Wizards

Packers' defensive depth about to be tested

201210171723626103534-p2.jpeg

Packers' defensive depth about to be tested

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers are about to find out if their defense truly is deeper than it was last season.

The Packers ranked dead last in the NFL in yards allowed in 2011, prompting general manager Ted Thompson to use his first six draft picks on defensive players and add two more rookie defenders via free agency.

Some of those rookies, along with several holdovers whose defensive roles have been limited to this point, will likely see action Sunday against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome.

The Packers will be without four starters on defense: inside linebacker D.J. Smith, who was placed on injured reserve this week with a knee injury; outside linebacker and rookie first-round pick Nick Perry (knee); cornerback Sam Shields (shin/ankle); and defensive tackle B.J. Raji (ankle).

Smith, Perry and Shields were injured last Sunday at Houston, while Raji missed that game with the ankle injury he suffered at Indianapolis on Oct. 7.

Fourth-year veteran Brad Jones took over after Smith went down against the Texans and is the logical pick to start.

At outside linebacker, veteran Erik Walden, who had been splitting time with Perry, figures to play the entire game with undrafted rookie free agent Dezman Moses possibly in the mix, too. Long term, Frank Zombo has returned to practice from the physically unable to perform list, and while he won't play this week, he'll also provide depth once the team adds him to the 53-man roster.

At cornerback, rookie Casey Hayward, who had two interceptions against Houston, is on course to start. Davon House, who had been working with the starters before an Aug. 9 shoulder injury, should also be back. Jarrett Bush, who started training camp as a starter, is also an option.

And without Raji, who made his first Pro Bowl last year, the Packers managed to bottle up running back Arian Foster (17 carries, 29 yards) with strong efforts from veteran defensive tackle Ryan Pickett and defensive ends C.J. Wilson, Jerel Worthy and Mike Neal. Rookie Mike Daniels also saw action.

``It's one of the real keys in this business: You have to have depth,'' defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. ``That's why you tell these young guys, `You never know when you're chance is going to come, but you need to be ready when it does come.' With the number of young guys we've played to this point in time, you've seen some of those guys get better.''

That's especially been the case with Hayward, who has three interceptions in the past two games and has shown remarkable growth.

``He's a smart kid, but he's really picking up the finer points of the defense,'' cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said Friday. ``A lot of guys who are rookies are just running the playbook, what's in the playbook. They're not actually playing football. And this guy's playing football. He hasn't really made a lot of mistakes. He's a mature young man. He doesn't act like a rookie.''

While Smith wasn't perfect in the first six games, he managed the game as the defensive signal caller - A.J. Hawk will now wear the radio transmitter helmet with Smith out - and his loss leaves the Packers thin. Hawk seems like the obvious choice there, although he's had a renaissance season in part because he hasn't had to spend as much time in coverage.

``I think we have to take a look at these guys and see where they are. They're all capable of handling certain facets of the game,'' Capers said. ``We're playing a lot of different personnel groups and sometimes it's good to have guys who are specialists in their personnel group.''

Notes: Packers coach Mike McCarthy said WR Greg Jennings, who has been nagged by a groin injury suffered in the Sept. 9 opener, will miss his third consecutive game because of it. . McCarthy said RB Johnny White, claimed on waivers from Buffalo, ``had a very good week of practice. You can see his experience in special teams. We've been very, very impressed just with the way he has picked things up.''

Quick Links

Friday's trade for Trevor Ariza was wild, but nothing surprises Scott Brooks or John Wall

Friday's trade for Trevor Ariza was wild, but nothing surprises Scott Brooks or John Wall

Follow the NBA long enough and one learns to expect the unexpected. Participating inside the lines removes the shock value almost entirely.

The three-team trade between the Wizards, Suns, and Grizzlies, an otherwise ordinary deal involving good but not All-Star-level players became social media’s favorite child for a stretch Friday night. The deal died on the vine because of miscommunication over which player with the same sir name was included in the deal.

Unusual, certainly. Awkward because the report broke publicly mere moments after the Wizards’ latest road loss, unfortunately.

“The first time I've ever seen a trade go dead and guys are on a bus talking about it,” Wizards guard John Wall said Saturday. “Kind of devastating for those guys.”

