The Washington Nationals’ closers carousel continues

We’re just a few short weeks away from the start of spring training, and for all the activity this winter, there are teams that still have major questions that need answers. Who has the biggest problems left to solve before pitchers and catchers report, and what are their potential fixes?

Possible solutions: Signing free agent Greg Holland; trading for Dave Robertson (White Sox), Alex Colome (Rays), Ryan Madson (Athletics) or Trevor Rosenthal (Cardinals).

The Washington Nationals’ closers carousel continues. They’ve gone from Chad Cordero to Rafael Soriano to Tyler Clippard to Drew Storen to Jonathan Papelbon to Mark Melancon. So it’s no surprise that the Nationals opened this offseason with finding yet another closer as their biggest need.

They quickly jumped into the sweepstakes for the best relief aces on the free agent market, including Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Melancon. They bid on all three, including an $85 million offer to Jansen. But all three pitchers turned them down, and the Nationals find themselves still looking for a closer in late January.

These Wildcats are averaging 75.1 possessions per game, 11th-highest nationally, up seven per game over last season (68.2), when they ranked 220th. The latter is far more in line with Calipari’s typical style at UK; the former has unlocked a truly frightening offensive machine that generates points at a pace most teams simply can’t match. South Carolina, though? The Gamecocks — who boast the nation’s most efficient defense in their own right, and usually force opponents to grind out lengthy, hard-fought half-court possessions — might have a chance.

As such, the Bruins, and Ball and Leaf specifically, have hoovered up most of the 2016-17 Pac-12’s available oxygen. Only lately, as Dillon Brooks and the preseason favorite Oregon Ducks have reasserted themselves with a strong start to conference play (including an 89-87 win over UCLA in Eugene), has any league foe challenged Alford’s team for sheer mindshare.

Players on the team echo the same philosophy that Bradley has sold since his first days with the team

“The fact that Shad Khan, Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley have been able to buy this much patience has been a massive testament to their vision,” Caputo said. “There’s really no reason why anybody would have to have patience or understanding, from this fan base’s perspective.”

“They had a vision, they had a plan. I think Jaguars fans were just starving for a plan and a message that they could believe in and they could put their finger on.”
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Players on the team echo the same philosophy that Bradley has sold since his first days with the team: Get better.

“He’s concerned about getting the best possible ability from the individual player,” Scobee said. “In turn, that individual player makes the team better. He’s always preaching about getting better. That’s his whole thing. ¡®Get better, get better’ and if you give your personal best then the team does get better and that will translate into wins.”

Karl Joseph Kids Jersey Tony Romo Cowboys: Romo will have to fend off an eager Brandon Weeden in one of the toughest quarterback competitions in recent memory.

Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings: His impressive 2015 season aside, I’m with Mayock, I just don’t think we can trust a guy with hands that small.

Cam Newton, Panthers: In his seminal quarterback rankings for 2015, the MMQB’s Andy Benoit said this about Newton:

A rare physical specimen who can make the “Wow!” throw. Unfortunately, it’s not always a good “Wow!”
Forget what he did in 2015. That’s what pundits have been saying about Newton since he got to the league, so why change the narrative now?

Logan Thomas/Drew Stanton/Carson Palmer/???, Cardinals: Just give the Cardinals any old slob with a heartbeat and all his limbs, Bruce Arians will do the rest.

Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton are back with their series on NBA prospects

Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton are back with their series on NBA prospects, rookies and sophomores — this time ranking their top 10 NBA sophomores by future potential.

Authentic Mens Karl Klug Jersey San Antonio committed 16 turnovers, leading to 24 points from the Suns. But the Suns, as Popovich said, feasted heartily on second-chance points, outscoring San Antonio 28-10 in that department.

“Definitely,” Leonard said. “I’m never trying to break a career high out there. I’m always trying to come down with a win. That’s what matters to me and my squad. It was definitely disappointing to come out with a loss.”

As for Booker, Watson believes he’s just scratching the surface in terms of his ability. Watson mentioned after Phoenix’s loss on Thursday to the Dallas Mavericks that Booker is “on the verge of becoming a superstar.” In that contest, Booker scored 28 points in the fourth quarter, which ranked as the most scored in any quarter in Suns franchise history.

