Wizards

Georgia's struggling defense missing 'swag'

Georgia's struggling defense missing 'swag'

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Bacarri Rambo believes Georgia's defense has too much talent to be giving up so many points.

NFL draft experts agree.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones No. 1 on his 2013 NFL draft board. Scouts Inc.'s projected first round includes four members of Georgia's defense: Jones, defensive tackle Jonathan Jenkins, linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Shawn Williams. Jones and Ogletree are juniors.

Despite that top talent, No. 14 Georgia lost to South Carolina 35-7 last week, one week after giving up 44 points in a narrow win over Tennessee.

Georgia (5-1, 4-1 SEC) is off this week and plays at Kentucky next week.

Rambo, a 2011 first-team All-America safety, says the defense has been hurt by communication breakdowns.

``Everybody is guessing, well not guessing, but just some people don't prepare well enough like some others do,'' Rambo said. ``It's just like they thought we were going to be in this call and one person said we're going to be in this call, so everybody is on different pages.

``Once we get everybody on the same page ... once that happens, everything else will start to fall in place.''

Linebacker Christian Robinson also said poor communication is a problem.

``Mainly little things,'' Robinson said. ``Usually once you've made a mistake you correct it, but once you've made five different mistakes, that may be five touchdowns. That's why we practice so much and meet so much, to eliminate those communication issues before they happen.''

Linebacker Jordan Jenkins said there were breakdowns against South Carolina even when most members of the defense were in position to make stops.

``On certain plays, one or two people were not doing something right,'' Jenkins said. ``In the SEC, if one person isn't doing something right, then all hell is going to break loose.''

Lack of continuity has been another problem.

Rambo and Ogletree each served four-game suspensions to start the season. Cornerback Sanders Commings and linebacker Chase Vasser served two-game suspensions. Malcolm Mitchell began the season at cornerback as a fill-in for Commings, but Mitchell is now spending most of his time at wide receiver.

There were other adjustments to find replacements for the suspended players. The constant turnover in personnel, including some key starters, has robbed the defense of the confidence that comes with continuity.

An example: Jordan Jenkins, a freshman, said he hasn't had the opportunity to develop a chemistry with Ogletree.

``I haven't played with Ogletree so I'm just starting to sense what he's like and where he's going to be,'' Jenkins said. ``I'm just starting to get a feel for what he can do and what I can do to help him.''

Georgia has had little time with its projected starting 11 playing together in defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme.

Even so, that doesn't explain the confusion last week described by Rambo.

``Mostly we were just out of position and not lined up right,'' Rambo said. ``We've just got to line up right and just show our ball skills because we have some guys back there that can make plays.''

Jordan Jenkins said the communication problems are ``one of the main things we're trying to fix this week.''

``This is just a week to fine-tune all the individual stuff,'' Jenkins said. ``We've got to get better because as a team we didn't do well. On a play certain individuals did better than others. We have to work out all the kinks that we had and just get better.''

Georgia has not played like the 2011 team that ranked fifth in the nation in total defense.

This year, Georgia ranks 51st in total defense and 52nd with its average of more than 24 points allowed. Even Buffalo and Florida Atlantic scored at least 20 points in losses to the Bulldogs.

Few seemed to notice the defense's lack of dominant play early in the season. The offense was setting a school record by scoring more than 40 points in its first five games. The high-scoring Bulldogs, led by quarterback Aaron Murray and freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, climbed to No. 5 in the Top 25 before falling nine spots in the Top 25 with last week's loss.

Rambo said the defense is missing the confidence it showed last season.

``We've just got to get that swag that we had last year,'' Rambo said. ``I mean, guys running around getting sacks, D-linemen crushing quarterbacks, everybody getting interceptions, everybody just making plays. We've just got to get our swag back into our mentality. That's all it really is, and correct the small things. The small things are what really hurt us.

``We're going to get everybody right. We have to get that swag back from last year. We're going to get it back, I promise you.''

