Bruins

Injury regrets? Wilson says 'absolutely not'

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Injury regrets? Wilson says 'absolutely not'

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Brian Wilson has no regrets about how many times he pitched during the San Francisco Giants' improbable 2010 World Series title run. Nor about how he handled his rehabilitation program this winter, and certainly not how he stayed on the mound at Colorado last week despite ligament damage in his arm. "Absolutely not," Wilson said. "That's how I play baseball. Push it to the limits." Wilson has now reached his limit. San Francisco's bearded and boisterous closer said before Sunday's series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates that he will probably have elbow-reconstruction surgery, ending his season after only 56 pitches, two appearances and one save. He was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list, clearing space for Ryan Vogelsong to come off the DL against Pittsburgh. An MRI showed the structural damage. Wilson plans to seek at least one other opinion and probably two, including from the renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who performs Tommy John elbow-reconstruction surgeries. Rehab time is typically a year to 18 months. The news hands a big blow to a Giants team that has lost a major clubhouse fixture for the second straight season and has hopes of recapturing the magic from the city's historic championship two years ago. "My spirits aren't down," Wilson said. "I know a lot of people are sad. I know Giants fans are probably going to look at this as like a huge loss. But we have the best bullpen in the league. I've been honored to play with those guys, teach them some things, and they've taught me some things, and they're going to fill in my role as best they can. "I don't think they're going to falter. I think we're going to take the West no matter what." The Bearded One's absence leaves a gaping hole in the bullpen. The 30-year-old Wilson, a three-time All-Star, led the majors with 48 saves in 2010. He finished 6-4 with a 3.11 ERA and 36 saves in 57 appearances last season, held out down the stretch as a precaution. Wilson said during spring training all seemed right with his elbow. And all did seem fine until he threw 32 pitches at Colorado on Thursday, preserving a 4-2 victory over the Rockies despite the apparent injury while working the second of back-to-back days. He stayed in the game with two outs and the bases loaded after turning his right ankle on a 1-0 pitch to Tyler Colvin. Turns out, Wilson really hurt his arm -- whether the injury happened on that pitch is still somewhat of a mystery -- but he refused to be pulled out. "My mindset was, OK, if it's inflammation, get out of your mess. If this is season ending, your last pitch is going to be preserving (Madison) Bumgarner's win and not walking off the mound a failure," Wilson said. "That's just how I pitch. I don't care how painful it is." At least for now, Wilson's replacement will likely come by committee. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said it would be nice to find a regular closer. In the meantime, he plans to give the ninth-inning opportunities to Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo or even lefty Javier Lopez -- all of whom helped fill in when Wilson missed time late last season with elbow issues. Bochy and athletic trainer Dave Groeschner were adamant the team followed every step of Wilson's rehab properly -- and the closer agreed -- last year and this offseason. Wilson felt something in the elbow at Colorado, Groeschner said, but didn't tell the team until Friday about the discomfort. Wilson, who already had one Tommy John surgery during college, was then sent for tests. The results seemed to surprise even Bochy considering Wilson was still hitting 95 mph on the radar and 89 with his cutting fastball against the Rockies. "It's pretty amazing where he was at given with what happened," Bochy said. "He was still pretty good." That's Wilson. The eccentric right-hander with the bushy, black beard means as much to the clubhouse -- regularly playing dominoes and pulling pranks with teammates -- as he does when he runs out of the bullpen with House of Pain's "Jump Around" blaring over the ballpark's speakers. Still, with a deep bullpen, the loss doesn't figure to cost San Francisco the way star catcher Buster Posey's season-ending leg and ankle injury did after a home-plate collision with the Marlins' Scott Cousins last May 25. In fact, Wilson believes he'll have more time for his off-the-field antics in the clubhouse while rehabbing than before. He joked that he might hop in the broadcast booth and "maybe win an Emmy." He still has another arbitration year under contract with the Giants, telling fans and media, "You're welcome." And he's not worried about coming back, saying it's an "opportunity for me to get a better arm. How's that disappointing?" "If I plan on playing forever," Wilson said, smiling, "then this is a small percentage of my career."

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, "happy he can move on"

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, "happy he can move on"

BOSTON – It was the final piece of closure for former Bruins coach Claude Julien when he made his return to TD Garden for the first time as the bench boss for the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. Julien stood on the visiting bench, watched a first period video tribute of appreciation for his 10-years guiding the Bruins and then received the warm, thankful ovation from the B’s fans that still very much appreciate his efforts that resulted in a 2011 Stanley Cup title. 

Unfortunately for him and the Canadiens he also presided over a lifeless, limp effort from his Montreal club in a 4-1 loss to the Bruins where his team simply couldn’t derive any emotion or juice from his return to Boston. Julien said in both French and English that that his Habs simply “laid an egg” on the road, and that was disappointing for him given that Montreal already has their backs against the wall for a possible playoff spot. 

Instead Julien’s biggest bright spot in the game turned out to be the video tribute from the Bruins midway through the first period, for which he was greatly appreciative. 

