Redskins

Stoops reinstates DT McGee for Notre Dame game

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Stoops reinstates DT McGee for Notre Dame game

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma's first marquee game of the season on Owen Field ended up being a flop.

One month later, there's an opportunity for the eighth-ranked Sooners (5-1) to climb onto the fringes of the national championship debate if they can find a way to beat No. 5 Notre Dame on Saturday night.

The Sooners' results in big-time games have been mixed of late. They've been dominant in the Red River Rivalry against Texas but lost to Missouri two years ago when they were the No. 1 team in the BCS standings and dropped Top 25 showdowns against Baylor and Oklahoma State last season.

After winning their past three games against Big 12 competition by a combined margin of 156-48, the expectations are high once again - maybe even more so than over the past two seasons, when various rankings had them pegged as the No. 1 team in the country.

``I think maybe as a unit we're playing better. I think we have more confidence right now going into games for sure than I think there's ever been around this place, just knowing what we can do and what we're capable of,'' quarterback Landry Jones said Monday.

The starting defense has allowed only one touchdown over the past three games, and not a single point over the past two weeks. The offense has seemingly found a new gear after struggling through a three-turnover outing in the 24-19 loss to Kansas State.

``That's our goal every week is keep getting better,'' center Gabe Ikard said. ``We've been improving in practice every week since that K-State loss and just been building in a really positive way. ... We're not peaking but we're definitely on an upslope.

``We just can't be satisfied with the way we've played and we're facing the biggest challenge of the year so far, when it comes to their defense.''

Led by standout linebacker Manti Te'o, the Fighting Irish (7-0) have been stingier than anyone in the country except defending champion Alabama this season. That has the attention of Jones and the rest of the Oklahoma offense.

Jones said he believes his improvement in recent weeks is due to trusting his new set of receivers more, allowing him to go through his normal progressions instead of trying to make plays that aren't there.

``I've been playing a lot better. Just obviously after games like Texas Tech, Texas and last week against Kansas, you're going to have higher confidence,'' Jones said. ``And I think everybody on this team is going to have higher confidence just the way that we've been playing.''

The Sooners will get a boost, too, from the return of suspended defensive tackle Stacy McGee, who started three games last season.

McGee had been held out for the first six games of this season, but coach Bob Stoops said Monday he's allowed to play against Notre Dame. Stoops said McGee has been practicing with the scout team during his suspension and there's no reason he wouldn't be ready to play Saturday night.

``He's been going against a better offensive line than if ... he's going against the scout team every day,'' Stoops said.

Stoops said his confidence in his team was never shaken after the loss to Kansas State, because he understood how good the Wildcats - now up to No. 4 - could be and that his team could have won if not for the critical turnovers.

``What people failed to realize is we played a heck of a game against them the entire time and we just had two major mistakes that you can't overcome when you're playing another really good football team. ... As far as being physical and tough and those kind of things, we were toe-to-toe with them the entire day,'' Stoops said.

Coming up short on the big stage the first time has driven the Sooners to keep getting better and avoid another loss, which would wipe away their remaining championship hopes.

``It still kind of hurts. You don't want to ever let a game slip away from you,'' Jones said. ``You don't want to ever lose a game that early in the season. Yes, Kansas State is a good team for sure. No doubt about that. But it still hurts.

``You think about it and you can go `What if?' all you want but that game is behind us now. Yes, it still does hurt but we're going to move on from it and we're playing ball now.''

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Five observations from Redskins preseason victory over the Jets

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Five observations from Redskins preseason victory over the Jets

Here are my five key observations from the Redskins’ 15-13 preseason win over the Jets.

— It was good that the offense clicked well in the series that Alex Smith was in the game. He was a crisp four of six for 48 yards. It wasn’t good that they couldn’t get the ball into the end zone and that Smith exited after that one series. I know there were concerns about Geron Christian being at left tackle instead of Trent Williams and Smith did get hit pretty hard on the first snap of the game. But after the starting offense sat out the preseason opener I think they needed to go for another series or two.

— The starting defense was in for two series with mixed results. The first Jets possession ended with a three and out with Daron Payne getting a third-down sack to close out the series. The second time, however, Sam Darnold like a drive that covered 42 yards and resulted in a field goal. The rookie completed passes for 13, six, 11, nine and six yards in the drive and looking every bit like the phenom that Josh Norman talked about in Richmond this week. The starting defense was good against the run, allowing 13 yards on six carries in the two drives.

