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Chargers, Jets struggling to finish line

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Chargers, Jets struggling to finish line

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Norv Turner knows the end is likely near for him with the San Diego Chargers.

General manager A.J. Smith might be out soon, too.

There are two games left to play before an offseason of uncertainty begins. And, the New York Jets' Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum know the feeling.

Regular playoff participants a few years ago, both franchises are struggling to the finish line. And a winter of big changes could be in store.

``It's been difficult, in terms of offensively, and I can only speak for my side of the ball and what I'm able to contribute,'' Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said. ``Not playing up to our expectations and not playing up to the level that we've set and the standard of what we set for ourselves, sometimes it's frustrating because you do everything the right way. You prepare and you work hard. ... Not being able to capitalize on the season, it's been tough.''

Both the Chargers (5-9) and Jets (6-8) are out of the playoff race, and the two will play Sunday at MetLife Stadium, hoping to end the season on a positive note.

Mark Sanchez has been benched by Ryan, who is turning to third-stringer Greg McElroy to make his first NFL start Sunday. McElroy stepped in for Sanchez three weeks ago to rally New York to a 7-6 win over Arizona, and has leapfrogged Tim Tebow on the depth chart.

``This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,'' McElroy said. ``This is a great moment and a great milestone in my career. Obviously, this is something I've looked forward to and I've dreamed about my entire life. I'm thrilled to have this opportunity.''

McElroy, a seventh-round pick out of Alabama in 2011, could be auditioning for a job beyond the next two weeks. The Jets are considering all of their options, including trades, regarding Sanchez and Tebow, so McElroy could very well be in position next season to compete for the starting job with good showings against the Chargers and Buffalo Bills.

``I'm taking it one step at a time, and that's the only way you can look at it,'' McElroy said. ``You can't get caught up in next week against Buffalo. You can't get caught up in the offseason. You can't get caught up in next year. Just enjoy this game and the fact that I'm able to step out there on the field against San Diego. Enjoy it, make the most of it and have fun out there.''

As of Thursday, Ryan hadn't decided whether McElroy's backup will be Sanchez or Tebow - or both. Tebow was expected to be a major part of the offense, but instead has been just a minor role player. The wildcat-style offense didn't produce as expected, and Tebow hasn't gotten many opportunities to remind everyone why he was one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the NFL last season while leading the Denver Broncos to a playoff victory.

``Every opportunity you get, you want to make the most of and I'd have loved to have more of an opportunity to just play quarterback,'' said a clearly disappointed Tebow, speaking in a low tone. ``And obviously, that's my goal. I'll just make the most of these last two weeks and see what happens after that.''

There could be plenty, and Tannenbaum and Ryan aren't even certain to stick around. They helped turn the franchise around in 2009, when the Jets went to the first of their two straight AFC title games. But there's been a lot of disappointment since then with New York missing out on the playoffs two years in a row.

``Right now, I'm not looking further than this game against San Diego and then we have one more game,'' Ryan said. ``We'll see what happens. My focus has to be with those two games and that's it.''

Turner is taking a similar approach despite recent reports that the Chargers will make a move to replace him after the season. San Diego has dealt with several key injuries this season, including to wide receiver Vincent Brown, tackle Jared Gaither and running back Ryan Mathews, who broke his left collarbone in the Chargers' 31-7 loss to Carolina last Sunday.

Turner said regardless of what happens, he would like to continue coaching in the NFL next season, even if it means as an offensive coordinator elsewhere. The Jets could potentially be in the market for one after their offense struggled mightily - ranked 30th overall - in Tony Sparano's first season as the coordinator in New York.

``I think people that know me know that I'm a coach,'' Turner said. ``I like coaching. I want to coach. I think you get to a point where there are things that are important to you. If I continue to coach, I want to be in a good situation, a place where you have an opportunity to win and be in a situation that there are coaches I've worked with and been around.''

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has had his share of troubles this season, just like Sanchez, and has 47 turnovers in the last two years. Despite all that, he needs 210 yards passing to become the first Chargers player with five straight seasons of 3,500 or more yards passing.

San Diego still looks at Rivers as a franchise-type quarterback, and sitting him the last two weeks - as the Jets might do with Sanchez - wasn't in Turner's game plan.

``For our team and for our situation, a change was never a consideration because the things that were keeping us from getting done what we needed to get done had a lot more to do with other spots,'' Turner said. ``I know ultimately the quarterback gets a lot of the credit or blame, but it just wasn't the issue with our team as we went through our season.''

