Capitals

Weekend Sports in Brief

Weekend Sports in Brief

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Drew Brees set an NFL record Sunday night with touchdown passes in 48 straight games, breaking a mark set by Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas a half-century ago.

The record-setting scoring strike was a 40-yard pass to Devery Henderson against the San Diego Chargers. After the completion, Brees raced to the end zone to greet Henderson, who incidentally wears the same No. 19 that Unitas wore for the Baltimore Colts.

The rest of New Orleans' offense pursued and swarmed around Brees in celebration. Brees then took the game ball to the sideline where he continued to accept congratulations.

Unitas set the record between 1956 and 1960 and no one had come within 10 games until Brees began to close in late last season. Tom Brady has the third-longest streak, extending his to 37 games Sunday in a victory over Denver.

AUTO RACING

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) - Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth won Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, where a last-lap crash turned defending NASCAR champion Tony Stewart upside down.

Stewart was leading the final lap but had no drafting partner as the field closed in on him. He was looking for help when he misjudged how much room he had and turned down in front of Michael Waltrip.

Waltrip hooked Stewart's bumper, and it triggered a massive accident that sent Stewart's car sailing on its side over the field. NASCAR threw the caution and Kenseth coasted to the victory.

Stewart was helped from his car by safety workers and waved to the crowd to signify he was OK. He said he caused the accident.

Jeff Gordon finished second and Kyle Busch was third.

On Saturday, Parker Kligerman picked up his first career victory Saturday in the Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, where he used a push from Johnny Sauter take the lead and hung on as a multi-vehicle wreck ended the race under caution.

BASEBALL

CLEVELAND (AP) - Terry Francona, who won two World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox, was hired as manager of the Cleveland Indians on Saturday and will take over a team that collapsed in the second half this season after a promising first four months.

The 53-year-old will be introduced as Cleveland's 42nd manager during a Monday news conference at Progressive Field, the Indians said in a statement Saturday.

Cleveland chose Francona over Sandy Alomar Jr., who served as the club's interim manager for the final six games after Manny Acta was fired on Sept. 27. Francona and Alomar were the only candidates to interview for the Indians' opening.

DENVER (AP) - Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy resigned Sunday, stepping down after the team set a franchise record for losses.

The Rockies said a search for Tracy's replacement would begin immediately. Colorado finished last in the NL West this year while going 64-98.

Tracy was promoted from bench coach to manager in May 2009. He was voted the NL Manager of the Year that season after guiding Colorado into the playoffs.

The Rockies went 294-308 under Tracy.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

NEW YORK (AP) - South Carolina, Florida and West Virginia moved into the top five of The Associated Press college football poll after a Saturday during which nine Top 25 teams lost.

No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon held their spots at the top of the rankings. Alabama was a unanimous No. 1 again. The rest of Top 25 got a makeover.

No. 3 South Carolina, off a 35-7 victory against Georgia, moved up three spots. No. 4 Florida jumped six after beating LSU 14-6. No. 5 West Virginia moved up three with a 48-45 victory at Texas.

No. 6 Kansas State, No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 8 Ohio State also moved up. LSU dropped to No. 9 and unbeaten Oregon State is No. 10.

The last time nine ranked teams lost in the same week was the weekend of Oct. 18, 2008.

PRO HOCKEY

NEW YORK (AP) - The NHL and the players' association are expected to resume labor negotiations this week in New York.

The sides are likely to meet Wednesday and Thursday in New York, a union spokesman told The Associated Press in an email. The plans and the agenda are expected to be worked out Monday.

On Friday, the sides held an unannounced meeting in Toronto to discuss where they were and how to move the process forward.

Officials on both sides were in contact Saturday and Sunday, leading to the meetings.

The lockout reached its 22nd day Sunday. The NHL canceled the first two weeks of the regular season Thursday, wiping out 82 games from Oct. 11-24.

TENNIS

BEIJING (AP) - Top-seeded Victoria Azarenka won her fifth title of the year by dominating second-seeded Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-1 at the China Open.

Earlier on Sunday, top-seeded Novak Djokovic extended his perfect record at the tournament when he defeated third-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the men's final.

It was the third time this year that Azarenka won a title by beating Sharapova in the final after the Australian Open and Indian Wells.

Djokovic has four titles this year, including the Australian Open. He won the China Open for the third time.

TOKYO (AP) - Eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan beat Milos Raonic of Canada 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-0 on Sunday to win the Japan Open.

