Jets' defense underwhelming, far from dominant

Jets' defense underwhelming, far from dominant

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Rex Ryan expected this to be perhaps the best defense he has had since becoming coach of the New York Jets four years ago.

Instead, it has been a major disappointment and hardly the big, bad bunch the coach thought it would be.

At the very least, Ryan said it would finish ranked in the NFL's top five for the fourth straight year. Well, the Jets are 19th and falling.

``I'm not willing to concede anything, though,'' Ryan said earlier this week. ``Maybe we can have some of those great games. I'm not willing to concede it yet because I don't know any different. We have five games left and there better be some doozies on defense to get there.''

It's difficult to have confidence in this unit after it gave up a season-high 475 yards to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a 49-19 drubbing on Thanksgiving night. It was also the worst performance, by yardage, in Ryan's 65 games as coach of the Jets.

Despite all that, Ryan's feelings about his defensive players have not wavered.

``I believe in myself and I believe in the guys that are with me,'' he said. ``I know everybody is tired of it, but that's the case. I believe in the players we have. That's why I feel like we're getting better.

``I think up until that abysmal performance we had against New England, I can see our defense getting better, much better.''

But, New York is 30th in the league in sacks with just 17, and veteran linebacker Bryan Thomas leads the team with a mere 2 1/2. The Jets clearly aren't getting to the quarterback or even putting consistent pressure on opponents enough these days, with Ryan acknowledging that they aren't blitzing nearly as much as they have in the past.

``The sack number is alarming,'' he said. ``That's not anywhere close to where we want to be.''

Aaron Maybin rejuvenated his career last year by leading the Jets with six sacks after two unproductive seasons in Buffalo as a first-round bust. Big things were expected this year, with the plan to have Maybin rushing off the edge and creating havoc for opposing quarterbacks.

He ended up getting cut two weeks ago after registering one solo tackle and no sacks in eight games.

``I think he plays about as hard as you can play,'' Ryan said. ``It just wasn't happening this year for whatever reason.''

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, Ryan's right-hand man on defense, has said all season that he doesn't concern himself with statistics. The one set of numbers that bothers him most, though, is the won-loss record: 4-7.

``It's a very black-and-white business,'' Pettine said. ``We want to be the winningest defense in the NFL and we're not there.''

The Jets are ranked a respectable seventh against the pass, not bad at all considering that the team's best player - cornerback Darrelle Revis - has missed most of the season with a knee injury. Antonio Cromartie has done a solid job of assuming Revis' role as the No. 1 cornerback, limiting wide receivers to mostly mediocre performances.

The problem has come against the run, a category in which the Jets are ranked 30th with only Buffalo and New Orleans worse.

``I can't even worry about it,'' defensive end Mike DeVito said. ``We've got five games left and we obviously haven't lived up to our expectations so far, but you can't go worrying about the past because you still have the future ahead of you. We'll talk at the end of the year when it's all said and done.''

He might be on to something, actually, because New York might have a shot at getting better in a hurry against its last five opponents, none of whom have records above .500.

-Arizona is 31st in the league in total offense, and has quarterback issues.

-Jacksonville ranks dead last in offense, and 31st in rushing.

-Tennessee is 24th in offense.

-San Diego ranks 25th in total offense and in rushing.

-Buffalo is the best of the bunch, ranking 17th overall, but 25th in passing.

``Consistency is so important in this league and something we work on week in and week out to get better,'' DeVito said. ``You need to have that. We need to be that rock that everybody can fall back on and say, `OK, the defense is going to get it done.'''

The defensive line has been reshaped over the last few seasons with players such as Shaun Ellis, Kris Jenkins and Vernon Gholston long gone. They've been replaced by young, developing players such as Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson, the team's top picks in the last two drafts, and Kenrick Ellis, a third-rounder last year.

Coples has had minimal impact so far as he adjusts to life in the NFL, and Ellis has dealt with injuries. Wilkerson, however, is beginning to have a breakout-type season with 66 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble return for a touchdown.

``Does he make the Pro Bowl this year? I don't know, but I think he'll receive a bunch of votes from the guys that have played against him,'' Ryan said. ``Then, people will begin to take notice, the whole country will notice that this guy is a really good player.''

And, possibly the block Ryan needs to rebuild his Jets defense into one of the league's best. Maybe not this year, but Ryan refuses to give up on this group making one final stand this season.