“It’s always something that you kind of dread a little bit because it’s a little emotional, and at the same time [you’re] trying to keep your emotions intact there so you can coach a game and stuff like that. But, you know, I appreciate what they did for me,” said Julien following his second loss to the Bruins in five days. “As I said, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about this organization that gave me the opportunity to spend 10 years here. At the same time I’m kind of happy it’s over so we can move on now, but that doesn’t mean you forget what’s happened here. It’s always going to be with you. But now I’m in another chapter of my coaching career, and I’ve got to think about that.”

Julien’s counterpart, Bruce Cassidy, called the video tribute a “classy move” by the Bruins organization after the game had been settled, and there’s no doubting it was the right move for a coach that won over 400 games during his 10 years leading the Bruins. It was also the final chapter in his Bruins book as Julien now has completely moved on to his new gig guiding the Canadiens where it seems like his work is most definitely cut out for him. 

Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

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Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

FOXBORO -- Are we giving the Jaguars defense too much credit?

The numbers, on the surface, paint Jacksonville's defense as one of the best the NFL has seen in years. They finished the season as the league's top passing defense in terms of yards allowed, and they were second when it came to points allowed, total yards and sacks.

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Then there are the postseason awards that have been bestowed upon their defensive regulars. Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson have all been named Pro Bowlers. Ramsey and Campbell are First-Team All-Pros, while Bouye and Telvin Smith are Second-Teamers. Campbell is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. 

So why, then, is there this lingering feeling that the Jaguars defense isn't all it's cracked up to be? They allowed Ben Roethlisberger to heave his way to 42 points in the Divisional Round. In Week 16, they gave up 44 to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners. Hell, Blaine Gabbert and the Cardinals put up 27 and beat them in Week 12. 

Those results don't exactly scream "all-time defense." So what is Jacksonville? Overrated? Properly rated? 

One thing is for certain: The Jags played an easy schedule. The combined winning percentage of their opponents in 2017 was a league-low 44 percent. And when it comes to the defense in particular, they had the second-easiest schedule in the league, according to Football Outsiders. It didn't hurt that they were able to play the Colts with Jacoby Brissett, the Texans before Deshaun Watson became a star and after he got hurt, and the NFL's No. 23-ranked Titans offense. Twice. Each. They also got the Ravens (No. 27 offense), Jets (No. 28), Bengals (No. 32), Browns (No. 24) and Cardinals (No. 22). Add it all up and that's nine games -- more than half their schedule -- against bottom-third NFL offenses. Two more games came against a Houston offense that featured starting quarterbacks Tom Savage and TJ Yates. 

When you dig into the analytics it's harder to find ways to poke holes in Jacksonville's credibility as a top-tier defensive unit. Pro Football Focus grades the Jags as their No. 1 defense, and it's really not close. Football Outsiders calls them their No. 1 defense in terms of DVOA. Even when you factor in some of its recent performances -- like letdowns versus the Steelers and Niners -- Jacksonville is still the league's No. 4 defense in weighted DVOA, which is adjusted so that games that were played earlier in the season are gradually less important. 

At the same time, the analytics can be occasionally unkind to the Jaguars. Football Outsiders has them ranked as one of the most inconsistent defenses in the league. According to their variance statistic, Jacksonville is the fourth most inconsistent defense in football. A deeper dive into the numbers has also located an apparent soft underbelly of the Jaguars defense. Per Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, the Jaguars are dominant against three-receiver sets -- No. 1 in the league, in fact -- but they're the No. 23 defense in the NFL when it comes to defending personnel groupings that feature one or two wide receivers. That would explain, in part, why the Titans (who Sharp rated as the least-likely team to employ three-receiver sets this season) and Niners (who went with more "21" and "12" personnel looks late in the season) were able to beat the Jaguars. 

The most difficult argument against the legitimacy of the Jaguars' defensive rankings is the talent they put on the field on a weekly basis. Their roster, defensively at least, stacks up with some of the most imposing defensive units in recent memory. The Seahawks had four First and Second-Team All-Pros on their defense in 2014. The Broncos defense had five Pro Bowlers in 2015. The Jaguars have five players who were named either All-Pros or Pro Bowlers or both this year, and they probably should've had a sixth in pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who recorded 12 sacks (eighth in the NFL) and a league-best six forced fumbles. 

The verdict? The Jaguars defense is loaded with blue-chip players. It will be the best unit the Patriots offense has seen this year. But they have been inconsistent, they have holes -- which we touched upon in this week's Quick Slants the Podcast with Jerod Mayo -- and there remains the very real possibility that Tom Brady and his teammates will light up the Gillette Stadium scoreboard on Sunday. 

Now, is Brady healthy? Good question. Will he have enough time to throw? We'll see. But if the answer to both of those questions is "yes" (or "enough"), then the Patriots should be headed to Minnesota. This Jaguars defense is very good, but it's far from inpenetrable.

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