Redskins

Wozniacki, Stosur, Ivanovic gain Kremlin Cup semis

Wozniacki, Stosur, Ivanovic gain Kremlin Cup semis

MOSCOW (AP) Ana Ivanovic and Samantha Stosur won in straight sets Friday, setting up a semifinal showdown at the Kremlin Cup.

Ivanovic beat Vesna Dolonc 6-4, 6-1, and the top-seeded Stosur defeated Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-3.

Stosur won six consecutive games in the first set but trailed 3-1 in the second set. She recovered with a break in the sixth game and later served out the match at love.

The 2011 U.S. Open champion from Australia will play the 2008 French Open champion on Saturday.

Earlier, Caroline Wozniacki struggled to beat defending champion Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-7 (1), 6-1. Wozniacki, another former No. 1 player, won four consecutive games in the first set and later took advantage of an ailing Cibulkova, who was playing with her right hip bandaged. She took a medical timeout while trailing 2-1 in the third set.

``The difference at the end was that I just could keep my highest level up to the end and I managed to win most of the important points, especially at the beginning of the third set,'' Wozniacki said.

The 11th-ranked Wozniacki, who finished the last two seasons at No. 1 on the WTA rankings, still has a chance to overtake Marion Bartoli of France at No. 10 by the end of the season if she wins titles in Moscow and at the season-ending Tournament of Champions.

In her seventh semifinal this season, Wozniacki will face Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden.

The 46th-ranked Arvidsson, who is looking for her second title this season, broke twice in each set to eliminate the only Russian left at the Kremlin Cup, seventh-seeded Maria Kirilenko, 6-3, 6-3.

``Maria is a tough player,'' Arvidsson said, ``you have to play at your best to beat her.''

In the men's tournament, second-seeded Andreas Seppi of Italy advanced to the semifinals by beating Tatsuma Ito of Japan 6-2, 6-1.

Seppi, who won his second career title in Belgrade in May, will play Malek Jaziri, who became the first Tunisian to reach an ATP semifinal when he beat Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic 7-6 (5), 6-3.

``I hope I'm lucky enough to make my first ATP final,'' Jaziri said. ``But anyway, I'm already happy with my performance here.''

Croatian veteran Ivo Karlovic had 23 aces to beat French qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin 7-6 (4), 6-3.

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, 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.

Inside linebackers

Additions: Shaun Dion Hamilton (drafted in the fifth round)

Departures: Will Compton (free agent)

Starters: Zach Brown, Mason Foster

Other roster locks: Josh Harvey-Clemons

On the bubble: Hamilton, Zach Vigil, Martrell Spaight

How the inside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: This is a difficult comparison to make since only about half of the teams use the 3-4 with two inside linebackers and there are many variations when they go out of their base defense. Brown certainly is in the upper tier of players at his position. Foster’s skill set may not be coveted by many teams around the league, but he is a perfect fit in the Redskins’ defense in many ways. The player who could differentiate this group from others around the league is Harvey-Clemons. If he turns into a top-notch nickel LB the inside linebackers will be a great asset. 

To the 2017 Redskins:  This is about health. In 2017, Foster missed 11 games, Brown was hampered by a variety of injuries before sitting out the last three games. Compton was the top backup to both players and he went to injured reserve after just three starts. They did re-sign Vigil, who had spent training camp with the team, and he played pretty well near the end of the season. If the front-line players can stay on the field for most of the season this should be a much better group than the one that was partially responsible for the league’s 32nd-ranked rushing defense. 

2018 Inside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: The 2017 season was supposed to be a redshirt year for Harvey-Clemons as he transitions from college safety to NFL linebacker. He played a lot in the base defense during the offseason practices and that indicates that they are considering him for a bigger role beyond just playing nickel. You have to wonder how his size (6-4, 230) will affect his ability to get off of blocks. 

Most to prove: Spaight was a fifth-round pick in 2015 and he has yet to establish a regular role in the defense. It was telling that when they needed someone to start in the latter part of last year they brought back and started Vigil and mostly kept Spaight is going into the last year of his contract, but it would not be surprising to see Vigil beat him out for the last roster spot.  

Rookie watch: The Redskins traded up in the sixth round to get Hamilton. It wasn’t a blockbuster deal but the fact that they thought enough of him to move up says something. Gruden has said that he thinks Hamilton could be a starter at some point. He was one of the leaders on a strong Alabama defense before injuries struck. Hamilton is not going to start this year barring multiple injuries, but he should develop a role as the season goes on and be ready to compete in 2019.

Bottom line: The Redskins have not invested much in terms of free agent dollars or draft capital in the inside linebacker position in recent seasons. That changed somewhat this offseason as they made sure to spend to retain Brown and Foster. Neither commanded a huge contract but they did make a commitment and that is important. Last year Brown gave the defense a sideline-to-sideline dimension it hasn’t had in quite some time and retaining him was critical. Inside linebacker may not be a major strength for the defense this year but it should be able to get the job done. 

2018 Redskins position outlook series


 

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Wizards plan to introduce Dwight Howard Monday

Wizards plan to introduce Dwight Howard Monday

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld has stayed relatively busy this summer crafting his new-look lineup for the 2018-19 season. 

One of the team's key additions, Dwight Howard, is set to be introduced as a member of the Wizards on Monday. 

NBC Sports Washington will air the introductory press conference live at 1 p.m. while also streaming it online.  

Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks are both expected to be in attendance. 

The 32-year-old big man is coming off a 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. 

Since leaving the Orlando Magic after eight seasons in 2011, Howard has played for four different teams in the last six years. 

Howard is an eight-time all-star and a three-time defensive player of the year. 

 

RELATED LINKS: 

John Wall's take on Dwight Howard 

Wizards make Dwight Howard free agent signing official 

By the numbers: Is new Wizards center Dwight Howard still in his NBA prime?