Oddsmakers peg Pats as favorites to win the most games

Now that the draft has come and gone, an effort to predict a team’s total wins becomes slight more relevant. Or, more accurately, slightly less irrelevant.

Regardless, bets can now be placed in Las Vegas (in time, plenty of other states) regarding a given team’s total number of wins. Via David Purdum of ESPN.com, the Patriots lead the way with 11 wins.

Jordan Whitehead is an explosive, big-hitting, fly-around defender with a checkered career. He missed the end of the 2016 season with a broken arm and was suspended for three games at the start of the 2017 season for a violation of team policy. He’s more of a hitter than a tackler who plays recklessly and will overrun the ball. Whitehead is a gamble-on-athleticism type, but he is undersized and may not be special enough as an athlete to be worth much of a gamble. This is an odd pick for a team that upgraded it’s secondary earlier in the draft. Grade: C-minus.

Francis, who turns 28 later this week, played in six games last season after injuries hit Washington. He made 18 tackles.

He played in one game with Miami in 2015 and two with Seattle that season. He spent the 2016 offseason with Tampa Bay and was on and off Washington’s practice squad that year.

Hughes, 27, has played in 25 career games, though none with Washington. He has spent time with the Giants, Colts and Chiefs, seeing action with the Giants and Colts. Washington signed him to a reserve/future contract in January.

Pass protection: Very good. Walton picks up assignments quickly, but he sometimes gets rocked backward into his quarterback.

Contrary opinion from a source having an anxiety attack: A 188-pounder coming off an ankle injury who doesn’t run well between the tackles: Maybe we should just design plays for him to scamper out of bounds for a two-yard loss.
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Gase: Dolphins won’t need an outside quarterback if Tannehill gets injured again

Last year, the Dolphins had to scramble when quarterback Ryan Tannehill tore an ACL during training camp, luring Jay Cutler out of retirement. If Tannehill gets injured again this year, Cutler won’t be back.

“No. Nope. Nope,” coach Adam Gase told reporters on Thursday regarding whether the team would need to sign an outside quarterback if Tannehill gets injured again.

It’s still not clear which quarterback would replace Tannehill, if it happens. Matt Moore is gone, David Fales and Brock Osweiler have arrived. Most recently, a waivers claim was made for Bryce Petty.

I didn’t know where his money was. . . . Just hearing him and where he was mentally and what he wanted to accomplish and how he kind of wanted to get his career rolling again, after we had that conversation and we got him in the building, everybody really liked him. I felt good about it. We ended up making that move and ever since then, I’m seeing the same guy that I saw in his younger years.”

The West Virginia sports betting bill, which will become effective if/when (when) the U.S. Supreme Court scraps that law that currently prevents West Virginia and most other states from adopting sports wagering, has been tweaked to provide for a so-called “integrity fee” aimed at compensating those who provide the sports on which bets are placed a piece of the action in exchange for, well, nothing.

Via WVNews.com, a tentative agreement has been reached in West Virginia to pay the integrity fee. The funds will come not from the state’s cut of the money generated by gambling, but from the portion that will go to the various state casinos where the betting will occur.

“I demanded that the entire fee be paid by the casinos,” Governor Jim Justice said.
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All due respect, it’s a distinction without much of a difference. The extra money that the casinos will cough up to the sports leagues to get the deal done just as easily could have gone to sweetening the pot for the state. So even though the state’s piece of the pie will get no smaller, the fact that the casinos will get less money necessarily means that the state could have gotten more.

Patriots WR Julian Edelman might have helped prevent a school shooting

Did Julian Edelman help stop a school shooting?

The Patriots receiver got a direct message on his Instagram account last month that said someone in the comment section of Edelman’s account was threatening to shoot up a school, The New York Times reported.

A 14-year-old boy living at that address admitted he posted the comment and was taken to a juvenile detention center. When police searched the house, they discovered two rifles belonging to the boy’s mother. The boy has been charged with a felony count of making a false threat of terrorism.

Moen told the Times she updated Edelman on the police’s findings and both realized they might have helped avert a deadly situation.

“When I told Julian, he was in shock,” Moen said. “We’re very lucky the Boston cops were all over it, very lucky the Michigan cops were all over it.”

The Chargers went with a more specific proposal asking that roughing-the-passer penalties and hits on defenseless receivers be made reviewable. The Redskins were less specific, but they want to make personal fouls reviewable in general.

Here is the full list of playing rules proposals owners will discuss.

Spangenberg, with his back to the wall, played the ball well and timed his jump perfectly. He was dumbfounded when he came back down to the ground and realized the ball wasn’t in his glove.

