What to watch for: Bengals at Redskins

877893.png

What to watch for: Bengals at Redskins

What:Redskins vs. Bengals
Where:FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When:Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV:CBSAfter a triumphant opener in New Orleans, the Redskins didnt just stumble in St. Louis last week, they suffered a pair of significant injuries that could hamper them for the rest of the season.On Sunday, the Redskins (1-1) will get their first taste of life without two-time Pro Bowl selectionBrian Orakpoand defensive endAdam Carrikerin their home opener againstAndy Daltonand the Bengals (1-1).The defensive front seven was supposed to be the Redskins strength this season and Orakpo was supposed to lead the charge.Now its a major concern for a unit that yielded 31 points to the previously punchless Rams.The void left by Orakpo is so daunting, in fact, defensive coordinatorJim Haslettsaid he intends to use a trio of unproven reserves Rob Jackson,Chris WilsonandMarkus White in the hopes that three will equal one. None, however, has ever made an NFL start.In addition, the Redskins defense could be without starting cornerbackJosh Wilson(concussion) and strong safetyBrandon Meriweather(knee) against a Bengals offense that features a Pro Bowl quarterback-receiver tandem in Dalton andA.J. Green,plus running backBenJarvis Green-Ellis.Since the start of training camp, Coach Mike Shanahan has touted his teams improved depth.This weekend, well find out how much deeper the pool actually is.Injuries aside, there are a handful of other storylines the crew atwww.csnwashington.comwill be following: Among them:1) One unit that has been consistent for the Redskins thus far has been theRobert Griffin III-led the offense. It has racked up 40 and 28 points in the first two games and Griffin has been the talk of the league.Although the status of wide receiverPierre Garon(sore foot) remains unclear, Griffin could be primed for a big home debut against a Bengals defense that has struggled this far. In the first two games, in fact, Cincinnati that has yielded a total of 434.5 yards (30th) and 35.5 points on average (29th).2) Special teams remain a problem for the Redskins. A season after five field goals were knocked down, punterSav Roccapunts blocked in consecutive games. Both blocks, meantime, led directly to pivotal touchdowns for the opponent.This week, Shanahan professed confidence in special teams CoachDanny Smith, pointing out that players not scheme were to blame for both miscues. Either way, the unit must get turned around. And quick.3) How much will Griffin run the ball? Eyebrows were raised last week when the dual-threat rookie carried the ball 11 times for 82 yards totals that ranked just five and seven, respectively, behind running backAlfred Morris.Griffins ability to run for first downs, extend plays and make something out of nothing with his legs is a huge bonus for the Redskins. It could, however, prove to be an even greater risk.Although Griffin said hes well versed in how to avoid taking punishing hits, it should be pointed out that at least one last week appeared to stun him. On a 15-yard keeper up the middle in the second quarter, Griffin took a shot to the back of his helmet. One play later, he tossed arguably the worst pass of his fledgling NFL career, an off-balance, off-target throw that ended up in the hands of cornerbackCortland Finnegan.

Looking at Maryland's roster after Trimble decision, 4-star commitment

martinmelostl052516refframe_1.jpg

Looking at Maryland's roster after Trimble decision, 4-star commitment

The last 24 hours have been pivotal for head coach Mark Turgeon and the Maryland Terrapins. 

With the decision by star point guard Melo Trimble to return for his junior season and the commitment of four-star forward Justin Jackson, Maryland has gone from a team likely headed toward a rebuilding season to a team that should have legitimate NCAA tournament aspirations.

How will the depth chart shake out? 

Below is a look, though keep in mind that there is probably a good deal of flexbility at the forward positions. Without the big-time size that Maryland had last season, the Terrapins will likely play small ball in longer stretches, which could mean three-guard sets or traditional small forwards playing at the four.

PG: Melo Trimble, Anthony Cowan, Jaylen Brantley

SG: Dion Wiley, Kevin Huerter

SF: Jared Nickens, Micah Thomas

PF: L.G. Gill, Justin Jackson, Ivan Bender

C: Damonte Dodd, Michal Cekovsky

Total scholarships: 12

Open scholarships: 1

MORE TERPS: WHAT THEY'RE SAYING NATIONALLY ABOUT TRIMBLE'S DECISION

Jackson's commitment is big for Maryland in terms of adding frontcourt scoring and rebounding. He has shown the ability in the past to stretch the defense out toward the perimeter, but will need to develop consistency with it. 

That highlights the importance of Gill, the graduate transfer from Duquesne. After shooting 34.4 percent from three with the Dukes last season, he could be an important pick-and-pop option for Trimble next season. 

Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky will anchor the paint defensively. An offensive step forward from either would greatly benefit the overall scoring distribution, even if that means dunking off of dishes from guards or getting putbacks off of offensive rebounds.

But when it comes down to it, this will be a guard-dominant team and that begins with Trimble. 

He can be used in conjunction with Cowan or Cowan can function as the reliable ball handler Turgeon has been searching for behind Trimble for the past two seasons. Or a little bit of both.

Dion Wiley will have to reacclimate himself after coming back from knee surgery, but figures to be a contributor, then more will be asked of Jared Nickens in his junior season.

