From Comcast SportsNetGREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Four days after starting the season with a demoralizing defeat, Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers looked every bit like the team they were expected to be this season.Maybe even better, at least on defense.The Packers (1-1) pulled off a perfectly executed trick play, then rattled and robbed Jay Cutler the rest of the way in a 23-10 victory over the division rival Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Thursday night.The win represented an impressive rebound from a season-opening loss to San Francisco. Had the Packers lost to the Bears, they would have fallen to 0-2, with both losses coming at home."Inside the facility, there wasn't any panic," Aaron Rodgers said. "Outside, I think people were worried if we lose to Chicago, you're kind of putting yourself behind the eight ball a little bit. Good win for us. We're 1-1. Again, it's one game. We need to get better on offense; defense played incredible."Especially Matthews, who was credited with 3 of the Packers' seven sacks of Cutler.With six sacks in the Packers' first two games, Matthews already has equaled his total from last season."I think the statistics speak for themselves," Matthews said. "It's always good when you get after the quarterback, get him off his rhythm and have him throw some balls up there that I'm sure he wouldn't want, or wants back."It was a significant step backward for the Bears (1-1), who were filled with confidence after steamrolling Indianapolis in their opener.Cutler threw four interceptions to go with the seven sacks. As frustration mounted, Cutler vented with emphatic gestures throughout the game, saying afterward it was simply a sign of his desire to win."I care about this," Cutler said. "This isn't a hobby for me. I am not doing this for my health. I am trying to win football games and get first downs. When we're not doing the little things or not doing things the right way consistently, I'm going to say something. If they want a quarterback that doesn't care, they can get somebody else."Cutler was particularly upset with his offensive line, a position group that did not see a significant addition during the Bears' offseason makeover of their offense."I'm not going to just walk to the sideline and act like everything's OK," said Cutler, who was 11 for 27 for 126 yards. "It's just not going to happen."The loss left at least one prominent member of the Bears wondering if their Week 1 win was something of a mirage."Maybe we're not as good as we thought we were," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We've got a long ways to go, that's obvious. We didn't play like we did last week. Maybe Green Bay's just that good, I don't know. We just didn't play well and they played good enough to do what they did to us."The Bears also lost running back Matt Forte to an ankle injury. Bears coach Lovie Smith said the severity of the injury was unclear.Smith was impressed by the Packers' rebound during a short turnaround."You've got to give them a lot of credit," he said. "They didn't play as well as they wanted to last week and they came back this week."Smith acknowledged that his team looked "flat-footed" on the Packers' biggest play of the day, a gutsy and perfectly executed fake field goal when the Packers were facing fourth-and-26 on the Chicago 27 late in the second quarter."Good call by them," Smith said. "They executed the play to perfection. What else can I say? Normally when a fake works it's a good job by the opponent, and that's what happened tonight."The Packers lined up for a field goal, but punter Tim Masthay, the holder, flipped the ball to backup tight end Tom Crabtree, who streaked into the end zone."I had the easiest job of anybody," Masthay said. "All I'm doing is catching the snap, putting it down and flipping it to Tom. The rest of the guys were the ones doing the work. So, yeah, it was really cool."Crabtree credited the Packers' blocking."It's not really on me," he said. "I think any of you could run that play. All I did was catch the ball and run a straight line. The guys did a great job blocking. Tim had a great pitch. Like I said, I just ran a straight line. That was about it."Watching from the sideline, Rodgers at first thought something went wrong."I saw Crabby running out the back side, I couldn't believe it," Rodgers said. "That's a gutsy call. A gutsy call. You've got to score on that."The Packers' defense did the rest, holding new Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall to two catches for 24 yards.Earlier in the week, a confident Cutler wished the Packers' defensive backs "good luck" in trying to match up physically in man coverage with a new-look wide receiver corps led by Marshall. Stalked by Tramon Williams for much of the night, Marshall didn't see much of the ball. And he couldn't convert his one big opportunity, dropping a potential touchdown in the third quarter.Charles Woodson said the Packers took note of Cutler's quote."It was everywhere," Woodson said. "You know how it is. Once you make a statement these days, it doesn't take long for it to travel and get to you."Cutler shrugged off any potential fallout from his comment, noting that the Packers didn't play much man coverage."They didn't play man, so why would they say anything?" Cutler said.In all, the Packers showed they're a better team than they appeared to be after Week 1."We got kicked in the (rear end) four days ago," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "And we were motivated."
The skies were dry but the fields were wet and that forced the Redskins into the bubble for their second OTA practice.
Here are my observations from the session:
OLB Junior Galette took a light workload but it was surprising that he did anything at all considering that he is 10 months removed from an Achilles tendon tear. He was sprinting during stretching and he took part in some team drills. It’s early but if he is healthy in September the Redskins’ pass rush could be a force.