Authentic Mens Luke Bowanko Jersey “I’m excited for Devin Booker. He’s only 20 years old. He doesn’t turn 21 until October,” Watson said. “So we’re excited about his progression.”

Over six weeks in the offseason, House and Dedeaux gave Ryan his own specialized improvement plan, cleaning up everything from his release to his diet. For most of House’s career as a guru, he was careful to refer to himself as a “throwing coach,” not a “quarterback coach.” He worked on mechanics, not minds. But as his practice has expanded in demand, it has also expanded in scope.

House puts quarterbacks through psychological testing, similar to therapy, to measure how they handle failure and how they view themselves. Now, only Ryan knows how he views himself in confession. Only he knows how hard the past few years have been, as he has grown accustomed to early vacations, not playoff appearances, the past three seasons. He has always looked young, precocious — but now he’s 31 and in his ninth year, his face a little more weathered, his psyche a little more hardened. It’s reasonable to guess that he viewed — and views — himself as a work in progress, having achieved a lot, but he knows there’s still so far to go.

Aaron Rodgers threw for 356 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in Sunday’s divisional round playoff win against Dallas

Start with the sack Rodgers absorbed from the blind side. How does a human manage to hold on to the football after taking that kind of hit from Jeff Heath?

Limited Womens Miguel Montero Jersey Two plays later, Rodgers faced a third-and-20 from his own 32-yard line with 12 seconds to play. “I first thought he was going to try to just throw another Hail Mary,” Packers president Mark Murphy said in his locker room. “I just didn’t think there was any way he could get it to the end zone.”

A ballet dancer in the pocket who turns into a predator on the perimeter, Rodgers took the snap and rolled to his left looking for some kind of kill shot. This time he didn’t attempt another high heave. Instead, he saw Cook heading for the sideline, and he fired against the momentum of his body.

Context: We can see where Rex Ryan got his prognosticating tendencies. In 1994, his father, Buddy, was hired as the Arizona Cardinals’ coach. At the time, the Cardinals were an NFL laughingstock. They had produced nine consecutive losing seasons and appeared in the playoffs only once in the previous 18 seasons — the strike-shortened nine-game season of 1982, when they were based in St. Louis. When he was hired, Ryan said: “You’ve got a winner in this town.”

Limited Womens Mika Zibanejad Jersey Outcome: The Cardinals were 8-8 in his first season and 4-12 in 1995, at which point he was fired. If “winning” is defined as more wins than losses, it didn’t happen on Buddy’s watch in Arizona.

Context: At midfield before overtime for a wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field, Hasselbeck won the coin toss for the Seattle Seahawks. A microphone clearly picked up and broadcast his response: “We want the ball, and we’re going to score.” At the time, the Seahawks had won only one road playoff game — and had just three postseason victories in total — in franchise history.

Buccaneers DT Akeem Spence suspended 1 game for substance abuse violation

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle will serve a one-game suspension without pay for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, the team announced Monday. The violation stems from his arrest in January 2014 for marijuana possession.

Spence was arrested last January in Flomaton, Ala., after police said they pulled him over for driving over 100 miles per hour and found marijuana in his vehicle. Spence was booked on charges of misdemeanor marijuana possession, drug paraphernalia possession and speeding.

The 2013 fourth-round pick played in all 16 games of the 2014 season for the Buccaneers, starting in five. Spence’s trial extended into 2015 though, and he agreed to allow a class of high school students observe the proceedings as a learning experience.

Yeah, Smith has had his issues off the field, but his first two seasons were unreal. We’re talking about 14 sacks as a rookie pass rushing specialist and 19.5 sacks the next season as a full-time starter. He wasn’t just good before the trouble and the suspensions, he was fucking great!

See what I’m getting at here?

Yeah, 10 sacks is definitely nothing to sneeze at, but Young’s move to the outside linebacker position will allow him to realize his full athletic potential. Even with his sack total last season, I don’t think many teams went into games against the Bears “fearing” Young or game planning to try to stop him. I expect that to change in a hurry this year as he takes the next step in his development.