That doesn’t mean the situation moved the needle on Wall’s personal Richter scale of shock.

“Nothing surprises me now, nine years in,” Wall said. “I’ve seen a guy get traded at halftime. Nothing can surprise me now.”

That guy wasn’t Wall’s current head coach, Scott Brooks, but former Wizard guard Kirk Hinrich. Turns out Brooks has his own personal traded-at-halftime tale from his playing days. He’s also been on teams that entered a season with high expectations only to struggle with reaching those forecasted heights. That’s happening now for the 11-18 Wizards.

Friday’s failed trade resurrected Saturday morning as Washington traded Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix for ex-Wizard Trevor Ariza.

Some crazed situation that left Brooks speechless? Actually at the moment, yes, but only because the coach was not at liberty to discuss the transaction. The trade remains unofficial until the league office reopens Monday.

It’s unclear what level bombshell must occur to astonish Brooks. Even the current frustrations, while disappointing, aren’t revelatory for a man now in his 25th NBA season as a player and coach.

“I've been in the league long enough. Nothing surprises me,” Brooks said moments before his point guard uttered almost the exact same phrase. “That's part of being in this league. You have to expect things not to always go your way. I know one thing. The only way to get out of it is doing it together, figuring it out together. Nothing surprises me. It's just part of the business.”

The Houston Rockets conducted some business on Feb. 23, 1995 by trading Brooks to the Dallas Mavericks for guard Morlon Wiley and a second-round draft pick. Deals happen. This one stood out for the timing.

“That was one of the bad days of my life in the NBA,” Brooks revealed on a radio show last year. “At halftime of the game, we go back, Coach [Rudy] Tomjanovich makes some halftime adjustments. … We come onto the court and we’re in the layup line, and all of a sudden the general manager grabs me out of the layup line and says, ‘Hey, Scott, I gotta talk to you.’ So he pulls me out of the line, brings me back to the locker room and he says, ‘Hey, you’ve been traded.’ I was like, ‘What?’ ”

That personal experience altered Brooks’ surprise quotient going forward.

“I look at things different,” he said Saturday. “There a lot of tough things in the world right now. I was traded at halftime. That was tough on me, but that’s really not tough on me. I was still making a lot of money and the next team, Dallas, still paid me in cash.”

Brooks keenly remembers his halftime trade. Wall didn’t have the exact details correct on Hinrich’s departure; he recalled his backcourt partner playing in the first half of the Feb. 23 contest against the Philadelphia 76ers but the box score says otherwise. Hinrich did learn about the trade to the Hawks between the second and third quarter. That’s wild enough.

“I’ve seen everything you basically can see,” Wall said.

That now includes a trade falling through in such a public and awkward way. Once Ariza joins the squad, all that matters is whether his old/new team turns around this clumsy season that began with high hopes. It won’t surprise anyone if Ariza’s veteran presence sparks a rally. After watching the opening 29 games, who can say for sure.

“We're not playing nowhere near what we're capable of,” Wall said. “Maybe that's the move we should have made to make it happen, I don't know. We don't know until we get out there.”

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

A must-win? Looking at the Ravens' playoff picture

lamar.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

A must-win? Looking at the Ravens' playoff picture

The Baltimore Ravens come into Week 15 hanging on to the final playoff spot in the AFC by the slimmest of margins.

Baltimore, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Miami all sit at 7-6 with three games remaining. The Ravens hold the tiebreaker by virtue of win percentage in common and conference games. With the resurgent Cleveland Browns lurking just a game behind at 6-7-1, the Ravens can’t afford a let up today against the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson gets the start once again Sunday with Joe Flacco slated as the backup.

Having won three out of four and a play or two away from a win last week in Kansas City, the Ravens are counting on riding the momentum Jackson has sparked to earn a very important win today at M&T Bank Stadium to stay in the drivers seat for a playoff berth. And with division leader Pittsburgh all of a sudden hitting a bump in the road of their season, and facing the New England Patriots later today, the Ravens have a chance to take the lead in the division, something that was unthinkable a few weeks ago. 

None of these scenarios will matter if business is not taken care of today against Tampa Bay. The coaching staff has put their trust in Jackson, and now he must respond by leading the team to victory in must-win games. 

MORE RAVENS NEWS: