”They’ve got size. They’ve got skill. They’ve got speed,” forward Austin Watson said Sunday night after Nashville beat the Avalanche 5-0 in Game 6 to clinch the series. ”Get our rest and get prepared.”
Nashville looks every bit like the team that went to the Stanley Cup Final a season ago and won the Presidents’ Trophy this season. The Predators are hitting their stride heading into the Winnipeg series. They had 11 forwards notch at least a point in the Colorado series.
Not to be outdone, the Jets had a balanced scoring attack in closing out Minnesota, 4-1.
”We saw how the regular season went against them. They’re good hockey games,” said Watson, whose team went 3-1-1 against the Jets during the year. ”We’re excited.”
This goaltending showdown should be worth the price of admission: Pekka Rinne vs. Connor Hellebuyck.
One Vezina Trophy finalist against another. Both are coming off a solid series, with Rinne stopping 22 shots in a 5-0 win Sunday to close out the series with Colorado. Hellebuyck had a 1.94 goals-against average in eliminating the Wild.
”Moving into the second round, I think you want to be playing very good defensive hockey against Winnipeg,” Rinne said. ”One of the better teams in the league. They have a lot of firepower, a lot of talent up front. Also, like ours, their `D’ is a big part of their game. I think it’s going to be very exciting [url=http://www.raiderscheapstore.com/charles-woodson-jersey-cheap]Charles Woodson Jersey[/url] , good series.”
The Western Conference semifinals feature a little bit of history: This marks only the third time the final four in the conference are all chasing after their first Stanley Cup since the introduction of conferences in `74-75, according to information provided by the league. The scenario also occurred in 2012 (the Los Angeles Kings hoisted the Cup) and in 1984 (Edmonton).
In the other semifinal matchup set to get underway, expansion Las Vegas faces San Jose.
”Anytime you win a series you’re feeling confident,” Predators forward Nick Bonino said. ”We’re going to be as confident as we can going against Winnipeg. We know how good they are.”
That’s a sentiment shared by forward Filip Forsberg, who scored four goals against Colorado.
”It was a good test for us. These guys have been flying around for six games, playing really fast hockey,” Forsberg said. ”We’ve been trying to play as fast as we can as well. If we can bring that speed into the next round that will be good.”
The Nashville defense will have its hands full with the likes of Jets forward Patrik Laine, who scored 44 goals in the regular season, and Blake Wheeler (91 points).
Still, the Predators enter on a high after posting a shutout victory in a series-ending game for the first time in franchise history. They joined Vegas and Winnipeg as the third team to accomplish the feat this postseason.
”It’s better to end it this way than hanging on at the end,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. ”There are other teams on the ice that are pretty good hockey teams. You see it in other series going on. It would have been great if you win (the series) 4-0 but that wasn’t the case. We had an opposition that was young, skilled and fast and they had nothing to lose [url=http://www.vikingscheapstore.com/linval-joseph-jersey-cheap]Linval Joseph Jersey[/url] , and they played that way. There were times in the first five games it didn’t look like it was just going happen – we were going to have to work for it.
”It was nice tonight to play a game we were comfortable with.”
The Avs take some pride in knowing they gave the Predators fits at times.
”We made them fight for it,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said.
”The way Colorado works and battles and plays the game fast, it definitely challenged us,” Predators center Colton Sissons said. ”It was a good experience for us going forward.”
Road weary and a bit homesick, the San Francisco Giants picked up a victory Sunday that could be the momentum needed to get a long stretch in the Bay Area off to a good start.
Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt each hit two-run home runs and Chris Stratton pitched six solid innings to help the San Francisco Giants avoid a three-game sweep at Los Angeles with a 4-1 victory over the Dodgers on Sunday.
It marked the end of the Giants’ fourth three-city road trip over the first 2 1/2 months of the season, and the last hurdle the club needed to clear before a stretch where they play 20 of the next 26 games at AT&T Park. After that, the Giants hit the All-Star break then play three interleague games at Oakland.
”We’re through the hardest part of the schedule, I think,” Belt said about the Giants already playing 42 of their 81 road games, exactly one month before the All-Star Game. ”It’s not easy going to the East Coast a lot and having 10-game road trips. We have a lot of games coming up at home and everybody is excited about that.”
