Ravens

Packers again can believe in their defense

Packers again can believe in their defense

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers again have a defense that they believe can win games for them.

``You know, last year, there weren't many games where you'd say that,'' Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. ``Of course, our offense was playing so well, it was such a different scenario.''

This year, the Aaron Rodgers-led offense isn't as unstoppable, which is why the NFL MVP appreciates the defense's return to form.

``For our defense to play that way, it gives our offense a ton of confidence, knowing that we don't have to press thinking that we got to score just about every possession in order to win the game,'' Rodgers said earlier this week on his weekly radio show. ``They keep playing like this, we're going to be tough to beat.''

Last year's defense ranked dead last in the 32-team NFL in yards allowed, gave up more passing yards than any defense in NFL history and finished 19th in scoring defense.

In 2012, the defense entered this week's games 16th in yards allowed per game (343.9), 21st in yards passing allowed per game (244.4), 11th in yards rushing allowed per game (99.5), 10th in scoring defense (20.7 points per game) and second in sacks (33). Coach Mike McCarthy now acknowledges that last year's defense simply wasn't good enough, prompting him to focus on making his team more balanced.

``Our special teams has graded out consistently as the best unit. The defense graded out this week (against Detroit) as the best unit,'' McCarthy said. ``Offensively, we have to pick it up. We didn't grade very well.

``But that's how you win the hard games. That's why you win the tough games. That's what good teams do.''

And that's why the Packers may be in better position for a long playoff run this year.

``Last year, if the offense struggled, the team struggled,'' veteran defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. ``Now this year, I think it's more of a team effort. I think we pick each other up.''

Never were the Packers' issues last season more evident than in the two games they played against the Giants - their opponent again Sunday night.

In the Dec. 4 regular-season meeting at MetLife Stadium, the Packers won a 38-35 shootout on Mason Crosby's game-winning 31-yard field goal as time expired.

The Packers' offense racked up 449 yards, but the Giants had 447. The Packers' offense scored touchdowns on four of its five trips into the red zone; the Giants scored on three of their four. The Packers' 12 possessions ended in four touchdowns, five punts, one interception, one missed field goal and Crosby's game-winner. The Giants' 12 possessions ended in four touchdowns, four punts, two field goals, one interception and one fumble.

Then, in the Jan. 15 rematch in the NFC divisional playoffs at Lambeau Field, when the offense wasn't up to the task of going touchdown-for-touchdown with the Giants, the Packers were in trouble.

In a 37-20 loss that wasn't that close, they allowed Eli Manning to complete 21 of 33 passes for 330 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Rodgers was very un-Rodgers-like (26 of 46, 264 yards, two TDs, one INT, one lost fumble). The Giants racked up 420 total yards, and the Packers managed only one sack and one takeaway.

The Giants converted half of their third-down situations. With the Packers offense turning the ball over four times, the defense couldn't save the day with takeaways of its own.

This year's defense is different, and that's obvious to Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who had Capers as his defensive coordinator in Jacksonville for two seasons.

``The Packers' defensive team last year had a tremendous amount of takeaways,'' Coughlin said Wednesday. ``This year's team has not as many takeaways, but they appear to be playing a much tighter, much better defense. The personnel combinations are really obvious, lots of young players contributing.''

Last Sunday against the Lions, the Packers offense managed only two touchdowns: Rodgers' 20-yard first-quarter TD to Jermichael Finley and his go-ahead 22-yard TD to Randall Cobb in the fourth quarter. But the Packers won because of safety M.D. Jennings' 72-yard interception return for a touchdown and the way the defense, trailing 17-14, held the Lions to a field goal late in the fourth quarter when a touchdown likely would have put the game out of reach.

``What you want is a confidence level with your team that there's going to be days that one side of the ball's not clicking. And you're good enough that the other side picks up the slack,'' Capers said. ``To me, that's an indication of a good football team.

``That way, you don't always have to depend on having to outscore people. And obviously being a defensive guy, I've always felt that if you have a good defense, it gives you a chance.''

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

Kick off your Tuesday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news including a recap of the first day of OTAs.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. Yesterday, (Monday) was the first day of the Ravens' OTAs. OTAs continue today (Tuesday) as the Ravens work on developing a new offense. Check out some of the highlights here. 

2. 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. 

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: Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jaxson Hayes

School: Texas
Position: Center
Age: 19
Height: 7-0
Weight: 219
Wingspan: 7-4
Max vertical: 34.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, 72.8 FG% (3.8/5.3), 00.0 3PT% (0.0/0.0), 74.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jarrett Allen, John Henson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th, Sports Illustrated 9th, Ringer 10th

5 things to know:

*Hayes is considered the best center prospect in this year's class. He is athletic, plays with energy and measured in at the combine at about 7-feet in shoes with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He can run the floor and play above the rim.

*The skill that stands out most for Hayes is rim protection. He averaged 2.2 blocks in only 23.3 minutes per game. That extrapulates to 5.7 blocks over 100 possessions. He has long arms and appears to have good instincts tracking the ball in the lane. He is following in the footsteps of fellow Texas shot-blockers before him like Myles Turner and Jarrett Allen. The latter may be the best player comparison for Hayes in today's NBA.

*Hayes is not considered a very good rebounder. He averaged 5.0 per game and only once reached double figures. It could be that he just needs to add some weight, an issue that is correctable but would hurt him even more at the NBA level initially. The worst-case concern is that he is soft and won't do the necessary dirty work.

*At this point, Hayes offers nothing in the way of an outside shot. He didn't attempt a single three-pointer in college and didn't do much on offense outside of dunks and putbacks. In order to justify being taken with a high draft pick, he will either need to develop a post game, an outside shot or be extremely good on defense. His lack of an all-round game will certainly give some teams pause in evaluating him.

*Hayes comes from a family of impressive athletes. His father played 12 seasons in the NFL and recently served as the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. His mother played basketball at Drake University and later coached in college, including a stint as an assistant at Oklahoma. Hayes followed his father's footsteps by playing wide receiver in high school before a growth spurt made it clear basketball was the path to go.

Fit with Wizards: Hayes is one of the best fits for the Wizards among the players who could be available with the ninth pick. He does what they arguably lack the most, which is play defense and more specifically protect the rim.

The Wizards allowed the most field goals within five feet of any team this past season and the third-highest field goal percentage in that range. They desperately need someone who can block and alter shots.

Hayes would likely be the Wizards' best shot-blocker Day 1. But whether he can help them in other ways is a question at this point.

Hayes would represent a bit of a project for the Wizards and may not have All-Star potential because of his offensive limitations. Still, he remains one of their best options in the first round. Long-term, he could transform their defense and form a strong pick-and-roll partner for John Wall.

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