October 24, 2014

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

Washington Capitals 2014-15 Season Roundtable Part IV: Satisfied with the goalies?

We’re a little late to the party here, but District Sports Page conducted a roundtable with staff writers and friends of the site to discuss pertinent issues surrounding the 2014-15 Washington Capitals.

Our panelists: Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief; Katie Brown, Staff Writer; Eric Hobeck, Staff Writer; J.J. Regan, Contributor; Abram Fox, former contributor, Harry Hawkings, Editor at Rock the Red.

Part I: Grade the Caps offseason and their biggest acquisitions
Part II: What is your single biggest area of concern?
Part III: What do you expect out of Alex Ovechkin this season?

Part IV: Are you satisfied with the goaltending situation? [Read more...]

Washington Redskins DE Jason Hatcher Thursday media availability

From a team press release:

On his emotions about returning to play in Dallas:

“I was there eight years of my career, man. I had a great career there but I am approaching this game like any other game. It is a must win for us. So, I am just concentrating on being the best player I can be to help our defense play the best they can. It’s no extra emotions involved, it is just another game.”

On if he has heard from any former teammates this week:

“No, you know, a lot of those guys, man, I was there so long I saw guys come in as rookies, grow up as men, you know, mature. I mean, of course they’ve reached out to me, excited to see me, those guys over there have got a lot of respect for me. So, it is going to be great to see those guys but at the same time we’ve just got to go in there and get a win.”

On if he could sense a change with the Cowboys as he was leaving:

“Yeah, you could see it. The culture there changed, it took a while with me being an [expletive] sometimes, you know, the culture kind of changed. You could kind of see it happening. But I am excited for those guys. I wish the best for them. They are playing well, it is hard to win six games in this league but you know, we’ve got to go and get our third one.”

On the adjustment from leaving Dallas and coming to Washington:

“It was one of those things that I knew was coming, I prepared for it my last year there. So, I knew it was kind of coming. Just getting here, you know, the guys that’s here, they [were] great accepting me as a teammate, so it was an easy transition for us coming and playing for the Redskins.”

On how hard it is to put emotions aside with a game like this:

“I think you’ve just got to be locked in to what is at stake for this football team and I am. And what’s a stake is another win. So, that is what I am focusing on. I am not going out there trying to be no hero or nothing like that. I am just going to continue to be the player I am. I am not going to go do nothing special, try to be no hero, but I am going to go out there and play the best I can.”

On what impact the Cowboys’ success on third down has for their defense:

“I don’t think about it at all. I am a Redskin at heart, this is my team, this is my organization, I love them to death. But they have been able to do some good things. But the key, the key is 29, DeMarco [Murray]. He is a great back, he has been a great back since he came to the Cowboys. It is one of those things – he couldn’t stay healthy, this year he is staying healthy and he is showing the world who he is. So, we’ve just got to contain him, man, he just do a lot of stuff by himself, that I watch on film so he is a great back.”

On what has to be done to contain Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray:

“You’ve just got to be where you are supposed to be at. If you’re supposed to be in the B-gap, be in the B-gap, because if you are not there he is going to go where you are not. He has awesome vision. He is – if not the best back in the league, you know, he is up there in the top five definitely. So, you’ve just got to be sound in your defense and every snap because if you are not he’ll make you pay.”

On if there is extra excitement to now have the opportunity to sack Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo:

“It is exciting for every quarterback, man. I enjoy rushing the passer, man. That is what I do. I love it so it just happens to be my old teammate. It’s going to be great. So, every quarterback – I don’t like quarterbacks, so every quarterback, all quarterbacks are going to get rushed the same by me.”

On how he feels physically going into this week’s game:

“I feel great. I told Coach last week was the best I’ve felt since my hamstring. But, you know, I don’t make excuses. But I feel great going into this game, just have got to continue to take care of my body and do the right things to get ready for Monday night.”

On if he has had to act a certain way to try to create a culture change similar to the one in Dallas:

“You know what, it is slowly but surely coming in. I am just being the guy that I have always been, the leader that they expect me to be. And some things you’re not going to like that I say, but I am here to be that leader and that voice. So, I’ve just got to continue to do it and I think the football team is going in the right direction.”

On if the response to his leadership in the locker room has been received well:

“Absolutely, absolutely. And a win always makes everything better. So we are coming off a win and it feels great. So I am glad we are coming off a win going into Dallas, which is a tough football team to play and it’s going to be very, very exciting challenge for us.”

On if the loss of linebacker Brian Orakpo will change how teams attack him:

“I get attacked every game. I get attacked every game. So that is something – nothing’s going to change, I get double-teamed every game. So, if they don’t double-team me, they know what it’s going to be. So, every game I get double-teamed, so I am not – they are going to attack me regardless. So, they know what kind of player I am.”