Hundley got the Giants going early Sunday with a homer in the first inning, halfway up the pavilion seats in left field for his eighth of the season. Belt followed two innings later with his 12th home run and first since returning from an appendectomy on June 1.
The Dodgers saw their modest five-game win streak come to an end, but they are still 11-3 in June. They went 6-2 on their just-completed homestand and now head to Chicago for a National League Championship Series rematch with the Cubs.
The Giants went 4-6 on their 10-day road trip to Washington [url=http://www.falconscheapstore.com/duke-riley-jersey-cheap]Duke Riley Jersey[/url] , Miami and Los Angeles, and now return home for a 10-game homestand against the Marlins, Padres and Rockies. They stay in the division for a six-game road trip then return for another 10-game homestand.
Sunday’s victory gave the Giants a 16-26 record away from home. They are 19-11 in San Francisco.
”We can’t have this road record, that’s not going to work, so we have to get better there,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. ”At home, we have to keep up what we have been doing there and hopefully the guys catch their breath and like the home cooking.”
Dodgers rookie pitcher Caleb Ferguson (0-1) gave up four runs on just two hits, the home runs from Hundley and Belt. He struck out six in his third career start, with an unearned run that happened when Gorkys Hernandez reached base on an error by shortstop Enrique Hernandez in front of Belt’s homer.
”Of the three (starts), this was his best outing,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. ”I thought he did a great job of pounding the strike zone, getting some empty swings.”
Former Dodgers left-hander Tony Watson opened the ninth inning for the Giants with a strikeout of Max Muncy before closer Hunter Strickland recorded the final two outs for his 14th save in 17 chances.
STRATTON GETS HIS REVENGE
Stratton (8-4) entered 0-3 with a 7.88 ERA against the Dodgers [url=http://www.49erscheapstore.com/joe-staley-jersey-cheap]Joe Staley Jersey[/url] , and was roughed up in an April 28 start when he gave up six earned runs over a short 1 1/3 innings, easily his shortest start of the year.
Sunday’s outing was in complete contrast to his previous efforts against the Dodgers.
”It was big,” Stratton said of his outing Sunday. ”Definitely the last time was not a pretty one. I have to credit Hundley back there behind the plate. I don’t think I had my best stuff today, especially with fastball command.”
Stratton gave up a first-inning run when Hundley tried to cut down Justin Turner at second base and threw the ball into center field. Max Muncy came home from third base on the error. Otherwise the right-hander was stingy against a Dodgers lineup that entered with 34 home runs in June.
Giants: C Buster Posey, who saw action in all 16 innings of Thursday’s game at Miami, was not in the starting lineup Sunday with what manager Bruce Bochy labeled ”general soreness.” SS Brandon Crawford will go on paternity leave Monday for the birth of his fourth child and said that he expects to miss three games.
Dodgers: RHP Tom Koehler had a setback in his recovery from a right shoulder strain and will now have to restart his rehab program, according to manager Dave Roberts. His targeted return has been pushed back to August. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu had some tightness in his left groin strain and his recent bullpen outing was cut short to 20 pitches. Roberts would not call Ryu’s situation a setback, but would not confirm a July return either.
The Giants will send left-hander Andrew Suarez (2-4, 4.92 ERA) to the mound Monday as the club returns home from its 10-day road trip to face the Miami Marlins. In his second start since coming off the disabled list, RHP Kenta Maeda (4-4, 3.61) could be available for as many as 90 pitches Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.
That meant expectations for head coach Doug Marrone’s first season were tempered, but that’s not the case this time around. The Jaguars went 10-6, won the AFC South and advanced to the conference title game with a roster that’s largely intact as they head into the 2018 season. That has changed the expectations dramatically in Marrone’s second year on the job.
Marrone told Mike Garafolo of NFL Media that one of his messages for the team this offseason was to avoid the “trap聽of people taking you to where we were at the end of last year.”聽Marrone said that the first year is “kind of easier” because fewer people are paying attention and wants the Jaguars to know that won’t be the case this time around.
“Last year, you can easily say we might’ve caught a team [by surprise],” Marrone said. “But I don’t think we’re going to catch anybody [this year]. Now, everyone’s gonna know they have to play a good football game and they’ll be ready for us.”
Whether because of complacency or other reasons, NFL history features plenty of teams that were unable to maintain success from one season to the next. Jacksonville’s ability to avoid that fate will be a leading storyline in the AFC this fall.
