From Comcast SportsNetASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- The early glow from Robert Griffin III's fast start faded quickly for the Washington Redskins on Monday when defensive starters Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker were declared out for the season.Two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Orakpo tore the pectoral muscle near his left shoulder, and defensive end Carriker tore the quad tendon in his right knee in the first quarter of Sunday's 31-28 loss to the St. Louis Rams.The injuries rob two players from a team that has allowed 63 points and more than 800 yards in its first two games, tempering the early promise by Redskins (1-1) have shown with rookie quarterback Griffin."It's an opportunity for somebody else now," linebacker London Fletcher said. "We're a no-excuse football team."Orakpo had surgery on the same shoulder after a suffering tear in the final game of last season, then damaged some scar tissue in the shoulder during a preseason game last month.Coach Mike Shanahan said the latest tear is in a different part of the muscle. Orakpo will have surgery and require four months of recovery time.Orakpo, a first-round draft pick in 2009, had at least 8 sacks in each of his first three NFL seasons. He was injured Sunday while making his first -- and only -- sack of this season. He returned to the game twice but was unable to keep playing."He's obviously everything you look for in a Pro Bowl player," Shanahan said. "And we'll miss him."Shanahan said Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson, a pair of career backups without an NFL start between them, will compete to take Orakpo's outside linebacker spot.Carriker was hurt on the Rams' second offensive play and did not return. The fifth-year veteran, who had 5 sacks a year ago, will require five months of rehabilitation after his surgery.He will be replaced by Jarvis Jenkins, a 2011 second-round pick who missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury."A real big opportunity," Jenkins said. "Coming off the knee injury, I get a chance to prove I'm a hard worker and just make plays."Two other defensive starters also are nursing injuries. Cornerback Josh Wilson left Sunday's game with a concussion and will be reevaluated Wednesday, and safety Brandon Meriweather hopes to play this week against the Cincinnati Bengals after missing the first two games with sprained ligaments in his left knee.
Each time John Wall and the Wizards have made the playoffs, they have advanced past the first round and fallen in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Each time they were competitive enough in those second round series - against the Pacers, Hawks and Celtics - to have many thinking bigger, about a chance to meet LeBron James in the conference finals. Yet each time they were ultimately defeated over the course of a long and hard-fought series.
Wall believes he knows why they fell short each time. He thinks there is a common theme to all of those series that the Wizards must address this offseason.
"We need to help our bench," Wall told CSN's Chris Miller. "Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played."
For anyone who has watched the Wall-led Wizards over the years, it's not hard to decipher exactly what he was talking about. For years the Wizards have searched for a competent backup to Wall at the guard position and the same could be said about the roster behind his backcourt teammate Bradley Beal this past season. As a result, Wall was asked to play 44 minutes in Game 7 and Beal played 46, respectively.
Even with their season on the line, that is not preferred. Celtics guard Marcus Smart even said publicly that he thought it led to a dropoff in Wall's game.
The Wizards' quest for help behind Wall took several different turns over the last calendar year. They tried to address the position by bringing Tomas Satoransky over from Europe and trading for Trey Burke last summer. Both were inconsistent through the first half of the season, so they signed Brandon Jennings as a free agent once he was waived by the Knicks. Jennings showed flashes and did some things right, like continue to push the pace when Wall was off the floor. But even Jennings admits he didn't play well against Boston.
Back in the 2013-14 season, the first time Wall made the playoffs, the original plan for his backup was Eric Maynor. That didn't work out, so they traded for veteran Andre Miller in February. The following season, with Miller not working out, they shipped him out for Ramon Sessions, also at the trade deadline.
Now, here the Wizards are, once again trying to find a solution at backup point guard. Wall continues to remain patient, knowing it's not as easy as it looks.
"Every point guard that we have, you can't expect them to go out there and do what I do. Every guy that has backed me up has done a great job, in my opinion. It might not help us as much as everybody thinks, but that's up to the front office to make the adjustment there," he said.
The Wizards have several options to pursue Wall's backup. They could promote from within and expand Satoransky's role. They can use their lone draft pick, a second round selection at 52nd overall. They could try to orchestrate another trade. Or, they could go the free agent route, though depending on what happens to restricted free agents like Otto Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic, their money could be limited.
