The matchup: Though still bringing up the rear in the WNBA's Eastern Conference, the Washington Mystics enter the finale of their four-game homestand on a winning note. Only stringing together a bunch more victorieswill equal the roll San Antonio is currently on.The Mystics (3-10) snapped a five-game losing streak on Monday by scoring their most points this season in a 90-77 win over Phoenix. Crystal Langhorne tallied 22 points, hitting 9 of 12 shots in the victory and the Mystics bench scoring helped push the team into the winner's circle. "Anytime you win it's very calming,'' said Langhorne, who leads the Mystics with 16.5 points and 6.9 rebounds. "When you keep losing, it's stressful. To get this win, it's a good feeling.''Washington will need another power display from the power forward on Friday (7 p.m.) when facing San Antonio (9-5), the hottest team in the league. Led by point guard and 13-year veteran Becky Hammon, the Silver Stars have won five straight including an 88-72 triumph over Indiana on Thursday.Washington has lost three straight in the series, including 73-67 last July at the Verizon Center. Hammon, the WNBA leader in assists (5.6) this season, scored 22 points in that matchup and she directs a squad that averages a robust 82 points per game on the season and has proven even more potent during the winning streak.With slow starts the norm, the Mystics average 70 points per game, ranking next-to-last in the WNBA.Last time out: For the first time all season, the Mystics led after the first quarter, shooting 64.7 percent over the opening 10 minutes for a27-18 lead. Perhaps more importantly, they showed they knew how to hold the early advantage. Washington never trailed and scored a season-high 50 points in the first half.Langhorne, who scored 11 in the first quarter, received offensive help off the bench from Noelle Quinn (18 points) and rookie Natalie Novosel, who finished with a career-best 12.I think the starters came in they really set it-up well and when the second team came in I think we were the energy," said Novosel, the Mystics first-round pick out of Notre Dame. Quinn for the win: Early in the season, Mystics coach Trudi Lacey moved Quinn into the starting lineup. Her first year in Washington, the 6-foot guard remained in her off-the-ball role until the latest rotation tinkering sent her to the bench before facing the Mercury. Perhaps that is where she belonged all along as Quinn hit a flurry of jumpers in the second and third quarters, the latter buckets stymying a Phoenix comeback."It's a good look for me," said Quinn, perhaps stating the obvious about coming off the bench after posting her season-high point total. "It makes me come in there knowing that I have to be a difference maker."Comeback stars: Before landing in D.C, the San Antonio stopped in Indiana Thursday night for a meeting against the Fever. The Silver Stars played sick early, trailing by 18 points. They clearly figured out a cure at halftime, roaring back for a stunning 88-72 win. Hammon flashed her scoring touch with a team-high19 points as San Antonio outscored Indiana 60-27 in the second half. Jia Perkins scored 17 points off the bench and Sophia Young, San Antionio's leading scorer (16.6), added 15.
Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?
Position: Outside linebacker
On the roster: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Trent Murphy, Junior Galette, Ryan Anderson, Houston Bates, Lynden Trail
Locks: Kerrigan, Smith, Murphy, Galette, Anderson
Murphy is here with an asterisk. He will not be on the 53-man roster to start the season as he will have to serve a four-game suspension before he plays. The 2014 second-round pick broke out with nine sacks and the suspension is an unfortunate setback in his contract year.
Kerrigan is the most consistent player on the defense. You can pencil him in for 16 starts and 11 sacks right now.
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What can you pencil in for Smith? If you know, tell Greg Manusky and company, I’m sure they would like to find out. If he breaks out, it could be for 15 sacks or more plus several forced fumbles and a couple of interceptions. If he remains inconsistent he could end up being a part-time player.
They may not know what they are going to get out of Smith but the real mystery man is Galette. Can he stay healthy and get on the field after zero snaps in two seasons under contract with Washington? And if he’s healthy, can he perform to the level that he did in his final two years with the Saints when he posted 12 and 10 sacks?
Anderson will learn on the job. It’s best to keep expectations low; let’s hold off on the “bust” label if he ends the season with, say, four sacks. He was drafted with 2018 in mind as Murphy and Galette both will be unrestricted free agents.
On the bubble: Bates, Trail
If not for Murphy’s suspension, these two would be more in the long shots category. But a door is open for one of them to possibly make the roster as a placeholder for Murphy. And once you’re on the roster you have a strong chance of staying.
MORE REDSKINS: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense
Bates was the fourth outside linebacker last year. He played only 24 snaps on defense plus a few on offense lined up as a short-yardage fullback. A torn ACL ended his season in Week 14 but he appears to be on track to be ready for training camp.
Trail is very large (6-7, 270) and still very raw after spending time on the practice squad in 2015 and 2016. His ticket to the roster might be special teams; opponents will be very reluctant to block the massive Trail running downfield on kick coverage.
JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir disagree about whether the new deal with T.J. Oshie was the right move for the Caps. Plus, they talk about the team's other free agents, how they will address their need for a top-four defenseman, talk about who they like from development camp and open up the mailbag for your questions.
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