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Texans prepare for talented rookie Luck

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Texans prepare for talented rookie Luck

HOUSTON (AP) The last time the Houston Texans faced an inexperienced quarterback they forced second-year pro Jake Locker into five turnovers and sacked him six times in a win over the Titans.

Two weeks later, they get a shot at Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft last April, and they can clinch the AFC South title with a win.

Luck has thrown for 3,792 yards for the Colts, but leads the AFC in interceptions with 18, and has lost five fumbles. He's also been sacked 32 times, and will now have to deal with AFC sacks leader J.J. Watt.

``We need more sacks,'' said Watt, who has a single-season franchise record with 16 1/2. ``I need to rush the passer better. As a defensive line, we need more pressure and we need to bat some more balls. We'll put it on us up front.''

Coach Gary Kubiak noted that Luck is challenging because even if the defense gets to him for a sack, his size (6-foot 4, 234 pounds) makes him difficult to bring down.

``It's got to be a big conscious effort for us to keep him contained, and then when we do have our opportunities you got to really work to bring him down,'' Kubiak said. ``You can make just an incredible highlight reel of people just hanging on to him and him still making plays.''

Kubiak likened Luck to Ben Roethlisberger because of his size, and said that when he was studying the draft last year he thought he was the best quarterback to come out since his predecessor Peyton Manning.

``He's sure as heck hasn't disappointed,'' Kubiak said. ``He's been excellent this year. I told the team he's playing like an eight-, nine-year football player. He's handling a ton of offense.''

Despite his development, Luck hasn't found a way to limit his turnovers. He's had three games this season with three interceptions, and two of them have come in the last four games. He has nine interceptions in the last four games.

The Texans, who are experts at batting down passes, definitely noticed those numbers.

``It's our goal always to create turnovers,'' Watt said. ``We know what that does for momentum. We know how good our offense is, so we want to get them the ball as many times as possible, so we're always looking to create turnovers.''

Watt has batted down 15 passes this season. He's the only player since the league began tracking passes defensed in 1991 to have at least 15 sacks and 15 passes defensed in a single season.

Some teams have used brooms or other sticks in practice to try and replicate what it's like to throw against Watt when preparing for the Texans. But Indianapolis interim coach Bruce Arians said he just used his tallest players and had them put their hands up in front of Luck this week in practice.

``I've seen ladders, brooms, everything, and balls still get batted in games,'' Arians said. ``They're so good at disengaging when they're not going to get to the quarterback and getting in that throwing lane that it's really hard to replicate.''

The Texans plan to use a variety of tactics to try and make Luck uncomfortable on Sunday. But from what they've seen from him so far, they know that will be difficult.

``You always want to try to rattle the quarterback,'' nose tackle Shaun Cody said. ``(But) his progression has been so fast where he started the year and where he is now. He's obviously better. We want to rattle him and get to him, but I think he's learned from the mistakes he's made in the past so It'll definitely be a challenge for us.''

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Jeff Green hopes recent playoff success can rub off on Wizards

Jeff Green hopes recent playoff success can rub off on Wizards

Jeff Green's basketball résumé got a significant boost this spring and summer as his Cleveland Cavaliers marched all the way to the NBA Finals before they were swept by the Golden State Warriors. It was Green's first time going past the second round of the playoffs and the experience, he says, was invaluable.

Green has come about as close to winning a championship without actually winning one and he certainly hopes to get back in that position. Green believes his new team, the Washington Wizards, have the tools to make a deep playoff run and it's one of the reasons why he signed a free agent deal to join them.

"Being there last year myself with Cleveland, I know it takes a lot. It takes a lot of pieces. I feel like this team has them," he said. "We can get back to that point. When I got the call, I felt like it was the best opportunity for myself to get there."

The Wizards' franchise has not been past the second round of the playoffs since 1979, when they were known as the Bullets. That was before anyone on their roster was born.

But Green pointed to the open Eastern Conference and the talent on the roster as reasons to believe they can accomplish some things that they haven't in decades. They may be capable, but putting it all together is easier said than done.

Green hopes to be one of the glue guys necessary for the Wizards to reach their potential, in part by sharing the lessons he learned.

"Never take it for granted. There are a lot of greats that have never been there," he said. "Getting to the Finals and being part of that was beyond amazing. With the experience and seeing what it took, I can bring that here and get everybody on the same page of knowing what it takes and the sacrifices that you have to do to get to that point."

Green over and over mentioned how it takes a collective effort to go to the conference finals and beyond, but he did show some self-awareness and a sense of humor about his own experience in Cleveland. All teams are different and the one he just left was a unique situation.

"You can’t get there individually. I mean, you can, we did last year. I mean, LeBron [James] carried us all the way there," he joked. "But there’s only one LeBron, but to get there you have to have team unity. You all have to be on the same page and sacrifice to make sure you’re doing what it takes to get the team there. I think that’s the biggest key. It’s not an individual thing… unless you’re LeBron."

If the Wizards are to reach their goals and go to the conference finals or the NBA Finals, they will have to do it differently than the Cavaliers did. They do not have a player on the level of James who can do much of it by himself. But Green said the process of imparting his wisdom has already started.

"I talked to John [Wall]," Green said. "Knowing that he wants to get to the Finals, I was just picking his brain and what he thinks is needed to get there. And me sharing my experience of getting to the Finals and what it takes."

The Wizards have reached a point as an organization where they have urgency to reach new heights. Green believes he can help them get there.

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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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