Josh Rosen is a smart young man and in the early stages of Arizona Cardinals training camp he's doing a lot of thinking.
The rookie from UCLA is looking forward to the day where the pro offense he is trying so hard to master is second nature and he can play with pure reaction. Because he's had a few decision-making errors lately, including an ill-advised interception on Saturday.
Asked Sunday about the rookie quarterback's first training camp so far, Arizona coach Steve Wilks mixed praise with a bit of criticism.
"Throughout practice you could see again the accuracy [url=http://www.patriotscheapstore.com/derek-rivers-jersey-cheap]Derek Rivers Jersey[/url] ," Wilks said. "He threw one ball right down on the seam that was on-point. I showed that in the team meeting. Again, his decision-making sometimes, we've got to make sure we can shore that up."
It's a valid point, Rosen said.
"I absolutely understand what he's saying," Rosen said before Sunday's practice. "I turned the ball over a little bit last practice and at a couple of OTAs. He has a goal and I have a process in which to go about it and my process is I have to own the playbook."
Once he has mastered the plays, he reasons, he will not have to think so much but simply react, and that will lead to the right decisions on the field. All the while not losing his trademark aggressiveness.
"I'm focusing so much on getting lined up and get everyone doing the right thing and trying to give it to the right guy," Rosen said. "When all that stuff is second nature you can focus on other things [url=http://www.49erscheapstore.com/reuben-foster-jersey-cheap]Reuben Foster Jersey[/url] , but you can never give the ball to the other team. That's the biggest thing that most every coach presses in football is just take care of the ball.
"I'm not going to play overly conservative and not play who I am, but you just have to feel that soft spot. I'm definitely am aggressive and take shots but after to be very aware of situations and not make it too easy for the other team to get the ball, hand them the ball."
The Cardinals got Rosen, the man they consider their future franchise quarterback, by pulling off a trade to draft him 10th overall out of UCLA.
This isn't Rosen's team yet.
Wilks said Saturday that the starter's job is Sam Bradford's to lose. For now, Rosen fights against Mike Glennon for the No. 2 job.
Bradford has impressed Rosen.
"I think people forget how good he is," Rosen said. "He's just unbelievably quick and decisive with everything he does and the ball doesn't touch the ground. It's his first year in this offense, too, and it seems like it's been his fourth. ... He's unbelievable and I'm going to try and top that. Whether now [url=http://www.saintscheapstore.com/a.j.-klein-jersey-cheap]A.J. Klein Jersey[/url] , later, whenever."
The easygoing Bradford says he is glad to help Rosen all he can.
"He's a good kid," Bradford said. "He's eager to learn, he wants to learn. He wants to be great. I think he's got the right attitude and the right mindset for this position and this league. I'm going to continue to do everything I can to help and make him the player that he's capable of being."
Rosen's confidence and ability have won over Larry Fitzgerald, one of the game's greatest receivers.
"Obviously, watching him through offseason, training camp, practice yesterday, he's got a wealth of talent [url=http://www.saintscheapstore.com/alvin-kamara-jersey-cheap]Alvin Kamara Jersey[/url] ," 14-year NFL veteran receiver said. "The guy's got just an unbelievable skillset. He can make all the throws. He really picks up on things well, communicates real well with his teammates."
And the professionalism required to succeed at this level seems to suit Rosen.
"It's still very teammate oriented, there's a lot of chemistry things that you have to take into account," he said, "but it's like 'Go out on the field and do your job.' You're not worrying about anything else."
Right now, he said, his job is "owning" the playbook and showing he can implement it at a high level in practice and the preseason.
Bradford has a history of injuries. Rosen's big chance could come at any time.
David Johnson is back in the fold with the Arizona Cardinals.
The question about whether the dynamic running back would continue his holdout was answered in a hurry when he was among the players returning from injuries to show up for the early portion of training camp.
But he reported Sunday and was in Monday's first workouts. The entire team reports to camp Friday with the first practice Saturday. Rookies, quarterbacks and players coming off injuries report early. They will work out this week at the team's practice facility before moving to the other side of suburban Phoenix for the full training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
Johnson told azcardinals that contract talks are progressing and that he will leave it to his agents to work things out.
Johnson said his decision to report to camp was "about being here for the team, the players, my brothers, so that's what we decided."
