Category: Houston Astros

The Patriots’ brain trust continues to work in mysterious ways.

On Tuesday, New England brass met with NFL washout Johnny Manziel both before and after his workout during Texas A&M’s Pro Day in College Station, according to the Boston Herald.

Should an NFL opportunity never materialize, however, Manziel’s CFL rights are currently in the hands of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Although the two sides failed to come to terms on an agreement earlier this year, the Canadian football club is keeping its door open for Manziel.

“While the discussions with Johnny Manziel and his representative have been very cordial and informative,” the Tiger-Cats said in a statement in January, “there is nothing imminent and nothing to report. We will continue to do our due diligence and will have no further public comment on the matter as we move forward.”

Manziel will next compete in the developmental Spring League, commencing in April. He hasn’t played a snap since 2015.

But will Gruden himself take a shot on the 49ers’ Super Bowl XLVII quarterback? Probably not, considering he lumps his qualifications in with Tim Tebow’s, Robert Griffin III’s and Johnny Manziel’s.

“I think there’s a lot of intrigue there,” Gruden said Tuesday, via ESPN, at the owners’ meetings in Orlando, Fla. “His performance on the field wasn’t very good, on tape. I think, Robert Griffin, a rookie of the year, surprised he’s out there. Tim Tebow takes a team to the playoffs, there’s some surprise that he never came back. You know, Johnny Manziel, he’s out there.

“Back to Kaepernick, he got beat out by [Blaine] Gabbert, to start the [2016] season. I think that says something. [But] I am surprised he’s not in camp with somebody. He probably will be soon.”

Gabbert did start the 2016 season for San Francisco, but Kaepernick was recovering from offseason surgery. When healthy, Kaepernick reclaimed his spot and outperformed Gabbert, albeit on a still-very-bad 49ers team. Kaepernick finished with a 90.7 rating, completing 59 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in a season in which his pregame habits — kneeling for the national anthem — overshadowed anything he did on the field.jets_130

Second Panthers bidder touring facilities today

The Panthers are having their version of an open house, whether the place smells like cookies or not.

According to WBTV, Charleston S.C. financier Ben Navarro is visiting the Panthers complex today as part of his bid to buy the team.

Smith is under investigation by San Francisco police after a possible domestic incident. A police spokeswoman tells the San Francisco Chronicle that Smith has not been arrested and that he and his accuser are cooperating with investigators.

Smith is detained by police after a car he is riding in strikes a San Francisco police vehicle and injures two SFPD officers. Smith’s girlfriend, the driver, is arrested on suspicion of DUI. Smith is detained for public intoxication and is expected to be released when he sobers up.

TMZ reports Smith reached a plea deal in order to drop the DUI charge stemming from the August 2015 arrest. Per TMZ, Smith “initially pled not guilty to misdemeanor DUI and hit and run — but now, we’ve learned he cut a deal with prosecutors in which he pled no contest to hit and run and the DUI charge was dropped.

According to Albert Breer of SI.com, Southern Cal quarterback Sam Darnold will work out for the Broncos Friday in Los Angeles.

The Broncos are in an interesting spot, with at least two if not three quarterbacks expected to be off the board by the time they choose. They’re also on the Baker Mayfield world tour, and should be looking at all the top prospects so they’re prepared for anything when the first round starts.

Walker might already be on vacation; he’s averaged just 9.8 PPG and 3.5 APG on 33 percent shooting the past four games. Monk, on the other hand, is proving emergent down the stretch with 20 PPG, 4 APG and 4 3PG during his past four outings. I was possibly unfairly low on Monk as a prospect this season, as he simply wasn’t given much time or many shots to grow in what was a weak Charlotte offense. Monk could become a valuable fantasy weapon as a high-volume shooting specialist if new GM Mitch Kupchak makes a switch to a progressive coach and scheme. This could prove particularly accurate if Walker is dealt during the offseason.buccaneers_050

That in turn has made the Denver faithful concerned about where Elway goes next.

