Redskins

Surprising Colts growing up faster than expected

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Surprising Colts growing up faster than expected

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck prefers designing projects to rebuilding them.

Perhaps that's why the No. 1 draft pick with the architectural degree threw out Indy's long-term blueprint and devised his own creation.

By ignoring the traditional learning curve for rookie quarterbacks, he's flipped the discussion in Indianapolis from hopeful futures to immediate playoff possibilities faster than anyone could have anticipated.

``I think a big thing for us is realizing you are a rookie, that doesn't mean you have to play as a rookie,'' Luck said after rallying the Colts to yet another win. ``You don't have that excuse. This team needs us, the rookies to perform well and perform well now, and I think guys have taken that to heart.''

The Colts have passed that test easily.

In seven weeks, Indy (4-3) has doubled its victory total from last season, ended a 10-game road losing streak and has local fans talking about playoffs in the city that made that single word famous thanks to Jim Mora.

Yes, it's early, and, yes, these are still the Colts who have 13 rookies and first-year players on their active roster, but success wasn't supposed to come this quickly.

When the Colts released Peyton Manning in March, allowed three other players to leave in free agency, watched longtime right tackle Ryan Diem retire and then made a series of cost-cutting moves - leaving Indy looking nothing like the team that won a record 115 regular-season games in the past decade - team owner Jim Irsay urged fans to be patient as the Colts rebuilt.

To the delight of everyone, including Irsay, veterans, rookies and coaches all refused to heed the advice. Instead, they've grown up.

``To have this many (rookies) in major roles I think is incredible,'' said interim coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, a 20-year assistant in the NFL. ``It's a testament to (general manager) Ryan (Grigson) and the scouting staff for getting the right guys, and the coaches for picking the right guys. It's a credit to those guys for being in tune. The veterans have taken those young guys and have shown them how to do it in the locker room, on the field and off the field.''

Luck, of course, generates the most attention because he was billed as the NFL's next big thing since 2010 and was the No. 1 overall draft pick in April. He's on pace for a record-setting season and has already won one more game - and one more road game - than Manning did as a rookie in 1998.

But he's certainly gotten plenty of help from his rookie class.

Second-round pick Coby Fleener has 21 receptions for 222 yards and is becoming a better blocker. Third-round pick Dwayne Allen caught four passes for 56 yards in Sunday's latest victory at Tennessee, and has emerged as a key outlet for Luck over the middle. The Colts' other third-round pick, T.Y. Hilton, had 113 yards receiving in a Week 2 win over Minnesota and hauled in five passes Sunday against the Titans.

And then there is Sunday's rock star, fifth-round pick Vick Ballard, who caught a screen pass from Luck, turned up the left sideline and made a twisting, 4 1/2-yard Olympic dive into the end zone to give the Colts their first road win since Dec. 26, 2010 - 19-13 in overtime.

It's not the first time the Mississippi State alum tried the move.

He fumbled at the goal line against Arkansas during his junior season and failed to get across the goal line last year against Auburn. This time, without actually knowing it, he made the play of the day.

``I wasn't sure, so I just hopped up and threw my hands up,'' he said, drawing laughter over his veteran move.

Things haven't gone perfectly for the Colts' newcomers.

Luck has thrown the same number of touchdowns as interceptions (eight), and Allen nearly lost a fumble at the Indy 28 with 18 seconds left in regulation Sunday - a play that might have cost them the Colts had it not been blown dead. On Monday, Arians called on Allen to be more careful protecting the ball in that kind of situation.

But overall, the early reviews show this has been Indy's most productive rookie crop in years.

It was all part of the design to surround Luck with some young teammates who could get in sync with him quickly, plus a few cagey veterans such as receiver Reggie Wayne and center Samson Satele. The Colts have a roster full of players eager to win.

``They've been thrown into the fire early and they've responded tremendously,'' seven-time Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney said. ``Their performance has been continuous from college to the workouts to here, and they can only get better.''

That's what the Colts expect now.

``There's so many guys that have a ceiling that's way up there,'' Arians said. ``As long as they keep striving to get better, there's no telling how good this class could be.''

NOTES: On Monday, head coach Chuck Pagano made his first trip to the team facility since being diagnosed with a form of leukemia on Sept. 26. Arians said Pagano listened to the assistants during a staff meeting and was sent home when he became fatigued. Pagano was not expected to be back at team headquarters this soon. ... Arians said the team was still awaiting results of tests on Fleener's injured left shoulder, which kept him out of the game for most of the third quarter. ... Cornerback Vontae Davis had an MRI on his left knee, but Arians didn't have those results, either. Davis left 3 minutes into the game and did not return. ... The Colts are hoping to get outside linebacker Robert Mathis and defensive end Fili Moala back this week. Both have missed three straight games with knee injuries.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

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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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

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NHL Stanley Cup Final 2018: Capitals vs. Golden Knights full schedule announced, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

NHL Stanley Cup Final 2018: Capitals vs. Golden Knights full schedule announced, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are the only two hockey teams left standing and will meet to decide the 2017-18 NHL Stanley Cup champion.

The Capitals advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1998, thanks to a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Golden Knights, in their inaugural season, shocked the NHL world, defeating the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets to become the first team in major American professional sports history to reach the championship game in the franchise's first season.

The Capitals and Golden Knights met twice during the regular season, with Vegas coming out on top in both games. The Golden Knights blanked the Caps 3-0 in the Caps' first trip to Sin City, and bested the Caps 4-3 at Capital One Arena on Feb. 4.

Game 1 of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC and is available to be streamed online by using the NBC Sports App.

NBC Sports Washington will broadcast pre and postgame coverage of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights,  with Caps FaceOff and Caps GameTime preceding Capitals vs. Golden Knights puck drop and Caps Extra and Caps OverTime following the end of each game. 

2018 STANLEY CUP FINAL HOW TO WATCH

Game 1: Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Wednesday, May 30
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBCSN
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 3: Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Saturday, June 2
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBCSN
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 4: Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Monday, June 4
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 5 (If Necessary): Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Thursday, June 7
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 6 (If Necessary): Golden Knights at Capitals
Date: Sunday, June 10
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: Capital One Arena. Washington, D.C.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)

Game 7 (If Necessary): Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Wednesday, June 13
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET 
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV Channel: NBC 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan)
 

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