Predators’ Vernon Fiddler ejected for kneeing Blues defenseman in Game 2

Nashville Predators forward Vernon Fiddler was a hero in Game 1 but put his team in a bad place with a game misconduct in Game 2.

The veteran center was forechecking deep in the St. Louis Blues’ zone in the second period when Blues defenseman Colton Parayko carried the puck out from behind the net. Fiddler met him, went to lay a hit, and caught Parayko knee-on-knee.

Parayko was shaken up but returned for the ensuing five-minute Blues power play. Fiddler got a five-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct.

Fiddler might expect a suspension for the hit, but it’s the playoffs and the NHL is notoriously hard to pin down on discipline expectations this time of year. If he is out for a game or two, it might not be a big deal; Fiddler hadn’t played since early April due to injury and is a fourth-line center at most these days.

Though, with winger Kevin Fiala out for the season, it would hurt Nashville’s depth even more.

Everyone had to play a new role. This is why I moved to the next level, and the coach began to trust me more. I took this opportunity. But the main thing is that I was doing everything to help my team.

Denver drafted a pair of scoring guards in the first round last year in Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley. Anunoby would give them a versatile defensive complement who could switch screens and check big wings. He tore his ACL in January and his offensive skill set is unrefined, but he projects as the best defender in this class when he’s healthy.

Miami Heat — Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
Allen was a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American who flew under the radar a bit at Texas. That’s mostly because the Longhorns fell way short of preseason expectations and finished just 11-22. Allen’s combination of length (7’5.5 wingspan) and foot speed makes him worth the investment at this point for Miami.
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Nick Saban doesn’t think that will be a problem

In an SEC carnival of violence, Fournette was often the main attraction. And it’s always been this way, since the moment he burst onto the scene as a dominant running back out of New Orleans in the class of 2014. He was a five-star recruit that year, the No. 1 player in the country on the 247Sports Composite.

Though Howard was an important piece of the Alabama offense, he wasn’t utilized like the mismatch machine he appears to be. After shredding the combine’s agility drills, it’s clear he has the size and quickness to leave opposing linebackers swatting at air. Despite that, he only averaged three receptions per game as an upperclassman.

Nick Saban doesn’t think that will be a problem, however. The Alabama head coach thinks Howard will be a great pro, even if Lane Kiffin’s offense failed to make him a star.

After earning a first-round grade, he’ll be expected to contribute much more with the Bucs. He showed flashes of that ability at the Senior Bowl, where he dazzled scouts and made some NFL executives — and Howard himself — wonder why he wasn’t used more in Tuscaloosa.

Melifonwu turned heads when he tested out as one of this year’s most electrifying athletes back in March. The 6’4 safety posted the second-best broad jump of all time (11’9), cleared an insane 44 inches with his vertical leap, and ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash to establish himself as an elite prospect.

Melifonwu was one of the most consistent bright spots during a bleak stretch of Connecticut football. The Huskies went just 14-35 in his four seasons with the program. He emerged as a starter after a redshirt freshman year, then he proceeded to get better and better as the team’s last line of defense. His 73 solo tackles in 2016 ranked eighth in the nation. He added four interceptions to prove his worth as a two-way defender in center field.
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Why Dan Feeney should be a long-term starter for the Chargers

Dan Feeney isn’t the kind of blocker who can clear out defenders while protecting his quarterback’s blindside on the edge. He’s the kind of blocker who can anchor an offensive line from the interior.

The Indiana graduate doesn’t have the upside of some of the other members of his class, but his combination of size, strength, and experience makes him a low-risk pickup at the 2017 NFL draft. The Chargers made him part of their plans after selecting him with the 71st pick.

The two-time first-team All-American is one of the draft’s most accomplished players. Feeney came to Bloomington as an unheralded, three-star recruit and left as one of the most reliable athletes in program history. With the burly blocker clearing a path, the Hoosiers played in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1991.

Cleveland got off to a good start this offseason by shoring up the offensive line, which surrendered an NFL-high 66 sacks and 140 quarterback hits last year. The Browns signed former Green Bay Packers center J.C. Tretter and paid a boatload of money to right guard Kevin Zeitler. They extended left guard Joe Bitonio, and with perpetual All-Pro Joe Thomas anchoring the left tackle spot, the remade line is solid.

Although the Browns’ offensive line didn’t give him much help last season, Isaiah Crowell rushed for nearly 1,000 yards. Just imagine what he should be able to do behind the improved line.

After playing things close to the vest (he was 11 for 15 for 91 yards against Penn State), he let ’er rip. In Peterman’s last six games, he completed 85 of 148 (57 percent) for 1,630 yards, 16 touchdowns, and five interceptions. The result: A high pick rate, a low completion rate, three losses … and a three-game span in which Pitt scored 175 points. He threw five touchdown passes in an upset of Clemson, then completed just nine for 251 and four touchdowns in a 76-61 shootout win over Syracuse.

