Redskins

Wall debuts with 14; Wizards top Hawks 93-83

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Wall debuts with 14; Wizards top Hawks 93-83

WASHINGTON (AP) John Wall gave his teammates a lift with 14 points and four assists in his first game of the season, and the worst-in-NBA Washington Wizards have their first winning streak after a 93-83 victory Saturday night over the Atlanta Hawks.

Wall's playing time will be limited as he returns from a knee injury, but he appeared to have his old speed and explosiveness back while playing seven minutes in the first half and 15 in the second half.

No. 3 overall pick Bradley Beal, getting to play with Wall for the first time, scored 16 points for the Wizards, who are 6-28 but have strung together two wins in a row following their upset of Oklahoma City on Monday.

A.J Price added 16 points and Martell Webster had 15 for the Wizards, who never trailed in the second half.

Jeff Teague scored 19 points, Al Horford had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Josh Smith added 11 points for the Hawks, who have lost five of six. Atlanta had won 18 of its previous 19 against Washington, including six in a row.

Typical of the game - and by far the lowlight for the Hawks - came when Ivan Johnson missed a wide-open layup by throwing the ball completely over the basket and catching it on the other side, thus committing a traveling violation. The basket would have cut the Wizards' lead to four with about 9 minutes to play.

Applause rippled around the half-full arena a little over midway through the first quarter when Wall stood up in front of the Wizards' bench and removed his warm-up jacket. When the whistle next blew, with 4:56 to play in the quarter, the team's franchise player walked onto the court to a standing ovation.

Wall didn't acknowledge the crowd and instead simply tied his shorts and took his place near the free-throw line. His first highlight was a fast-break assist to rookie Beal, the kind of play the Wizards have been envisioning from a speedy Wall-Beal backcourt.

Wall also had a three-point play as he dribbled down the clock at the end of the third quarter, and he lit up the crowd with a dazzling assist to Trevor Ariza in the final two minutes of the game.

Wall went 5 for 11 from the field and 4 for 5 from the free-throw line. His driving layup gave the Wizards an eight-point lead with 4:25 to play.

Wall was expected to miss about two months when he was diagnosed with a stress injury to his left kneecap in late September. He began increasing his basketball activity last month, but it wasn't until Wednesday that he had his first full-throttle practice with the team.

After three consecutive days of pain-free workouts, Wall was given medical clearance Friday to suit up, but his minutes are being carefully monitored by coach Randy Wittman. Wall hit the floor a couple of times during the game trying to take a charge, but bounced up with no apparent issues with his knee.

Even with Wall's return, the Wizards are far from healthy. Jordan Crawford (sore left ankle) and Cartier Martin (hyperextended left knee) remain sidelined, and four other players are having their playing time monitored. Trevor Booker returned Saturday after missing 24 games with a strained right knee. Price and Trevor Ariza returned from long injury layoffs in Tuesday's win over the Thunder, and Nene is nursing tendinitis in his right knee.

NOTES: The Hawks were called for three technical: Smith and Williams in the first quarter, and Teague as part of a double-technical with Kevin Seraphin in the fourth. ... Wizards F Jan Vesely played four minutes and committed five fouls. ... Hawks G Anthony Morrow missed his ninth straight game with a sore lower back. ... The Wizards had nine players with at least one turnover in first half. ... It must be NFL playoff time: Random cheers were heard throughout the game whenever the Baltimore Ravens made a big play in their overtime win over the Denver Broncos.

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter:http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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Dwayne Haskins has room to grow in a few areas, but this one might be the most crucial

Dwayne Haskins has room to grow in a few areas, but this one might be the most crucial

Dwayne Haskins is completing just 55-percent of his attempts as a pro quarterback so far, has thrown three touchdowns against seven interceptions and is averaging only 166 yards per start.

All of those numbers hint at how Haskins must grow as a passer in the NFL. However, those aspects are secondary to the area he needs to improve the most as he continues to see action for the Redskins.

The facet of his game that requires the most work is avoiding sacks. Yes, his accuracy and decision-making and choices in the red zone are all important, but none of those things will get better or reveal themselves if No. 7 is lying on his back and looking at the sky as much as he's doing so far.

The rookie has been dropped 22 times in his five appearances as starter, and 26 times overall. According to The Athletic, if you take the rate which Haskins is being sacked at as the team's primary signal caller and extrapolate it over a full schedule, it'd add up to the third-worst total in league history.  

So, yeah, that's extremely troublesome. 

On Wednesday, Haskins explained how his desire to be aggressive is partly causing this issue to be such an issue.

"Sometimes when I'm back there, I'm trying to find things deep or down the field instead of just finding the checkdown in the flat," he said.

As for how to remedy that, the 22-year-old told the media it's about being more aware of his immediate options.

"Just knowing where all my quick elements are when things happen fast and when things get on me," Haskins said.

Of course, each sack is its own entity, and not all of them fall on the guy with the ball. There have been instances this year where Haskins will go down and a replay will show an offensive lineman immediately getting beaten, the kind of sequence that will make any QB vulnerable. Not all of the negative plays are happening because of where Haskins is in his development.

However, to compare, Case Keenum was sacked just 12 times in his eight starts behind the same O-line. That's a significantly lower number.

Just like every other part of Haskins' skill set, this is something that should get sharper with experience. Every Sunday, assuming he gets a lot more, will lead to him becoming more adept at reading defenses, more proficient at adjusting protection calls and more prepared to find his outlet options.  

Keenum has seen all that there is to see in the NFL, while Haskins is just beginning that arduous process.

And, while Bill Callahan admitted he hates seeing the offense plagued by the sacks, the interim coach also detailed something beyond experience that could help Haskins limit them in the future.

"He's not a repetitive guy, a repetitive-mistake player, where you see continually the small mistakes over and over again," Callahan said. "He makes a mistake, he recognizes it, he moves on and you don't see a repetitive error come back into his game. There's been a lot of growth in that respect."

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Ravens special teams lacking across the board, lone sore spot in dominating win

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Ravens special teams lacking across the board, lone sore spot in dominating win

BALTIMORE — If there was a lone dark spot on the Ravens’ 42-21 win over the Jets, it was the special teams. 

From kickoff coverage to even Justin Tucker, each particular unit had its fair share of struggles. The Jets blocked a punt — and scored, had long returns on both kickoff and punt returns and Tucker missed an extra-point. 

“We played really well on special teams last week,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We played not well at all this week. So, that’s an area of concern right now. I give them credit. They played really well, but we didn’t.”

The trouble started from the get-go when the Jets had a good return on the opening kick. They carried that throughout the game, as Ty Montgomery and Vyncint Smith averaged kickoff returns of 23.3 and 28.7 yards, respectively. Smith had a long of 37 yards and Montgomery had a long of 34 yards.

Then on the Ravens second touchdown of the night, Tucker missed an extra point — a rarity for the league’s most consistent kicker. Before Thursday’s game, he’d missed just one extra point all season and one field goal. 

While it’s nothing to be concerned about, any miss for Tucker is certainly surprising. 

And finally, in the fourth quarter, the Jets bull-rushed up the middle through the Ravens’ punt team and blocked the kick for a score.

Baltimore’s special teams units have been stellar all season, so Thursday’s game isn’t something to fret over long-term. But it’s certainly something to monitor as the games tighten, leaving little room for error on the margins.  

“We just have to get better,” Harbaugh said of the returns. “They were basically blocking us. They blocked our guys on the kickoff return. They did a great job with it. They ran a little pick-stunt on the blocked punt that we should have picked up with no problem, and we didn’t. That’s an issue for us.”

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