The 22-year-old Nishikori earned his second career ATP tour title and first in more than four years.

Nishikori, ranked No. 17, thrilled the home crowd in defeating the sixth-seeded Raonic. Nishikori, a native of Shimane Prefecture in southern Japan, is the first Japanese player to win the tournament in its 41-year history.

GOLF

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Former UNLV player Ryan Moore won the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on Sunday for his second PGA Tour title, birdieing the 16th hole to take the outright lead and finishing with a 5-under 66 for a one-stroke victory over Brendon de Jonge.

Moore finished at 24-under 260 at TPC Summerlin the Fall Series opener. De Jonge shot a 67.

CARY, N.C. (AP) - Bernhard Langer rallied to win the SAS Championship on Sunday to take the lead in the Charles Schwab Cup points race, shooting a 9-under 63 to beat Jay Don Blake by two strokes.

The German star has two victories this year and 16 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) - South Africa's Branden Grace won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday for his fourth European Tour title of the year, shooting a 2-under 70 at St. Andrews for a two-stroke victory. The 24-year-old Grace finished at 22-under 266. He opened with a 12-under 60 at Kingsbarns.

MARATHON

CHICAGO (AP) - Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia set a course record in winning the Chicago Marathon on Sunday morning.

Kebede pulled away late and was all alone, waving to the crowd as he approached the finish at Grant Park and crossing the line in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 38 seconds. That easily eclipsed the previous mark of 2:05:37 set by Kenya's Moses Mosop last year and was more than enough to beat countryman Feyisa Lilesa.

The women's race was also a thriller, with Atsede Baysa of Ethiopia edging Kenya's Rita Jeptoo by about a step.

Quick Links

Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

usatsi_8176632.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will the Caps look different under new head coach Todd Reirden?

Tarik: It’s an important topic, but let’s not overthink this one. Since winning the Stanley Cup on June 7, the organization has pretty much telegraphed EXACTLY what it hopes will occur in 2018-19. Consider:

  • Todd Reirden was promoted after spending four years as Barry Trotz’s assistant, including the last two years as an associate coach with an expanded role. Reirden already knows everyone, from the players to the trainers and other support staff. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them. There’s a built-in comfort level and trust that should allow everyone to hit the ground running in September.
  • Four of Reirden’s assistants are holdovers, too. The one newcomer, Reid Cashman, is joining the group from Hershey and is a Reirden disciple. So, no adjustment period there, either.
  • Assuming restricted free agent Tom Wilson re-ups (and that would seem to be a very safe assumption), the Caps are bringing back 11 of the 12 forwards that were on the ice for Game 5 in Las Vegas. They’re also bringing back five of six defensemen. And the starting goaltender. Chemistry is a hard thing to explain and/or quantify. But you know when a team has it. And the Caps had it at the end of last year.

So if you look at what GM Brian MacLellan has been doing in recent weeks—and have been listening to what Reirden has been saying publicly—you can only come to one conclusion. The decision-makers feel they discovered the right mix of personnel and systems play at the end of the playoffs, from the defensive structure to special teams. In fact, they were first in goals per game, second-best on the power play and the fourth stingiest team in the postseason.

“Many of my [philosophies] were involved in how we were going to play, how our team was going to look, the identity that we had,” Reirden said on The Junkies recently, referring to last year’s game plan. “So, from a systems standpoint, I would say not much is going to change, at least initially, just because it seemed to work. …You’ll see much of the same.”

That doesn’t mean Reirden won’t make adjustments. He will because he’ll have to over the course of an 82-game regular season and, hopefully, another long postseason run. But it does underscore the fact that the foundation upon on which last year’s championship team was built is going to look awfully familiar. And that's clearly by design.

JJ:  The message from the Caps ever since Reirden was promoted to head coach has been one of consistency as they try to make a seamless transition to the new head coach. In that sense, we probably won't see many changes at all to start the season.

The Capitals just won the Stanley Cup and general manager Brian MacLellan worked to bring almost the exact same roster back for next season. Coming into the locker room saying there's a new sheriff in town and making drastic changes is not the way to go here

But that doesn't mean Reirden will do things the same way.

Reirden has coached at the college, AHL and NHL level. He has seen firsthand how Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how Trotz did it in Washington. He also saw what didn't work.

