Category Archives: Washington Times

Redskins offense tries to fix turnover problem without fumbling

[READ ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON TIMES]

A quick glance at a stat sheet reveals a respectable Washington Redskins offense. Rated 17th in the NFL in total offense, the Redskins boast the league’s 12th-ranked aerial attack. Their emerging rookie running back, Roy Helu, has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the team’s past three games. And the unit put up 27 points last Sunday, a total almost high enough to take down the mighty New England Patriots.

But there’s a reason Redskins fans hold their breath every time they see that offense break from the huddle.

During a tumultuous season full of shortcomings, one ugly word in particular has loomed over the Redskins week after week: turnovers. Washington’s 30 turnovers trails only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ and Philadelphia Eagles’ 31 for the highest in the NFL this season, and its minus-14 turnover ratio is the worst mark in the league.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan remains convinced that his team’s record would be substantially better if it weren’t for its tendency to give the ball to the other team. Continue reading Redskins offense tries to fix turnover problem without fumbling

Redskins rookie Helu is running with coach’s confidence

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A long-awaited tally in the victory column wasn’t the only thing keeping coach Mike Shanahan in good spirits Monday afternoon at Redskin Park.
Shanahan, who has long preached the importance of a solid running game, was taking solace in a potential solution to his team’s quandary at the running back position.

Shanahan put his trust in rookie Roy Helu against Seattle’s eight-ranked run defense, and the decision paid off. The fourth-round pick out of Nebraska racked up 162 all-purpose yards on 30 touches in his second start. Helu’s number was called on 23 of the Redskins’ 24 rushing attempts, only resting on a 3-yard pickup by fellow rookie Evan Royster.

Helu’s gritty performance, capped by a spectacular 28-yard touchdown run that spearheaded Washington’s fourth-quarter comeback, validated Shanahan’s confidence.

“We felt Helu was playing at a very high level,” Shanahan said. “We’re going to go with the guy with the hot hand. We felt Helu was feeling good and running the ball extremely well. He made some guys miss, ran with power, came up with the big play and that’s why we kept him in.” Continue reading Redskins rookie Helu is running with coach’s confidence

After Miami, Redskins’ run defense may be rounding back into form

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It’s difficult to draw positives from an ugly defeat against a 1-7 team, but one Redskins unit managed to stop some bleeding Sunday in Miami.

Washington’s run defense held the Dolphins to 103 yards on 33 carries, a respectable 3.1 yards per rush. That’s marked improvement from the 4.6 yards per carry the unit had been surrendering during the previous four games, in which opponents had averaged 161 yards.

Those numbers might signal a return to the dominance displayed by the defense the first four weeks of the season, when its 84.5 rushing yards allowed per game put it among the league’s best in that category. The Eagles were the first team to expose flaws in the defensive line, gashing the Redskins for 192 yards on the ground in Week 6. Perhaps because of playmakers such as Philadelphia’s Michael Vick, Carolina’s Cam Newton, Buffalo’s Fred Jackson and San Francisco’s Frank Gore, the Redskins became prone to giving up big plays between the tackles. They entered the Miami game having surrendered 10 rushes of 20 yards or more, a mark currently exceeded by only four teams.

No such lapses occurred against the Dolphins, an encouraging sign for anyone wearing burgundy and gold.

“We didn’t give up the big play,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “If you can limit those big plays, then you’ve got a chance overall to keep a team to three yards a carry. If you’re doing that, you’re leading the NFL every year.” Continue reading After Miami, Redskins’ run defense may be rounding back into form

Redskins riding high in wacky NFC East

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Life is pretty sweet for your average D.C. sports fan these days. The Washington Redskins are riding a division-leading 3-1 record into the bye week, and the Capitals are ready to kick off their season with legitimate title hopes on the line.

Those hunky-dory sentiments stand in stark contrast to the prevailing mood of sports nuts in Philadelphia, where many fans seem on the verge of rioting in the wake of the Eagles’ pitiful 1-3 start. Lofty preseason expectations have made the Eagles’ three-game losing streak doubly painful for the Philadelphia faithful, whose nerves already are stretched with their similarly touted baseball team facing elimination against the Cardinals.