On the process of coming to a new team and taking a leadership role:

“Like I said, those guys accepted me in for who I was coming in on this football team. I jumped in right like I’ve been here my whole career, so it’s been great.”

On if he knows how to get to the visitor’s locker room in Dallas:

“I don’t, never been over there. But I am excited to go see it. I know it’s nice. Jerry [Jones] got it all fixed up for us.”

On how to stop the Cowboys’ offense:

“You know, just 29 [Murray], Dez [Bryant], he is a monster, 83 [Terrence Williams]. They’ve got one of the best skill positions in the league. Just playing sound football. Just go out there and play like we know we can play and we will be OK.”

On how he became so close with defensive end Stephen Bowen:

“Well, when you’re in a hotel room with two beds for the whole training camp, OTAs, you have no other choice of getting close to each other. I didn’t like him at first because he was a snorer. I had Bill Parcells as my coach and he would run us in the ground, I would get like two hours of sleep. So after he kind of got out of my room, we got close then.”

On if he has shared any information about the Cowboys’ offensive linemen with his teammates:

“Yeah, everybody’s got weaknesses. I practiced against three of those guys up front. They are really good players man. So, I know a lot of stuff – a way to beat them. I have been sharing it as much as I can to try to go out here and get this victory.”

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden Thursday media availability

From a team press release:

On the injury report:

“Limited today was Ryan Clark, ankle/shoulder, Robert Griffin [III], ankle, [tackle] Trent Williams, knee… [Chris] Baker was full today… [Tracy] Porter, hamstring [was limited]… Full was Alfred Morris and full was Perry Riley [Jr.].”

On if quarterback Robert Griffin III has received clearance for full contact:

“Robert really hasn’t changed. You know, there’s really not a whole lot to say. He’s just steadily progressing in these drills this week and then we’ll make a decision probably later on. I’m not going to announce whether he’s active or inactive until, what, 7:30 Monday night, probably. The big thing for him is to just get back out on the field, get with the guys, break the huddle, do the team stuff, gradually get back in the flow, call the play in the huddle, make his throws. Today was a rough day because it was so windy, but overall just feeling the pocket converge on him and make the throws under duress. It was good for him today.”

On if he is proceeding as if Colt McCoy is the starting quarterback this week:

“Oh, yeah. Yeah.”

On linebacker Trent Murphy balancing his pass rush ability with avoiding penalties:

“Yeah, that’s the case with a lot of defensive players. They get over-anxious and they work so hard to get to the quarterback and they get there a little late but they feel like it’s necessary to go ahead and hit him anyway. You’ve just got to try to rein them in a little bit and coach them up and [help them] understand that they’ve got to play by the rules. He has a huge penalty Sunday against Tennessee on special teams. He jumped offsides on fourth-and-five, which we had coaches in line ready to yell at him coming off the field. But he plays hard. He plays with great effort, man. He’s going to be a good player for a long time around here. He’s just got to continue to grow and develop and just keep playing. He’s going to be a good player.”

On linebacker Will Compton’s role on defense following the return of Perry Riley, Jr.:

“Yeah, they’re both getting reps at the spot this week. You know, I can see them both playing, to be honest with you. Will does have a role on special teams, obviously. He did a great job in Perry’s absence, but Perry is still working to get full-go. He was full participation today, but as far as full mobility and full movement, he’s still coming along. I think there’s going to be a place for both of them to play, but when Perry does come back at 100 percent, it’s his job.”

On how much of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s success can be attributed to the effectiveness of their run game:

“Well, it helps, that’s for sure. It helps take the pressure off a quarterback. That’s the intent here also is to really get our running game going so we can take the pressure off our quarterback, but Tony is a great player regardless. He’s had a great career. He can throw it, he can scramble, he can do just about anything you want a quarterback to do so having a running game to help him along the way will make him all the more effective.”

On if he has decided whether Tom Compton or Tyler Polumbus will start at right tackle:

“Not really – not yet. You know, we’re looking at both of them and obviously Morgan [Moses] is still in the mix also, but we feel good about all three of those guys. I think it’s just a matter of who we decide to go with on Monday, but I would imagine it will be close.”

On if a rotation at right tackle is an option:

“We rotated them last week in the second half, so it is an option, yeah.”

On if guard Josh LeRibeus could earn more reps:

“Well, we feel that Shawn [Lauvao] has done pretty good at left guard. And when LeRibeus played, he did OK when Shawn as out, so we don’t really anticipate moving Shawn out of the starting spot at left guard. We feel good about him. We feel good about [left tackle] Trent [Williams]. Obviously, [center] Kory [Lichtensteiger] has done a good job. [Right guard Chris] Chester has done a good job and then Polumbus has been battling a bit of soreness in his knee. He’s been full-go and all that stuff, but we just thought Tom deserved an opportunity to play and we mixed him in there at right tackle also.”

