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Titans, Jets ready to run right at each other

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Titans, Jets ready to run right at each other

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The New York Jets turned to the running game over the past month to help limit turnovers and have ground away enough to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Chris Johnson is ready to help the Titans snap a three-game losing streak if Tennessee and its new offensive coordinator can get him the ball more often.

``If the running game gets going, I can make plays in the running game and I think we can win these last three games,'' Johnson said.

The Jets and Titans sound ready for some old-school football Monday night when simply winning matters above all, even if New York has something more to play for than Tennessee. The Jets (6-7) are a game out of the AFC's sixth and final playoff seed and finish against three teams with losing records starting with the Titans (4-9).

``We're not really thinking about the playoffs right now,'' Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said. ``We're just trying to string together a couple of wins. We know we have a big challenge in Nashville on Monday night. It's a good opportunity for our team to hopefully play well. I think we had a good day today. It should be fun for us.''

The Titans already are eliminated and trying to keep jobs. They also want to prove to owner Bud Adams in the process that they are improving, even if this season has been ugly on the field with losses in four of the past five games. Frustrations grew after blowing a 20-7 halftime lead last week in losing 27-23 at Indianapolis.

``We're just tired of losing,'' Titans safety Michael Griffin said. ``Everybody's motivated still to go out and play football and try to get a win.''

The Jets have done just that in winning, even if it hasn't been pretty. They have won two straight and three of four by running as much as possible, averaging 146.5 yards the past four games - fourth-best in the AFC in that stretch. It's helped take the ball away from Sanchez, who has one more interception (13) than touchdown passes (12) along with a banged-up receiving corps.

Shonn Green and Bilal Powell have been splitting the work and the yards, helping the Jets pull out ugly wins over Arizona and Jacksonville the past two games. Powell has a sore toe, but X-rays show it's not broken for some good news for New York. Now Tim Tebow's two broken ribs are feeling better, and coach Rex Ryan said that may bring the wildcat option back into play for the Jets.

``It's good, I think the run game has really picked up,'' Sanchez said.

``I think the offense played really well, exceptionally well. Early in the game, those shorter runs have yielded bigger gains later on. I'm proud of that front five and even our big guys coming in to block, the receivers look good blocking downfield. We've been, for the most part, efficient in the passing game. It's been a good combination for us.''

Sanchez also should have receiver Braylon Edwards available Monday night after being claimed off waivers from Seattle on Tuesday. He has caught eight passes for 74 yards in 10 games with Seattle and has been hampered by a sore hamstring. The Jets have thrown for 129 yards or less in six games this season, including just 104 yards in the 17-10 win at Jacksonville last week.

``Whatever the game plan dictates and however the game goes,'' Sanchez said. ``We've been fortunate to be able to run the ball well these last couple weeks. We'll take it one game at a time.''

Griffin knows what to expect from the Jets.

``I'm pretty sure they watch film and see some teams have been able to run the ball on us,'' the Titans safety said.

Tennessee is allowing 129.4 yards rushing per game, 27th in the league, and couldn't get off the field last week to get the ball back for the offense.

The Titans haven't run much the past two games since Dowell Loggains took over at coordinator. They haven't had many chances with Jake Locker turning the ball over seven times, and they also unveiled a revamped offensive line last week after losing two more starters to injuries. Left tackle Michael Roos is the only starter left from the original line.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said they definitely need to get the run game going and ease the pressure on their first-year starting quarterback.

``Yeah, it's going to be big,'' Munchak said. ``We know they're going to try to run it a lot. It should be a challenge on both ends, for us to be able to run it, and for us to be able to stop the run.''

Ryan has had his hands full trying to rally the Jets, who started the season with high expectations but haven't been above .500 since their 2-1 start. He's looking ahead only to this game.

``We've just been trying to get our team to improve, and that's really where my focus has been,'' Ryan said.

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Brenden Dillon indicates he is open to re-signing with Capitals

Brenden Dillon indicates he is open to re-signing with Capitals

With a training camp in July, a delayed postseason, an abbreviated offseason, a flat salary cap all in the midst of a pandemic, the future is uncertain for pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Brenden Dillon. While not much is known right now, there is one thing he does know and that is that he really likes it in Washington.

"I'm happy with being a Washington Capital," Dillon said. "From Day 1 when I came here in the trade, they've made me feel right at home. I think the system, the way we play from the D-core on, I feel a big part of things here."