Reirden got to this point by developing relationships with the players. He is much more of a players' coach than Trotz and that will be evident in training camp. I also expect there will be a much greater emphasis on development. Trotz famously said to the media that the NHL was not a development league, but a performance league. I expect Reirden to take a different approach.

After failing to win with veteran-laden teams, the Caps finally hoisted the Cup last season after getting significant contributions from young prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Like it or not, the Caps' core will not last forever. Every year those players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson get another year older. I do not believe a coach who is as good at reaching players and developing them as Reirden is will be quite as reluctant to reach down onto the farm and sprinkle youth throughout his lineup whenever the team needs a spark.

It should not be lost on anyone that one of Reirden's new assistant coaches this year will be Reid Cashman, promoted from being an assistant with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. This is all good news for players like Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, the team's three best defensive prospects who are hoping to have an impact at the NHL level sooner rather than later. The Caps roster is pretty loaded, but at the very least you can expect Reirden to have a hand in helping those players along at training camp.

Ultimately, the product on the ice is going to look almost exactly the same at the start of the season with the biggest changes coming off the ice. We won't see who Reirden is as an NHL coach, however, until we let the full 82-game season play out.

MORE CAPS NEWS:

Quick Links

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

redkins_d-line_vs_sd_usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Defensive line

Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming week, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Defensive line

Additions: Daron Payne (drafted in first round), Tim Settle (drafted in fifth round)
Departures: Terrell McClain (released)

Starters: Payne (NT), Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis
Other roster locks: Stacy McGee, Anthony Lanier, Settle
On the bubble: Ziggy Hood, Phil Taylor

How the defensive line compares

To the rest of the NFL: We are going to have to see about this. Over the last couple of years the D-line has been transformed from an aging group into one where youth is in good supply. Ioannidis is the oldest of the starters at age 24. Allen is 23 and Payne just turned 21 in May. It looks like there is great potential there but we haven’t seen enough of it on the field to make solid comparisons to other lines around the league. Allen missed 10 games of his rookie year with an injury and Ioannidis missed two and was hampered in a few more with a broken hand. Payne, of course, is a rookie. Let’s check back in late October and see how things are going then. 

To the 2017 Redskins:  The primary reason that the line should be significantly better this year is the presence of Payne and Settle on the roster. That means that it is very unlikely that Hood will have to play nose tackle. He has been the starter there for the past two years, forced there by injuries. Jim Tomsula that Hood is not well suited to play the nose. So they have an improvement there. If they get a mostly healthy season out of Allen and if Ioannidis continue to improve this will be the best defensive line they have had since moving to the 3-4 defensive in 2010. 

2018 outlook

Biggest upside: As noted, Payne just turned 21. He seems to have a rare understanding of the game for a rookie. You often see rookies just trying to survive on physical ability early one. Payne has plenty of that, but he also seems to realize that strength and ability alone won’t let him thrive at this level. He pays close attention to his technique during drills, making sure he does things the right way the first time. If he builds on this for the next year or so the Redskins could have a legitimate star. 

Most to prove: Since so many Redskins fans are accustomed to seeing veteran defensive linemen the team signs as free agents play poorly, they automatically put McGee in the “bust” category. But many of his teammates said he was the most consistent player on the line last year. It’s safe to say that he played better than the popular perception. Next year, he will carry a $4.8 million salary cap number and like most players who are not starters but making good salaries, he will need to play well enough to justify that cap number.  

Rookie watch: The Redskins did not expect Settle to be available in the fifth round and he was too good to pass up when he was still on the board. He should get some opportunity as a rookie. He is likely to be the only other nose tackle on the roster besides Payne (sorry, but the numbers make it unlikely that Phil Taylor will make the roster). That could have him active on many game days and that usually means getting some snaps in the rotation. We will see what he can do with his chances. 

Bottom line: The Redskins were last in the league in rushing defense in 2017. It wasn’t all on the line—in particular, injuries to the inside linebackers hurt a lot—but the simple fact is that the organization long neglected the line. The philosophy was to create a patchwork unit from aging free agents. That has changed now with three homegrown players set to start and Settle and 2016 undrafted free agent find Anthony Lanier providing reserve help. It’s going to be a better unit, no question. But improvement over the last several years is a low bar and we’ll find out if this develops into a quality line over the next few months. 

Quote-unquote

Greg Manusky on Payne:

Payne is doing a great job. He’s trying to get acclimated to some of the calls, hasn’t had a lot of mental errors. He’s done a great job. Physical player.

2018 position outlook series

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