Redskins

Is Whisenhunt status shaky as bad season worsens?

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Is Whisenhunt status shaky as bad season worsens?

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals offense has been bad this season, but never worse than it was on Sunday.

Its performance in the 7-6 loss to the New York Jets was among the worst in the team's history, and that's saying something for a franchise that's had a lot of bad Sundays.

The team had five first downs, tied for fewest in franchise history, was 0 for 15 on third-down conversions and gained 137 yards, 40 of them on a fake punt. The Cardinals gained 22 yards in the second half.

Still, coach Ken Whisenhunt stayed with rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley, refusing to reinsert John Skelton, benched by the coach three games ago.

Now the Arizona losing streak has reached eight games, matching the franchise's longest in 68 years.

Exceedingly popular among fans for bringing the Cardinals to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season, and to the NFC West crown the following year, Whisenhunt finds himself the subject of the fans' wrath. Speculation is mounting that he might not return for the final year of his contract.

He said Monday that he has too much else on his mind to be concerned about his job status.

``It takes enough energy focused in trying to win, to turn it back around,'' Whisenhunt said. ``You can't worry about things you can't control.''

Team President Michael Bidwill, the owner's son, has not spoken publicly about the situation.

Whisenhunt is among the highest-paid coaches in the NFL, due to make $5.7 million next year, and the Bidwill family is not known for tossing around that kind of money, although the ownership has proven to be far more generous recent seasons, especially since the University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006.

Arizona has sold out every home game since then, but the fan base is shaky and that string is in serious doubt, if not for the next home game against Detroit, then certainly for next year.

The team's offensive woes this season have stemmed in large part from injuries, particularly to left tackle Levi Brown, quarterback Kevin Kolb and, most recently, center Lyle Sendlein, who was sorely missed against the Jets.

Yet with the defense playing so well, it's particularly maddening to fans to watch the offense stagnate.

Lindley completed 10 of 31 passes for 72 yards with one interception and, obviously, no touchdowns. Twenty-three of those yards came on a pass to Larry Fitzgerald the second play of the game. Fitzgerald never caught another pass all day.

On Monday, Whisenhunt wouldn't commit to staying with Lindley in next Sunday's game at Seattle, against one of the NFL's best defenses in one of the league's toughest environments for a visiting team.

``We've got to look at it with the players today and understand why we had the breakdowns we did,'' he said, ``why we weren't successful on some of these plays, and then we will decide from that point.''

The best scenario would be the return of Kolb, who was the quarterback when the team got off to a 4-0 start but who went down with a rib injury that has sidelined him for six games. Kolb has practiced on a limited basis the past two weeks but the injury, to cartilage at the top of his rib cage, is particularly iffy.

Asked if there was any realistic chance of Kolb playing in Seattle, Whisenhunt said, ``the only way we will know is when he can do it in practice.''

``He is making progress,'' Whisenhunt said. ``Until we can get out there and see that he can make the throws and be able to do those kinds of things, then we'll know.''

Skelton, who beat out Kolb for the starting job in the preseason only to go down with an ankle injury in the opener, said he hopes Whisenhunt hasn't lost confidence in him. Skelton said he was ready to come into the game whenever the coach told him to on Sunday. As things got worse on the field, his desire to play grew, he said.

``Every bit of my being I wanted to play, that was going into the week, too. It's not just on Sunday,'' Skelton said. ``I think anyone in the locker room wants to play. No one wants to sit on the sideline. When you see things going the way they did, it kind of makes you champ at the bit a little more.''

Whisenhunt said he thought about switching quarterbacks, but decided Lindley gave the team the best chance of winning. Others watching the game found that conclusion hard to understand.

The team that did switch quarterbacks, the Jets, mounted the game's only touchdown drive with backup Greg McElroy at the controls.

Whisenhunt said he understands the fans' ire about the quarterback decision.