— It looked like WR Cam Sims’ roster bubble was about to burst in the second quarter when he had a Colt McCoy pass in his arms in the red zone with no defender within a couple of yards of him. But the ball popped up in the air and the Jets’ Doug Middleton accepted the gift interception. But later on, he caught a key third down pass between two defenders. In that same drive he made another catch surrounded by defenders and he held onto it when he hit the ground hard. But the touchdown was called back by an illegal formation penalty. Then on the next to the last play of the game, his 20-yard reception set up the game-winning field goal.

— Tim Settle continues to impress. For a couple of drives in the second quarter the Jets’ offensive starters were up against the Redskins’ second-team defense, including Settle. The rookie manhandled former Redskins center Spencer Long on a few snaps and beat some double teams as well. Settle didn’t just impress against the run. He got a couple of pressures on Darnold and nearly got a sack. They will have to find snaps for him in the rotation if he keeps this up.

— The final word here is on playing time. For the most part, the Jets’ starters played the first half. For the Redskins it was one series for the offense and two for the defense. I have to wonder how ready this team with a new quarterback under center will perform coming out of the gate. They will be playing with fire if they don’t sweep their first two games against the Cardinals and Colts. Gruden is 0-4 in season openers as the Redskins coach. I have to say that I’m skeptical that his method of preparing the team for Week 1 will work.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler.

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Instant analysis: 5 field goals lift Redskins past Jets

Instant analysis: 5 field goals lift Redskins past Jets

LANDOVER, MD — Here is my instant analysis of the Redskins’ 15-13 preseason win over the New York Jets.

— Alex Smith started the game and so did most of the other players who are expected to start Week 1. Rob Kelley was at running back, Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson lined up at receiver, and the offensive line was intact — with the exception of Geron Christian playing left tackle. Vernon Davis was the tight end. 

— Smith moved the team efficiently on the first drive, completing four of six passes for 48 yards. He converted one third-and-9 by finding Doctson in a big soft spot in the Jets’ zone for 11 yards. On third-and-goal at the 4, he threw a pass a little behind Trey Quinn; it was catchable but not easy and Quinn couldn’t handle it. A field goal made it 3-0. After that 11-play, 71-yard drive, Smith and most of the rest of the offensive starters left the game. 

— Ten of the 11 regular defenders started the game, the exception being Matt Ioannidis. In his first series in a Redskins uniform, Daron Payne stopped the drive with a sack on third down. After that three-and-out, they weren’t as effective against Sam Darnold on their second possession. The rookie was sharp leading a 12-play, 42-yard field goal drive. 

— The first time Samaje Perine touched the ball, he ran for 30 yards off left tackle, following a nice block from J.P. Holtz, a tight end who was lined up at fullback. Since they released the only fullback on the roster last week, TE as FB is likely to be the plan. Perine then left the game with an ankle injury. He did not return. 

— There were some special teams gaffes in the first half. Dustin Hopkins hit the right upright on a 35-yard field goal try but it went through. On the ensuing kickoff, though, the kick went out of bounds. Later on, Byron Marshall put the ball on the ground on a kickoff return but replay showed it that he was down. So there was one costly miscue and two near-misses. 

— The Redskins backup defensive unit was back on its heels in a second-quarter drive with most of the Jets’ offensive starters in. They ended the drive when Danny Johnson make a good tackle to force a third and one. The Jets went for it and Darnold’s pass was tipped by Deshazor Everett and intercepted by Troy Apke. Tim Settle dominated in the middle, usually matched up against former Redskins center Spencer Long. 

— It was bad news, then good news for rookie WR Cam Sims in the second quarter. First he had a pass in his hands for a first down in the red zone but the ball popped out without him being touched and the pass was picked off. On the Redskins’ next possession he made a nice catch between two defenders for a 27-yard gain on third-and-10. Later in the drive he made a leaping catch in the end zone, but a penalty negated the TD. He has been inconsistent in practice in Richmond and is carrying over. 

— The Redskins had some red zone woes in the first half. The had three shots from there and settled for field goals every time. They also had the situation where Sims had the pass in his hands in the red zone before it popped out for an interception. 

— Long shot Martez Carter got his name on the board with a runs of nine and then 30 yards, showing blazing speed around the corner on both runs. He remains a long shot but speed like that will get you some attention. 

— Third QB Kevin Hogan was able to lead a scoring drive on his first possession but it was done mostly via Carter’s runs and the first application of the new helmet rule in a Redskins’ game this preseason, a flag that went against the Jets. The next two possessions he went two for three for seven yards and the Redskins went three and out both times. 

— The Jets kicked a late field goal to take a 13-12 lead. Hogan had a chance to bring them back and got them into Jets territory. Then Cam Sims made a 20-yard grab to set up a 40-yard field goal attempt. Hopkins hit it as time ran out to give the home team a 15-13 lead. 

— The win doesn’t mean anything but it’s always more fun to win than to lose. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler