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Tebow could step in at RB for short-handed Jets

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Tebow could step in at RB for short-handed Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Tim Tebow might add a new job title to an already-lengthy list.

The do-it-all backup quarterback could see time at running back in the New York Jets' banged-up backfield Sunday against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

``That's a possibility,'' coach Rex Ryan said Thursday. ``The thing about Tim - with him being a football player like we've always talked about - by playing quarterback, he knows all the positions. So, can you plug him in at running back? Can you plug him in at tight end or whatever?

``I think the answer is yes.''

The Jets are a bit short-handed at the position with backups Joe McKnight (sprained left ankle) and Bilal Powell (separated right shoulder) likely out for the game - although McKnight insisted, ``It's for first place, I'm in there.'' That leaves only starter Shonn Greene and rookie Jonathan Grimes, who has yet to play, as the team's only completely healthy running backs. Lex Hilliard is the remaining fullback after the Jets waived John Conner on Wednesday.

Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano echoed Ryan's comments on Tebow, and was just as vague.

``There's a possibility,'' he said. ``There's a possibility for a lot of things. We'll see.''

But could Tebow actually make a good running back?

``I think Tim Tebow could be good at whatever he wants to be good at,'' Sparano said.

Tebow's role has been limited in his first season with the Jets, but he has carried the ball 18 times for 64 yards - all on direct snaps as the team's wildcat quarterback or in the read-option package. He has lined up at quarterback, tight end, wide receiver, fullback and running back at times throughout the season, creating the element of surprise for opponents.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said earlier in the week that Tebow is ``really a running back'' for the Jets, so Ryan's acknowledgement should hardly come as a surprise to him.

``He's a good runner, he's a strong runner, very strong,'' Belichick said. ``He's mobile in the pocket, (a) smart player, he can do a lot of different things. Different option plays and things like that, so you certainly have to be aware of him when he's in there.''

Greene ran for a career-high 161 yards last Sunday against Indianapolis as New York rolled up 252 yards on the ground. It might be tougher sledding in Foxborough this weekend, though, with the Patriots ranked sixth overall against the run. So, the Jets might be forced to change some things up if Greene struggles early. That means Tebow could see some extensive time in the backfield - and maybe even get a few carries.

``Who's that?'' Greene said with a straight face.

You know, that guy the Jets traded for in March to give the offense a boost?

``No,'' Greene said. ``Never heard of him.''

Seriously, though, Greene insists he would be OK if Tebow took some of his carries in game - as long as it helps New York win. However, he wouldn't bite on detailing what Tebow would bring to the position.

``I don't know,'' Greene said. ``I guess I'll see, just like you guys.''

Added Grimes: ``Man, everybody loves to see Tebow get out there and do his thing, and I do, too. Whatever it takes to win.''

While there could be some gamesmanship going on, as there usually is between the Jets and Patriots leading up to their matchups, putting Tebow in the backfield makes some sense.

Many fans and media have questioned the way Sparano has used Tebow throughout the first part of the season, with the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback playing only 44 of the Jets' offensive snaps. Tebow has shown an ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands, as evidenced by him converting three fake punts for first downs this season.

Tebow, knocked for his inconsistency as a passer, thrived last season in Denver when the Broncos made him the starting quarterback and restructured their offense around him. He ended up running for 660 yards and was a threat for a big gain at any time. The Jets would keep Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback, but by having Tebow lined up behind him, they could keep the Patriots guessing: Will Sanchez throw it? Will Sanchez hand it off to Tebow? Will Tebow throw it? Will Tebow get a direct snap and try to make a play?

``I would be ready for whatever I would be asked to do, absolutely,'' Tebow said Wednesday.

Would that include playing extensively at running back on Sunday?

``I don't know,'' Tebow said. ``It's not something that's been talked (about) or planned or worked on at all, so probably not.''

Well, Tebow certainly looks the part of a running back, or at least a fullback after gaining muscle in the offseason to get up to nearly 250 pounds to handle the blocking on special teams. He has also been used to block on offense at times, when he and Sanchez have been on the field together.

``His skillset would be more based on power,'' Ryan said. ``I think he's not going to be a blazer compared to other running backs, but he's got power.''

The Jets curiously brought in free agent quarterback Kevin O'Connell for a workout Tuesday, and Ryan wouldn't say Wednesday whether a signing was imminent. New York already has Sanchez, Tebow and Greg McElroy at the position, so the interest in O'Connell sparked theories that perhaps the Jets were considering changing their depth chart - and shifting Tebow's primary responsibilities to other areas on offense.

Ryan said the team isn't looking to add a speedier running back even with McKnight possibly out, joking that the Jets aren't considering trying cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who has played some at wide receiver, in the backfield.

``We're good,'' Ryan said. ``We have some good backs, so I'm comfortable in our running back situation.''

Grimes was signed by the Jets from the Houston Texans' practice squad on Sept. 25, after being undrafted out of William & Mary. He's the school's career leader in rushing, all-purpose yards, kickoff return yards and rushing attempts, so he's ready to contribute in any way he can for the Jets.

``I'm excited,'' Grimes said. ``I think we could really do something. People saw the potential last week of the kind of team we could be and it's nice to be a part of that.''

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Atlantic Division...

