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3's not a crowd but 'ideal' for Jets running backs

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3's not a crowd but 'ideal' for Jets running backs

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Shonn Greene insists he isn't really all that into numbers.

He's a rare running back who won't sulk on the sideline if his carries are down, just as long as the New York Jets are winning.

No, really. He means it.

``I'm not selfish, man,'' Greene said Tuesday. ``You all know that. I've never been that guy who says, `I want this or that.' The more, the better. That's how I see it.''

After the success Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight had against the Rams on Sunday, all three could expect to be in the mix for significant playing time the rest of the season. While some might see three as a crowd in the backfield, the Jets believe it's the way to bring back their run-first approach on a consistent basis.

``I think it's the ideal scenario for us because we have three very capable backs,'' coach Rex Ryan said. ``Instead of just throwing one guy in there all the time to take the hits, protections and routes, when you have three guys coming in, it helps.''

That certainly was the plan going into the season for offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who was excited about bringing the ``Ground-and-Pound'' approach back to the Jets' offense - especially with backup quarterback Tim Tebow in the mix as a wildcat-style presence. While that hasn't yielded the results the Jets hoped for, it has also been rare for all three running backs to be healthy and effective in the same game, as they were in the Jets' 27-13 win over St. Louis on Sunday.

Greene ran 18 times for 64 yards, Powell had 42 yards and his first two NFL touchdowns on 11 carries and McKnight rushed for 14 yards on four carries. The Jets finished with 124 yards rushing, using all three players to try to beat the Rams.

``I think that's where the league is going to,'' Ryan said. ``You don't necessarily have that guy that does it all every snap anymore the way you used to with a Walter Payton. You kind of divide those things up.''

Ryan also noted that the Jets' three AFC East rivals - New England, Miami and Buffalo - all use multiple players in their backfields.

The Jets will get a close look at the Patriots' unpredictable running back rotation Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. While Stevan Ridley is the primary ballcarrier with 842 yards on 185 attempts, Brandon Bolden (43 for 234), Danny Woodhead (49 for 179) and Shane Vereen (33 for 117) have all rushed at least 30 times.

``If you have the talent and the guys are healthy and fresh,'' Ryan said, ``I think that's the best way to do it.''

That approach worked effectively for the Jets in 2009 - Greene's rookie season - when he, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington shared the load, until Washington was lost for the season with a broken leg. The Jets still led the NFL with 2,756 yards rushing that season under then-offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

New York cut Jones and traded Washington the following offseason, but still finished fourth in rushing with the arrival of LaDainian Tomlinson. Greene was the primary backup, with McKnight getting some snaps and wide receiver Brad Smith effectively used in wildcat packages.

The Jets slumped to 22nd in the league in rushing last year as Greene assumed the starting role, Tomlinson was relegated to the third-down back and McKnight and Powell saw limited carries. When Sparano was hired this past offseason as the offensive coordinator, he talked about a return to the run-first mentality Ryan loves.

It has taken a while, but the Jets might be on the verge of getting back to ``Ground-and-Pound'' on a regular basis. They're 15th in rushing, and rising.

``It's an opportunity to keep everybody fresh,'' McKnight said. ``When Shonn goes in, he's gets his plays and then when Bilal goes in, it's another fresh back. When Bilal comes out, I'll go in and it's another fresh back. It's all about keeping us fresh.''

It's also about confusing opponents with three players with different skill sets. First, there's Greene, who is a blue-collar type of running back who leads the team with 631 yards rushing. Next is Powell, also a physical back who has some speed to bounce outside but also is an excellent pass blocker. McKnight is a speedy, shifty runner who also adds a pass-catching element in the backfield.

The Jets tried some trickiness against the Rams, switching things up at times with all three. Greene took a few outside runs, McKnight went in between the tackles a few times and Powell even stayed inside on both of his scores.

``I think we can give some defenses headaches by having all three of us in the game plan,'' Greene said.