Denver’s biggest problem last season was a QB trio of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch that combined to post a 73.0 rating, second worst in the NFL to the quarterback-clueless Browns. The trio also threw 22 interceptions, second most in the league.

Lynch has been a major disappointment over his first two seasons after Elway traded up to draft him in the first round. The big signal caller could not beat out Siemian in his rookie season and battled injuries and inconsistency in Year 2. The dreaded bust word is in play, as Lynch has not shown enough promise to engender confidence that he was worthy of such a high pick.

Does Elway try to make a splash in free agency when the new league year begins March 14? Drew Brees at 39 is still elite but unlikely to leave New Orleans. Kirk Cousins is the next best if we discount Minnesota’s trio of free-agent quarterbacks due to injury concerns with Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater, plus the lack of long-term success by Case Keenum even after his excellent 2017 season.

If he ends up playing bigger minutes, Mudiay might have to adjust his conditioning a bit; he averaged around 18 minutes per game for the Nuggets.

We also might see the rookie Ntilikina starting at some point for New York. It sounds as if the coaching staff has been hesitant to play Ntilikina big minutes because of fatigue issues and occasional knee pain, but he will play a bigger role for the remainder of the season.

They are selfless, humble, hard-working players who don’t bark like other vibrant NFL wide receivers. But they are not wallflowers.

During this Super Bowl media week, neither would allow anyone to back them into a corner. Both gave among the most direct, succinct, piercing answers of any players here. Cooks, for example, when asked if he had “arrived,” snapped: “No, I haven’t arrived. I’m not even sure what that is. I’m still pressing forward.”

Jeffery, when asked about the analysis of him as an “average” Bears receiver compared with this prime Eagles season quipped: “Writers and fans have their opinions, but last time I checked, their opinions don’t pay checks.”

Two no-nonsense receivers who make plenty of sense.
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When the swim takes place is up to Jackson, who clearly will wait for warmer weather.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters, “We’re hunting the same things. They know that. It’s not something that has to be artificially stimulated. It is what it is.”

Bengals safety George Iloka, noting the fact that the Bengals have lost their past four to the Steelers, said, “This game means a lot. Let’s not take that out of there — it means a lot.’’

“I never said I could swim,” Jackson said. “There will be some people down there to rescue me pretty quickly. So we’ll make it fun. It’s for the right reason. Again, I don’t take light to things that I say that I put out there. I like to back them up.’’

Speaking of backing up words, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has told Jackson that he’ll return for a third season in Cleveland and Jackson said: “I unequivocally believe without question that what Jimmy Haslam said is going to happen here. There is nothing that anybody has said to me is making me feel differently.”

Haslam hired a new general manager, John Dorsey, to oversee the football operation, which is 1-30 the past two years.

“You can’t sugarcoat it,” Jackson said. “There’s no way around it. The record is what it is. This is where we are, so we got to find a way to climb out of this hole as fast as we can and get to where I think we should be. I’ve never quit at anything. I’ve never lost like this and I’ve never quit at anything. So if people are thinking I’m going to walk away from this, no.”

Cooper was returning the ball for an apparent touchdown when he slowed up inside the 5-yard line and was stripped of the ball by Vance McDonald (a replica of the Lett-Don Beebe play in the Super Bowl 24 years ago) just outside the goal line. The ball caromed into the end zone and was batted over the end line by Steelers holder Jordan Berry.

Cox played 12 seasons as a linebacker, but he was best known for the back-and-forth with the Buffalo Bills, in which he was ejected from one game for a fight with Carwell Gardner. He spit at the fans. He gave the fans a double-bird salute. Cox was a nasty player, but he finally got a Super Bowl ring late in his career when playing for the Patriots. He resurfaced on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” as Atlanta’s defensive line coach and didn’t disappoint there, either.nike-youth-cardinals-078

Both teams were on byes last week, and both know what their tasks are.

If the Steelers are in the proper frame of mind (everybody is happy with each other and their roles), they should run this Colts team out of their own building. Reports are that Martavis Bryant is working with the starters again, which means onewonder how potent the offense could be with Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster. It’s hard to find three worse teams, ever, for the Colts to get their three wins against: Browns, 49ers and Tom Savage-led Texans.

