Wakeup Call: Sanchez crashes the Jets . . . and perhaps himself


Wakeup Call: Sanchez crashes the Jets . . . and perhaps himself

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Tuesday, December 18:

The Blue Jays' blitzkrieg winter continues, as they officially acquire R.A. Dickey from the Mets. (AP)

There's been a lot of offseason action in the A.L. East, none of it involving the Orioles. And O's fans, the glow from last season's surprising success wearing off, are starting to get antsy. (CSN Baltimore)

It didn't take long for the A's to replace Stephen Drew: Hours after word leaked that he'd agreed to a contract with the Red Sox, Oakland signed Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima. (CSN Bay Area)

The Astros' move to the American League means they're going to need a DH, and yesterday they signed one: Carlos Pena. (CSN Houston)

In an effort to reduce head injuries caused by line drives back to the mound, MLB is testing out a new padded hat. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

Santiago Casilla is staying put. (CSN Bay Area)

R.I.P., Frank Pastore. (Hardball Talk)

Normally they don't celebrate four-point, non-conference home victories -- over Detroit, no less -- at Syracuse, but they do when they're Jim Boeheim's 900th career win. (AP)

Indiana's weekend loss means Duke is now No. 1 in the weekly poll. (AP)

If the new 'Catholic 7' league comes calling, Butler will listen. (AP)

Payback's a you-know-what: Notre Dame, waiting at the station for the train to take it to the ACC in 2015, is a little nervous about the disarray it helped cause in the Conference Formerly Known As The Big East. (AP)

Notre Dame picked up its first two wins of 2013 as offensive lineman Zack Martin and defensive tackle Louis Nix announced they're staying in school. (CSN Chicago)

Nick Saban insists he's staying at Alabama. He also insisted he was staying with the Dolphins. And, though I can't remember him doing so, probably insisted he was staying at LSU. (NBC's College Football Talk)

Western Michigan now has the youngest coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision: 32-year-old P.J. Fleck, who was an assistant at both Rutgers and Tampa Bay to Greg Schiano. (AP)

Latest to declare for the NFL draft: West Virginia wide receiver Stedman Bailey. (AP)

Quarterback Brendan Kay's been given another year of eligibility at Cincinnati. (AP)

The University of North Alabama has kicked a walk-on player off the team for making a racist Tweet about President Obama. (AP, via nbcsports.com)

Well, at least they're talking about talking . . . though not to each other. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

Adrian Aucoin moved his family -- wife and five kids, no less -- to Columbus after signing as a free agent with the Blue Jackets. And now he admits he may never get to play there. (Pro Hockey Talk)

It was Linsanity all over again at Madison Square Garden, and when it settled down the Knicks had suffered their first home loss of the year. (AP)

And don't think he didn't enjoy it. (CSN Houston)

That's 11 in a row for the Thunder. (AP)

And 10 in a row for the Clippers. (AP)

John Wall's taking baby steps in his recuperation from a left knee injury. (AP)

The Jets' playoff hopes, and perhaps the Mark Sanchez Era, went up in flames last night, as Sanchez threw four picks in a 14-10 loss to the Titans that eliminated New York from postseason contention. (AP)

Signs of delusion: Sanchez is still talking about learning from his mistakes and playing better in the future to help the team win. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Titans running back Chris Johnson wrote the names of all 26 Sandy Hook victims on his shoes for last night's game. (NBC's Off The Bench)

The 49ers' win in Foxboro didn't come without a price: Justin Smith -- whose departure from the game because of an elbow injury coincided with the Patriots' 28-point explosion -- had an MRI yesterday, and the Niners don't know when he'll be available again. (CSN Bay Area)

Tales of struggling kickers: The 49ers say they're sticking with David Akers. (CSN Bay Area)

Ditto the Packers with Mason Crosby. (AP)

Just what the Ravens need: Another linebacker gone for the season. (CSN Baltimore)

When will RGIII play again? When the doctors say he can. (CSN Washington)

All those folks who bought his jersey -- and there's millions of them -- hope that's soon. (AP)

London Fletcher says the problem his family had in the stands in Cleveland was caused by the Browns' stadium security personnel. (Pro Football Talk)

Redskins offensive lineman Jordan Black is suspended four games for PED use . . . (CSN Washington)

. . . and his fellow Hogs -- do they still use that term in D.C.? -- are irate. (realredskins.com, via CSN Washington)

Speaking of PED use, Richard Sherman's appeal will be held Friday. He better hope he wins it; otherwise, the Seahawks will be without him in the playoffs. (Pro Football Talk)

Michael Vick returns to practice as a man without a starting job, but he has an it-is-what-it-is serenity about the whole thing. (CSN Philly)

The Eagles are disavowing any knowledge of the steroids that authorities found in Garrett Reid's training camp dorm room after his death. (CSN Philly)

Mike Patterson says the contract nastiness that erupted between him and the Eagles last week -- which has since been settled with a renegotiation -- was business, not personal. (CSN Philly)

Josh Brent -- charged with intoxication manslaughter in the death of teammate Jerry Brown -- surprised the Cowboys by showing up on the sidelines for Sunday's game against the Steelers, but they didn't seem to have a problem with it. (Pro Football Talk)

ATP to the U.S. Open on its schedule change: Not so fast. (AP)

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.