On Griffin III’s mindset as he returns from injury:

“Yeah, he wants to play. There’s no question. He’s a great competitor. He wants to play, but he also knows he has to go through the process and he understand that. He’s a great competitor, like I said, but he still has to feel… He’s still got to get out there and throw these balls, like I said, in the team drills and to the wide receivers to get himself back in game form. It’s not so much the injury now as it is more about getting himself ready from a mental, physical standpoint playing football.”

On if Griffin III took one-on-one reps with the first team today:

“He got a few, yeah.”

On if there is a timing issue with Griffin III:

“Yeah, a little bit. And plus, Colt needs those reps, too. We’re really tinkering here on thin ice as far as who we’re giving the reps to. Every time we take Colt out of the game getting ready for Monday night, we’re taking away from his progression every time. We have to get Colt the reps right now, but we also have to make sure that we’re bringing Robert along at a good rate so when he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go.”

On covering Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant without cornerback DeAngelo Hall:

“Yeah, we’ll find out. D-Hall has always done a very admirable job against Dez Bryant. Dez is a great receiver, no question about it, so [David] Amerson, [Bashaud] Breeland, they’re going to have to step up and I don’t know if they know what they’re in for yet but we’ve covered some good receivers this year also. But Dez is a lot bigger, stronger, more physical than guys that we’ve faced so far and he’s having a great year and we know that come crunch time, if they need a play, somebody’s got to cover him. Hopefully, Breeland and Amerson will be up to the task.”

On when he wants to see Griffin III back on the field as a starter:

“I don’t know when it’s going to happen yet. I’m not going to say it’s not going to happen for Monday, but ideally I want him back when he’s ready. That’s all – when he’s physically and mentally ready to go. I don’t care about anything else. We’ll get a good feel from him and the trainers and all that stuff and when it’s time, it’ll be time.”

On who the starting quarterback will be against the Cowboys:

“We’ll announce that on Monday night. But Colt’s the starter. We’re preparing for Colt to be the starter, you know what I mean? But we’re trying to get Robert some reps, get him ready, but right now it looks like odds are Colt will be the starter, but we’re trying to work Robert into the lineup and trying to get him reps to get him ready to go because I ultimately – when it’s all said and done – when Robert’s healthy, Robert’s the starter. Do we understand that? Robert’s the starter. Colt is not the starter. Colt could be the starter Monday night, but when Robert is healthy, he’ll be the starter… We just don’t know when that ‘healthy’ will be. Mental healthy, physical healthy, we’ve just got to get him ready.”

On when Griffin III will meet with Head Athletic Trainer Larry Hess to evaluate his progress:

“It happens every day. They go through all the rehab process every day and it’s a matter of going out, when you do more, how you feel… He’s been cleared to do just about everything. It’s just a matter of now that’s he’s doing everything, going back to Larry, continuing his rehab, how’s he feeling? How’s it holding up? All that good stuff.”

On Monday Night Football production meetings with his brother, Jon:

“It’s entertaining. They ought to film it. It’s good, man. It’s always good to see him. We don’t get a chance to see each other very much this time of year, obviously, but it’s always good to see him. He’s a pro at what he does. He’s good. He’ll throw out a couple ideas for me every now and then but, you know, it’s always fun to get together with him.”

On showing a video of the history of the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry to the team:

“Well, I just think the history, a lot of guys haven’t been in this organization – myself included. This is my first year. It’s always good to see the history of this rivalry and how important it is to the fans, the ex-players – the alumni and the organization in general. This is a huge game for a lot of people and we’re going to make sure it’s known that this is a big rivalry for the new players and coaches.”

Washington Capitals 2014-15 Season Roundtable Part III: Projections for Ovi

We’re a little late to the party here, but District Sports Page conducted a roundtable with staff writers and friends of the site to discuss pertinent issues surrounding the 2014-15 Washington Capitals.

Our panelists: Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief; Katie Brown, Staff Writer; Eric Hobeck, Staff Writer; J.J. Regan, Contributor; Abram Fox, former contributor, Harry Hawkings, Editor at Rock the Red.

Part I: Grade the Caps offseason and their biggest acquisitions
Part II: What is your single biggest area of concern?

Part III: What do you expect out of Alex Ovechkin this season? [Read more...]

Washington Redskins QB Colt McCoy Wednesday media availability

From a team press release:

On if his time away from starting has made him a different quarterback:

“Am I a different quarterback? I would say I’m older, maybe a little bit stronger. I think I’ve learned from a lot of my past experiences, and I’ve watched a lot of good quarterbacks play. Hopefully by doing that, you naturally gain a little bit of confidence even though you’re standing on the sidelines. I think that would be probably accurate.”

On if his shoulder injury from college affected his tenure in Cleveland and if it is still an issue:

“You don’t ever want to make excuses or bring up injuries from the past. I was well enough to play, but with a nerve injury you really have to stay on top of it. Any quarterback who has had one, it’s been a real issue. Mine was a real issue, but I’d like to say I’m over that now.”

