Ravens

Saints looking to win out, playoffs or not

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Saints looking to win out, playoffs or not

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Saints guard Jahri Evans acknowledges a measure of regret that it took so long - probably too long - for New Orleans to resemble the playoff contender it had been the previous three seasons.

``We knew the talent we had in the locker room and definitely displayed yesterday. We wish could have done that a little bit earlier in the season,'' Evans said Monday, a day after the Saints turned in by far their most complete game of the season in a 41-0 rout of NFC South rival Tampa Bay.

``You definitely saw a glimpse of what we were trying to do going into the season and what we knew we had in this locker room and hopefully we can keep it going, finish strong and take it into next year.''

When the Saints kick off at Dallas next Sunday, they will still be mathematically alive for the last NFC wild card berth, but also facing exceedingly long odds.

To make the playoffs, the Saints will have to win their last two games against the Cowboys and at home against Carolina, and need eight games involving other teams to go their way during the final two weeks.

Specifically, New Orleans also will need the Cowboys to lose their season finale against Washington, St. Louis to lose one of its last two games, and Minnesota, Chicago and the New York Giants to all lose their final two games.

If it happens, the Saints will finish in a five-way tie at 8-8 and incredibly sneak into the playoffs based on a series of tiebreakers.

They would welcome that, of course, but they're certainly not deluding themselves. Rather, they're talking about building for next season as if they've already been eliminated.

``It's sad that it's a little late in the season'' for the Saints to play their best football, said defensive end Cameron Jordan, who had a sack, strip and fumble recovery on the same play against the Buccaneers.

``It's nice to see we're capitalizing on the potential that everybody saw in us this past game, but we should have showed that earlier.

``Most definitely it's a pride issue right now,'' Jordan added. ``I'd love to break even. We're 6-8 right now. Two games left. I'd love to get these last two wins.''

The Saints piled up lopsided wins through much of past three seasons, which including a Super Bowl title, two divisional titles and three straight trips to the postseason. The Saints had 13-win regular seasons in both 2009 and 2011, along with an 11-win run in 2010.

But in the spring of 2012, the Saints became embroiled in scandal, losing head coach Sean Payton for an entire season in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation. General manager Mickey Loomis got an eight-game ban and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six games.

While suspensions for two current Saints defensive captains, linebacker Jon Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, were ultimately thrown out, their legal effort to overturn their punishment hung over the franchise all the way through Week 14.

Now the Saints, who won more games than any NFL team from 2009 to 2011, can't finish better than .500 in the 2012 regular season.

Still, after their rout of the Buccaneers, an 8-8 finish hardly seems out of the question.

The Saints' defense, which allowed 400 yards or more in each of the first 10 games, has not allowed 400 yards in a game since and has posted the first shutout of any Saints team since 1995.

``When you get off to the rocky start we did, it's human nature and I don't blame guys one bit to have a little bit of doubt,'' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. ``These guys have never given up. ... They've embraced it, even through some down times, because certainly in this business it's all about winning and I don't think anybody here feels like we've won enough. But after yesterday, I would hope that there's a lot more comfort and confidence.''

The Saints' offense also looked as if it was back to its old prolific self, accounting for 447 yards, including 149 on the ground against Tampa Bay's No. 1 ranked run defense, which came in allowing only 78.2 yards per game. Drew Brees threw for 307 yards and four TDs.

``We've got a lot of guys that have a lot of want-to on this team and have a lot of pride,'' Vitt said. ``It was a good team win and we probably put together four quarters as well as we have all year long.''

Now the question is whether the Saints can carry it forward against a Dallas squad in a playoff hunt of its own. As far as Evans is concerned, New Orleans' motivation remains high, regardless of playoff scenarios.

``As long as there are games to be played there are games to be won,'' Evans said. ``It's never too late to play well.''

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Breaking down the Jalen Ramsey question and what it could mean for the Ravens secondary

Breaking down the Jalen Ramsey question and what it could mean for the Ravens secondary

If there’s one thing that’s obvious about the Jalen Ramsey situation in Jacksonville, it’s that there are 31 other teams that would like to have him on the team. 

Yes, that includes the Ravens. It’s not breaking news to think every team in the NFL is looking for a former All-Pro cornerback any way they can get him.

Two Ravens players, Matthew Judon and Marquise Brown, already tweeted their desire to bring Ramsey to Baltimore.

The logistics of adding him, however, are a completely separate issue. 

Ramsey, a 2016 first-round pick of the Jaguars, recently requested a trade. He’s reportedly unhappy with his usage in the Jaguars defense and had a spat with his head coach, Doug Marrone, on the sideline last Sunday against the Texans. 

According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, two offers have already been made for Ramsey’s services.

From the Ravens perspective, there’s both pros and cons to what this deal could mean. 

Starting with the positives, it’s clear: Ramsey is one of, if not the game’s best cornerbacks. Adding him to a secondary already with Marlon Humphrey on the opposite side of the field, and Earl Thomas and Tony Jefferson at safety, would clearly give the Ravens the best secondary in the NFL — if they didn’t have it already. 

