Wizards

Undrafted rookie Barclay could be answer for Pack

Undrafted rookie Barclay could be answer for Pack

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Undrafted rookie free agent Don Barclay may not be Green Bay's answer at right tackle, but the Packers' coaching staff is at least entertaining that possibility.

The 23-year-old Barclay took over at the position after veteran T.J. Lang went down with a left ankle injury with 6:42 left in the first half of Sunday's 23-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Coach Mike McCarthy said Barclay did well.

``I thought he did a nice job - pretty much what I thought last night when I left here,'' McCarthy said Monday during a news conference at Lambeau Field. ``(When) he went into the game, we tried to protect him a little bit there in the 2-minute drive. Then at halftime, we made some protection adjustments.

``I thought in the run game, he was physical. That's a trait that we really like in Don. I thought the pass protection, a lot of his (mistakes) were technical. I thought he did a solid job. When a rookie comes in for his first time in game action and you're able to keep playing throughout your game plan, I think that's a big credit to him.''

Now, the Packers must decide if Barclay played well enough to merit starting Sunday night at home against Detroit.

``That was his first real playing time. He's been on some special teams a little bit at times throughout the year, but it was his first time playing a lot on the line,'' offensive coordinator Tom Clements said of Barclay. ``He went in and did a good job. He wasn't perfect, wasn't expected to be perfect, but he's a battler and he did well.

``He's on the roster for a reason. He earned his way on the roster and we always say when someone has a chance to play, they have to step in and do the job. He did that.''

Lang had moved to right tackle from his customary left guard spot on Nov. 4, when starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga, the team's 2010 first-round draft pick, suffered a dislocated hip that landed him on season-ending injured reserve.

If Lang is able to play Sunday night, he could return to his left guard spot and Barclay could get the nod at right tackle. Evan Dietrich-Smith, who has been starting at left guard since Lang's move, would then return to being the first lineman off the bench. Or, Lang could remain at right tackle, Dietrich-Smith could stay at left guard and Barclay could return to the bench.

If Lang can't play, the Packers' decision would be made for them. Barclay would make his first NFL start and Dietrich-Smith would remain at left guard.

Lang's sprained ankle was one of two injuries to starters the banged-up Packers suffered against the Vikings, as wide receiver Jordy Nelson left after the second offensive series with a strained hamstring. Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that the injuries ``are not of serious nature'' but said Nelson would be ``pressed hard to play this week.''

As for Lang, McCarthy said, ``I feel probably a little bit better about T.J. than I do about Jordy,'' but the coach admitted he didn't know if Lang would be ready to play against the Lions, so Barclay will get snaps at right tackle when the players return to practice on Wednesday.

The only other offensive lineman on the 53-man roster as of Monday night was Greg Van Roten, another undrafted rookie free agent. The Packers have two linemen on their practice squad: seventh-round pick Andrew Datko, a rookie tackle, and Joe Gibbs, a first-year guard.

``The first couple of plays was (I) kind of getting used to it. And then the second half I think I settled in and I got comfortable with it,'' said Barclay, who'd been a three-year starter at left tackle at West Virginia and made the team coming out of training camp. ``The first play was maybe a little tunnel vision. I was just out there. It happens to everyone. But after that I got comfortable.

``You know, a couple plays probably weren't as pretty. But every play I was out there fighting my butt off and that's what it's all about.''

The other issue the Packers must consider is how playing an undrafted rookie at right tackle might prevent them from doing what they prefer to do offensively. The coaches schemed to give Barclay help with a tight end or a running back on most pass plays against the Vikings, and both McCarthy and Clements acknowledged that Barclay was appreciably better as a run blocker than pass protector.

``Pass protection is probably a little harder than run blocking, especially at this level,'' Clements said. ``But he did a good job.''

The Packers like to use spread formations with quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the shotgun in an empty backfield, so keeping an extra tight end or fullback John Kuhn on the field to help with protection takes that away. At the same time, protecting Rodgers, who'd been sacked an NFL-high 37 times entering Sunday's game but was sacked only twice by the Vikings, is the first priority.

``Anytime you can keep the quarterback upright and completing passes, I wouldn't say that's counterproductive,'' Clements said. ``If we had our druthers, we'd tell (opposing defensive linemen) not to rush at all and just (let us) stand back there and throw it.''

Since that's not an option, the Packers may have to sacrifice for protection, regardless of who's playing right tackle.

``It may (limit the offense),'' Clements admitted. ``But if things we want to do, we're having trouble executing for one reason or another, it doesn't make sense to try to do them.''

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Jodie Meeks' season...

Player: Jodie Meeks

Position: Shooting guard

Age: 30

2017-18 salary: $3.3 million

2017-18 stats: 77 G, 14.5 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 39.9 FG%, 34.3 3P%, 86.3 FT%, 49.1 eFG%, 111 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 11/29 at Sixers - 21 points, 4 rebounds, assist, steal, 5-for-11 FG, 3-for-6 3PT, 8-for-9 FT

Season review: The Wizards took a flier on Jodie Meeks last summer in what seemed at the time to be a low-risk contract with a potentially high reward, if he could stay healthy and play to his career norms. They were in obvious need of help at backup shooting guard and three-point shooting for their bench.

Meeks fell short of those expectations for a variety of reasons. Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he could not make shots at the clip the Wizards were hoping for. His field goal percentage was not far off from what he posted in recent years, but his three-point percentage was nowhere near the 38.8 percent he shot in his previous four seasons.

Meeks bottomed out midseason, shooting 28.9 percent from three in December and 28 percent in January. Those numbers ticked up beginning in February, but Meeks never fully gained the trust of his coaching staff. He rarely got hot enough to alter games and his best stat-lines often came in blowouts. 

There was a domino effect from Meeks' struggles, as starting shooting guard Bradley Beal had no one to spell him. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player this season.

For Meeks personally, it was a bittersweet year because staying healthy was no small feat. He had a run of bad luck and finally broke out of it this season. On the other hand, he never made the impact he felt he was capable of and that wasn't easy for a guy joining a new team and a new locker room.

Meeks' 2017-18 season was ultimately defined by more than his shooting woes. First, he expressed interest in a trade in February and did not get his wish. Then, he was suspended for allegedy using performance-enhancing drugs after the regular season ended. He was out for the playoffs and will miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season without pay as he waits out a 25-game ban.

Meeks may or may not serve that suspension as a member of the Wizards. He has a player option for next season worth $3.5 million. He has yet to inform the team of his decision, but the expectation is that he will pick it up. Given how poorly his season went and ended, it would likely be the smart move financially for him to opt in and hope for better results next season.

Potential to improve: Shooting percentage, perimeter defense, passing

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

Ian Mahinmi, C

Ty Lawson, PG

Tim Frazier, PG

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Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines. The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team.

Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since there drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than most NHL teams.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against Vegas. There is no weak line to exploit. The Golden Knights come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.

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