On how special it would be to start in Dallas:

“Yeah, it’s really unbelievable. I can’t even sometimes take my mind there. But, I’m really just trying to approach this as a professional and know that this is our next game, this is our next opponent. It’s a game in our division that we really need to win. This week is really important, and I think it’ll be helpful for me to get some reps. I didn’t have any reps last week, so I’ll get some timing down with the receivers, with the O-line, work on our silent counts – a lot of things that I just hadn’t been able to do. So, it’ll be a huge week in practice for me to get more comfortable with the guys, but obviously this is a huge game for us and our season. We need a good, sharp week.”

On the journey from being a successful college quarterback to a backup in the NFL:

“It’s tough, it’s tough, but I wouldn’t change some of my past experiences. I’ve learned a lot from them – a whole lot. I’ve seen a lot. My path in the NFL so far has been a lot different than other guys, but I’m thankful for the things I’ve learned and the experience I’ve gained. I’ve been in some good places with some good coaches, and like I mentioned after the game, I really feel confident with our coaches here, with our players here with this organization. My teammates have welcomed me in. They kind of surrounded me and helped me last week and hopefully they’ll continue to do the same thing for me this week. If we go down there to Dallas this week – and Jay [Gruden] mentioned after practice that this is a huge game for us, but it’s defense, it’s offense, it’s special teams, it’s everybody, you know? I didn’t go in and win the game last week. Our defense played well. They got some nice stops for us. The guys kind of brought me in and they played well around me, and I just distributed the football. Hopefully, we can do the same thing this week.”

On if the uncertainty about whether or not he is starting is distracting:

“My focus is I’m just going to prepare as the starter. There’s nothing else that I can do. The decision is not up to me. What I can control is what I can control. The reps that I get, the time I spend up here preparing for Dallas… They’re obviously 6-1, a great football team. We’re going to have to bring our best game to Dallas on Monday night. My focus is just to take it day-to-day, not look forward to anything but live in the now and approach it just like I would every other week.”

On if he has received encouragement from quarterbacks Kirk Cousins or Robert Griffin III:

“I feel like we have a pretty solid room. There’s always been good communication since I’ve been here, and I don’t think that will change. I don’t think that will change at all. When Kirk was starting, we were both really supportive of Kirk, and when Robert was starting, Kirk and I were both supportive of Robert. It is a competition every day. I’ve had to approach my job that way ever since I’ve been in the NFL. I don’t think that will change me. The only difference is I’m taking the reps this week and I’m preparing to start.”

On if it is a mental challenge to keep from playing outside of himself with this ‘huge opportunity’:

“Yeah, I guess it could be. Like I said, I am really just focused on right now. We are going over first and second down, their base defense. I am really just trying to get a grasp of what they do, how they play. They have beaten a lot of good teams, a lot of good quarterbacks. So, we obviously know that this is a huge task for us as an offense. I just don’t want to get caught up in this ‘huge opportunity’ thing. I just want to go out there and be who I am – that is who I am every day in here – be confident and play the best football I can play.”

On if he agrees with Head Coach Jay Gruden that it is helpful for the team to know its starting quarterback early in the week:

“Yeah, I would agree with that for sure. I think just for your team, that’s accurate.”

On the last time he started a game in Texas:

“I started my rookie year, we played in Houston. I think that would probably be the last time – when I was in Cleveland, we played in Dallas but I was the backup.”

On how it important it would be for him to start in the state of Texas:

“I was going to get a few tickets before I wasn’t playing and now it has turned into a laundry list. I don’t want it to be too big of a distraction though. I am excited about going back to Dallas. It is going to be a lot of fun.”

On receiving his first snaps with the first team today:

“It felt good, it felt good. I think the biggest thing for me is getting on the same page with guys like DeSean [Jackson], Pierre [Garçon], Andre [Roberts], Jordan Reed – working with Alfred [Morris] and Roy [Helu, Jr.]. Those things, you know, naturally as a quarterback, you know where the guys are supposed to be but throwing to them in the rhythm and the timing of the play is – you can’t replace those reps that you get in practice. That is huge for me, that is huge for my confidence and even though we were pretty efficient in the game Sunday, we’ve still got to keep working, spend some time with each other and I think that will be huge this week.”

On what confidence he can carry into this week after the final drive last week:

“Yeah, that was huge for us. We really, really needed to win that game. We didn’t necessarily want to have to win it at the very end of the game, but for our offense to step on the field and put a drive together and go down and get a field goal to win was huge. I think the team and the coaches and our organization will build off of that. You know, I certainly hope so. As an offense, for us as a unit, you know that was big too, doing that at home, something we really wanted to do was win that game and that was big for us. So hopefully there will be some carryover there for sure.”

