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ACC defenses giving up big yards, lots of points

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ACC defenses giving up big yards, lots of points

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Defenses across the Atlantic Coast Conference are having trouble getting stops or keeping offenses out of the end zone.

League teams are giving up points and yards at their highest rate in more than a decade. And that's led to plenty of shootouts, including last weekend's Georgia Tech-North Carolina matchup that stands as the highest-scoring game in ACC history.

``I hate it because I want to go out here and be dominant on defense every week and I like to see other defenses be dominant as well,'' UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said. ``I want to see tackles for loss, sacks, interceptions, fumbles, forced fumbles. I don't want to see the ball thrown in into the end zone. It kind of makes me not want to watch the games no more, man.''

ACC teams are giving up an average of 26.2 points per game this season, up from 24.7 a year ago and the highest since teams averaged 26.4 points in 2001, according to STATS LLC. In addition, teams are giving up an average of 389.4 yards per game, up from about 369 last year and the highest since at least 1995.

Those numbers get worse ACC teams play each other. Teams are giving up 29 points and 413 yards per league game, both ranking as the highest averages since at least 1995.

Those struggles were on display during last weekend's games, starting in Chapel Hill.

In the Tar Heels' 68-50 loss to the Yellow Jackets, the teams combined for 1,085 yards, 11 players scored touchdowns and the 118 combined points broke the previous mark of 110 set in Virginia's 63-47 win against Tulane in 1968.

``I know how they feel,'' said Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell, whose Blue Devils have allowed at least 41 points in all four of their losses. ``I understand what's going on on that sideline and how tough it is to be part of a game like that where for some reason or another, you just can't get a stop. So I sympathize more with the defense than worry about the offense.''

That same day, Virginia beat Miami 41-40, marking the 11th conference game this season in which the losing team scored at least 30 points. It happened 10 times in 2001, the only other time it's reached double figures since 1995, according to STATS.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said the trend will continue.

He remembers the goal was to hold teams to 14 points and 300 yards during his days as an Air Force assistant in the 1980s. Now, he said, defenses are struggling to adjust to a mix of spread, triple option and pro-style offenses in the ACC.

``People want to see a lot of scoring,'' Grobe said. ``They like seeing football scores like 38-35, they don't like seeing a 3-0 game. I don't think we're going backwards in this deal. What you typically see is offenses take the lead then defenses catch up. It's point-counterpoint, punch-counterpunch. But right now, I don't see the defenses getting to where they'll ever be dominant again.

``Offenses are here to stay.''

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson pointed to those offensive schemes as a reason for the defensive struggles, noting how more teams are willing to throw the ball or run hurry-up attacks that squeeze more plays into the 60-minute game. Throw in the fact that the 10 of 12 ACC programs returned their regular starting quarterback this season, and the pressure has only increased on defenses.

``If you're one of these teams that says you're going to run 100 plays, well, unless you're three-and-out on defense, your defense is going to be out there for 80 plays, too,'' Johnson said. ``It goes both ways. You don't just get to run your 100 and they get to run 40.''

Tenth-ranked Florida State has been the exception, leading the country in total defense (242.9 yards) and ranking fourth nationally in scoring defense (13 points). They're the only team in the league holding teams to fewer than 22 points and 315 yards per game.

The only blip for the Seminoles came against Clemson's high-powered offense. Florida State won that one 49-37 in September.

``It's very important to be great on defense in the South because that's where the largest number of your defensive linemen, defensive ends and secondary guys come from,'' FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. ``There's a larger group of them in this region than there is in any other region in the country.''

Miami's struggles offer one of the most glaring examples. Sixteen of the 27 players on the defensive depth chart for this weekend's game against South Florida are underclassmen. The Hurricanes are two points away from matching a school record for points allowed in a season and could give up about 100 yards per game more than any other team in Miami history.

Yet, despite allowing 31 points and an ACC-worst 490 yards per game, Miami is still in contention for the ACC's Coastal Division title.

``The only thing that I can tell you is that we're playing hard,'' coach Al Golden said after the Virginia loss. ``We were fighting our tails off.''

The Hurricanes aren't the only ones feeling that frustration.

``Defenses, we're always a year or two behind,'' North Carolina defensive coordinator Dan Disch said. ``You've got to study (an offense), you've got to figure out how it's hurting you and what you can do to stop it. I think the pendulum has swung a little bit, but it'll swing back - and then the offenses will discover something different.''

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AP Sports Writers Joedy McCreary in Durham, N.C.; Charles Odum in Atlanta; and Tim Reynolds in Miami; and Associated Press Writer Brent Kallestad in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report

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Vernon Davis urges Redskins fans to have patience with Bruce Allen

Vernon Davis urges Redskins fans to have patience with Bruce Allen

Tight end Vernon Davis has seen the Washington Redskins go through many ups and downs since becoming a part of the organization in 2016, but the 2018 season brought a new set of challenges.