He was optimistic about a deal getting done.
"The Cardinals want me to play for them for a long time, and I want to be here for a long time," Johnson told azcardinals. "So definitely things are going in a positive way."
Johnson is entering his fourth NFL season. A third-round draft pick out of Northern Iowa [url=http://www.billscheapstore.com/doug-flutie-jersey-cheap]Doug Flutie Jersey[/url] , Johnson had an All-Pro season two years ago, when he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage. He set an NFL record by topping 100 yards in each of the first 15 games of the season.
But he fractured his left wrist in the season opener a year ago and didn't play again.
Now, Johnson said he's in the best shape of his life. Videos he posts on twitter showed him working out .
Johnson participated in every offseason workout before watching from the sidelines at the final OTA session. He was a no-show the entire mandatory minicamp.
A contract agreement seems to be coming but any work on it done now would be without general manager Steve Keim, who is suspended by the team for five weeks for his DUI arrest.
Johnson is scheduled to make $1.9 million this season on the contract he signed as a rookie. That's far below what a player of his caliber would get on the open market. Le'Veon Bell makes $14.5 million under the franchise tag. Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy will make $8 million this year as part of large, long-term deals.
Before the Vikings splurged on quarterback Kirk Cousins [url=http://www.patriotscheapstore.com/dont_a-hightower-jersey-cheap]Dont'a Hightower Jersey[/url] , coach Mike Zimmer spent time pushing back against the kind of cap-busting move that would make it hard to keep the team’s young core players in place. The Vikings apparently will be trying to do both.
With Cousins signed and linebacker Eric Kendricks extended, the Vikings have three other young stars they hope to keep in the fold: linebacker Anthony Barr, receiver Stefon Diggs, and defensive end Danielle Hunter.
Beyond Kendricks, the Vikings already have extended defensive end Everson Griffen [url=http://www.dolphinscheapstore.com/cameron-wake-jersey-cheap]Cameron Wake Jersey[/url] , cornerback Xavier Rhodes, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, and receiver Adam Thielen. Executive V.P. of football operations Rob Brzezinski has been negotiating the deals for more than 20 years, and he’ll be trying to continue to keep the current team together.
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G.M. Rick Spielman realizes that the Vikings may not be able to accomplish the effort to extend Barr, Diggs, and Hunter.
“We鈥檙e still going to try,” Spielman said. “Is it going to be easy? No.”
One thing they won’t have to worry about is ownership; Spielman said that the Wilfs have never refused a request from the front office to sign a given player.
Brezinzki calls the situation a “good problem to have,” but it remains to be seen whether this approach solves the problem that the Vikings have been plagued with for more than 40 years: Getting back to the Super Bowl [url=http://www.chargerscheapstore.com/philip-rivers-jersey-cheap]Philip Rivers Jersey[/url] , and perhaps this time winning it.
Patriots wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell missed all of last season with a knee problem and his work during the offseason program was limited to conditioning, so his status for training camp was left an open question when that program came to an end earlier this month.
That remains the case after Mitchell briefly addressed his condition during an appearance to promote literacy to young football players this weekend. Mitchell said “I’m good” when asked about his knee, but offered no certainty in response to a question about being ready for training camp.
“We’ll see,” Mitchell said, via the Boston Herald.
Mitchell didn’t elaborate about his condition [url=http://www.vikingscheapstore.com/mike-remmers-jersey-cheap]Mike Remmers Jersey[/url] , so we’ll likely have to wait a few weeks to see if Mitchell is ready to take on a fuller workload. With Julian Edelman facing a four-game suspension, that would be a welcome development for the receiving corps in New England.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: OL Justin Pugh; C Weston Richburg; G D.J. Fluker; RBs Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen; QB Geno Smith; WR Tavarres King; DT Jay Bromley; DE Kerry Wynn; LBs Keenan Robinson [url=http://www.49erscheapstore.com/kentavius-street-jersey-cheap]Kentavius Street Jersey[/url] , Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, Kelvin Sheppard, Akeem Ayers and Deontae Skinner; S Nat Berhe; CB Darryl Morris.
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The Cowboys signed Deonte Thompson in the offseason because of his previous relationship with receivers coach Sanjay Lal. So it comes as no surprise that the Cowboys are bringing back Thompson after cutting him Saturday.
The Cowboys announced the move Monday.
