Written by Mark Buterbaugh on . Posted in Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins have hired former Denver assistant Keith Burns to coach the Redskins special teams. Burns replaced long time special teams coach Danny Smith, who exited Washington to take the same position with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Current Redskins assistant special teams coach Richard Hightower was a popular pick among players to replace Smith, but Shanahan elected to go with Burns instead.
Burns, according to league insiders, is regarded as an up-and-coming coaching talent.
Smith was Washington's special teams coach for nine seasons. He had up and down years that were marred by poor kicking, until this season, when the Redskins signed rookie Kicker Kai Forbath.
Mike Shanahan has one coaching staff position to fill, wide receivers coach.
Written by Mark Buterbaugh on . Posted in Washington Nationals
Team USA announced that Washington Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez has been added to the World Baseball Classic roster. The Classic begins March 2 and we will keep you updated on Nats players that are in the Classic.
The World Baseball Classic begins March 2 and will involve 16 teams from 4 continents. The United States will compete in Pool D against Mexico, Italy, and Canada at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona March 8, 9, and 10.
Paul Swyden writes for ESPN Insider about the Nats lopsided bullpen. As one would expect, the lopsidedness arguments comes from lack of southpaws in the bullpen. Zach Duke is the only southpaw in the pen and will be transitioning from a starter role.
More articles continue popping up that puts the Nationals as the team to beat in Major League Baseball. Here is one from TCPalm. More World Series or Bust from Pro Sports Blogging. And of course, as we have written numerous times, coming with that is the pressure to be #1.
Good read by Mark Zuckerman on the swan song season for Nats skipper Davey Johnson. Despite long odds, OF Corey Brown is hoiping to crack the opening day roster for the Nats. No doubt Brown is ready, but Brown is with a franchise that is deep, very deep at the major league level.
Finally, whither Chris Marrero? There’s been chatter that he’ll be traded in Spring Training. With Tyler Moore ahead of him, and Marrero’s defensive limitations, it’s certainly possible that an American League club might be interested. There are contingencies at AAA if Marrero leaves (Mike Costanzo). But what kind of return he’d net for the Nats seems negligible at this point. Seems more likely that Marrero will start in Syracuse in the hopes of proving his health and productivity.
Story worth watching. Injuries have derailed Marrero's carrer in DC and gave opportunities to a guy like Tyler Moore, who has now surpassed Marrero as the future at first base.
Written by jacobware95 on . Posted in Washington Capitals
About a week ago, I wrote a post trying desperately to find what the puck was wrong with Alex Ovechkin. I looked at his play in Russia, his linemates, his #fancystats, and even his contract with Gillette. But, fortunately, I was never able to post the article, because the night before I was going to post it, something incredible happened.
Our captain got a point.
And since that assist in the colossal 6-3 defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Super Bowl Sunday, Alex Ovechkin has gone on to post points in three further games after recording just three points through his first eight games of the year.
As much as we all hate to admit it, the Ovechkin of today is not the Ovechkin of his Hart Trophy-winning days. Beyond the fact that he is often double- and triple-marked on every rush, Ovi has looked slower and less motivated. But with two goals and three assists in his last four games, Ovechkin has offered another glimpse of the truly phenomenal hockey talent he is.
During this stretch, the 27-year-old Russian has played on the right (!) side of a first-line centered by top-scorer Mike Ribeiro and flanked by either Wojtek Wolski or, most recently, Jason Chimera.
It's no coincidence that Ovechkin's best game of the season and the Caps' best game of the season came in the same game (apologies for the assonance), a 5-0 drubbing of the Florida Panthers last night. When Ovechkin plays well, the Caps play well, and if the Caps want to bounce back from a dreadful 2-8-1 start and get anywhere near the playoffs, Ovi is going to have to perform. Here's hoping he keeps it up.
Written by Mark Buterbaugh on . Posted in Washington Capitals
The struggling Washington Capitals had a team only meeting before the game to 'clear the air', according to Caps F Troy Brouwer. Whatever was said, whatever the resolution, it seemed to work tonight against the Florida Panthers. And Troy Brouwer led the way.
Brouwer scored two goals and Braden Holtby recorded his first shutout of the season to lead the Capitals to a much needed 5-0 rout of the Panthers. Brouwer opened game's scoring late in the first period, deflecting in a John Carlson shot to give the Caps the 1-0 lead. Though the Caps were out shot 10-8 in the first period, they took that 1-0 lead into the intermission.
Brouwer would add his second goal of the game on the Caps power play, fed by a beautiful long pass from Branden Holtby and an old school shot that wizzed past Panthers' goalie Jose Theodore. It was Holtby's second assist of his young career and Brouwer's 5th goal of the season, his second of the game. The Caps were not done in the second period. Joel Ward would score his fifth marker of the season at 11:55 mark, grabbing a rebound from Theodore and scoring in front of the net. The Ward goal gave the Caps a 3-0 lead at the end of the second period.