On if the locker room feels different for Dallas Week after winning last week:

“Yeah, I think that any place that you play or anywhere you are, you know games in your division are obviously – there is more excitement and more focus. So, yeah, you can definitely feel it in the building for sure. Going down there on Monday night, for us as a team, we just have to do what we do best and that’s focus, control what we can control, practice well, in order to prepare ourselves for the challenge we have on Monday night.”

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden Wednesday media availability

From a team press release:

October 22, 2014

Redskins Park

Head Coach Jay Gruden

On what he saw in quarterback Colt McCoy:

“Well, we know that in college he was one of the most successful quarterbacks to play. He’s a winning quarterback. He got drafted and started some games, some meaningful games and record-wise didn’t have a lot of success, but just watching him play quarterback, we know he has got talent. He was on the streets and we needed a third quarterback for training camp – somebody to come in here and compete. He was the perfect fit. I always liked the way he played – his accuracy, his toughness has always been a strong quality of his. We want to give him some opportunities. He knew coming in that we had Robert [Griffin III] and Kirk [Cousins] and he was going to be the No. 3 guy, and he just wanted an opportunity to come in, learn the system, and if his number was called, he’d be ready.”

On what quarterback Robert Griffin III was able to do in practice today:

“Same stuff. He’s just moving around. He did some team drills today. He looked good. We’ll find out from the trainers how he feels right now, then tomorrow morning will be the big thing. Another day’s work tomorrow, we’ll see how he progresses.”

On Griffin III’s role in practice today:

“He was quarterback. He did a little bit of everything. First-team, second-team, third-team, he did it all. So did Kirk [Cousins], and so did Colt [McCoy]. We just alternated. Today was a bonus day for us. We did some stuff against cards and did some stuff ones against ones. It was a good day’s work. Everyone got a little piece of it.”

On if McCoy is still the starter for Monday night:

“Right now, yeah, he is.”

On if Griffin III showed anything different from last week:

“No, he’s progressing along. It’s just a matter of watching him. It’s not so much watching him run. I think he feels OK running right now. It’s just a matter of how he feels tomorrow. There’s certain movements – rolling out to the right, rolling out to the left and cutting back – we’ve just got to see how he handles that. But, the big thing is getting him back comfortable into the pocket and throwing the ball to the receivers, getting his timing down. There’s a lot of that that has to take place also, so he’s coming along at a good clip like we thought he would. We’ll see where he is tomorrow and the next day.”

On if the likelihood Griffin III plays on Monday increased today:

“No, it’s about the same. We’re still going to measure him. It’s up to the trainers and doctors right now. They’ve got to clear him, No. 1. Like I said, No. 2, he has got to feel good. But it’ll be a process of how he feels tomorrow, how he feels the next day, and how he’s throwing and how he’s playing the position.”

On Griffin III’s accuracy during practice:

“He didn’t have a lot of clips. We weren’t out there very long. In routes versus air with the receivers, he missed a couple, threw a couple good ones, and when he did scout team cards, he threw a couple of good ones, and in the team period he did a nice job. All of the quarterbacks did. So, we’re just going to take it day-by-day.”

On how to judge Griffin III’s performance without live game situations:

“That’s the whole thing. It’s not so much about how his leg feels – it is, but it’s about taking plays with the pass rush coming at him and the live reps that he hasn’t had since Houston or since Jacksonville, which is a long time ago it seems like. So, the big part of it is, ‘How do we progress him along and get him the reps in practice?’ There’s only so many you can have. That’s the biggest issue – that and getting the timing with the receivers and just playing the game.”

On linebacker Keenan Robinson winning NFC Defensive Player of the Week and the brace on his arm today:

“Yeah, I think he just has a little strain. He’s OK. Keenan is one of those players, as a young player, you go through some rough patches, but when you play through it, you can see the progression of these guys. [Bashaud] Breeland had a good game the other day against Tennessee also. So, these young players getting these meaningful reps – the ones that continue to get better and better are the ones that are going to be special-type players and I hope that for Keenan. He had a great game. They’re all banged up a little bit right now. It’s a preventative brace right now. He’ll be fine, but we’re happy that he won the award and deservedly so.”

On what Griffin III must do to be ready to play:

“I think he has got to take the reps, he has got to see the routes, deliver some passes accurately and on time under a little bit of duress in the pocket and move around. You know, when he runs he has got to run both directions full-speed. Obviously we can’t simulate any contact – we can’t tackle him, you know, that’s the one thing. The biggest thing is No. 1, the doctors have got to clear him and then he has got to go through a couple good days of practice of actually running, asserting some energy on that thing and then see how it reacts the next day. Is it going to swell up? Is it going to be sore? And then also still evaluate him from the process of getting back into football shape and football form. So, there is a lot of variances to whether or not we think he will be ready for Monday night. Health-wise, No. 1, then obviously, is he ready physically getting back in the flow with the wide receivers with the timing, the accuracy and all that.”