If it is free agency, don't expect Wall to play an active role in the recruitment pitch.
"I don't think I have to do that. They understand and see what we do as a team over here: how we play together, how we move the ball. I think guys will just come if they want to come," Wall said.
Wall knows the Wizards need help, but believes they are very close to where they want to go.
"We have our main core guys. I think adding a couple little pieces here and there will help us get over the hump," he said. "Even with all that, we still feel like we had a chance by getting to a Game 7. We had a 50-50 chance of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals. We were one game away. We couldn't ask for more."
For more on the Wizards' offseason, listen to the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:
Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason. Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.
Today’s question: Another year, another early playoff exit. The Capitals earned the Presidents’ Trophy this season despite playing in the toughest division in the NHL, but once again they could not get past the second round. In the Alex Ovechkin era, the Caps have won three Presidents’ Trophies and reached the postseason nine times and yet, they have never made it to the conference final. Now with Alex Ovechkin set to turn 32 before the start of next season, an aging core with no playoff success to speak of and several expiring contracts, the team looks like it may have reached a crossroads.
After another postseason flameout, what direction should the Caps take?
Sorenson: In one word: Build. For me, I have to look at the organization which the Capitals have been trying to best for quite some time now, the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think the biggest difference on the ice between the two teams recently has been depth. Last offseason, the Caps added to the depth of their bottom six, but that wasn’t enough this postseason. That’s because the Penguins were able to draw on forwards from Wilkes-Barre throughout the season and playoffs to push them over the edge. It was constantly next man up, and their supposedly unknown forwards and defensemen constantly stepped up, both in the regular season and especially in the playoffs. I think the Capitals need to keep their core, and build around players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jay Beagle, Lars Eller, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, and Brooks Orpik. Keep the supporting players around them (Nate Schmidt, Andre Burakovsky, etc.) but they have to find a way to build up their foundation in Hershey as well. They need to find a way to package some players and prospects to get equal players and upgrade their prospects. As Kuznetsov so aptly put it on breakdown day, “You can’t build big building without underneath, right?”
Regan: It’s tempting right now to say they should tear it all down and start over, but let’s not let emotions take over. The Caps are not the Vancouver Canucks who are terrible and yet refuse to trade the Sedin twins and start over because of a misguided sense of loyalty. They are not the Detroit Red Wings who held onto a rapidly declining core in the hopes of maintaining their postseason streak as long as possible. The Caps have won the Presidents’ Trophy for two straight seasons. A complete rebuild at this point would be premature. Will their roster be as good as in 2016-17? Probably not, but that does not mean they have no chance of winning the Cup. Having said that, however, they cannot afford to simply bring back the same team and try again. Part of the problem in Washington is clearly mental and if you return much the same roster, the players will have no confidence that things will be any different. Shake things up with a major trade. Trade away a part of the core, a big name player to jolt the team. Even if it is just a one for one trade, look at what trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban has done for Nashville. If the core is rotten, shake it up.
El-Bashir: Let’s begin with the notion that blowing up a roster that’s earned more points than anyone else the past two seasons is a good idea. It’s not. But let me also be clear about this: the time for nibbling around the edges has passed. The Caps need more youth, more speed and, perhaps, a little more pushback, too. As the roster stands now, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen are all under contract or under team control. If GM Brian MacLellan can shoehorn T.J. Oshie back in the fold, that’s a solid start. Add to that foundation a couple of impactful players—a top-six forward and a top-four defender—and the Caps will have made some substantive changes without resorting to a full teardown. It’ll be a challenge, no doubt. After Mac re-signs his restricted free agents (and possibly Oshie) there won’t be much cap space with which to work. Also, he’s got no draft picks until the fourth round and the free agent market doesn’t look all that appealing. So how can he do it? By taking a page out of David Poile’s playbook and swinging a big trade (or perhaps two). Poile retooled the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators on the fly with a couple of bold deals, acquiring Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones and P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. The trade route is a risky one and, of course, it costs a good player to get a good player so a fan favorite and/or up-and-comer would be headed the other way. But it’s the only way I can see the Caps propping the window back open for another run with the current core. I also see it as the Caps' best option.
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