Alex Ovechkin scored his fourth on the season off the faceoff in the third period to give the Caps a 4-0 lead. Mathieu Perreault ended the scoring, tapping in a rebound left by Theodore in the third period. Not only was it a much needed win for the Capitals, but the kind of easy win they needed. The win improves the Caps to just 3-8-1 on the season.
Holtby stopped all 27 shots on goal to record his second career shutout. In a relatively clean game, the Caps were 1 for 2 on the power play and a perfect 2 for 2 on the penalty kill. It was quite refreshing to see the Caps limit the number of trips to the penalty box.
Written by Thomas Threlkeld on . Posted in Washington Wizards
Alex Brandon/Associated Press
In the battle of big men tonight, Nene badly out-dueled All Star Brook Lopez, leading the Washington Wizards to a convincing 89-74 victory over the Brookly Nets in front of 19,614 at the Verizon Center tonight. The win improves the Wizards to 14-35 [11-14 at home] and drops the Nets to 29-21 [11-12 on the road]. Washington moves into a third place tie with the Orlando Magic in the Southeast Division. Tonight was only the second time in 20 games that the Nets have lost to a team with a sub-.500 record. The thing is, the Wizards are not playing like a sub-.500 team right now.
The Wizards are 10-7 since January 7 and went 3-0 this week, sweeping the first-place Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, the first-place New York Knicks on Wednesday and the second-place [29-21] Brooklyn Nets on Friday night. Washington is 9-7 since the return of John Wall and have won 9 of their last 10 games at home. Suddenly, a ticket to a Wizards game isn't guaranteed misery, it's an invitation to fun and winning basketball.
The Wizards and Nets battled back and forth in the first quarter, with Washington emerging with a one point lead, 21-20, at the start of the second quarter. It was then that the Wizards made their decisive move. Washington scored 17 of the first 18 points of the quarter, as the Nets went ice cold, missing their first 12 shots from the field. The Nets didn't hit a shot until there was only 3:36 left in the first half and the 11 points they scored in the second quarter is tied for the lowest point total of any Wizards opponent in a quarter this season. Washington scored 30 points in the quarter and led 51-31 at halftime.
The Wizards extended their lead to 23 with an Emeka Okafor fadeaway jumper early in the third period, but things went downhill from there during the rest of the period. Washington hit a dry spell, unable to hit outside shots, unable to get good looks, and turning the ball over on consecutive possessions. Deron Williams [20 points] led the Nets comeback with a 3-pointer and Brooklyn went on a 14-0 run to cut the lead to single digits.
However, just as it looked like the Wizards might collapse altogether, Martell Webster [16 points, 6-9 shooting, 3-5 on 3-pointers, 4 rebounds] hit a trey to push the lead up to 14. Then, in a true highlight play, John Wall stole the ball and led a fast break, spinning in the paint and dishing off a no-look pass to a streaking Trevor Ariza, who rose up uncontested and slammed the ball home. The Wizards led 74-58 and the Nets would never make it close again. The Wizards outscored Brooklyn 24-21 in the final period to seal the win.
The Wizards didn't shoot well, apart from Nene [9-13 from the field] and Martell Webster, who continued his solid play, but they overcame the Nets with solid defense almost the entire night. It's not a fluke either, the Wizards have held 8 straight opponents, and 16 of their last 18, under 100 points.
In his first game back from a wrist injury Bradley Beal looked very rusty, scoring 3 points, missing 4 of 5 shots and committing 3 turnovers in 17 minutes. He did grab 4 rebounds, however.
Nene was fantastic all night, scoring 20 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and helping to fend off a 4th quarter rally attempt by the Nets with a pair of beautiful spinning layups where he finished with his left hand, leaving Brook Lopez shouting in frustration and helplessness.
John Wall scored 15 points, but missed 11 of 17 shots. He did come up with 4 steals, 3 of which led to fast break buckets. He did dish 9 assists against only 2 turnovers.
Washington did not get a ton of help from the bench, but Ariza did score 9 points on 9 shots and grab 5 boards. His +22 court ratio was tops on the night.
Former Wizards big man Andray Blatche had a rough night and the fans let him hear about it often. In his first game back in the Phone Booth, Blatche scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a Nets win, but tonight, in his second game back, he was terrible, scoring only 5 points on 2-9 shooting in 16 minutes. He missed 5 of 6 free throw attempts, earning a hearty and derisive cheer from the partisan Wizards crowd with every brick shot.
