Redskins

Jets focusing on struggling Titans, not playoffs

Jets focusing on struggling Titans, not playoffs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Rex Ryan is taking nothing for granted, not the way this season has gone for the New York Jets.

The Jets still have hope that a favorable schedule will give them a chance at the playoffs even after a 3-6 start. Ryan, though, is taking it one game at a time, beginning with the woeful Tennessee Titans on Monday night.

``I know we have three games left in the regular season,'' Ryan said. ``But every bit of our energy is focused on this particular game. Whatever is in the past, we can't dwell on or look at or whatever. We're just focused right now on one game.''

The Jets (6-7) head to Nashville having won two straight and three of their last four to put themselves a game out of the AFC's No. 6 seed. After the Titans (4-9), Jets finish out at home against San Diego (5-8) and at Buffalo (5-8).

``Guarantees are no good,'' Jets safety Yeremiah Bell said. ``As a team, you've just got to take care of business. Talk is cheap. You've still got to go out, you've still got to play the game. As long as we keep that one-game-mentality approach, we'll be fine.''

The Jets hit a low point when they were routed 49-19 on Thanksgiving night by New England to fall to 4-7. But they rebounded by beating a pair of losing teams, first Arizona and then Jacksonville last week. They didn't look good doing it, but at this point a win is a win.

Jets defensive end Mike DeVito said one loss can feel like the end of the world, but a couple of wins helps things out.

``It's kind of the way the atmosphere is around here and you have to recognize that and realize that the worst thing you can do is, when things like that are happening is to pack it in and really believe that,'' DeVito said. ``Either way, you just have to continue each week to be consistent and get better.''

Tennessee blew its chance to stay in the playoff mix or even salvage a winning season after owner Bud Adams put the entire franchise on notice that he wanted improvement. The Titans have lost three straight and five of their last six, most recently after blowing a 13-point halftime and falling 27-23 to Indianapolis.

Coach Mike Munchak is hoping the prime-time atmosphere brings out the best in his young Titans. They beat Pittsburgh 26-23 in prime time on Oct. 11, and this is the franchise's first Monday night game in Nashville since 2008.

``We know we're a lot better than 4-9. I know people don't know much about us,'' Munchak said. ``They haven't seen us play other than the Pittsburgh game, which we won when we were on national TV. We want to win and play well and having it on national TV just adds to it, so maybe people can see really what we're about.''

The Titans haven't won since beating Miami 37-3 on Nov. 11. They are embracing the chance to spoil the Jets' playoff hopes.

``That's all we can do from here on out,'' Titans cornerback Jason McCourty said. ``We want to win our last three games, and we're going to do everything we possibly can to do that.''

The Titans have shown signs of improvement over the past month, especially on third-down defense, even though they still rank next to last in the NFL allowing 29.9 points per game. They sacked Andrew Luck four times and hit him repeatedly in holding the Colts to 269 total yards.

Tennessee also may have middle linebacker Colin McCarthy back from a concussion that kept him out the past two games.

The Jets brought back receiver Braylon Edwards to help an injury-depleted group and a passing offense ranked 30th in the NFL. Ryan expects Edwards to play, giving quarterback Mark Sanchez a familiar target.

Sanchez isn't sure how quickly they will get back on the same page.

``We'll see,'' Sanchez said.

The last meeting in Nashville was 2008, when Brett Favre helped the Jets end Tennessee's 10-game win streak to open the season. The Titans have beaten the Jets only once since moving to Tennessee in 1997 with New York winning four of the past five games, including 24-17 on Sept. 27, 2009.

The game is sold out, though how many fans actually show up in the seats remains to be seen after thousands stayed away from their last game. Munchak said he hopes fans turn out and show their support.

Chris Johnson, who became the eighth player in NFL history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first five seasons to start his career, said the Titans know they have to keep playing hard.

``I'm sure the microscope is on every single person for whatever odd reason, if it's to keep a job here for the coaches or as a player to continue to be on this team next year or even if you're not, just to put things on film for other teams to see,'' Johnson said. ``So I'm sure everybody still have something to play for.''

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AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak in Florham Park, N.J., contributed to this report.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter:http://twitter.com/teresamwalker

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Three ways the Redskins helped Dwayne Haskins truly shine for the first time

Three ways the Redskins helped Dwayne Haskins truly shine for the first time

Dwayne Haskins played really well Sunday against the Eagles, and it wasn't just on certain drives or in specific situations. Haskins put together a complete and encouraging performance in Week 15, and for that, he deserves a lot of credit.

But the Redskins' coaching staff, and most notably Kevin O'Connell, should be praised as well for setting Haskins up to shine versus Philly.

Here are three things O'Connell and the offense did at FedEx Field that contributed to the rookie's best effort as a pro.