Not present were TE Jordan Reed, OT Trent Williams, and RB Matt Jones. Jay Gruden said that Reed and Williams are working out elsewhere and he was vague about the absence of Jones, although he said that it was not unexpected.
Also in good health was TE Niles Paul. He suffered a shoulder injury in Week 8 last year and finished the season on injured reserve. The veteran appeared to be a full go in both individual and team drills.
RB Rob Kelley looks like he lost a few pounds in an effort to become more durable and maybe a little quicker. He also is sporting a new jersey number.
P Tress Way is in midseason form. He lofted a punt that landed in one of the light fixtures some 100 feet above the floor of the practice bubble and stayed in it. The third-year player said that he couldn’t do that again if he tried 100 times.
RB Mack Brown faces some serious competition for his job but he is not going to give it up easily. He looked good on some runs off tackle, showing some good speed and quickness.
They rotated a lot of defensive linemen through during team drills. Undrafted rookie Ondre Pipkins got a lot of run at nose tackle and Anthony Lanier played quite a few snaps at end as did Ziggy Hood. Top draft pick Jonathan Allen’s reps were somewhat limited as were those of Phil Taylor. They likely plan to rotate their linemen a lot throughout OTAs, minicamp, and training camp to try to find a good combination.
QB Kirk Cousins mostly kept to shorter passes but in seven on seven drills he did launch one deep down the middle that WR Maurice Harris went up and grabbed for the nicest offensive play of the day.
Rookie TE Jeremy Sprinkle dropped a pass on a short crossing pattern. As a fifth-round pick he can afford some mistakes now but he can’t drop too many in August.
QB Nate Sudfeld was shaky in the beginning, throwing a few passes at the shoe tops of his receivers. But he did get better as the practice went on, through some nice, accurate passes while rolling out.
Gruden called for a trick play at the end of on team session. Cousins threw a quick backwards pass to WR Jamison Crowder, who was on the left. RB Chris Thompson snuck out of the backfield and he was open along the right hashmark. But Crowder’s pass was underthrown, allowing ILB Zach Brown to break it up.
Brown, Will Compton, and Mason Foster rotated in and out at inside linebacker. All possible combinations of the three were on the field at various times. It will be interesting to see how the lineup settles in when the season starts.
I think that S D.J. Swearinger is going to be annoying to players and fans from other teams. After Harris caught a pass, he was jogging down the field with the ball after the whistle blew. Swearinger came up and gave the ball a bunch to try to knock it out of his grasp. It was more playful than violent but I can see how he will get under the skin of opponents.
WR Josh Doctson appears to be healthy. He turned on the jets to catch a QB Colt McCoy pass down the right sideline. Of course, it’s May and the goal is for him to be healthy in September but it looks like it’s so far, so good.
Alex Ovechkin is undeniably the best player to ever suit up for the Washington Capitals. He is the greatest goal scorer of a generation and one of the best players of all time. And yet, he is still struggling to find playoff success.
In 12 NHL seasons, Ovechkin has led the Capitals to the postseason nine times but has never made it past the second round. As the team’s best player, he receives most of the praise for the team’s successes and most of the blame for its failures. It would be unfair to pin all of the team’s playoff struggles on the Great 8 alone, but with an all-time great player to build around, the Capitals have been a team with championship aspirations and they simply have not lived up to that. And that has some people wondering if it may be time to move on.
Ovechkin will be 32 years old before the start of the 2017-18 season and Father Time, as they say, is undefeated. With a cap hit just over $9.5 million and no real postseason success to speak of, would the Capitals possibly consider trading him?
Now let’s be clear, if Wayne Gretzky can be traded, anyone can. I am not trying to say that it can’t happen, but here are a few reasons why it won’t:
He is still a productive player
Yes, Ovechkin is on the wrong side of 30, but with 33 goals this season he still was tied for the team lead and ranked 13th overall in the NHL. T.J. Oshie also scored 33 goals for the Caps and is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Capitals likely do not have the money to re-sign Oshie, but even if they could, ask yourself this: Who is more likely to have more offensive production next season, a 30-year-old Oshie who has reached the 30-goal mark in a contract year for the first time in his entire career and who played in 68 games in 2016-17 due to injury or Ovechkin who has never scored fewer than 32 goals and has never played fewer than 72 games in a full 82-game season? He can’t keep up that pace forever, but there’s a good chance that even if Ovechkin takes a step back in 2017-18, he still may be a better offensive player than Oshie.