“I felt it go in my glove and as I was bringing it back I felt something un-lodge it,” he said. “I went to throw it back in and I realized it wasn’t there. … From my perspective, I thought I saw and felt a hand touch the ball but I guess that’s not what they saw. It was a big home run at the time but we were able to escape with a win and that’s that counts.”
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Reds-Phillies Preview

The Philadelphia Phillies’ future was on display Monday when Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery both homered. Aaron Nola will show more of what the Phillies are building around Tuesday night.

The 24-year-old Nola will make his first 2018 start at Citizens Bank Park in the middle matchup of a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at 7:05 p.m. ET. Nola, who was one of baseball’s top pitchers in the second half of the 2017 season, is looking for his first win of the season.

Nola (0-0, 2.61 ERA) gave up two runs on four hits and four walks in a five-inning, 87-pitch outing against the New York Mets last Wednesday. Nola was pulled after 68 pitches after giving up just one run in 5 1/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves on opening day in Gabe Kapler’s managerial debut.

Hoskins went 1-for-3 with his second home run of the season and a walk on Monday night. Hoskins is hitting .429 with a 1.374 OPS through nine games.

Kingery, meanwhile, has a .259 average in eight games, six of which have been starts. The 23-year-old utilityman hit his first career home run Monday night in the Phillies’ 6-5 win.

The Reds, who are 2-7 on the young season, have given up five runs or more in six of their first nine games, but they did see some promising signs from Joey Votto in recent games. Votto has had multi-hit games in three of his last four contests — including in Monday night’s series opener — raising his average from .158 to .257.

We have to build it up again, O’Brien said Tuesday. Start building a new offense. Our offense is totally different now from what it was.

O’Brien told reporters that everyone had seen exactly what the Texans could do last season. They held back nothing in the playbook. Now they have to adjust to prevent teams from keying on what they did in 2017.

All these teams, especially in our division, have watched all those plays, O’Brien said. They’re studying those things, and we have to start from scratch.

Watson helped the Texans get out of the doldrums in the first two weeks. They lost 29-6 to the Jaguars in Week 1 and then really looked out of sync in a win against the Bengals in Watson’s first start, but after that the rookie really got Houston going.

Also, Boston’s starters had held opponents to one or no runs in the first seven games before the Rays scored twice on Brad Miller’s double in the first.

With morning temperatures in the upper 30s, most of Boston’s players that took BP on the field wore winter hats or had hooded sweatshirts over their heads.cardinals_135

Aaron Donald training with knives to improve handwork, reaction time

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald won Defensive Player of the Year honors last season as he consistently wrecked opposing offenses from the defensive interior.

Donald is one of the most skilled defensive linemen in the league. His quickness and hand-fighting techniques enable him to be a wrecking ball to opponents on a weekly basis.

But Donald seemingly took the idea of “hand-fighting” to a new level when a video came out last week showing Donald training against a man flailing at him with knives. Unsurprisingly, the knives aren’t real. Donald showed as much in a video put out on the Rams Twitter account on Thursday.

Donald is already the most disruptive interior defensive lineman in the NFL. He should already benefit from the Rams adding Ndamukong Suh to their defensive front this offseason, which should limit just how frequently opposing offenses can throw double teams his way. If he’s able to get even more skilled with his hands by training against knives – even fake ones – it could be a rough season for opposing quarterbacks.

Denzelle Good and Joe Haeg each saw time at right tackle for the Colts last season and remain under contract for the 2018 season. Howard would likely compete with them for playing time if he signs with the Colts.

Plus, the Bills could now receive additional competition from another team in better position to skip ahead, provided a quarterback is within their sights. That’s Denver, which sits at No. 5 and may still be enticed to draft a quarterback, even after this week’s costly free-agent signing of Case Keenum. There’s also the possibility the Broncos could try to bluff Buffalo — which went the bridge quarterback route in free agency with AJ McCarron — into making a deal.

The consensus top four quarterbacks in this year’s draft class are Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and UCLA’s Josh Rosen.

No quarterback has been identified as Cleveland’s favorite yet. But by sending second-round picks in the next two drafts to Indianapolis, the Jets don’t appear worried about it, even if their top option is gone.
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Former NFL player Marlon McCree arrested after an alleged incident with his ex-wife

Former NFL player Marlon McCree was arrested on charges of simple assault and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon after an incident involving his ex-wife, The Florida Times-Union reports.

Jahzi McCree filed a restraining order against her ex-husband Friday. A day later, employees of a Jacksonville bar called police to report an alleged domestic-violence incident after two women sought refuge inside, per the paper.

“Throughout the season, every time he gets the opportunity to play big minutes or have a bigger role, he has been pretty good for us,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters after the game against Utah. “He is one of our best finishers, he’s one of our best rebounders, and he can push it in transition.”

Hart started in place of another rookie on Sunday. Kyle Kuzma missed the game after spraining an ankle against Minnesota. Los Angeles was also without rookie point guard Lonzo Ball (knee) and forward Brandon Ingram (concussion protocol).