Two injured quarterbacks headlined the Redskins' 7-9 season and fans were once again calling for team president Bruce Allen's job.

In a rare media availability during Tuesday's Senior Bowl practice, Allen noted how "close" he felt the Redskins were to reaching the postseason but his continued lack of transparency is something that does not sit well with Redskins fans.

Davis, speaking Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, is standing by the team's president.

"I strongly believe, like I said before, we have the pieces to win games."

"Bruce and Dan [Snyder], those guys are constantly sitting in their office trying to find ways to win. It's not like they're not doing a great job with it. I believe in them. I believe that they're going to make the right decision to do the best they can do to help us win football games around here because that's what they're there for. Bruce is there to make sure that we're a championship team. Make sure that we're winning. Making sure that we have all the pieces when it comes to different positions on the football field. So, they're doing just that.

Allen has continued to praise the Redskins fans for their passion throughout the offseason. But if you know the Redskins, don't expect many changes to take place. 

And if it's hard for you to hang on to the little insight Allen provides Redskins fans with in regards to the future of the organization, Davis urges fans to keep holding on. 

"I wouldn't quite count him out. I just say have patience and continue to support the Washington Redskins." 

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Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive

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Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive

News that the “grit ‘n grind” era is apparently ending in Memphis effectively tips off the NBA trade deadline rumors.

No shock if the John Wall and Dwight Howard-less Washington Wizards receive a mention or two for deals involving Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. Mention and final destination are different worlds, of course.

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Grizzlies are finally open to hearing trade offers for their two franchise stalwarts. They never reached the level of other famed big man/guard tandems, but Gasol and Conley were at the center of a seven-year run of playoff appearances peaking with the 2013 Western Conference finals.

With age and injuries striking the duo, Memphis slipped in recent years. The postseason streak ended last season. After a hot start to the 2018-19 campaign including an early-season win over the Wizards, the Grizzlies have lost 12 of 13, falling to 19-28 overall. While that record would not automatically end playoff hopes in the Eastern Conference, it slots Memphis 14th out of 15 teams in the West.

As NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman noted, finding a trade partner will not come easy for the Grizzlies.

Gasol, 33, has a player option next season for $25.6 million. That’s a huge number for a center in this perimeter-oriented era on top of the $24.1 million the three-time All-Star is earning this campaign. Gasol’s highly skilled game is showing signs of decline, though his basic statistical numbers (15.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 blocks) remain helpful.

Conley, one of the NBA’s most underrated talents of his generation, offers lead guard, leadership skills – and a financial challenge. From Feldman:

Mike Conley will have a lot of interested parties, he is an All-Star level player (he’d make it in the East easy, but in the West probably falls short again), but his contract is bigger than Gasol’s. Conley makes $30.5 million this season and has $67 million the two seasons after that (the second is an early termination option, but Conley isn’t opting out of that money, so consider that $67 million fully guaranteed).

As Memphis’ season turned south, Washington surged, winning seven of its last 10 games to move into a ninth-place tie with Detroit. Still two games back of the eighth and final playoff berth, the Wizards could use general depth if not actual star power with Wall sidelined for the season. Howard (back surgery) and forward Markieff Morris (neck) face uncertain recovery timelines.

No disrespect to the Wall and Howard replacements, Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant, but Gasol and Conley would upgrade Washington at those positions. The cost, however, keeps such grandiose thoughts on the shelf. 

During the team’s recent London trip, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis emphatically stated the team would not consider throwing in the towel despite injuries and a losing record. That is not the same as stating the luxury-tax paying team would take on significant salary or trade coveted assets for help.

Washington’s 2019 first-round selection takes on additional importance because the team already exceeds next season’s salary cap with only five players under contract.

Now, if some creative mind conjures a trade that removes the final year of Ian Mahinmi’s four-year, $64 million contract from the books without sending Washington dramatically further into the tax or deals with Wall's trade kicker, hmmm.

If the Wizards decide the overall roster needs a dramatic shake-up, perhaps a deal centered on Wall and Conley gets interesting (Thanks, NBA trade machine, though maybe include draft picks already).

Wall’s run of recent surgeries combined with his four-year, $170 supermax contract kicking in next season and that substantial kicker may end all discussion. However, he is three years younger than Conley. Memphis, set to build around 19-year-old Jaren Jackson Jr., could find that age factor appealing or use Wall/Conley to fascilitate a larger trade.

Other teams will offer more future-friendly deals for Gasol and Conley. The Wizards appear set in their belief the current roster, even with the injuries, can reach the playoffs. Therefore, it's wise setting aside the notion of a major move from Washington involving the Grizzlies’ stars or any other high profile/big salary players. Bookmark the trade machine page regardless. 

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