rutledge towers over everyone currently on the Nationals' roster. He's got prototypical pitcher size with a fastball that reaches triple digits.

Like any pitcher recently drafted, no matter the round, there is a good chance Nationals fans will not hear Rutledge's name again for quite some time, if they hear it again at all.

In the previous eight years, the team used their first pick in the draft on a pitcher six times. Only two of them - Lucas Giolito and Erick Fedde - have pitched in a Nationals uniform, and only Fedde is currently on their roster.

Rutledge, 20, will begin his journey with the Gulf Coast League Nationals. He heads there on Friday, hoping it will not be long before he is back in Washington.

"This is my first time in D.C.," Rutledge said. "Amazing stadium."

Rutledge signed his first contract with the Nationals on Monday and passed a physical in the morning. In the afternoon, he walked around the clubhouse and on the field during batting practice, introducing himself to manager Davey Martinez and players who could be his future teammates.

Rutledge has said in various interviews since being drafted earlier this month that he looks forward to playing with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, the Nationals' three ace starters. 

This was his first glimpse at them in-person.

"Meeting all the big league guys was really cool," he said. "I just want to be one of those guys that has that success."

If there was any impression Rutledge left on Monday, beyond his height, it was his eagerness to learn. He cited several of his mentors over the years, former big leaguers like Andy Benes who coached him in summer ball and Woody Williams, an assistant coach at San Jacinto Community College. He mentioned Tom Arrington, head coach at San Jacinto, and his attention to detail.

Rutledge even had praise for Ross Detwiler, a former Nationals pitcher whom they took in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He explained how Detwiler taught him a changeup grip during an offseason workout that he has continued to use.

Those are the people, he says, who helped him arrive at this unexpected place in his life as a first-round draft pick.

"If you asked me a year and a half ago where I would be, I probably wouldn't say the first round. It worked out really well because of how hard I worked," Rutledge said.

His college numbers were certainly impressive. Rutledge held a 0.87 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 13 starts. As a freshman at Arkansas before transferring, he posted a 3.45 ERA in 12 starts.

Rutledge is now looking forward to taking the next steps in his development. He said working on his curveball and changeup will be the focus while he's in the GCL. He wants to add weight and muscle to prepare for next year, his first full pro season. 

Assuming he does someday return to Washington as a big league pitcher, Rutledge said to expect a guy who likes to work fast but without a lot of emotion.

"When things are going well, I really feel in control of the game. I feel like I'm setting the game at my own pace and hitters feel uncomfortable because of that," he said. 

"I'm not a guy that's going to get up and start yelling and give energy like that, I'm more of a consistent kind of flat body language sort of guy."

Nationals fans will hope to get to know him better someday. For now, it's down to the minors to learn the ropes as a prospect.

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