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That doesn’t necessarily mean this player is the best on his team

The 2017 NFL draft is only two weeks away. Like every year, some teams will select players to fill a major need. Others will make questionable decisions that could possibly set their franchise back a few years.

Drafting the right player can be tricky at times, but every team in the NFL has managed to get it right at least once. Yes, even the Cleveland Browns.

That doesn’t necessarily mean this player is the best on his team, just that his team made the savvy choice drafting him when and where it did.

Every now and then, when someone in the media wants to push the too-easy button that triggers the nostalgia impulse of Pittsburgh Steelers fans, the most popular ploy is to rank the greatest Steelers ever in some order.

Even among such a grand collection of Hall of Famers, it long has been assumed that the correct answer at No. 1 is Mean Joe Greene. If one is limiting the discussion only to those who have worn the team’s jersey, that is accurate.

The greatest of all Steelers, though, in the strictest sense, has been Dan Rooney.

His father, Art, founded the team and ran it for decades. Art’s money, guile, perseverance and charm kept the team going for decades. But when Dan took charge of the operation, it became a truly professional football team. Art Rooney made them the Steelers. Dan Rooney made them the Steelers we know today.
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No NBA head coaches were fired during the season for the first time in 46 years

Instability is the most stable concept in the life of an NBA head coach. Twelve head coaches are in their first full season in their current job. Four others have only one full season with their current teams under their belts. That’s more than half of the league right there. Only four coaches — Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, Erik Spoelstra, and Dwane Casey — have been in their current job for at least five years. NBA head coaches, by and large, get hired to get fired.

In-season firings are a normalized practice in the NBA. Five head coaches were fired last season alone, from Kevin McHale in November to Derek Fisher in February. Three were fired in 2014-15, one was fired in 2013-14, four were fired in 2012-13, and four were fired in 2011-12. That’s an average of more than three in-season firings over the past five years.

The Jazz didn’t have more talent on the floor than the Clippers. The played a hobbled Derrick Favors for 32 minutes, as he huffed and puffed his way up and down the court, and even he scored 15 points despite an apparent foot injury.

Utah did, however, have more heart than Los Angeles. For a team with two perennial All-Stars, a first-time All-Star in DeAndre Jordan, and the requisite supporting cast the Clippers possess, their Game 1 fumble reeked of discord.

The undermanned Jazz simply outplayed the Clippers on Saturday. And Doc Rivers got flat-out out-coached by Snyder, as Utah fought off a flurry of Los Angeles comeback efforts down the stretch.

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New England took the second-round pick it acquired from trading away Chandler Jones and shipped it to the Saints

It’s the only day that brings much transactional news about college players. That makes it bigger for fans of this sport than trade deadline days or draft days are for fans of pro teams.

If you’re a casual follower of football news, the Wednesday Signing Day has long been a duty. You can pull up an ESPNU special, check team blogs for a few days beforehand, follow a few social accounts, and feel like you’re up to speed.

For media, Signing Day’s a cataclysmic event. There’s more national interest in Signing Day than there is in even the Playoff, because Signing Day features 130 FBS teams and the Playoff features four. It’s the longest day of the year.

New England took the second-round pick it acquired from trading away Chandler Jones and shipped it to the Saints, who took safety Vonn Bell with the 61st selection. In return, the Pats got third- and fourth-round picks who each played a major role in Tom Brady’s fifth Super Bowl title — Joe Thuney and Malcolm Mitchell. Later moves also netted developmental WR Devin Lucien and a fourth-round pick this spring, which will almost certainly be traded for another hodgepodge of picks.

On film and in flashes, McDowell is arguably the most talented defensive lineman outside of Myles Garrett in the class. But two major concerns hold him back and make him a doubtful first-round pick.

One is his inability to stay within the defensive scheme at Michigan State, where he often went off script. Another is his character, which is easily the most concerning part of his evaluation. His character report and concerns are maybe the most notorious of those of any prospect in this class.
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It’s unwise to rely too much on first-year players to fix offensive line problems right away

There might be quicker ways to lose a locker room full of good players than by backing the wrong quarterback, but I can’t think of any. It will be interesting to see how the Texans respond to Kubiak the rest of the season.

And what of resource allocation? Before the 2017 season, the Texans elected to back up the Brinks truck and give Arian Foster a five-year, $43 million contract with more than $20 million in guaranteed money. In the same offseason, Houston parted ways with the right side of its offensive line as guard Mike Brisiel and tackle Eric Winston headed for greener pastures.

