Asked about the challenges of facing a player of Connor McDavid’s caliber, Matt Niskanen made an interesting point about today’s young players. In Niskanen's estimation, the next generation of NHL superstars are taking risks and resisting the urge to play everything safe.
That’s what makes them special. And hard to defend.
“Young kids nowadays, they got the guts to try things,” Niskanen said Tuesday before the Capitals’ embarked on a four-game Western Canada trip that begins in Edmonton. “They’ll try a one-on-one, try to make a play in tight spaces, where it hasn’t been coached out of them yet. They’re a little unpredictable. That makes it challenging.”
Indeed, McDavid is one of the NHL’s most exciting players. He’s also one of the league's most productive. Through the season’s first six games, McDavid is tied for the NHL lead in points with nine (four goals and five assists).
Redskins receiver Ryan Grant played 20 snaps against the Lions on Sunday. He was targeted twice and had one reception for five yards. But people were still talking about him after the game because of a couple of errors he made that could have been very costly.
The worst mistake came in the fourth quarter with the Redskins trailing 13-10. When Grant lined up for the play, he was on the line of scrimmage, covering up Ty Nsekhe, who had reported as an eligible receiver. According to the rules, an eligible receiver has to be line up either at one end of the line or in the backfield. Grant should have lined up off the line of scrimmage. The penalty negated a 27-yard completion to Vernon Davis.
Fortunately, the Redskins did go on to score a touchdown. But it was still a major gaffe for a third-year player.
“Yeah, that was tough when he covered up,” said Jay Gruden. “Nsekhe was in the game and I think he thought Nsekhe was a lineman—he didn’t realize he had reported as a tackle—so he saw the other tight end was off the ball so he got on. That’s a mistake that obviously is frustrating and we can’t have, but I can see where that could’ve messed him up a little bit. The referee was trying to get him back and he just didn’t see it.”
That’s the thing. The referee will tell you if you’re lined up properly or if you need to get off the line. If you’re a part-time player who doesn’t take many practice snaps with the starters you should check with the official 100 percent of the time.
Earlier the Redskins’ previous touchdown drive was almost derailed when Grant missed a hand signal from Kirk Cousins and ran the wrong route, almost causing an interception.
“The other one was a quick hand signal and he didn’t get it,” said Gruden. “It’s just something we have to work on—our communication—the ball was snapped quickly. But, yeah, you’re right. I think Ryan wishes he has those two back.”
It remains to be seen if another receiver will be activated in Grant’s place. But he has always seemed to be one of Gruden’s favorite players and, indeed, the coach finished the discussion of his mistakes by praising him.
“There’s nobody in this building that works harder than Ryan,” said Gruden. “He does a lot of the dirty work for us. He gets in there and digs out safeties for us in the running game. He’s a very important part of this offense and he’ll still get better.”
Sure doesn’t sound like a guy who is headed for the bench. And, to be fair, Grant will probably learn from his mistakes and not repeat them. We will see how this unfolds.