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Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

It's the moment we've all been waiting for: finding out who the Redskins are going to take as their No. 15 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

After much anticipation and countless mock drafts, Redskins fans will finally find out what's to come for the Burgundy and Gold in the upcoming NFL season. 

And we couldn't let you handle this news alone: So we've got the Redskins Talk crew hosting a special "Redskins on the Clock" live stream to address, analyze and hopefully rejoice over the 'Skins decision. 

<<CHECK OUT NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON'S LATEST NFL MOCK DRAFT>>

On Thursday, Apr. 25th, JP Finlay, Peter Hailey and Mitchell Tischler from the Redskins Talk Podcast, along with guests Travis Thomas and Trevor Matich, will be offering a live look into their thoughts and concerns surrounding both the Redskins' pick and all of Round 1. The live stream will be available on the MyTeams by NBC Sports App from approximately 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

And if you haven't already downloaded the MyTeams App, you can do so right now, RIGHT HERE.

Redskins Talk Podcast "Redskins on the Clock" Special

CLICK HERE to watch the daily live stream of the Redskins Talk Podcast

When: 8 p.m. - (approximately) 11 p.m. ET, Thursday, Apr. 25th 

Live Stream: Click to stream Redskins Talk Podcast Live every day this week

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The baffling exclusion of John Carlson from the Norris Trophy finalists

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USA TODAY Sports

The baffling exclusion of John Carlson from the Norris Trophy finalists

The finalists for the Norris Trophy – awarded to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability in the position – were unveiled on Sunday. Somehow, John Carlson was not among them.

This is the second consecutive year Carlson was a deserving candidate and the second year he will not even be among the top three.

The Norris Trophy is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association -- of which I am a member so I guess you can blame us -- but make no mistake, this is a snub in every sense of the word and a major oversight that Carlson cannot get the recognition he deserves.

Ballots will be made public after the awards are given out. Until then, we are not supposed to divulge exactly how we voted, but I will tell you that Carlson was in my top three, and he absolutely should have been a finalist this year.

If you had asked me prior to the 2017-18 season who the most important defenseman on the Caps was, I would have told you it was Matt Niskanen. I saw Carlson as an offensive-heavy player whose skills in his own zone were lacking. I had to eat those words later as Niskanen was injured in mid-October and missed the next month of the season. During that month, Carlson averaged 27:47 of ice-time per game, which led the entire league. He showed he could contribute offensively, defensively, on the power play and penalty kill. There was nothing he could not do.

Suddenly, the Caps’ top pairing of Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen was replaced by Carlson and whoever he was paired with. That continued into this season.

But while Carlson has reshaped his image in Washington, his reputation as an offensive first player instead of an all-around defenseman persists, and it cost him.

There is no set standard every voter sticks to when it comes to evaluating players for the Norris. You can look at whatever stats you want whether it is Corsi, Fenwick, points, PDO, defensive zone starts, high-danger chances for -- the list goes on. Here’s why Carlson was in the top three of my ballot: Not only did he play exceptionally well, but the Capitals relied on him more in more situations than any other team relied on a single defenseman.

Carlson finished the season ranked eighth in the NHL in time on ice per game at 25:04. Burns finished just ahead of him with 25:06. Both Giordano (24:14) and Hedman (22:46) played less.

Carlson was among the top 40 defensemen in shorthanded time on ice per game with 2:35, something only Giordano (2:40) could boast among the other finalists. Carlson was also first among all defensemen in power play time on ice per game with 4:05, significantly more than Hedman (3:19), Giordano (3:19) or Burns (3:17).

There is no situation in which the Caps are not comfortable putting Carlson out on the ice and no situation in which he is not expected to play heavy minutes. He has taken a bigger role defensively as the team’s top shutdown pair of Orlov-Niskanen has had a down year. Despite the heavier defensive workload, Carlson still managed to finish in the top four in points among defensemen with 70, a career-high.

I am not here saying that Burns, Giordano or Hedman are not deserving of being finalists. In fact, Carlson did not finish first on my ballot. It seems crazy to me, however, that he did not finish in the top three this season or last. All three finalists had strong seasons, but Carlson’s season was just as good and he was more heavily relied upon. He is one of the top offensive blueliners, but that’s not all he is.

Until he manages to overcome that reputation, which persists through no fault of his own, he will continue to be on the outside of the Norris race looking in. And that’s a shame considering how good he has been.

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