The Wizards shot 45% from the field and 44% [7 of 16] on 3-pointers. They didn't have a home court advantage at the line, though, taking only 11 free throws and hitting ten of them. The Nets had 32 free throws, hitting 19 of them [59 percent]. Harasssed all night by Wizards defenders, the Nets hit only 33 percent of their shots and under 28 percent of 3-pointers.
This was Washington's final home game before the All Star break. The Wizards' next game is Monday in Milwaukee against the 25-23 Bucks.
Written by Mark Buterbaugh on . Posted in Washington Capitals
Washington Capitals GM George McPhee has spoken. As he should, given the horrific 2-8-1 start. McPhee seem to cast most of the blame on two facets of the Caps' play, goaltending and penalties. We agree and disagree.
Caps' goaltending has been nothing short of dismal. Both Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby have let plenty of soft goals in and both appear to have shaken confidence right now. When you combine for a save percentage of .875 and a combined GAA of 3.73, you have a recipe for disaster. Some goals you can blame on defense, many you can blame on putting goalies in short man advantages most of the time. However, both Holtby and Neuvirth have been less than impressive and neither come to close to resembling the promise of play they provided the last two years. Not even close.
The Caps have all been guilty of careless and sloppy play. As a team, they are 12th in penalty minutes with 150 and 4th to last in the penalty kill percentage with 70.6%. The penalty killing has been awful.
From those stand points, we agree with McPhee. However, how about casting blame on the money guys, you know, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Through 11 games, Ovi has just 3 goals. Backstrom has just 1 goal. It is kind of hard to find success when Line 1 production is weak.
How about the regression of two of their young defeseman, Karl Alzner and John Carlson. Alzner has not registered a single point and is a -4. Carlson, who many thought would have a breakout year this year, has just 1 goal and 3 points overall, while recording a -3. This was suppose to be your shutdown defensive duo.
Speaking of regression, how about former first round pick Marcus Johansson? Johansson was a healthy scratch in 2 games this season. A healthy scratch! In the 9 games he has played, he has just 1 goal and ZERO assists. To top it off, he is a -7. That is pretty dismal.
What about the comments coming from the locker room? Troy Brouwer has been forthright and has said the Capitals are not mentally prepared to play. How can that be? This seems like a roster flaw to me rather than any coaching flaw. These guys are adults. They guys are pros. These guys are paid millions.
Getting mentally prepared to play is part of the job. If you are not mentally in check to play, then why are you playing the sport at all? Captain Ovechkin indicated there was absolutely no emotion in the Caps play. Again, not a coaching flaw, but a roster flaw. Remember the days when the Caps would ring up goals and they were all giddy and excited. Those days are a distant memory. This team is not having fun with one another. This team is not emotionally invested. This team is uninspiring.
How can GM George McPhee or Caps owner Ted Leonsis expect us fans to stay emotionally and financially invested when the roster has apparently checked out? Matter of fact, when the Pens scored their third goal last night, walking over to grab the remote and hit power off, never felt better.
McPhee also indicated that he will not blow this roster up. Well, the only reason why he is saying that is because he can't. Contracts are too big to deal those that need dealt to get substantial returns. Fact is, if emotions and mental preparation are a problem, then it is not just goal tending and penalties that are killing this team. It is roster construction. That falls on GM George McPhee. He is the one that crafted this emotionaless and ill prepared roster.
However, as we have seen with GM Ernie Grunfield with the Washington Wizards, expect Ted Leonsis to hold accountability where it truly belongs.
Written by Mark Buterbaugh on . Posted in Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals pitchers and catchers are due to report to Viera for the commencement of spring training on Tuesday. The rest of the roster is due to report on Friday and the first full workout is planned for next Saturday. Baseball is in the air. Nats fans anxiously await the kickoff to the National League East title defense and a high expectation 2013 season ahead. For Caps fans, they anxiously await the Nats too, because they will help numb the pain of a pathetic Washington Capitals season and effort. So baseball is close. Very close.
The Nationals are still negotiating the future of their spring training home in the Sunshine state. Spring training brings fans, IE tourists, which equals dollars for local business. Although talks have intensified to possibly relocate the Nats into Lee County and/or Fort Meyers, Viera businesses are hoping the Nats decide to stick around. The Washington Post has more on the future home of spring training and the lack of clarity on the issue. Lee County Commissioners did decide to further explore options with the Nats and the $36.6 million price tag.
Denard Span is looking forward to and excited about kicking off his Washington Nationals career. This is a real good read to get to know Span. Federal Baseball thinks the Span trade was the best acquisition of the off-season. No doubt, this will be a great debate after we see the big three acqusitions and how they evolve. The Dan Heren signing was brillant. As well as Edwin Jackson pitched last year, Heren is a definite upgrade to an already awesome rotiation. Rafael Soriano's addition and his joining Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen as a 1-2-3 punch rivals that of fellow NL East Atlanta Braves bullpen.
