Former Maryland standout Greivis Vasquez will be among nine people honored at the White House on Friday through its "Champions of Change" program, which recognizes"leaders who have exemplified extraordinary successes and efforts toward the development of and diplomacy with their countries or communities of origin."The nine Champions of Change we honor today highlight the power of proximity. These members of the Latin American Diaspora remind us that geography matters, that being a good neighbor is both good manners and a good investment. The Champions that we recognize today have helped their countries and communities of origin, and in doing so have bettered our region as a whole, said Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson. These exceptional individuals, with their work in sports and community development, in education and financial inclusion, inspire others by their example. In a region with such profound human links between our societies, ideas and inspiration spread quickly to the benefit of people all over the Americas and the Caribbean.Vasquez, a native of Caracas, Venezuela andguard forthe New Orleans Hornets devotes "much of his free time over the years to youth sports camps in Venezuela and was invited to partner with the US State Department in their Sports Diplomacy program to help foster improved relations between the two countries."The ceremony will be shown live Friday at 10:30 am ET onwww.whitehouse.govlive.
One of the best offenses in 2016, the Redskins early returns so far in 2017 rank somewhere between underwhelming and underachieving. That does not mean good games aren't coming in the future, however, at least according to head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins.
"I would like to think that as the year goes on the offense gets better and better," Cousins said Wednesday. "Hopefully we take those steps going forward and we just hit our stride and play much better than we have the first two weeks."
In the first two games of the season, a loss at home to the Eagles in Week 1 and a win in Los Angeles over the Rams, Cousins hasn't played particularly well. Against Philadelphia, he played poorly, accounting for three turnovers and completing just 57 percent of his passes. In LA, he showed progress. No turnovers and his completion percentage jumped up nearly 10 points.
More importantly, Cousins shined on the final drive of the game, going 3 for 3 and throwing the game-winning touchdown. It was that drive, and a number of near misses in both games, that has Gruden optimistic.
The coach called the Redskins passing game "very, very close" to hitting on all cylinders.
"There is a lot we can improve on in the passing game, from Kirk to the routes to the protection. It’s a work in progress, but we will get there," Gruden said Monday. "We have total faith that we will get it done and his numbers will get better."
Considered in a certain way, he's right.
In Week 1, the Redskins offensive line struggled and Cousins was sacked four times. The run game got nothing going, generating just 64 yards on the ground. Cousins was able to throw for 240 yards, and despite all the turnovers, the offense still had a chance to steal a win late in the fourth quarter.
In Week 2, the Redskins line blocked better and the run game produced at a high level. Cousins' yardage total was quite low, only 179 yards, but a big gainer got dropped and a few other opportunities were missed.
Cousins supporters will scream about passes being dropped in Weeks 1 and 2. Cousins detractors will scream about passes missed in Weeks 1 and 2.
The truth is likely in the middle. There is a solid baseline of production from Cousins from the last two seasons, and clearly Gruden expects that to come. Perhaps Week 3 against Oakland will be the opportunity.
"We’re just going to keep sticking with the plan, getting these guys open the best way we can and hopefully we give Kirk the protection and he sees the throws and makes the throws," Gruden said. "But we’re right there, really. I like the group that we have."
The 2016 Redskins finished third in the league in total yards gained. Obviously the team lost a ton of production with the exits of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Don't discount that, or the departure of former offensive coordinator Sean McVay.
Despite all that, Cousins still has weapons. And talent. He knows he can be better, and knows he needs to be better.
"We have still done some really good things the first two weeks and have moved the ball, but I think there is more in the tank there that we have got to bring out,” Cousins said.
To beat the Raiders, the Redskins will need to bring everything out of the tank. That likely means a 300-yard passing game from Cousins along with multiple touchdowns.
The quarterback and the coach think the offense is ready, and close to a breakout game. Maybe they're right.
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The Capitals are one week into training camp with two preseason games already in the rearview mirror. The roster battles are coming into focus and some players are already staking their claims.
So what will the final roster ultimately look like on opening day? Here's a projection based on what we have seen and heard through the first week:
Andre Burakovsky - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jakub Vrana
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Tom Wilson
Nathan Walker - Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson
Anthony Peluso - Devante Smith-Pelly
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Aaron Ness - John Carlson
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey
- According to Cap Friendly, this roster would put the Caps $40,000 over the salary cap. My caveat is that the salary cap is so complex that no one really knows exactly what a team's salary number is except for the team and the NHL. Cap Friendly is an incredibly useful tool, but it is a projection. A difference of $40,000 is well within the margin of error I consider to be realistic. for the Caps to make this roster fit under the cap.
- If the Caps can't make this work, don't be surprised to see them start with 22 players.
- Peluso is not talked about all that much, but the team needs Wilson to focus on his offense and not fighting. They need someone else to take that responsibility from his shoulders. Peluso may spend more time in Washington than you may think, even if he spends more games in the press box than on the ice.
- Chiasson played well in Washington's first preseason game and his versatility makes him attractive to Washington. In a pinch, he could play on the third line, perhaps even the second if needed. The only way it can really work in Washington, however, is if he agrees to sign for a league minimum $650,000 which you would think is certainly doable. He was without a job a few weeks ago, is he really going to haggle over price?
- Christian Djoos did not play particularly well in the team's first preseason game and given his size, the team will not simply give him a spot because they have a hole in the lineup. As of now, I would predict the Caps will send Djoos back to the AHL and hope his size will dissuade any potential poachers form snagging him. If he hopes to make the NHL roster, he needs to make an impactt with his next opportunity or he will almost certainly be back in the AHL.
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