Redskins

Texans look to young LBs as injuries mount

Texans look to young LBs as injuries mount

HOUSTON (AP) Injuries have left the Houston Texans thin at linebacker.

With star Brian Cushing (knee) out for the season and starter Brooks Reed out indefinitely with a groin injury, young players Whitney Mercilus and Darryl Sharpton will be counted on to keep the defense rolling as the Texans (10-1) play for postseason positioning.

``How far we go, how well we play, how we hang on here and keep working has a lot to do with how they play,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ``We have confidence in them.''

Adding to the trouble, inside linebacker Bradie James, who has started every game for Houston this season, is day to day with a hamstring injury.

``That's the way this game is,'' said James, a 10-year veteran. ``I've never been around a team that had that many injuries in one position like we've had this year. But we're big boys. That's the NFL. Guys will step up, I'm sure.''

Sharpton missed the first nine games of the season after tearing his right quadriceps in October 2011. He had seven tackles against Chicago before starting against Detroit and finishing with six.

Kubiak has been impressed with Sharpton's effort, but said he and the other young guys have some things they need to work on this week.

``We need to eliminate some mistakes we made last week,'' Kubiak said. ``We're trying to really isolate those guys. Sharpton's getting a ton of practice.''

Tim Dobbins missed last week's game after injuring his left shoulder against the Bears. He is practicing again, and his return should be a boost to the group. Dobbins has started four games in Cushing's old spot since he was injured Oct. 8.

The Texans have turned in two of their worst defensive performances of the season in the past two weeks, both overtime wins by Houston. They have allowed 983 yards and 68 points in the past two games, after yielding just 28 points in their previous three games combined.

The Texans will try to shore up the unit by putting rookie first-round pick Mercilus in at starter on the weak side this week, and moving Connor Barwin from the weak side to the strong side to fill in for Reed.

The 6-foot-4, 254-pound Mercilus was a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme at Illinois but has moved to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 alignment. He has appeared in each game this season, but his first start will come this week.

He has 17 tackles, has forced two fumbles and has defended one pass this season. His teammates have seen enough of him to believe that he will fill in just fine as a starter.

``I'm fully confident in Whitney,'' Reed said. ``He works very hard and now he's going to get his chance to show why we drafted him in the first round. I think it will be fun to watch to see what he can do.''

Kubiak liked what he saw from Mercilus against the Lions and said he is improving each week.

``Whitney did some good things in the game,'' Kubiak said. ``He has played his best football for us the past month and we need that to continue.''

The injuries to Houston's linebackers are also taking a toll on the Texans' special teams. Mercilus has played virtually every play on special teams this season, and Sharpton and fellow linebackers Bryan Braman and Barrett Ruud are also key contributors to the group.

Now that Mercilus and Sharpton are moving into starting roles, Kubiak said he'll have to shuffle some things around to make sure they aren't playing too much.

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Need to Know: The best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, July 19, seven days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the pass rushers are up. They are roughly ranked by Pro Football Focus’ pass rush productivity metric, although I did some juggling based on offseason moves and other factors. Prior to this we looked at the best teamsreceivers,running backs, and quarterbacks

1. Calais Campbell, Jaguars—If he gets a sack against the Redskins in Week 15, many fans will once again rue draft day in 2008 when the Redskins took both WR Devin Thomas and TE Fred Davis in the second round while Campbell was still on the board. He has been a consistent pass rusher since coming into the league, averaging eight sacks a season. Campbell is coming off of a career-high 14.5. 

2. Demarcus Lawrence, Cowboys—He had nine career sacks going into last year and then he broke out in a big way with 14.5. He got three sacks against the Redskins last year and has five in six career games. He actually ranked ahead of Campbell in the PFF pass rush metric, but I put Campbell ahead of him because we’re not sure if Lawrence is a great pass rusher or if he just peaked in his contract year. 

3. Chandler Jones, Cardinals—He posted double-digit sacks in four of the last five years including a league-leading 17 last season. His 2017 performance earned him first-team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. Jones does more than get sacks. He has 16 career forced fumbles; only five players have forced more since he came into the league in 2012.

4. J.J. Watt, Texans—Injuries have limited him to eight games over the past two seasons. Even if the missed time has him beneath his peak years of 2012-2015, when he was first-team All-Pro every year and defensive player of the year three times, he will be difficult to deal with. 

5. Brian Orakpo, Titans—His career with the Redskins was a mixed bag, with two Pro Bowls and two seasons with double-digit sacks. After Orakpo missed 23 games from 2012-2015, the Redskins didn’t make him a competitive contract offer and he left to sign with the Titans. He hasn’t missed a game in three seasons in Tennessee and has averaged eight sacks per season. 

Best of the rest: Yannick Ngakoue, Jaguars; Clay Matthews, Packers; Vic Beasley, Falcons; Jason Pierre-Paul, Buccaneers; Cam Jordan, Saints

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  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Redskins six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams was born on this date in 1988.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 7
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 21
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 44

The Redskins last played a game 200 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 52 days. 

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Alex Ovechkin takes home ESPY for Best Male Athlete Award

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Alex Ovechkin takes home ESPY for Best Male Athlete Award

Alexander Ovechkin's offseason continues to be one for the books. 

Just a week removed from celebrating with the Stanley Cup in Moscow, Ovechkin was named Best Male Athlete Wednesday night at the 2018 ESPYs. 

The 32-year-old is the first NHL player to win the award since it was first introduced in 1993. 

"The Great Eight" beat out Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros, James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. 

Ovechkin was not in Los Angeles to accept the award.

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