ESPN just nuked the Patriots and NFL for Spygate

It may be hard to believe, but Roger Goodell’s seemingly tenuous position as commissioner of the NFL is more secure following his handling of the DeflateGate scandal, according to a bombshell of a story co-written by ESPN’s Don Van Natta, Jr. and Seth Wickersham under the Outside the Lines banner. The reason goes all the way back to Spygate, the 2007 New England Patriots videotaping scandal.
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Owners and others were disappointed that the NFL did not issue stronger discipline to the Patriots in the wake of the investigation over video taping opposing teams’ hand signals. The ESPN report, in talking with owners, executives and others around the league, found that many inside the NFL view Goodell’s tough stance on DeflateGate as a “makeup call” for how the league handled the Spygate.

The game was similar to Pittsburgh’s 30-12 playoff win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The Dolphins allowed two long touchdown passes to Brown early in the game. Then they showed signs of life but lost two fumbles to kill any realistic chance of a comeback. The Dolphins scored their only touchdown in the fourth quarter, with the outcome no longer in doubt.

So a fast start by the Chiefs, perhaps spurred by some aggressive playcalling, would help as well.

“They’ll probably be the first ones to tell you you’ve got to take care of the ball,” Reid said of the Dolphins. “You’ve got to block and tackle well and you’ve got to play well. They’re a good football team. There are only a few teams remaining that are playing. They’re all good football teams. That’s an important thing to know.

Youth Ernie Stautner Jersey “You’ve got to do what got you here. There’s not a lot of room for error. That’s not what this time of year is about.”

Ravens vs. Broncos 2015 odds: Denver gives points at home

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The Denver Broncos are 10-1 straight up in their last 11 games as a betting favorite at home. The Broncos will look to continue that home dominance hosting the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday afternoon at Sports Authority Field.

Mens Chuck Howley Jersey Denver is a 4.5-point betting favorite in its season opener according to sportsbooks monitored by The Broncos opened their season with a home game against the Ravens in 2013 and won 49-27 as a 7.5-point favorite.

Why then will players try to make the jump? Money. The highest-paid player in the NRL is Cameron Smith, and he makes just over $1 million a year. Obtaining a position on the back-end of an NFL roster is paying Hayne $435,000 this year, and if he earns a second contract he’ll be making far more than the highest-paid player in his former sport. More important than the money is the challenge. The reason Hayne switched in the first place. The endorsement deals and what he’ll become as Australia’s best-known NFL player remain to be seen.

That’s what’s up for grabs for Rugby League players making the jump. America provides them with a chance to earn that money for a few touches in 16 games, not playing a full 80 minutes each week over a 26-game season. Hayne will spark a slew of talented players to try their hands at the NFL, and there will be a lot of horror stories.

Think of this like a PSA for all the amazing Rugby League players out there. Guys, don’t quit your day jobs. Hopefully you don’t share in the well-worn laziness of assuming the NFL is for players who aren’t “tough enough” to play without pads, or think because linemen are large they’re also unathletic.

There is nothing more difficult in team sports than becoming a player in the NFL. Jarryd Hayne’s rise to prominence has been amazing to see and it’s fine to admire the Hayne Plane from afar — just don’t think you can use its slipstream to coast into one of the most difficult games on the planet.

Fantasy hoops: How high is Otto Porter Jr.’s ceiling?

The Wizards’ fourth-year forward is posting career-best numbers across the board this season. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, Kyle Soppe and Joe Kaiser debate whether he has peaked.
Because of back-to-backs (and one random rest day), Embiid missed 10 out of his first 33 games. That’s 30 percent of his production, right out the window.

Look at it in Player Rater terms. A 30 percent drop turns James Harden (19.48 points) into John Wall (13.31 points). It turns Rudy Gobert into Steven Adams. Marreese Speights into Luc Mbah a Moute.

The drop becomes more pronounced when you measure Embiid’s 2017 Player Rater average versus his season-long score. Based on his average, Embiid clocks in at 28th overall despite the minutes restriction. He generates 4.61 points on blocks alone. Beyond impressive.