Overall, there will be a great deal of flexibility and the remaining open scholarship means Maryland still has options in the spring signing period.

But one thing is clear. The last 24 hours changed Maryland's fortunes for the better.

Nats Stock Watch: Strasburg establishing himself as one of game's top arms

chasehughes052416refframe_1.jpg

Nats Stock Watch: Strasburg establishing himself as one of game's top arms

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 4-3

Team slash: .256/.326/.415

Team ERA: 2.61

Runs per game: 4.42 

 

STOCK UP 

Daniel Murphy, 2B: .393 AVG, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1.076 OPS

It was just another ho-hum week for the sizzling Murphy, who posted five multi-hit efforts in the last seven games. In fact, in 46 games played this season, he's now logged more than one hit an astounding 24 times. So we're way past the point of this being considered merely a hot streak; this is nearly two months' worth of consistency from the Nats' second baseman. Dusty Baker said recently that he believed Murphy has been the acquisition of the year in baseball. There's not much room to argue. 

Ben Revere, CF: .450 AVG, 5 RBI, 5 R, 2 SB

You know things are going well for Revere these days when he's trotting around the bases after hitting a rare home run. His solo shot in Tuesday's 7-4 win over the New York Mets was just another sign that the Nats' leadoff man is starting to regain his pre-oblique injury form. But aside from the long ball, he's starting to do all the things a prototypical table-setter is supposed to do: see pitches, hit line drives into the gaps and be a pest on the base paths. That's what the Nats thought they were getting when they acquired Revere last winter from the Torono Blue Jays, and it looks like that's what he's becoming once again. 

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 2-0, 12.2 IP, 3 ER, 21 K

He doesn't get mentioned with the likes of Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw, but Strasburg is putting together the type of season that unequivocally cements his status as one of the game's top arms. He's now 8-0 with a 2.79 ERA, and his 86 strikeouts on the season are second in the majors to the aforementioned Kershaw.

So what's the difference for the 27-year-old right hander this year? For one, he's stayed healthy and continued the momentum that was established late last year after he came off the disabled list. He's also added a slider/cutter to his repertoire to keep hitters off balance, especially in fastball counts.

However, you don't get to 8-0 without a little bit of good fortune, either, and Strasburg has certainly that: In his 10 starts this season, the Nats offense has averaged 6.7 runs per game. Still, he's undoubtedly pitched well, so there's not much one can do to try to cheapen his fast start.

STOCK DOWN

Bryce Harper, RF: .190 AVG, .507 OPS

When the Nats' skipper feels the need to give Harper a "mental rest day" against a chief division rival like the Mets, that's a telltale sign that things aren't going so well for the reigning NL MVP. Harper's frustration has been quite evident for the last week; he apparently took extra batting practice immediately following Monday's 7-1 loss, and then the next day went out onto the field early — a rarity for 23-year-old slugger — to take even more hacks.

Harper's slump is unique in that, despite his struggles, opposing teams are still pitching around him. He's hitting .195 in May despite a .454 on-base percentage, a very Barry Bonds-ian gap between his average and OBP. And like Bonds, Harper is only getting about one or two pitches he can work with per game, but he's been unable to take advantage of those of late. 

Josh Norman sees the fiery side of Kirk Cousins at Redskins OTAs: 'I was like, calm down'

normankirkpracticerefframe_1.jpg

Josh Norman sees the fiery side of Kirk Cousins at Redskins OTAs: 'I was like, calm down'

After two days practicing against Kirk Cousins, new Redskins CB Josh Norman knows how fiery the quarterback can get. And remember, Norman faced off against Cam Newton for years with the Panthers, so the corner knows a bit about excitable passers.

Minor sparks flew a bit on Wednesday when, after a 20-yard completion to Pierre Garçon, Cousins ran down the field to hug the receiver and celebrate what would have been a first down. Cousins' excitment outpaced the rest on the practice field and Norman was asked after the OTA session about his new quarterback.

"I was like - God, calm down," Norman said. "I don’t want to go there yet. I'm gonna be cool."

Perhaps Norman doesn't want to go there yet because he's new to the team, or maybe because it's May, but one way or another he will need to get used to Cousins. Off the field, Cousins is cerebral, soft-spoken and courteous.

On the field, it's different story. It's been evident in practice since Cousins took over as the starting quarterback, and the world saw Cousins' passion with the famous "You Like That" explosion. 

That doesn't mean Norman will back down.

"I came back out here and he looked away a couple times and didn’t throw the ball so I got a little jubilant," he said.

For a corner, the QB going a different direction almost means as much as being able to make a play on the ball. But the play in question, the completion to Garçon?

Norman knew exactly what happened.

"The last play the [starters] were out he threw a ball and he completed it and got excited again," Norman said. "I was like Kirk, man, we whipped y’all butt today. Calm it down a little bit."

At Wednesday's practice, the Redskins defense looked better than the offense. It's not worth taking much from a May session with no pads on, but the competition is real.

"We're only gonna make each other better," Norman said. "We just gotta keep challenging them, and they keep challenging us."