Weak offensive line play was the Achilles heel for some teams last season. It kept the Broncos out of the playoffs entirely after they won the Super Bowl the season before. The Seahawks failed to make strengthening the line a priority for a few consecutive offseasons, and it finally caught up to them in 2016. Injury after injury forced the Browns to rotate through five different starting quarterbacks.

There’s another factor at play, too. The offensive line class in this year’s draft isn’t particularly deep. Outside of a few select players, it might be tough finding linemen who can start immediately.

It’s unwise to rely too much on first-year players to fix offensive line problems right away, anyway.
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The league will tell you that it was never about Davis trying to pit Oakland against Vegas.

“Brock could be on our team or we could trade him,” Haslam said to reporters at the owners meeting Monday, according to Cabot of Cleveland.com.

This is generally true, but by default, because Haslam left the team’s options wide open. Haslam didn’t say whether waiving Osweiler was a possibility, but with the amount of cap space Cleveland has, maybe that one just went unspoken.

It’s not that easy to just trade Osweiler, as the Browns surely know by now. They started shopping the quarterback almost immediately after acquiring him. Cleveland may have to bear some of his guaranteed $16 million salary for this season as part of that agreement.

Oh, and the Raiders get a sparkling, $1.9 billion Vegas domed stadium. That’s a twist — in their prior moves, they never set up with a roof.

A no from the league to Los Angeles turned into a 31-1 vote of yes to Las Vegas here on Monday at the NFL owners meeting. It was a resounding vote on this Raiders/Vegas parachute.

The league will tell you that it was never about Davis trying to pit Oakland against Vegas. They insist it was about which option was most viable.

The IOU to Davis, the big Vegas cash investment and the chance to enter a fresh, exciting entertainment mammoth was an avalanche that squished Oakland.

For all we know nike_colts_1267 has done an exceptional job as the head coach of the Thunder. But it’s hard to think about anything other than RUSSELL WESTBROOK when you’re thinking about the Thunder.

The Gang Green gets one of this year’s most sure thing prospects

Harden thrives off pick and rolls, and his aptitude forces defenses into a bind: Send the house at him or stay pat on shooters. The Warriors choose the latter, rarely conceding an open look from three.

It’s why they have the league’s best defensive three-point percentage. They force him to go one-on-one to the rack, where they collapse on a shot when it’s too late to make a pass.

Knowing that, he often settles for a contested three. Chance Warmack, Guard, Tennessee Titans: Chance Warmack has gotten some heat this season for his struggles in pass protection, deservedly so. However, last week on Thursday Night Football, Warmack stood out in the running game. Chris Johnson ran for 86 yards and two touchdowns in the Titans’ loss to the Colts, mostly due to how much room he had to run. Warmack was a big reason why, and he deserves some credit.

Ultimately, the game makes both teams 7-3 on the year. For Carolina, it sits in the No. 5 seed, trailing the New Orleans Saints by two games in the NFC South. New England is tied with the Indianapolis Colts for the coveted second-seed, well ahead of any competition for the AFC East.

Vance McDonald, Tight End, San Francisco 49ers: Vance McDonald turned heads in the pre-draft process due to his combination of size and speed. His vertical jump was through the roof and people began to rave about his upside. Unfortunately, those physical traits haven’t translated into blocking ability. McDonald not only hasn’t been much of a factor in the passing game, but he’s also struggling to run block, a crucial skill for a No. 2 tight end in the NFL. He still has a lot of work to do.cardinals_1198-115x115

The Seahawks have been great at making it look pretty

President Donald Trump rejected the Washington Nationals’ invitation to have him throw out the first pitch at the team’s home opener on April 3, citing a “scheduling conflict.”

The tradition dates back to 1910 when Howard Taft did a favor to then-American League president Ban Johnson by throwing out the first pitch for the Washington Senators as a way to boost attendance. Since then, the list of ceremonial first pitches is long.

“Well, the examples that they showed us were the really bad examples,” Carroll said via ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia. “They didn’t show the examples of how pretty it is when a guy leaps over with great body control and makes the play and all.”

The Seahawks have been great at making it look pretty, and have executed the safest displays of the leap.

Captain Kirk, KC Masterpiece, The Michigan Gentleman, you name it Cousins is the 360 degree opposite from the sandwich artist formally known as RG3. Kirk has a calm demeaner that would fit in just as well in the ER the way hes acted with such patients while RG3 shoots his whole team in the foot. The NFL is a opportunity league, people forget that,, and Kirks making the most of his time by preparing and even writing his very own biography in the offseason, which is ironic because you could fill a DC playbook with what RG3 doesnt know about football folks.

Keeping Cousins out of your life might be a smart gameplan if your Tavon Austin, but Mike Shanahans unwillingness to go with the hot hand and healthy legs has turned a Storybook team into a physicians desk reference folks.

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