But switch to the season-long Player Rater score. This score is tabulated in the aggregate across all games played … and missed.

If scoring becomes too easy, the NBA could always soften handcheck enforcement or give defenders the benefit of the doubt when airborne shooters leap into them.
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We’re not there yet — or even close. The league should set the record for scoring efficiency — but only by something like one or two points per 100 possessions. That’s meaningful, but not worth a red-alert examination of the game. Offense may vault even higher as more teams exchange midrange 2s for 3-pointers.

Game Mens Tyrell Williams Jersey There is a hard ceiling somewhere, and probably not too far from where the league is now. The game will still slow down in the playoffs, when teams have more time to scout. “Give a team seven games,” Thibodeau said, “and they can really lock into you.”

How should we value his free agency years though, so many years in advance?

Eric Rowe Authentic Jersey How should we value his free agency years though, so many years in advance? Here¡¯s how I decided to do it. I started with his projection for 2017, and applied an average aging curve. I started with a $8.5M price of a win in free agency, and applied 5% inflation for each year after. Here¡¯s how Carlos¡¯ worth stacks up:

Dan Bailey Authentic Jersey The first three years are already years the Cards¡¯ have under control, but it also shows how valuable of an asset Carlos is already. Taking his projected value over the next three years, minus the average arbitration cost figured above, his next three years figure out to a $66.4M Surplus Value. That doesn¡¯t quite make him as valuable as Chris Sale, who netted one of the very best prospects in baseball, plus three other decent prospects, but maybe it makes him one or two tiers below. If the Cardinals made him available, they would get some great offers.

The hit wasn¡¯t illegal, and it didn¡¯t incur a penalty. But Moore fell limply to the ice immediately and remained there, nearly motionless, as trainers and emergency medical personnel rushed to his aid. The entire arena went silent, with one Devils broadcaster describing it as quiet as he¡¯d ever seen it.

Even Wilson looked concerned.

Devils players hung around and helped load their fallen teammate into a stretcher and off the ice in a touching moment.

You¡¯d expect Wilson to answer with a fight, but the first fight immediately after was between Capitals forward Brett Connolly and Devils winger Devante Smith-Pelly. So this might get ugly.

Kam Chancellor suffers tailbone injury vs. Ravens

Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor left Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens with a tailbone injury. Chancellor seemed to take himself out of the game and went to the sideline, before going to the locker room without his helmet.

The Seahawks then announced that Chancellor Elite Kids Nick Vannett Jersey was questionable to return to the game with a tailbone injury.

Chancellor is one of the leaders on Seattle’s vaunted defense, a Womens Dan Williams Jersey member of the “Legion of Boom” who is among the best strong safeties in the NFL. A sixth-year veteran, Chancellor has 74 total tackles, a forced fumble and a pair of interceptions on the season.

Chancellor and free safety Earl Thomas comprise what is probably the best safety pairing in the whole league. They were dominant for Seattle’s Super Bowl run, and Chancellor himself has been named a second-team All-Pro twice and has been named to three Pro Bowls. Missing him for any amount of time hurts the Seahawks, who are currently in a battle for a Wild Card spot in the NFC.

Bortles’ No. 1 target is Allen Robinson, who quietly tied Tyler Eifert for the NFL lead in touchdown catches (12) on Sunday. This Jaguars offense can upset the balance in the AFC South if things continue spiral for the Colts and Texans.

I’m not enlightening anyone when I tell you that Steelers receiver Antonio Brown is ridiculously talented, but a few statistical benchmarks he reached on Sunday paint a vivid picture anyway.

After catching 7 passes for 87 yards in Pittsburgh’s win over the Bengals, he broke the century mark and moved to 100 catches on the season, his third consecutive season reaching that milestone. He’s just the sixth player in NFL history to do that.

Previous to Brown’s emergence in Pittsburgh as a true dual-threat, only two players had ever recorded 100-catch seasons while adding a punt return touchdown to the mix — Troy Brown in 2001 and Eric Metcalf in 1995 — and amazingly, Brown has now done that three years running.