On if he would rather wait another week for Griffin III:

“That could be the case. We will wait and see. Like I said, we will talk to him tomorrow. I am in no rush today to make any crazy decision but I really want to see how he is feeling tomorrow and then we will get another good day of practice tomorrow and go from there. But if we had to wait for another week or another two weeks or after the bye week, then so be it, but that will not be my call initially.”

On how difficult it is to distribute reps in practice:

“That is the hardest part because if Colt [McCoy] is going to be the starter, he hasn’t had a lot of reps himself, he needs them all. You start to throw another quarterback in the mix and then you would like to get Kirk [Cousins] a couple reps. And, you know, that’s rough because then DeSean [Jackson] has got to run another 20 routes down the field and they get tired and crabby at you. You’ve got to try to get your quarterback ready that you are going to play. And we are going to try to make that decision as fast as possible. I’ve already made the decision it’s going to be Colt. I said that Robert [Griffin III] would be the wild card possibly if he is ready to go and that still hasn’t been decided yet.”

On the go-ahead touchdown by the Tennessee Titans:

“I think they had a play-action fake on there and Ryan [Clark] played the run a little bit too aggressively. And I think out of the corner of his eye he saw our defensive back fall down, so he probably picked him up which left [E.J.] Biggers high and dry in the slot. It was an unfortunate play. It was a good play by them. We had the play earlier in the game a couple times and defended it quite well, but that one they got us, made a good play and Charlie Whitehurst saw it and made a hell of a throw.”

On the hierarchy of making the decision on Griffin III:

“Yeah, Larry [Hess] has got to clear him first, you know, say ‘Hey, he is ready for full contact,’ That’s No. 1. And then, No. 2, Robert’s got to feel in his mind that he is ready to go – I know that he is going to say, ‘I’m ready to go.” He was ready to go four weeks ago probably in his mind. After that, it will be a football decision whether or not we think he is ready to go not getting any reps for the last six weeks or whatever how long it has been. And that’s a long time for a quarterback, you know? It’s one thing to play offensive guard maybe, miss five or six weeks and come right back in, but at quarterback with the cadence, the reads, the progressions, the audibles, the timing with the receivers, that’s a little more difficult, especially for a young guy.”

On if he looks to err on the side of caution with Griffin III:

“I try to take this injury itself into its own entity. This is a different type deal. I am not going to assume the fact that he has been injured before that he is going to get injured again. If the doctors say that he has no risk of that thing getting reinjured – if it’s stable, they feel like he can go through a game and get tackled  and one little turn is not going to do a lot of damage, if they feel like it is stable – then we will go from there. But I am not going to take past injuries into account.”

On if guard Shawn Lauvao having shared a huddle with McCoy in Cleveland is helpful:

“Shawn Lauvao? Shawn Lauvao hasn’t talked in the 12 weeks that I have known him [laughter]. I don’t think that matters. Colt’s got – I think everybody is a great fan of Colt’s and all those linemen, they just listen to the play and say ‘Ready, break’ and they go down their own way, man. They don’t know the difference.”

On if he hopes the decision about the starting quarterback would be made by Friday:

“Yeah, I would think so. I’d like to make the decision tomorrow after practice, really. Just because I want A) the team to know who the quarterback is , B) the quarterback to know who the quarterback is, and C) we need to know who it is for game plan purposes. So, we will battle this thing and try to get a better idea tomorrow after practice where we are going.”

On if the options for Griffin III this week are either being the starter or being inactive:

“Yeah that – probably leaning towards that. He is either the starter or inactive, most likely. If he gets cleared, he is cleared. If he doesn’t get cleared, then he will wait another week or two or three after the bye week.”

On linebacker Trent Murphy and what he saw from him in practice:

“He worked in his normal position. He took Brian’s [Orakpo] spot. Yeah, he is outside linebacker and him and Ryan [Kerrigan] are going to be moving around… Yeah, both sides, they are working both sides. They know both sides, they can play both sides, they can go into strength, they can go away from strength, they can go right and left. So, they do a good job moving them around. They want to make sure we get Ryan an opportunity to match on both sides of the line, same with Trent.”

On if he is comfortable with the progress he has seen from Murphy:

“Yeah, you know he has done a good job. He has come in here, he has played behind those two guys, been a good quality backup. When Brian [Orakpo] has been a little bit dinged up before or when he needs to give Ryan [Kerrigan] a break, he has been a good No. 3 for us. Being a No. 3 and being a No. 1 are a little bit different, so he is going to have really to make sure his stamina is in place and make sure his mental toughness is in place because they are going to come after him.”