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Kawhi Leonard going to the Raptors may actually be good news for the Wizards and the East

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Kawhi Leonard going to the Raptors may actually be good news for the Wizards and the East

Through nearly three weeks of NBA free agency and almost a month of trades, the Eastern Conference had remained eerily quiet. The Wizards had arguably been the most aggressive team in the East, as all the biggest moves had occurred in the West and, most notably, LeBron James changed coasts.

That all changed on Wednesday as the Toronto Raptors pulled off a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to land Kawhi Leonard, a two-time defensive player of the year. The full deal includes All-NBA guard DeMar DeRozan going to San Antonio along with big man Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick. The Raptors also get guard Danny Green, according to ESPN.

Here are some takeaways from the trade...

This is good, potentially great news for the Wizards

The worst-case scenario for the Wizards and most of the East would have been if Leonard got dealt to either the Sixers or Celtics, as the potential would have been there for a dominant team. The Sixers, in particular, could have conceivably traded for Leonard without giving up much in the way of pieces that can help them now. They would have teamed Leonard with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and would probably be the favorites to reach the NBA Finals. Instead, the Sixers struck out and now face the prospect of taking a pretty big L on this offseason, given all the guys they were tied to going into it.

Leonard and the Raptors will be good and they may even be better than they were last season. Though the Raptors won 59 games in the regular season, they disappointed in the playoffs. Leonard could change that, but he won't have the help to make them an unstoppable force. Kyle Lowry is good, but he's an aging player and they don't have a third star, at least not yet. They have a lot of recent first round picks that could, in theory, make the leap.

This deal is good for the Wizards and could become great if Leonard leaves in free agency next summer. If he does, the Raptors will be in deep trouble.

What will the Lakers do?

When James signed with the Lakers, most assumed they would then add at least one star to run with him. But now that Leonard is going to Toronto, it's very possible they don't add one at all. James might actually have to play with Lonzo Ball in addition to Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee. Sure, they can sign Leonard next summer or find another star then, but this is shaping up as of now to be a lost year for James.

As consistitued, they aren't winning anything of substance. It's just so surprising James would be cool with this level of talent around him considering what he could have done this season if he signed with Philly or some other team.

People are looking at the wrong contract

Much of the instant reaction to the Leonard trade was praise for the Raptors in ridding themselves of DeRozan's deal. That's a headscratcher. DeRozan is set to make over $27 million in the next three years, the third being a player option, but he's an All-NBA player who turns 29 next month. In the context of NBA contracts, that isn't too bad.

Lowry's contract, on the other hand, is borderline awful. He's 32 with his numbers heading in the wrong direction and he's due to make $31 million next season and $33.3 million the year after. It's not like the Raptors freed themselves of their worst deal.

Masai is making moves

This is a risk for the Raptors and you have to respect it. Their general manager, Masai Ujiri, had seen enough of the DeRozan-Lowry duo falling short in the playoffs. He fired head coach Dwane Casey and pulled off a trade for Leonard, who at his best is one of the premier players in the NBA.

There is considerable risk in this move with Leonard having missed 73 games last season with a quadriceps injury and given the fact he can opt to test free agency next summer. If he really does want to join the Lakers, he could leave the Raptors empty-handed.

But it's a risk that is probably worth taking. Everyone assumed the same future for Paul George and he ended up staying in Oklahoma City. It's not a guarantee Leonard leaves and now the Raptors have a year to convince him to stay. Ujiri should get praise for this deal because it's bold and he did one of the hardest things a GM can do in finding a top-5 talent for his team.

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With LeBron gone and Kawhi in, who's the best player in the East?

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With LeBron gone and Kawhi in, who's the best player in the East?

With Kawhi Leonard off to the Raptors, we have a shakeup near the top when it comes to the best players in the East.

Whether it's a one-year rental or ends up being a long-term partnership, the Raptors got themselves an MVP candidate when he's healthy.

That's the issue though. What will Leonard be when he returns to the court after that quad injury took most of last season away from him?

RANKING THE TEN BEST PLAYERS IN THE EAST

With LeBron James now in Los Angeles, the East has a new pecking order when it comes to the top talent, which includes a couple of Wizards as well.

How do they stack up?

Well, here's your answer:

RANKING THE TEN BEST PLAYERS IN THE EAST