Without slot cornerback Tavon Young for the season and Jimmy Smith for a few weeks, the Ravens have been pressed deeper than they thought they might have to go with those two absent. Ramsey would come in and immediately fill a hole left behind from injuries. 

Ramsey is still under his rookie contract for this and next season, where he’ll carry a cap hit of 7.429 million dollars this season according to Spotrac. Next year, his final year, he’ll have a cap hit of 13.7 million dollars.

The Ravens have 9.625 million dollars in cap space this season, also according to Spotrac. Meaning, they’d be able to fit him in, should they so desire. Next season, they’re projected to have the ninth-most cap space available in the NFL at 68.127 million dollars. 

With 10 projected draft picks next year, including two-third round picks and three-fourth round picks, the Ravens will have the ammunition necessary to acquire a player like Ramsey. And in a conference with the Chiefs, Patriots and Browns, all of whom boast outstanding offensive weapons, building out the defensive side of the ball could push the Ravens over the edge. 

Baltimore has free agents to take care of at season’s end, like Michael Pierce, Willie Snead, Patrick Onwuasor, Matthew Judon, Patrick Ricard and Jimmy Smith. 

None of those names, however, will command top-dollar in the open market. And with Lamar Jackson still on his rookie deal for this season and potentially three more after this, the time to strike for the Ravens could be now. 

But, like all trade scenarios, there’s another side to Ramsey’s potential acquisition. 

Ramsey has stated his desire to be a lockdown, No. 1 cornerback responsible for shutting down opposing team’s top receivers. The Ravens already have a bonafide top corner in Humphrey, and if the team uses its fifth-year option on him, he won’t have to be re-signed until 2021.

Ronnie Stanley is the biggest fish that the Ravens have to sign, and he’s due after the 2020 season — the same season as Ramsey. Locking up Stanley and Ramsey could prove to be tough, especially considering the fact that both would be at or near the top of the pay-grade for their respective position groups. 

And, for better or worse, Ramsey has been known to be vocal about what he sees on the field and in the organization. 

That could mean a proclamation about how well the defense is playing as a way of being a leader, or it could mean lashing out when things go poorly. Like he showed last week against the Texans, he’s not shy about telling the man in charge about how he feels. Could that be pent up frustration boiling over? Absolutely. But the Ravens will have to be careful with what they decide, considering that past.

They’ve had boisterous personalities before in Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, so the franchise isn’t foreign to what those players bring. 

Even if the Ravens view Ramsey as their top option and would like to make a deal, the Jaguars need to be pleased with the compensation they receive. The Ravens might not be willing to go that far. 

Jacksonville has reportedly been asking for a first-round pick, plus more. The Ravens do have a 2020 first-round pick, but might not be willing to sell off what could end up being another second or third-round pick, or even their 2021 first-round pick. 

Even if the Ravens offer their 2020 first-round pick, at 2-0 already, there’s a decent shot the Ravens pick 20th or higher in the first round. The Jaguars could accept a trade from another team, who they view as having a better chance of picking towards the top of the first round in the next few years. 

So what does all that mean? It means to remain level-headed, whether or not the move gets done. 

Should the Ravens pull the trigger on one of the biggest moves of the 2019 season, or should they sit on the sidelines and keep their picks, there are pros and cons to each decision. The trade, or lack thereof, doesn’t mean the Ravens will win the AFC or mean they’re doomed.

It just means they’ll either have Jalen Ramsey, or they won’t.

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Wizards' Go-Go to Hold Local Tryouts on Saturday

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Capital City Go-Go

Wizards' Go-Go to Hold Local Tryouts on Saturday

The Washington Wizards are trying to find their Mark Wahlberg from “Invincible” on the basketball court this weekend.

The Wizards’ G League Affiliate Capital City Go-Go will host its local player tryout at the Entertainment and Sports Arena this Saturday. Both head coach Ryan Richman and general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu will be in attendance to evaluate the area’s talent.

The District’s under the radar ballers will try to impress the Go-Go’s front office for a chance at an invite to training camp in October. The team can invite four of the players at tryouts back to camp. Three invitees ended up playing in a total of 75 games in the team’s inaugural season in 2018-2019. Among them was power forward Isaiah Armwood, who started in 20 games and averaged 11.4 points. 

Not unfamiliar to the D.C. sports scene, the Go-Go finished right outside of the G League playoff picture last season with a 25-25 record. With the Wizards season on the horizon, some local talent could soon find themselves vying for those coveted two-way contract deals. 

The Wizards currently have 18 players on the roster, with 17 of those to be under contract for the upcoming season. Garrison Matthews, an undrafted shooting guard out of Lipscomb, has one of the two two-way contracts. 

Depending on how the first couple of months go for the Wizards, there’s a chance this season could pave the way for some of the Washington’s untapped talent.

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