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Jets return, swear eyes are on Seahawks

Jets return, swear eyes are on Seahawks

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) As the New York Jets gathered for their first day of work in a week, they insisted their focus was on football, on their next opponent, the Seattle Seahawks.

Even players such as Nick Mangold, who didn't have power in his New Jersey home, said there would be tunnel vision for everyone on the roster. Coach Rex Ryan and his staff are insisting on it, with Ryan noting that he used ``blunt force trauma'' to get the message across.

``Where we are, where we want to be, and how we plan on getting there,'' was what Ryan explained to his players Monday morning as they came off their bye week. While Ryan acknowledges the importance of dealing with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, he also recognizes there is no way of dealing with football in a halfway manner.

Mangold agreed that the Jets (3-5), coming off two straight losses, will ``put all our efforts into Seattle.''

``I think guys got that message,'' the center said. ``We haven't helped ourselves much in the first half of the season.''

No, they haven't, particularly in ugly home losses to San Francisco and Miami. Ryan gave them the entire bye week off in great part because of the hurricane, but maybe he wanted them to get away from the game, recoup and come back with a new sense of purpose.

There's lots to fix on the Jets: a leaky run defense, inconsistent rushing offense, too many turnovers in the red zone, bad decision making by quarterback Mark Sanchez. And, surprisingly, sloppy special teams play, usually a strength.

It adds up to a distressing record so far.

But not one to stress, veteran safety Yeremiah Bell said ``We definitely have the resources to get back into this thing. We have the players, we have the coaching staff and we have the `want to.' The thing is, it's going to be just us on Sundays just going out there and executing.

``We can't help teams get a shot here, get a shot there and kind of stretch the game a little bit. So we're going to have to be a lot more disciplined in that area.''

The Jets did some good things in the first eight weeks, including wins over Miami and Indianapolis, and a close defeat at New England that, with more imagination and less conservatism in the late going also could have been a victory. But the lopsided defeats to the 49ers and Dolphins in which New York couldn't have been more mistake-prone seem to erase memories of the positives.

Ryan wants to change up some of the things the Jets do on the field, perhaps sensing they have become too predictable. He wasn't giving away any trade secrets Monday, nor will he at any other time. So when asked if Tim Tebow and the wildcat - or variations of it - will become a bigger part of the game plan, Ryan was mum.

He communicated daily with his coaching staff even as the hurricane and its aftermath left Ryan and many other Jets employees without power. The coaches offered options on how to improve the team's performances.

``We got a bunch of suggestions, so I hope they're good,'' Ryan said. ``We're certainly looking at them. It's kind of a tough thing, because you have to put all your focus in on this one opponent, but we have to be open for different suggestions, which we have taken in.

``We will be doing some different things. Again, I don't want to get into the specifics of it. I hope you understand that if there's an advantage to be gained, I want to gain that advantage without letting our opponent know. We'll be looking at a lot. There are several things to improve and I'm excited about trying to implement some of these things.''

Injuries also held back the Jets in the first half of the season, particularly losing their best player, cornerback Darrelle Revis, to a season-ending left knee injury. Top receiver Santonio Holmes also was lost for the season with a left foot injury.

Ryan is hoping there will be no issues with injuries for the Seattle game. On Monday, linebacker Bart Scott, running back-kick returner Joe McKnight and defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis didn't practice. Seven others were limited, but with an extra practice day because they didn't play last weekend, that wasn't a major issue.

Another loss or two would be damaging, of course, in New York's quest to return to the postseason after missing out last year. The previous two seasons, Ryan's first and second as coach, the team went to the AFC title game.

``I think the months of November and December, that's when most teams are made anyway,'' said cornerback Antonio Cromartie, one of the few Jets who has played well this season. ``I think the biggest thing for us is just to make sure that we take care of the things we need to take care of one week at a time. Just take it and understand that when we say one week at a time, we have to focus in on that one week and not try to look forward to anything else.''

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NOTES: The Jets signed linebacker D.J. Bryant and running back John Griffin to the practice squad. ... Other players limited Monday were safeties Eric Smith and LaRon Landry, NT Sione Pouha, TE Jeff Cumberland, G Brandon Moore, RB Bilal Powell and Mangold.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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