Thompson, who signed a one-year deal that included a $1 million signing bonus in the offseason, joins Terrance Williams, Allen Hurns [url=http://www.saintscheapstore.com/josh-hill-jersey-cheap]Josh Hill Jersey[/url] , Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley and Tavon Austin in the receivers room. Austin will split his time between running back and receiver.
The Cowboys placed receiver Noah Brown on injured reserve after Brown missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury.
Thompson caught 38 passes for the Bills last season.
He missed part of training camp with an Achilles strain.
The Cowboys also announced they have added running back Bo Scarbrough, a seventh-round draft pick, to the practice squad. He replaces Darius Jackson, who signed with Green Bay.
The NBA will return to London next year with a regular-season game between the Washington Wizards and the New York Knicks.
Tickets for the Jan. 17 game at the O2 Arena go on sale in the fall.
It will be the NBA’s ninth regular-season game in London [url=http://www.ravenscheapstores.com/jonathan-ogden-jersey-cheap]Jonathan Ogden Jersey[/url] , all sellouts. The Knicks have played there twice, facing the Detroit Pistons in 2013 and the Milwaukee Bucks in 2015. This will be the Wizards’ debut in London.
International players on the rosters include Wizards center Marcin Gortat of Poland, Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis of Latvia and Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina [url=http://www.chiefscheapstore.com/dorian-o_daniel-jersey-cheap]Dorian O'Daniel Jersey[/url] , who was born in Belgium to Rwandan parents and grew up in France.
The game will be shown by the NBA’s broadcast partners across Europe, the Middle East and Africa and on NBA League Pass International.
The Seattle Seahawks have activated safety Earl Thomas to the 53-man roster, making him eligible to play in Sunday's opener against Denver.
Cornerback Dontae Johnson was placed on injured reserve Saturday after hurting his groin during practice this week. Johnson was expected to start at right cornerback [url=http://www.patriotscheapstore.com/chris-hogan-jersey-cheap]Chris Hogan Jersey[/url] , but rookie Tre Flowers, a converted safety, might now do so. Veteran Neiko Thorpe is another option.
The move with Thomas was expected. He made it through his first week of practice with no issues after holding out of training camp while seeking an extension or a trade. His deal expires after the 2018 season.
The 2015 NBA Finals MVP has been starting regularly this postseason, including the first three games of the West finals with the defending champion Warriors leading the Rockets 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. The Warriors won Sunday’s game 126-85, with the 41-point victory margin the largest in franchise history in a postseason game.
Without Iguodala, the Warriors would lose one of their top defenders and playmakers. He banged his knee during the fourth quarter Sunday.
”I think it was like a knee-on-knee type of thing,” coach Steve Kerr said after the game. ”He said he would be all right. But when we’re right, when we’re playing how we are supposed to play, Andre’s right in the middle of it. His defense and being smart, making good decisions. Andre is one of the guys who seems to set the tone for that for us, and I thought he did a great job of that tonight.”
Since 2014-15, Golden State is 14-4 in postseason games started by Iguodala. Kerr could go with much-improved big man Kevon Looney – he blocked two shots in the first quarter alone Sunday – to keep a couple of key wing players available off the bench in Nick Young and Shaun Livingston.
Also Monday, Kerr said the team plans to speak to the league regarding Draymond Green’s double-technical with Trevor Ariza issued at the 6:49 mark of the fourth quarter when Ariza shoved Green as they traded words.
”I thought it was unfair but we’ll take it up with the league,” Kerr said after Monday’s practice. ”He committed a hard foul but he held Ariza up and didn’t allow him to get hurt [url=http://www.dolphinscheapstore.com/chase-allen-jersey-cheap]Chase Allen Jersey[/url] , and then Ariza shoved him. It didn’t seem like a double-technical to me, so we’ll take it up with the league and we’ll see what happens.”
With Green involved and the stakes so high at this stage, it probably won’t be the last time this series turns testy, either.
”Two guys are fiery and want to win. Two guys like Trevor and Draymond are just the ultimate competitors,” Kevin Durant said. ”Stuff happens out there. They’ve both got enough money to pay for it.”
The longshot dream of wide receiver Greg Little ended Saturday, as the Cardinals released the wide receiver who was trying to come back after three years out of the league.
The 29-year-old wideout earned an invitation after trying out in rookie minicamp, despite having not played in the NFL since 2014.