``With these next five games left,'' he said, ``I think we'll play much better.''


NOTES: Ryan reiterated that it was his decision, not the front office, to play Vlad Ducasse in a rotation at left guard with Matt Slauson. Offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo said Thursday that the decision was made ``high above me,'' and raved about Slauson but called Ducasse good enough to play ``every third series ... maybe.'' Meanwhile, Slauson, a free agent after this season, was asked Friday if he felt he has been treated fairly by the team. ``I have no comment on that.'' ... QBs coach Matt Cavanaugh said Mark Sanchez's play has been ``inconsistent'' because of turnovers, but is ``generally pleased'' with his development. ``It's hard to ask for patience when you're 4-7, but I think with a young quarterback who's got talent, you've got to be patient.'' Cavanaugh also didn't think the presence of Tim Tebow or other distractions have affected Sanchez. ``You want to play QB in the NFL, it doesn't matter,'' he said he told Sanchez. ``Everything that's going on around you, learn how to handle it. That's what great ones do.''


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Tim Connelly won’t take top Wizards job, to stay in Denver

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Tim Connelly won’t take top Wizards job, to stay in Denver

There won’t be a Tim Connelly reunion with the Washington Wizards after all.

Connelly passed on the opportunity to become the Wizards President of Basketball Operations, and instead will remain in the same capacity with the Denver Nuggets, a source confirms to NBC Sports Washington. ESPN first reported on Connelly's decision.

Washington received permission to meet with Connelly late Thursday evening. He left the NBA Combine in Chicago and flew to Washington Friday for a discussion with Leonsis, a source told NBC Sports Washington. On Friday, Connelly reportedly received the offer to fill the front office vacancy created by the firing of Ernie Grunfeld on April 2.

While the interest in the Wizards was genuine from the Baltimore native, Catholic University alum and former member of Washington's front office, Connelly could not leave the "stable" situation with significant promise in Denver, a source told NBC Sports Washington.  

Connelly, 41, was named Denver’s general manager in 2013. The Nuggets won 54 games and finished the 2018-19 regular season as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. The roster, headlined by All-NBA center Nikola Jokic and guard Jamal Murray, is the second-youngest in the NBA. "Tough to give that up," the source said. "Too much to risk."

The Wizards are coming off a polar opposite campaign that ended with a 32-50 record. Significant uncertainty exists going forward with five-time All-Star John Wall expected to miss a large chunk of the 2019-20 season as his four-year, $170 million supermax contract extension kicks in.

Leonsis began a deliberative search process for a new President of Basketball Operations after dismissing Grunfeld, who held the position for 16 years.  While other candidates were interviewed during the process, including interim GM Tommy Sheppard, Connelly’s name was linked to the opening almost from the start.

Connelly considered Leonsis' handling of the discussions first class, according to a source.

Sheppard, former Hawks GM Danny Ferry and Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver are the other known primary candidates.

In April, NBC Sports Washington first reported Connelly considered the Wizards his “dream job,” according to sources. The Catholic University alum began his NBA career as an intern with Washington in 1996 before holding various full-time front office positions under Grunfeld. He left for New Orleans in 2010.

The Wizards face significant challenges before re-entering contention in the Eastern Conference. With Wall injured, two-time All-Star Bradley Beal is the only healthy returning starter. 2018 first round pick Troy Brown Jr. is the only other valued long-term asset beyond the ninth overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft,

More than half of last season’s roster is entering some form of free agency. Washington could have limited salary cap space depending on which players return.

The situation requires the kind of roster-shaping creativity Connelly demonstrated in Denver. The Wizards now must look elsewhere for their new front office leader.


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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Roster is set heading into start of OTAs

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Roster is set heading into start of OTAs

Kick off your Monday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news including the full 90-man roster heading into the beginning of OTAs.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. The Baltimore Ravens have officially announced the full 90-man roster that will be competing for an official team roster spot in OTAs this summer. Ravens OTAs begin Monday.

2. With the return of Pernell McPhee and the addition of Shane Ray, it's clear that the Ravens are searching for the right pass rushers for their defense. The two veterans join draft pick Jaylon Ferguson in the quest to create a dynamic defense.

3. Marquise Brown is expected to miss OTAs due to continued rehab on his foot from Lisfranc surgery. However, Brown is expected to be ready by the start of training camp in August.

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Rotoworld and Baltimore Ravens for news points.