Not to equate the serious charge of domestic violence with player injuries, but the Elliott situation week to week for the Cowboys seems similar to that of a team for which a top player is questionable due to injury but shows up to play Sunday. Except, in this case, Elliott is able to practice while he awaits word on his appeals.

The injury analogy illustrates our situation when I was with the Titans and our star quarterback, Steve McNair, battled back, sternum and leg injuries from 2000 to ’03. He often would be unable to practice during the week but would wind up playing Sunday. The coaching staff, led by Jeff Fisher, came to expect this as the norm, and backup Neil O’Donnell would prepare all week only to see McNair ultimately start.

The Panthers are chasing one of the NFL’s hottest teams in the Saints, in their division. The Jets are somehow on the fringe of the playoff hunt but have a brutal finish to their schedule (Chiefs, Saints, Patriots in final five weeks). The Panthers’ defense is going to pin its ears back on Josh McCown; the Jets will do the same to Cam Newton, but to much lesser effect.

That unit wasn’t the problem as the Saints finished with 7-9 records each of the past three years. The defense was among the NFL’s worst in yards and points allowed.

It looked like the same discrepancy might continue in 2017 until the Saints stunned the Panthers with a Week 3 road victory followed by a 20-0 blanking of the Dolphins in London.
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Matthew Berry likes the matchups for Demaryius Thomas and Alshon Jeffery this week. (2:57)

Fantasy football rankings from Matthew Berry, Field Yates, Mike Clay, Eric Karabell and Tristan Cockcroft for Week 8 of the NFL season.

Anyway, here are some more of the unedited questions I got back and my responses.

Eric Karabell (ESPN Senior Writer, Fantasy Hall of Famer): If your child said he or she wanted to follow your footsteps into the fantasy life as writer and personality, what would you say?

Sunday’s game at Raymond James Stadium has developed into the Desperation Bowl with each team urgently searching for positive momentum in the NFC South Division race.

The Panthers (4-3) have dropped two straight games, including Sunday’s punchless 17-3 defeat against the Chicago Bears, to go along with an earlier loss against the first-place New Orleans Saints.

Another Saints’ rookie besides Kamara who has made waves is cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the No. 11 overall draft pick, who has covered well and last week cut down a Green Bay screen before it got started.

“I think he’s a tackler, he competes,” Payton said. “I like his length. I think he can run and mirror.”

The Saints held three players out of practice on Wednesday: receiver Michael Thomas (knee), tackle Terron Armstead (shoulder) and guard Larry Warford (abdomen). Warford is expected to miss Sunday’s game.

We’ll be celebrating the celebrations this season by keeping a running list of rankings. At the end of the year we’ll crown a winner.

The way Elliott dismantled the 49ers defense on the ground kept them honest. They had to adjust to try to limit the damage Elliott was doing in the run game. That opened things up for other players, and it helped Dallas control the clock and wear down the 49ers. The Cowboys had the ball for 32:50 of the game.
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Saints’ trade for Jon Dorenbos likely saved his life after heart condition discovery

New Orleans Saints long snapper Jon Dorenbos will have surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm and go on the team’s non-football injury list before he ever played a game with the team.

Dorenbos, 37, began his career with two seasons with the Buffalo Bills before joining the Eagles during the 2006 season. He spent 11 seasons in Philadelphia before he was traded to the Saints in August for a seventh-round pick in 2019.

Watt, 28, is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, but played just three games in 2016 before he was shut down for the year due to back surgery. Prior to leaving against the Jaguars, he had one tackle in the first half against a Jaguars offense that leaned heavily on Leonard Fournette en route to a 19-0 lead at halftime.

What would losing Watt mean to the Texans defense? Without Watt for the majority of 2016, the Texans’ defense was still great. It finished No. 1 in the league in yards allowed and carried a poor offense to a 9-7 record and a trip to the postseason.