On why he is confident McCoy is the guy for this big stage and how Kirk Cousins has reacted to the change:

“Well, Kirk is disappointed, no question about it, but he knows the position. Baseball pitchers if they walk a couple guys they get taken out for a reliever every now and then. Kirk, we weren’t very good on third down and we were turning the ball over too much, so I thought it was important to give somebody else a try and not so much I’m blaming Kirk for the third down failures and the turnovers, but it is more so let’s give Colt a shot because he has done his job and done well in the offseason program and training camp and when his number is called out at practice and he had a great second half. So I just thought more so the fact that Colt deserves an opportunity to start based on the production of our offense on third down and the turnovers.”

Washington Capitals 2014-15 Season Roundtable Part II: Area of Concern

We’re a little late to the party here, but District Sports Page conducted a roundtable with staff writers and friends of the site to discuss pertinent issues surrounding the 2014-15 Washington Capitals.

Our panelists: Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief; Katie Brown, Staff Writer; Eric Hobeck, Staff Writer; J.J. Regan, Contributor; Abram Fox, former contributor, Harry Hawkings, Editor at Rock the Red.

Part I: Grade the Caps offseason and their biggest acquisitions
Part II: What is your single biggest area of concern?

Dave: The company line for area of concern is secondary scoring — specifically the second line, which seems to be a mixed jumble of part that didn’t fit elsewhere. There’s no veteran 2C, but Andre Burakovsky so far has done a bang up job and has much promise. I don’t like seeing Evgeny Kuznetsov buried on the fourth line like Tom Wilson was last season. If you’re in for a dime on Bura, might as  go for the dollar and put Kuzy on his right wing.

I also have concerns about the goalkeeping, which we’ll discuss in depth in a few days. This is a make-or-break year for Braden Holtby to prove he can carry a team as a clear-cut No. 1 goalie.

Katie: The top 6 forward depth. In signing Orpik and Niskanen, the Capitals spent money that could have been used to retain Mikhail Grabovski or sign a capable 2C. Though it appears that youngster Andre Burakovsky has adapted to the center position–and quite well, so far- the lack of an established 2C is a bit worrisome.

I don’t doubt Trotz’s judgment here, but it seems that now Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was supposed to be the Next Big Thing, has been left out in the cold a little, playing 4th line minutes more often than not. I’m unsure if this this because Trotz hasn’t figured out where to put him, or if he’s somehow in the doghouse. I’m sure it’s the latter, as Trotz has hinted that some of the guys playing less minutes right now will likely move up to larger roles as the season progresses.

Eric: I’m still concerned about the second-line center situation. This isn’t a knock on Eric Fehr, as his line has been very productive through the first five games, but there’s still a hole there after the departure of Grabovski.

J.J.: Secondary scoring. The Caps could not rely on their second line last season and did not sign a center to replace Mikhail Grabovski. I like what I’ve seen from Andre Burakovsky so far, but can he play at this level for 82 games? There’s also still no clear right wing for the top line. And just where does Marcus Johansson fit in? Clearly Trotz is still constructing the offensive lineup. It looks like the talent is there, he just needs to find the right combinations.

Abram: The second line. As others have noted, this is a team with a first line, two third lines, and a fourth line. We all know that Ovechkin’s line can score, the trio of Ward-Laich-Chimera can pin the puck in the opponent’s zone, and the current fourth line doesn’t seem to cause too much damage, although we’ll see once Aaron Volpatti returns. There’s not really a second scoring line on the roster.

Troy Brouwer and Evegeny Kuznetsov are capable scorers and Marcus Johansson is a fair set-up man, but no NHL team is quivering in their skates when they see Washington’s second unit hit the ice. Head Coach Barry Trotz has already begun tinkering with lines, and his task is to find a potent second combination without neutering the first line. That said, as long as he doesn’t have Jay Beagle centering Alexander Ovechkin, it’s an improvement over last year.

Harry: Consistency on offense.  The Capitals have a bad combination up front of relying on young players forced in to spots that they probably are not ready for (Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov) and overpaid veterans who will either regress or are not very good (Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich).  The top line of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Fehr will be great, but after that there is not a whole lot to be very excited about.

Washington Wizards unveil alternative jersey

Team press release:

For Immediate Release

October 21, 2014

WIZARDS UNVEIL NEW ALTERNATE JERSEY FOR 2014-15 SEASON

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier this summer, the Washington Wizards announced that the team will add an alternate jersey for wear during the 2014-15 season. Today, the team unveiled images of the new uniform which is primarily navy blue with red color-blocking at the top and “Washington” listed on the front while the navy shorts feature the secondary “Monument” logo.

The Wizards will wear the navy jerseys for every road game played on a Wednesday as well as at home on Dec. 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers and on Mar. 25 when they face the Indiana Pacers.  The alternate jerseys are currently on sale at the team store located at the arena and on http://www.monumentalnetworkshop.com/mse/en/Teams/Wizards/c/washingtonWizards.

Fans will also have a chance to see the team wear their red road jerseys at home on Nov. 21 against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Apr. 3 against the New York Knicks.