Dillon was with the San Jose Sharks since 2014 before he was traded. The reality that he would most likely be playing somewhere else in 2020-21 came to a head when the Sharks bottomed-out and sold him at the trade deadline to Washington. Now, his future is uncertain.

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At 29 years old, the next contract was likely going to be Dillon's last big one. He is on the last year of a five-year contract that carries a cap hit of $3.27 million per year. In a normal offseason, he likely would have sought another long-term deal with a raise. This, however, will not be a normal offseason and it is suddenly unclear what kind of money players will be able to get on the open market.

Dillon said he is trying not to concern himself with the uncertainty of free agency.

"I've had so much other things I've been worried about," he said. "Just the world in general and touching base with family and friends and everything."

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Dillon has played primarily on the top pair with John Carlson since he was brought in. Though the pandemic has limited him to just 10 games of action with the Caps, both sides seem to have left a favorable impression. When asked about his future, Dillon indicated he would be open to re-signing.

"The kind of mutual talks amongst my agent and [general manager Brian MacLellan], those things are confidential with them," Dillon said. "But for me as a player and being part of the Caps, it's been awesome and hopefully can be here."

Though he fits in nicely as a top-four defenseman, re-signing him would add another body into a logjam of left-shooting defensemen within the franchise.

Dmitry Orlov, Michal Kempny, Jonas Siegenthaler, Marin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev are all left defensemen and all but Siegenthaler are under contract beyond this season. Siegenthaler is a restricted free agent who will almost certainly be re-signed. Re-signing Dillon exacerbates the issue, but top-four defensemen are hard to find and if a proven player like Dillon is interested in re-signing, that is hard to pass up if you can get the numbers to work.

The possibility of there being interest in Dillon returning to Washington beyond this season adds to the importance of the 2020 postseason. This may not just be a quest for the Cup, but an audition for those left defensemen to see who the team may want to keep for the future.

"For a lot of us going into this free agency, there's going to be a lot of questions from not just the players' side, but the team side and the planning that goes into these things," Dillon said. "That's above my pay grade and I'll kind of cross that bridge when I get there."

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Nationals' Yan Gomes hopes MLB umpires have their own section of the plane when flying with teams

Nationals' Yan Gomes hopes MLB umpires have their own section of the plane when flying with teams

With the start of the 2020 MLB season just nine days away, league officials are still considering a plethora of ideas for how to best ensure the safety of those involved in putting on games.

That includes the umpiring crews, who reportedly saw 11 umpires opt out of the season Tuesday in order to avoid the risk of contracting the coronavirus. According to Los Angeles Angels Joe Maddon, one of the measures MLB is considering is allowing umpires to fly with teams in order to limit the amount of travel and therefore possible exposure to the virus.

Nationals catcher Yan Gomes isn’t opposed to the idea, though he does recognize that there is some potential for a few awkward moments on the plane.

“I mean that could be a good thing from a safety standpoint and that could be a really weird and awkward deal if something happens in that game,” Gomes said. “I think we’re gonna have to be very cautious with that, putting them in one little section of the plane and hopefully not having to interact very much with players.

“That’s an interesting thing but if it’s something to keep everything safe from the game’s standpoint I think we can make that adjustment. I think everything [including] traveling and everything is going to be pretty unique this year and why not add umpires in there too?”

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Without any umpires at Nationals Park for the first few weeks of training camp, Gomes and fellow backstop Kurt Suzuki have had to act as the team’s umpires during intrasquad games.

“It’s been super tough so I think I respect them even more,” Gomes said. “From my angle, I’m over here trying to frame balls and then I tend to forget what pitch it was. I don’t know. I haven’t had too many people complain but I think I’ve done an OK job and I think Kurt is a little tighter than I think I am.

“The first day, I made some tough calls for our own pitching staff and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna give it at least a couple balls for these guys because I don’t want—the rollover innings are probably the toughest thing.’”

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An umpire crew will be reporting to D.C. in advance of their first exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday. There’s going to be no way for catchers and umpires to avoid breaking social distancing guidelines when they stand in front of each other once games begin, but even so, Gomes isn’t worried about it.

“There’s really no concern level,” Gomes said. “Everyone here is doing a really good job on the testing and everything. It’s really just a matter of everyone staying safe and not do those silly, try-to-joke-around touches. I think we’re just going to have to be careful with that.”

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