But that doesn’t mean the Texans are better without Watt. If he returns to the form of 2015 and prior, he’s one of the best and most dominant defensive linemen in the NFL. Fortunately for the Texans, a finger injury — no matter how severe — isn’t likely to slow down Watt much.
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When the music stops on the 2017 season on Oct. 1, Davis will likely be the slugger caught without a seat.

Chris Smith’s quest for his first Major League win as a starter is over, at least for the 2017 season, barring an unforeseen injury.

Mengden, who went 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA in a pair of starts earlier this season, will take Smith’s spot in the A’s rotation, tossing the second game of the team’s doubleheader with the Houston Astros at the Coliseum Saturday.

“We’re going to start Mengden in the doubleheader in Chris Smith’s place and get a look at him in the starting rotation again, and then (Smith) will go into the bullpen,” Melvin said.

UCF also announced Tuesday that its home football game against Memphis, originally scheduled for Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET, has been rescheduled to Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Both the University of Florida and University of Miami said in statements that they are monitoring the storm in regards to athletic events both schools have scheduled.

The Chargers have also posted their home jersey schedule for 2017. In a development that will have NFL fans giving serious thanks as they reach for the gravy, the schedule calls for the Bolts to wear their powder blue alternates — considered by many the best look in league — on Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys.raptors_005

These sports photos look like they belong in the renaissance era

Reddit, the ubiquitous web content rating and discussion website (at least that’s how Wikipedia refers to it), is almost impossible to avoid. It can be problematic, sure, but its user base is so large that it’s futile to attempt to define the whole monolith with a single stroke. The subreddits, as the individual forums are called, often exist in a total bubble. Here’s one that might be the best: r/AccidentalRenaissance.

Its premise is simple: collecting modern photographs that are composed in such a way that it reminds you of classic renaissance paintings, like you might see in textbooks or art museums. Here’s the highest voted image on the entire subreddit.

Forever the punchline of the NFL, the Browns may seem like a logical choice after a 1-15 season in 2016. Replacing Robert Griffin III on the roster with Brock Osweiler isn’t particularly inspiring either, but the Browns are a young team that’s acquiring promising pieces in a hurry.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason, but added Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, David Njoku, Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter, among others. They’re not a Super Bowl contender yet, by any means, but the Browns should be better and that’ll likely be enough to get them out of the cellar.

This defense is littered with great playmakers, and with most of them under contract and still in their primes, the Giants are in good shape on that side of the field. They didn’t even do much to address the defense in the offseason — re-signing linebacker Keenan Robinson and drafting tackle Dalvin Tomlinson in the second round ended up being their biggest moves.
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Pelicans’ Jarrett Jack out for 4-6 weeks with torn meniscus

Jarrett Jack managed just two games with the Pelicans.

The veteran point guard was signed by New Orleans after the team traded away a majority of its backcourt to land DeMarcus Cousins before the trade deadline.

New Orleans announced Friday that Jack would be out 4-6 weeks with a torn meniscus, effectively ending his season. Jack was coming back from a torn ACL suffered last year.

Ball makes a move up the board here this time around due to his ability to make the players around him better. Efficiency is the name of the game here. He leads the country averaging 7.7 assists per game and shoots 41 percent from 3-point range and nearly 72 percent from 2-point range.

He’s the driving force behind one of the top offenses in the country, telling me earlier this year that “it’s nothing to pass up a good shot for a great one.” Beyond that, he has a nose for the basketball, as his six rebounds and two steals per game show. There are concerns here defensively and in terms of pure explosive athleticism, but Ball has been one of the best players in all of college basketball as a freshman and projects well to the next level.

The only players who aren’t averaging one 3-point attempt per game for the Celtics this season are Tyler Zeller (0.0), Jordan Mickey (0.1), Demetrius Jackson (0.3) and Amir Johnson (0.8). Furthermore, of the players who are taking at least one 3-pointer per game, all but three are shooting greater than 35 percent from the perimeter: Smart (30.8 percent), Rozier (32.4 percent) and rookie Jaylen Brown (30.4 percent). Even if they aren’t the most accurate of shooters, though, defenses still have to be aware of where they are because they won’t shy away from letting it fly when left open.saints_013-223x223