``But we didn't help Ryan out very much yesterday,'' the coach said. ``We had a lot of areas where we had problems. We are looking for the right combination to be more effective offensively. We talked about on the sideline, we talked about what was going on in the game, and we felt it was a combination of a number of things, not just the quarterback.''

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Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the season

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Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the season

The news about Arie Kouandjio’s quad injury didn’t sound good when NBC Sports Washington broke it a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t sound any better when Jay Gruden said that they were seeking a second opinion. 

And now we have word that Kouandjio will be out for the season, per multiple media reports. While there was some initial hope that he might be able to play at some point this season, he is likely to be put on injured reserve soon. 

The corresponding move is expected to be the signing of guard Isaiah Williams, per JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington. He spent training camp with the Redskins in 2016 and 2017 before being released in the final cuts. Last year he also spent time with the Chiefs and the Colts but he has yet to appear in an NFL game. 

At worst, the Redskins have lost their starter at left guard. Kouandjio was set to compete with Shawn Lauvao for that job. Lauvao, who has been the starter at left guard going into the season for each of the last four years, would have been tough to unseat, but the 26-year-old Kouandjio may have had the inside track.

And at best, the Redskins lost experienced depth. Last year, when injuries hit hard along the offensive line, Kouandjio was re-signed and he started six games. It’s tough to lose experienced depth before the players even put pads on.

We will see if the Redskins make a move to shore up the guard position. Over the next couple of weeks, teams will be evaluating their veteran players and their rookies to see if they have younger and cheaper options. That could lead to some serviceable players getting released or some quality options being put on the trading block. 

The Redskins likely are set to get four compensatory draft picks in 2019, which would give them a total of 11 selections. They certainly could afford to deal one of those picks if they are offered a chance to upgrade at left guard. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

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 @TandlerNBCS.

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Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby has been largely overshadowed in the headlines of the Eastern Conference Final by Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

After two games, Vasilevskiy was one of the bigger storylines for how poorly he played in giving up 10 goals in just five periods. The next three games after that, the storyline changed to how well he was suddenly playing and how he had helped the Lightning steal two wins in Washington and take a 3-2 series lead after Game 5.

Holtby was not mentioned much. His play was not the reason the Caps went up 2-0 or the reason they went down 3-2.

But if the Caps hoped to force a Game 7, they needed him to at least be a reason why they won Game 6.

Holtby responded in a big way. With his team facing elimination, Holtby registered his first shutout of both the regular season and the playoffs.

"It's a perfect time," Devante Smith-Pelly said after the game. "He's been great all year. Obviously an up-and-down year for him personally, but the way he's bounced back, he's been amazing all throughout the playoffs."

Holtby is now just the seventh goalie in NHL history to record his first shutout of the season in a game in which his team faced elimination.

Holtby, however, was not concerned with the stats or the shutout.

"The only reason it’s good is we won," Holtby said of his shutout performance. "Aside from that, it’s just good for [the media], I guess you can write about it. But for us it’s just that W."

Vasilevskiy made a number of jaw-dropping saves, especially in the first period, but Holtby matched him save for save as both teams battled for the first goal. With the score knotted at zero, Holtby made a toe save on Anthony Cirelli on a 2-on-1 opportunity to keep the Lightning off the board. He really upped his game in the third period as Tampa Bay made a late push to tie it. He turned aside 10 shots that frame including a nifty snag on Nikita Kucherov and a glorious glove save on Ondrej Palat.

Holtby's performance ensured the Caps would live to fight another day...for now.

As the series shifts back to Tampa Bay, Washington will again be facing elimination. This time, however, so will their opponents.

Anything can happen in a Game 7. In a winner-take-all game, it may come down to who has the better goalie on Wednesday and Holtby seems to be picking a good time to up his game.

"Braden has been the backbone of our hockey club," Barry Trotz said. "You can’t go anywhere without goaltending and he’s been solid. ... Braden is a true pro, he works on his game, he finds ways to make a difference and he does."

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