Toronto Raptors, B+

2017-18 finish: 59-23, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Kawhi Leonard, G Danny Green, C Greg Monroe
Out: G DeMar DeRozan, C Jakub Poeltl, C Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors had one of the more consequential offseasons of any NBA team this year. First, they fired Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year, following a season in which they won 59 games. Then, they pulled off the biggest trade of the summer, a deal that featured two perennial All-NBA players. They let go of DeRozan and brought in Leonard in return. If they hadn't parted with DeRozan and Casey, they may have gotten an A. But it's hard to tell how much better they will be following the deal and Leonard does bring with him some concerns based on his quadriceps injury and the fact he has only one year left on his contract. The Raptors do, however, also get points for re-signing point guard Fred VanVleet.

Boston Celtics, C

2017-18 finish: 55-27, conference finals
In: C Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker
Out: C Greg Monroe

One year ago, the Celtics flipped nearly their entire roster and brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they mostly stood pat and didn't add much of anything in free agency or trades. Their biggest acquisition was Williams, who they took 27th overall in the first round of the draft. The Celtics will hope they improve from within. They re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and should get Irving and Hayward back from injuries. They should have plenty of talent to compete for an NBA Finals berth, but as far as this offseason goes, they didn't do much.

Philadelphia 76ers, D+

2017-18 finish: 52-30, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Wilson Chandler, C Mike Muscala, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet
Out: G Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

Where do we begin? This summer was about as dramatic and bad as it could get for the Sixers. First, they had to fire their general manager because of a burner Twitter account scandal. Then, they struck out miserably in free agency with LeBron James and Paul George, and in trade talks for Leonard. After that, Smith - their first round pick - hurt his foot. And along the way, Ben Simmons has been dating a Kardashian, flirting with the curse that has claimed many pro athletes before him. Philly did re-sign J.J. Redick and Johnson, and the Chandler trade was nice, but all in all it was an offseason that fell way short of the Sixers' expectations. That said, they can still get way better next season based solely on their young players taking another step.

New York Knicks, B

2017-18 finish: 29-53, missed playoffs
In: F Mario Hezonja, F Kevin Knox, F Noah Vonleh, C Mitchell Robinson
Out: F Michael Beasley, G Jarrett Jack, F Kyle O'Quinn

It's been a while since the Knicks had an offseason to write home about and this one is no exception. There was nothing they did that would flirt with an A-grade. However, the early returns on their draft are excellent. Knox and Robinson were both standouts in the Summer League and offer fans a little bit more hope about the team's future. As long as Kristaps Porzingis can return this season safe and sound from his ACL tear, the Knicks could take a step forward in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets, C+

2017-18 finish: 28-54, missed playoffs
In: F Ed Davis, F Kenneth Faried, F Jared Dudley, 
Out: F Dante Cunningham, G Nik Stauskas, C Jahlil Okafor

The best news about the Nets' offseason is that their trade with the Celtics, the one that stripped them of years of first round picks, is finally over. Next year, the Nets will have a first round pick. This summer, they once again didn't add any major pieces in the draft, but seemed to make some smart moves in free agency. The Davis deal is solid and Faried may benefit from a change of scenery. More baby steps for Brooklyn.

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Jamaal Charles headlines a group of Redskins running back tryouts

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USA Today Sports

Jamaal Charles headlines a group of Redskins running back tryouts

Jamaal Charles used to be among the best running backs in the NFL, and maybe the Redskins hope to turn back the clock. 

Washington is dealing with a number of injuries at the running back spot, and to get through two more preseason games, the team is bringing in a number of veteran runners for tryouts. Charles is the biggest name coming in for a test drive with the Redskins, as ESPN reported. Former Giants RB Orleans Darkwa is also getting a tryout, per multiple reports. 

How did Washington get to the point where the team needs to add more backfield options in mid-August?

First, Derrius Guice injured his knee in the preseason opener. He will miss the season. 

In the second preseason game, Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall and rookie Martez Carter got hurt. Perine should be back in a week or as he suffered only a sprained ankle. Marshall could miss a month, making a roster spot flimsy, and Carter was waived due to his injury. 

That means the Burgundy and Gold only have Rob Kelley, Kapri Bibbs and Chris Thompson active for practice, and remember, Thompson is working back from a broken leg last November. He hasn't played yet in the preseason, and might not go at all until Week 1 in Arizona.

Add all of that together and the team was forced to bring in veteran options, if for nothing else than to get through the remaining two preseason games.

Back to Charles.

From 2009 to 2014, Charles put up absurd numbers. He approached 2,000 total yards from scrimmage in both 2013 and 2010, and put up more than 1,700 total yards in 2012. It's worth adding that Charles found great success with Alex Smith when both were playing in Kansas City. Just saying. He was undeniably great, and probably won thousands of people thousands of dollars as a fantasy football MVP.

That time appears to be over though.

In the last three seasons, injuries have robbed Charles of his burst and elusiveness. Last year, he couldn't break through in the Denver backfield despite being healthy for 14 games. He rushed for just under 300 yards. 

Redskins fans will have unfortunate memories of Darkwa.

In an ugly Week 17 loss last season in New York, he busted a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage and finished the game with 154 yards. Last season was the best of his career for Darkwa, he ran for more than 750 yards and averaged 4.4 yards-per-carry. He's only 26 years old and, coincidentally, played college football at Tulane with Rob Kelley

By adding Guice in the second round of the NFL Draft this spring, the Redskins thought they addressed their need for a talent boost at the RB position. With Guice out for the year, the position looks about the same as it did in 2017. 

Adding Charles and Darkwa seem unlikely to change that, at least significantly. And that's if either of the veteran runners even make the 90-man roster. 

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