The former Browns second-rounder had stints with the Raiders, Bills, and Bengals, and his story was one of the best of the preseason.
They also released wide receiver Brice Butler and tackle Vinston Painter, and put linebacker Arthur Moats on injured reserve.
The Cardinals waived the following players: Wide receiver Carlton Agudosi, guard Josh Allen [url=http://www.patriotscheapstore.com/rob-gronkowski-jersey-cheap]Rob Gronkowski Jersey[/url] , defensive end Peli Anau, running back Sherman Badie, tight end Alec Bloom, defensive back Chris Campbell, defensive end Nordly Capi, defensive back Travell Dixon, wide receiver C.J. Duncan, guard Will House, defensive end Alec James, quarterback Chad Kanoff, kicker Matthew McCrane, defensive back Harlan Miller (injury settlement) [url=http://www.billscheapstore.com/bruce-smith-jersey-cheap]Bruce Smith Jersey[/url] , linebacker Airius Moore, defensive back Jonathan Moxey, defensive tackle Owen Obasuyi, linebacker Matthew Oplinger, running back Elijhaa Penny, guard Greg Pyke, linebacker Edmond Robinson, defensive back Tim Scott, defensive tackle Pasoni Tasini, defensive back Tavierre Thomas, wide receiver Jalen Tolliver, nose tackle Taniela Tupou [url=http://www.buccaneerscheapstore.com/william-gholston-jersey-cheap]William Gholston Jersey[/url] , running back Darius Victor, tight end Andrew Vollert, tackle Brant Weiss, tight end Bryce Williams, defensive tackle Nigel Williams, wide receiver Corey Willis, linebacker Scooby Wright.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner knows what to expect.
Two-time All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell is skipping training camp at St. Vincent College for the second straight season because of a contract dispute. Bell’s absence last summer meant Conner saw additional snaps in camp as a rookie.
”Le’Veon here or not, I’m focused and trying to prove to myself that I’m in shape and I can handle playing,” Conner said. ”I’m focused no matter who’s here or who’s not here.”
Bell chose to not sign his franchise tender until the eve of the 2017 season. He is expected to follow the same path this time. That’s with Conner, who intends to prove he can handle the heavier workload.
”I want to show it all,” Conner said. ”Every time I get in, I’m going to make every rep count.”
Conner, a former star at the University of Pittsburgh, showed flashes as a rookie, sporadically filling in to give Bell a breather. The Steelers’ 2017 third-round pick appeared in 14 games, rushing 32 times for 144 yards, an average of 4.5 yards per carry, before a knee injury ended his season.
A leaner, trimmer Conner initially turned heads during spring workouts and that effort has carried into training camp.
Conner set the tone with a touchdown on the first competitive snap of training camp. Ben Roethlisberger delivered a quick slant to the slot where Conner hauled in the touchdown ahead of former first-round pick Artie Burns.
On Monday, Conner broke off a long touchdown run during a drill that featured live tackling. He displayed burst through the hole and into the secondary where he ran away from safety Nat Berhe en route to the end zone.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin expects that kind of development from Conner in his second season.
”We’ve been around the track for a lap [url=http://www.billscheapstore.com/micah-hyde-jersey-cheap]Micah Hyde Jersey[/url] ,” Tomlin said. ”He understands what’s going on in terms of the environment of professional football. He should utilize that experience and knowledge to produce a better, more consistent performance.”
Rookie Jaylen Samuels still seeks that kind of consistency. He is taking advantage of the extra snaps to see where he fits in.
Samuels, a fifth-round pick, was a do-everything standout at North Carolina State. The 6-foot, 225-pounder stepped in at running back, fullback, wide receiver and even tight end. He ranks second in school history in total touchdowns, fourth in touchdown catches and sixth in scoring runs.
The Steelers list Samuels as a running back, but he’s also being used in the slot or split out as a receiver.
”I don’t want to be held to just one skill,” Samuels said. ”I want to be able to showcase a lot of different skills. Whenever I go against different mismatches, I want it to be tough on them.”
Samuels knows he needs to improve on his pass blocking.
”I didn’t really do it in college as much,” Samuels said. ”I did a lot in practice, but not really game-time situations because I was either in the route or I was getting the ball.”