They were more aggressive on early downs

The following two things are true: 1) Bill Callahan loves Adrian Peterson, and 2) Adrian Peterson has a legitimate shot at rushing for more than 1,000 yards this season. Because of those two facts, it felt like Sunday was setting up to be the Peterson Show, especially on first down.

It wasn't, though, and that greatly benefitted Haskins.

No. 7 found Terry McLaurin for a nine-yarder to start the contest, a throw that allowed the QB to settle into a nice rhythm from the start. The 75-yard touchdown pass from Haskins to McLaurin was also a first down toss, one that featured play-action:

A first down pass in the second quarter, meanwhile, led to a defensive pass interference that advanced the ball 14 yards. On that possession, Haskins would eventually find Steven Sims for a score. 

Throughout the matchup, the Burgundy and Gold seemed more comfortable with trusting Haskins to attack the Eagles, and that's something he very much enjoyed.

"I hope to continue to do it," he told reporters postgame.

They targeted Steven Sims a bunch

Want another example of O'Connell's influence over the gameplan? Look no further than how much Sims was involved.

Overall, Sims was targeted 11 times, and while he only hauled in five of those passes, he's a guy worth looking to often. O'Connell has talked for weeks now about how much he wants to use Sims, and while it may sound odd to say that an undrafted receiver from Kansas deserves lots of chances on a unit that includes McLaurin and Peterson, it's true.

He's really difficult for defensive backs to stay in front of and he's shown a penchant for making some tremendous grabs, including his toe-tapper for his first career receiving TD on Sunday.  

"I'm seeing everything and I'm playing faster," Sims said in the locker room. 

O'Connell and Haskins are seeing him, too, and his larger role is giving Haskins another weapon to rely on.

They introduced a creative option play

In addition to the uptick in aggressiveness, the Redskins also were more creative against the Eagles than they had been lately. The best example of that is the option they introduced and executed perfectly on two separate snaps.

On the first option, Haskins fake-tossed it to Peterson before lateraling it to him a second later. The fake from Haskins was a nifty way to buy more time for the play to develop and it set Peterson up to pick up a first down:

They went back to it again in the third quarter, but this time, Haskins kept the ball and cut upfield for a 23-yard gain:

Watch any NFL game on any weekend, and you'll see offenses trying new concepts and surprising defenses with those concepts. In Week 15, the Redskins were finally one of those offenses, and the group as a whole was the most effective its been under Haskins. And for that, both the player and the staff should be recognized.

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Mark Lerner reflects on Bryce Harper’s departure in free agency

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Mark Lerner reflects on Bryce Harper’s departure in free agency

For seven seasons, the Nationals and Bryce Harper enjoyed a happy marriage that included four NL East division titles, an MVP award and the respect from the rest of the league as legitimate playoff contenders year in and year out.

But principal owner Mark Lerner knew their relationship might not last forever. In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Donald Dell, Lerner talked about how the team balanced making a business decision with the personal side of hoping to extend Harper when he hit free agency last offseason.

“We all like Bryce but at the end of the day, there’s the economic factor, there’s other factors that come into it: clubhouse, interaction with teammates, everything you could imagine in a decision about a free agent,” Lerner said.

Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, which at the time was the record for the most expensive contract in MLB history. The Nationals reportedly made him an offer for 10 years and $300 million that included $100 million in deferrals at the end of the 2018 season.

“He [was] a free agent for a reason, he earned that right,” Lerner said. “It’s his decision and his family’s decision where they play. And he chose to move on. He obviously got an incredible offer.

“Everybody seems to forget it’s not just a bidding war to get the players, the player has to want to play here and sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”

By the time Harper signed with Philadelphia in early March, the Nationals had already reported to Spring Training with starter Patrick Corbin signed to a six-year, $140 million deal as well as a slew of new faces on the roster that had joined the club through free agency. Lerner said Washington never heard back from Harper and didn’t want to wait for him to make a decision.

“We were moving down a different path at that point anyhow,” Lerner said. “Because, as you may recall, Bryce had not given us a response through his agent Scott Boras and we had decisions we had to make so we didn’t get caught waiting too long for him to find out we can’t get other players to replace him.

“And our choice at that point in time was either wait for him or we had the opportunity to sign Patrick Corbin. And we chose to sign Patrick Corbin and get another great starter, which has worked out great, and it was really more us at that point to say, ‘We have to move on.’”

The Nationals went on to win the World Series in 2019 while Harper posted an .882 OPS with 35 home runs in 157 games for the 81-81 Phillies. But as division rivals, Harper and the Nationals will see each other plenty over the next 12 years he’s locked into Philadelphia.

Only time will tell which side ends up wondering what could’ve been.

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