The defending NFC East champion Eagles are in last place; the Dallas Cowboys are 2-2 after blowing big leads in each off their losses; and the often-overlooked Redskins sit in first place, tied with the New York Giants (Washington holds the edge, having beaten New York in the season opener). Continue reading Redskins riding high in wacky NFC East

Dedicated fans at the center of Redskins-Cowboys rivalry

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Chad Costa is a perfectly friendly guy, but he has a penchant for getting booed when he cuts his grass. His neighbors don’t take kindly to the burgundy-and-gold signs and flags splayed across his front yard, nor do they think the American Indian logo tattooed on his ankle is particularly attractive.

Costa’s 15-year-old daughter, meanwhile, proudly wears a “Dallas Sucks” T-shirt to school in hopes of recruiting fellow fans, but no one around their home in Frisco, Texas, ever seems to think very highly of her cause.

About 1,300 miles northeast, in the nation’s capital, Mike Jelencovich strolls down the street wearing a baseball cap that draws glares from passers-by. Many of his friends can’t stand the sight of that hat, whose single blue star belies its owner’s Maryland roots. By most accounts, he is also a well-intentioned guy, but sometimes he thinks he might be the most hated man in town.

While on opposite ends of the spectrum, Costa and Jelencovich have one thing in common: Their defiant devotion to their football teams epitomizes a rivalry that never wavers, no matter how it plays out on the field. Their dedication will be out in full force when the Washington Redskins pay a visit to Cowboys Stadium in Dallas on Monday night. Continue reading Dedicated fans at the center of Redskins-Cowboys rivalry

UVa. football, men’s hoops teams struggle while other sports thrive

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The football team at the University of Virginia is reeling from a third consecutive losing season. The men’s basketball team is coping with a gut-wrenching defeat that kept it out of the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year. Scott Stadium is losing fans by the thousands. And perhaps scariest of all, many Virginia fans are running out of patience.

Yet Virginia’s athletics program is thriving more than ever before. The Cavaliers closed the 2010-11 academic year with a seventh-place finish in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, which measures the broad-based success of 279 Division I athletic programs. It marked the school’s third consecutive top-10 finish and second-best result ever, trailing only the previous year’s third-place finish.

The achievements behind that recognition are impressive: a men’s lacrosse national championship, a fourth consecutive team indoor championship in men’s tennis, a College World Series appearance by the baseball team, five ACC titles, and individual NCAA titles in track and swimming.

For die-hards in Charlottesville, though, the Directors’ Cup finish conceals a major blemish. Out of the top 25 schools in the 2010-11 Directors’ Cup standings, Virginia is the only one that failed to make a postseason appearance in football or men’s basketball.

Olympic sports accomplishments are important, but a Division I athletic program cannot truly gain national prominence without success in the two arenas that, in Virginia’s case, generate nearly seven times more revenue than all other sports combined on a yearly basis. With new coaches, impeccable facilities and a student body hungry for something to cheer about, can Virginia restore glory to its football and men’s basketball teams?

Continue reading UVa. football, men’s hoops teams struggle while other sports thrive

Davis, Johnson weather storms of scandal

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PINEHURST, N.C. — While N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien bantered with a few reporters about the upcoming college football season at Monday’s ACC Kickoff, North Carolina coach Butch Davis sat stoically across the room, doing his best to weather the media onslaught engulfing him from all angles. A total of 56 reporter-types and 33 tape recorders surrounded the coach as he endured countless questions about the state of his embattled program.

The Tar Heels have been under the microscope since last summer’s ACC Kickoff, when reports about potential NCAA infractions were beginning to surface. The scrutiny intensified last month when the NCAA issued a detailed notice describing nine major violations allegedly committed by student athletes and individuals with ties to the UNC football program. Those violations include impermissible benefits to players, improper academic assistance from a tutor and failures of institutional oversight.

“This is the most important issue that has faced the University of North Carolina probably in many, many, many years,” Davis said. “It has been unbelievably important to be as cooperative and as honest to work through this process and try to come to a good resolution. I think the administration has done a great job. I know that we’ve all tried to cooperate as fully and completely as possible.” Continue reading Davis, Johnson weather storms of scandal