Tomlin made Samuels take five consecutive, unsuccessful turns during the team’s ”backs on backers” drill in which a running back or tight end attempts to pick up a blitzing linebacker.
”I feel like pass blocking is probably the most that’s lacking in my game right now,” Samuels said. ”That’s the one thing I need to work on.”
Samuels will have his chance for additional development at training camp with Bell away.
The last time the Eagles opened a season as NFL champions, it was 1960 and, well, who remembers what folks did then in Philadelphia?
What they’ll certainly do Thursday night at the Linc when the Falcons come to town is roar with approval at the site of the Lombardi Trophy and the championship banner. Fans will sing many, many choruses of “Fly Eagles Fly.”
And then the guys on the field will get down to business, defending the title they took away from New England last February.
That defense will be difficult, particularly in the NFC, a stronger conference than the AFC.
“Quite honestly, it’s going to be a great night from that standpoint,” coach Doug Pederson says of the season opener. “The fans that are in attendance are going to be crazy and they’re going to be excited. It’s going to be great for the banner to be dropped in Lincoln Financial (Field). It’s going to be a great atmosphere.
“I think with this football team, though, they understand this is a different season, it’s a new team, new year. We’re sitting here 0-0 with a great opportunity against a great opponent — a playoff/Super Bowl-caliber team coming in here. Quite honestly [url=http://www.chiefscheapstore.com/travis-kelce-jersey-cheap]Travis Kelce Jersey[/url] , that’s their focus.”
It had better be, because the Falcons barely lost in Philly in the divisional round last winter, and they’ve upgraded on both sides of the ball. Atlanta, No. 8 in the AP Pro32, comes in as a 2½-point underdog to top-ranked Philadelphia.
Pro Picks goes out on a limb early.
UPSET SPECIAL: FALCONS, 22-20
We didn’t stick around for too long last year, so consider that when we choose the SAINTS to win this weekend.
No. 15 San Francisco (plus 6) at No. 3 Minnesota
Jimmy Garoppolo is undefeated as a starting quarterback. Streak ends Sunday.
BEST BET: VIKINGS, 27-16
No. 5 Pittsburgh (minus 5 1-2) at No. 31 Cleveland
The Browns are defeated in 17 straight. That streak continues, even if Le’Veon Bell is a no-show.
No. 29 Tampa Bay (plus 9 1-2) at No. 6 New Orleans
Almost went with this as BEST BET. Saints have Super Bowl-level talent.
No. 4 Los Angeles Rams (minus 5) at No. 21 Oakland, Monday night
The return of Jon Gruden to the Black Hole. Raiders could struggle after Chucky traded his best player.
No. 28 Chicago (plus 7 1-2) at No. 9 Green Bay
Khalil Mack surfaces in Chicago. More significant: Aaron Rodgers is back at QB for Packers.
No. 13 Kansas City (plus 3) at No. 10 Los Angeles Chargers
Lots of people like the Chargers in the AFC West. So do we.
No. 12 Houston (plus 6 1-2) at No. 2 New England
If healthy, the Texans could be ready for special season. But they rarely play well in Foxborough.
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Brandon was also president of the Terry and Kim Pegula-owned Buffalo Sabres.
NHL spokesman Gary Meagher tells The Associated Press the league has determined Brandon's resignation is "appropriately a club matter" after consulting with Sabres officials.
Brandon resigned Tuesday after spending 20 years working up the Bills' executive ranks, and spending the past three years overseeing the Sabres.
Two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that Brandon's resignation came after he was confronted about the relationship by the Pegulas. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because it is an internal matter [url=http://www.falconscheapstore.com/deion-sanders-jersey-cheap]Deion Sanders Jersey[/url] , and the Pegulas did not provide a reason when announcing they accepted Brandon's resignation.
Brandon told the AP he had contemplated stepping down from the job for some time, and felt the timing was right following the conclusion of the NFL draft. He did not respond to follow-up questions regarding the alleged relationship.
Benjamin Watson's agent says the veteran tight end has agreed to return to the New Orleans Saints.
Drew Rosenhaus tells The Associated Press in an email that Watson has agreed to a one-year contract with New Orleans, where he has posted some of his most impressive seasons of his 14-year career.
He spent the past two years with Baltimore, but did not play in 2016 because of a right Achilles tear. He came back last season, playing in all 16 games and catching 61 passes for 522 yards and four TDs.