Written by Thomas Threlkeld on . Posted in NFC East
Boy, those Super Bowl Dallas Cowboys teams of the early-to-mid 1990s were a bunch of animals. Or, at least, they doped like animals. So says former Cowboys defensive lineman Tony Casillas. Per Pro Football Talk:
Asked on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas about Ray Lewis’s alleged use of a banned substance contained in deer antler spray, Casillas said he doesn’t know about that — but he does know about another substance that was prevalent in the Cowboys’ locker room.
“When I heard about deer antler spray, when I heard that, I said, ‘That’s nothing,’” Casillas said. “We used to use this stuff called DMSO. That’s what veterinarians put on horses, on a muscle, so this is stuff that you can rub, and we used it in the locker room. We had a bottle and you’d take it. It goes straight to the bloodstream. And I’m not sure about this deer antler stuff, but, I mean, it was prevalent in our locker room. It’s called DMSO. You get it from the veterinarian and it goes right to the bloodstream. It’s an ointment that’s like anti-inflammatory. You put it on your skin and you put it on a muscle, and I guarantee you, in about 30 minutes you’d feel it. It wasn’t on the list. If you’re going to talk about the deer antler stuff, we used DMSO and people knew it. Everyone knew about it.”
DMSO is an abbreviation for dimethyl sulfoxide, and although it is rarely mentioned in performance-enhancing drug scandals these days, its use by athletes was the source of some controversies in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1981, then-Falcons quarterback June Jones saidhe and his teammates regularly used DMSO and argued that it should be legalized for human use. Although veterinarians prescribe DMSO for animals as an anti-inflammatory, the FDA has approved DMSO only for very limited use for people with a chronic bladder condition, and has warned that DMSO is often fraudulently marketed as a miracle drug for humans, and that it has significant side effects.
Casillas noted that “it wasn’t on the list” of substances banned by the NFL, although he also seemed to acknowledge that it was improper for Cowboys players to obtain a prescription from a veterinarian and then use the substance on humans.
The real question is whether or not the rampant drug use by Cowboys players helped as much as Michael Irvin's blatant push-offs.
Written by Thomas Threlkeld on . Posted in Washington Wizards
The New York Knicks came to the Verizon Center tonight riding a five game winning streak and featuring a 31-15 record, second only to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. None of that mattered when the Knicks ran into John Wall, who led the Wizards to a 106-96 victory, improving the Wiz kids to 13-35. The win was Washington's 6th in its last 7 home games. The Wizards now have five wins against division leading teams this season.
"I'd like to play our best against everyone," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said after the game.
Wall scored 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, adding 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 6 turnovers. His +21 court ratio topped all players on the night.
The Wizards hit their first 7 shots and ran out to a 16-5 lead early in the first quarter. However, the Knicks fought back, led by All Star Carmelo Anthony and his 31 points and Washington led by only 3, 51-48, at halftime. The Knicks outscored the Wiz 25-19 in the third quarter, giving them a 3-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
That lead was wiped out, however, when Trevor Ariza, who played 33 minutes off the bench, led off the fourth quarter with a 3-point shot and got fouled on the play. Ariza made the free throw, giving Washington a 74-73 lead. Ariza wasn't done, however. With 8:36 left in regulation he nailed another 3-pointer, extending Washington's lead to 88-80.
That's when John Wall took over. Wall had 10 points and 3 assists in the fourth quarter, leading the Wizards to a 36-23 domination in the final period. Joining Wall were five other players who scored in double figures, marking the fourth time this season the Wiz have had six players score in double figures in a game.
With Bradley Beal still injured and Jordan Crawford still in the doghouse for his selfish play, Wittman shuffled his rotation around, moving Martell Webster into the shooting guard role behind starter Garrett Temple. This put Trevor Ariza, Webster and John Wall on the floor together for significant periods of time in the game and the combination proved very effective. Webster scored 19 points on 6-11 shooting and 5-9 on 3-pointers in a team-high 42 minutes. Ariza scored 20 points on 7-11 shooting, including 5 of 7 on 3-pointers, adding 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
The Wizards also got plenty of help from their starting big men, with Nene scoring 13 points on 6-9 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds. Emeka Okafor hit 6-11 shots for 12 points and 7 boards in only 25 minutes. Off the bench, Chris Singleton got out of the doghouse and into the game, scoring 10 points on 4-5 shooting and pulling down 3 rebounds.
As a team, the Wiz badly outshot the Knicks, hitting 53% from the field compared to 40% for New York. Washington also hit 11 of 20 from behind the arc, good for 55 percent. Washington's ball movement also helped, with the Wiz racking up 23 assists, compared to only 14 for the Knicks.
The Wizards play next on Friday when the Brooklyn Nets come to town.