Keeping Powell and McKnight healthy has been a challenge this season, though. Powell has dealt with a concussion and a separated right shoulder, while McKnight is playing while still healing from a high right ankle sprain. So, to have all three play significant snaps in a game was promising.

``It was pretty good to see everybody get out there and get going,'' said Powell, who has 180 yards rushing in his second season. ``It was a great game plan. The offensive line did a great job of blocking, making it a lot easier on us. We really enjoyed it, but most importantly, we enjoyed the win.''

In the offseason, Sparano said he could see Greene get as many as 300 carries this year as the bell cow of the Jets' running game. That's music to the ears of most running backs, with many saying the more carries in each game, the better they get at establishing a rhythm.

Greene acknowledged that he hoped that would be the case, but as the season has unfolded and he and the offensive line struggled at times, he insists he has only one goal. And it's not about getting his second straight 1,000-yard season or rushing for double-digit touchdowns.

``This is a team game and I'm more into winning games than worrying about who's getting the ball here and who's getting the ball there,'' Greene said. ``I think it does take a different mentality, but my mentality is: Just win games - whoever can help us win games.''

McKnight agrees, adding that he is used to a running back-by-committee scenario anyway, with six players getting 20 or more carries in each of his last two seasons at Southern California.

``I mean, I went to SC and we had 11 running backs,'' he said, laughing. ``It really never fazed me about how many carries you got. When the opportunity came for you to get in the game, just make the best of it.''

And that goes for him, Greene or Powell.

``As a group, whatever guy's out there, we're always cheering for each other and it's always good to get all the running backs a chance to get in and do their thing,'' Powell said. ``The offensive line did a great job and we just want to keep that going.''

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Jodie Meeks' season...

Player: Jodie Meeks

Position: Shooting guard

Age: 30

2017-18 salary: $3.3 million

2017-18 stats: 77 G, 14.5 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 39.9 FG%, 34.3 3P%, 86.3 FT%, 49.1 eFG%, 111 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 11/29 at Sixers - 21 points, 4 rebounds, assist, steal, 5-for-11 FG, 3-for-6 3PT, 8-for-9 FT

Season review: The Wizards took a flier on Jodie Meeks last summer in what seemed at the time to be a low-risk contract with a potentially high reward, if he could stay healthy and play to his career norms. They were in obvious need of help at backup shooting guard and three-point shooting for their bench.

Meeks fell short of those expectations for a variety of reasons. Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he could not make shots at the clip the Wizards were hoping for. His field goal percentage was not far off from what he posted in recent years, but his three-point percentage was nowhere near the 38.8 percent he shot in his previous four seasons.

Meeks bottomed out midseason, shooting 28.9 percent from three in December and 28 percent in January. Those numbers ticked up beginning in February, but Meeks never fully gained the trust of his coaching staff. He rarely got hot enough to alter games and his best stat-lines often came in blowouts. 

There was a domino effect from Meeks' struggles, as starting shooting guard Bradley Beal had no one to spell him. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player this season.

For Meeks personally, it was a bittersweet year because staying healthy was no small feat. He had a run of bad luck and finally broke out of it this season. On the other hand, he never made the impact he felt he was capable of and that wasn't easy for a guy joining a new team and a new locker room.

Meeks' 2017-18 season was ultimately defined by more than his shooting woes. First, he expressed interest in a trade in February and did not get his wish. Then, he was suspended for allegedy using performance-enhancing drugs after the regular season ended. He was out for the playoffs and will miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season without pay as he waits out a 25-game ban.

Meeks may or may not serve that suspension as a member of the Wizards. He has a player option for next season worth $3.5 million. He has yet to inform the team of his decision, but the expectation is that he will pick it up. Given how poorly his season went and ended, it would likely be the smart move financially for him to opt in and hope for better results next season.

Potential to improve: Shooting percentage, perimeter defense, passing

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

Ian Mahinmi, C

Ty Lawson, PG

Tim Frazier, PG

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Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines. The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team.

Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since there drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than most NHL teams.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against Vegas. There is no weak line to exploit. The Golden Knights come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.

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