His cap hit makes him hard to move
Ovechkin has the fourth-highest cap hit among active players in the NHL. Most teams do not have $9.5 million worth of empty cap space with which to plug Ovechkin into the lineup and those that do usually carry that much space for a reason, namely, they are trying to save money. I do not foresee the Arizona Coyotes suddenly getting out the checkbook to pay for Ovechkin. Sometimes teams can find a way to make an even swap for a player with a similar cap hit. Just look at last offseason when the Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban ($9 million cap hit) to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber (about $7.9 million cap hit). Let’s take a look at the top ten cap hits in the NHL to see if there is a possible trade there: Patrick Kane ($10.5 million), Jonathan Toews ($10.5 million), Anze Kopitar ($10 million), Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million), Subban, Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million), Corey Perry (about $8.6 million), Steven Stamkos ($8.5 million) and Henrik Lunuqvist ($8.5 million). Do you see any trades on that list that would make sense for both teams because I don’t. That would mean teams would have to give up a significant package to Washington and I am not so sure he would be worth that to many suitors (more on that to come). There would be no shortage of interest for Ovechkin if he was available, but getting the math to work would be incredibly difficult.
Vegas does not make as much sense as you may think
While most teams do not have the cap space to make a deal work, there is one team with plenty of cap space and they just so happen to have the same general manager, George McPhee, who drafted Ovechkin. Yes, the Vegas Golden Knights are the wild card of the offseason as they have to find a way to build an entire roster from scratch. With plenty of money to spend and plenty of familiarity with Ovechkin, some see this as a match made in Heaven. It’s not. First, if there are any people out there with the crazy notion that Washington should simply leave Ovechkin exposed at the expansion draft in the hopes that McPhee will take him off their hands, that would be the worst possible move the Caps could make. Even if you are sold on the idea that they need to move Ovechkin, there is zero compensation for losing a player in the expansion draft. You cannot give Ovechkin up for nothing. Yes, Vegas could still try to make a trade, but just what exactly could they offer? The Golden Knights have only two players currently under contract. That’s it. With all due respect, the Caps are not trading Ovechkin for Duke Reid. Based on the set up of the expansion draft, it is not likely to yield Vegas anywhere close to the kind of talent the Caps would hope to get in return for a trade. Sure, McPhee could throw a bunch of draft picks at Washington, but if the Caps hope to win now with Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby, draft picks are not going to make this team any better in the present.
You can’t get equal value in return
Ovechkin will be a 32-year-old winger with little postseason success and a cap hit of over $9.5 million. If Ovechkin hits the trade market, he will have plenty of suitors, but the Capitals cannot possibly hope to get back anything close to equal value for him. First, considering everything he has accomplished, how long he has played for Washington, the fact that he is the team captain and the face of the franchise, he means more to the Capitals than he would to any other team in the NHL. Second, any potential trade partner will not approach this from the standpoint that they are trading for a generational talent, rather they would view Ovechkin as a star winger on the back half of his career with a massive cap hit. Whatever you think Ovechkin may be worth on the trade market, the other 30 NHL teams will have a much lower value of him and there is no point in pulling the trigger on a trade this big if you do not like what you are getting in return.
He has a modified no-trade clause
Ovechkin’s cap hit, age, postseason history and trade value are not the only obstacles the Caps face would face in making a potential deal. His contract also carries a modified no-trade clause that allows him to list 10 teams in which he cannot be traded to. That further limits the team’s options. Typically in these situations, when a team intends to pursue a trade they ask for the player to give them the list before they begin talking to other teams. In this day and age, it is impossible to keep news like that quiet. Somehow, someway, someone in the media would find out that the Caps requested Ovechkin’s list of 10 teams and report that the team was shopping him. When that happens, Ovechkin’s price tag would drop significantly. At that point, general manager Brian MacLellan would essentially have to be move him to prevent the story from becoming a perpetual distraction to the team. You cannot possibly expect the Caps to have a successful season if the news comes out that the team was shopping Ovechkin. At least that’s how every other general manager would view it. Motivated sellers are good news for a potential buyer, bad news for Ovechkin’s trade value.
He means too much to the franchise
Let’s turn the clocks back to a time before Ovechkin came to Washington. In the 2003-04 season, the Capitals ranked 25th in the league in home attendance with fewer than 15,000 fans per game. That’s fewer than the Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes and even the Atlanta Thrasers who later would pack their bags and move to Winnipeg. Ovechkin completely reignited the fan base in a way no player ever has in the team’s history. Of all the Caps fans out there today, a sizable number of them do not know Capitals hockey without Ovechkin, not because of their age, but because he is what ultimately drew them in and got them interested in the sport. He is a dynamic player with a fun personality that hockey fans across the league love to see play. Consider this, only 11 teams have ever appeared in the NHL Winter Classic. The Caps have played in it twice. Even the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers, all three of which are original six NHL franchises, have only made one appearance. That does not happen without Ovechkin. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing in sports and teams cannot allow themselves to be handcuffed by it, but it would be a hard sell to trade away the face of the franchise when many Caps fans, perhaps even a majority of them, were not around for the pre-Ovechkin days.
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