The following is a schedule for the Wizards navy jerseys during the 2014-15 season:

Oct. 29  @ Miami Heat

Nov. 26 @ Cleveland Cavaliers

Dec. 3 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Dec. 10 @ Orlando Magic

Jan. 14  @ Chicago Bulls

Jan. 28  @ Phoenix Suns

Feb. 4   @ Atlanta Hawks

Feb. 11 @ Toronto Raptors

Feb. 25 @ Minnesota Timberwolves

Mar. 18 @ Utah Jazz

Mar. 25 vs. Indiana Pacers

Apr. 8 @ Philadelphia 76ers

Apr. 15 @ Cleveland Cavaliers

Here are a couple of photos the team issued with the release:

Wall Wall and Porter Porter Gortat3 Gortat

Washington Capitals 2014-15 Season Roundtable Part I: Grade the Offseason

We’re a little late to the party here, but District Sports Page conducted a roundtable with staff writers and friends of the site to discuss pertinent issues surrounding the 2014-15 Washington Capitals.

Our panelists: Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief; Katie Brown, Staff Writer; Eric Hobeck, Staff Writer; J.J. Regan, Contributor; Abram Fox, former contributor, Harry Hawkings, Editor at Rock the Red.

Part I: Grade the Caps offseason and their biggest acquisitions.

Dave: C+. The biggest immediate acquisition, obviously, is Barry Trotz and the biggest long-term acquisition is Brian MacLellan. Trotz brings instant credibility to the on-ice product, while MacLellan’s impact is less certain and probably not fully realized until several seasons down the line.

Player-wise, the Caps biggest need was to add two NHL-caliber defensemen, and MacLellan went out and bought what he thought were the best options in Niskanen and Orpik. Nisky is a player entering his prime, while Orpik may be on his last legs and will end up as an albatross — probably sooner rather than later. But for this season, the pair significantly upgrade the balance of the blueline.

I would have liked to seen a scorer added, but the team will rely on a pair of rookies, Burakovsky and Kuznetsov, to help in that department.

Katie: B.The hiring of Barry Trotz salvaged what could have been a disastrous offseason for the Capitals. Can you imagine if Dan Bylsma had been a free agent? I suspect the promotion of Brian MacLellan was spurred by Trotz’s sudden availability and reluctance to hire a head coach without a general manager in place.

The Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen signings undoubtedly shored up a thin defense, and though they probably should have just signed Niskanen and not Orpik, it was a bold move that might pay off. Or it might be a bust. That’s the nature of risk. Good teams take risks, but it’s a fine line between good risks and bad risks. Thus far, this risk seems to be working out okay. I’ll get back to you in about 30 games.

Eric: I’d grade the offseason an A based on what Brian MacLellan was able to do with such little experience on the job. He improved the blueline immensely by signing Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen away from Pittsburgh, although that came at the cost of not bringing back Mikhail Grabovski. Initially, I thought losing Grabovski would be a serious detriment to the team’s offensive potential, but the top line of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Brouwer has proved plenty capable thus far.

J.J.: B. Barry Trotz was a fantastic hire and I already love the things he’s done since coming in. I’m not yet sold on Brian MacLellan as GM. Right now he looks like the easy hire, but  I don’t know if he was the right one. He came in and immediately tried to address the need for defense, but at what cost? The Caps are certainly better in the short term, but I am wary of the long-term effects of the Niskanen/Orpik contracts, especially Orpik’s.

Abram: Obviously the biggest acquisition was a new head coach, Barry Trotz, the team’s fourth in four years.Trotz brings significant experience as a head coach – 15 years on the Nashville Predators – which goes far, considering the last time the Caps hired a veteran head coach it was Ron Wilson, seven coaches and 18 years ago. Other than that, the team overhauled its blue line with Matt Niskanen and USS Brooks Orpik, and added phenom Andre Burakovsky as well as grinder Liam O’Brien and backup goalie Justin Peters, while losing Michal Neuvirth and Mikhail Grabovski.

There’s no question the 2013-14 roster is a better on-ice squad than the 2012-13 team. That said, the team’s salary cap situation has a far bleaker outlook thanks to the massive amount of money being plugged into the defensive corps. Which is a long way of saying that the offseason gets a 79%, graciously rounded up to a B-. Room for improvement.

Harry:  I give the offseason a C. The Capitals signed a good defenseman in Matt Niskanen to a reasonable contract but gave Brooks Orpik a very scary one.  They also let their third-best forward walk in free agency. Even with the hiring of Trotz, which was smart, they didn’t really move closer to a Stanley Cup championship.

DSP’s Washington Redskins Postgame Show: Game 7–Tennessee Titans

Dave Nichols and Andy Holmes of District Sports Page discuss the Washington Redskins 19-17 win over the Tennessee Titans and consider the state of the roster and rest of the schedule.

Check Out Football Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with DSPs Redskins Radio Shows on BlogTalkRadio
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