“He’s done a nice job of figuring out what the NBA game is about,” Walton said. “I think he’s another one of those guys that’s going to have a big offseason, now that he’s gotten to experience guarding James Harden, guarding other teams’ best players, elite scorers, and also figured out where he can get his shots.”

Hart scored a season-high 26 points against the Rockets on Dec. 31, going 9 of 13 from the field in a 148-142 loss in Houston.

“It’s really about coming back and bouncing back and being able to play this sport.”

Johnson played only 43 snaps before his injury in the season opener, which required surgery. He spent the season on injured reserve, still unsure whether he could have returned.

“No one knows about that,” Johnson said.

The Cardinals began their offseason program this week, with Johnson fully cleared to participate. He said he has done the same work his teammates have done.

In 2016, Johnson came within 121 receiving yards of becoming the third player in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards and 1,000 rushing yards in the same season. He can’t wait to try to reach that goal this season.
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Eli Manning: No problem with Odell Beckham not coming to my workouts

Giants quarterback Eli Manning invited offensive teammates to come with him to use the Duke University practice facility to do some offseason workouts together. Odell Beckham did not attend, but Manning was fine with that.

Manning told reporters today that as Beckham rehabs from the ankle injury that ended his 2017 season, “it didn’t make sense” for Beckham to join the group at Duke when Beckham is still getting back to full speed after the injury.

“We were on the same page,” Manning said.

The Labelle family told the paper that they eventually were informed that Xavier, 18, had died in the crash. Paul said Saturday that the family was “numb right now,” while his wife, Tanya, told the paper that they were “devastated.”

Monday’s news came one day after the Humboldt community mourned the deceased during a vigil at the Broncos’ home arena. Garinger choked back tears as he read out the names of the 15 dead. People embraced each other, crying. Tissue boxes were passed down rows. Flowers ringed the team logo at center ice. Pictures of the dead and injured were placed in front of the audience.

“There’s no reason to make a bunch of crazy speeches in April,” Gruden told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “We’re going to try and get ’em organized and start to build some relationships with each other and start to teach.”

Of course, for the first two weeks of the program, most of the work will be done by the strength and conditioning staff, with just a bit of work with assistant coaches to introduce players to their systems.

Gruden hasn’t coached a team of football players since his Buccaneers team lost to the Raiders on Dec. 28, 2008, which makes today a special one for him.

“I’m really excited,” Gruden said. “It’s been a long time. We’ve been here preparing for this day for so long. It will be limited, but we’ll put the boat in the water and it will be fun.”
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Patriots to sign Luke Bowanko

The Patriots added a tight end in Troy Niklas on Wednesday and they are also set to add a player to their offensive line group.

Field Yates of ESPN reports that the Patriots will sign free agent Luke Bowanko.

Bowanko played in all 16 games for the Ravens last season and made one start during his first year in Baltimore. The 2014 sixth-round pick spent the first three years of his career with the Jaguars and made 14 starts for Jacksonville during his rookie season.

“Obviously, that’s not a good enough start,” Martinez said. “Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing. We left our goalie out to dry, and that’s not fair to him.”

Martinez scored on a slap shot at 3:42 in the second, getting the Kings on the board. He cut the deficit to 4-2 at 12:27 on a one-timer from Michael Amadio after a power play expired.

The Kings went 2-1-1 against the Golden Knights this season, winning back-to-back games on Feb. 26-27.

“Except the first period tonight, I think we’ve been playing pretty well the last couple games,” Kings center Adrian Kempe said. “We got to bring it now. We need every single guy in the locker room. We need everybody to be at their best now. The fun starts right now. Hopefully everybody is ready for it.”

Martinez has two goals and two assists during a three-game point streak. … Stars D John Klingberg had an assist, closing the season on a four-game point streak. … Kings F Torrey Mitchell (flu) missed his second straight game.

Wentz was hurt on a play that saw him get hit by two Rams defenders while trying to run into the end zone and finding a way to avoid future absences would be a plus for the Eagles moving forward. Wentz has already said that he doesn’t plan to change his playing style, but coach Doug Pederson said recently that it will be a topic of conversation heading into the 2018 season.

“I’m going to sit down and talk to him,” Pederson said, via Philly.com. “Longevity is everything in this business. Learn from the best. Learn from Tom Brady, who got hurt early in his career. And learn from guys that have done that and yet still went on to have great careers and long careers.”

Former Eagles offensive coordinator and current Colts head coach Frank Reich said past attempts to broach the subject with Wentz “definitely went in one ear and out the other,” but thinks couching it as “you don’t want to hurt the team” is a way to get the message across in the future. Whatever the Eagles wind up doing on that front, they’ll be walking a fine line between protecting a valued asset and making sure they don’t take away what makes him so valuable in the first place.texans_001

Lamar Jackson continues to be a tough guy to track down

Quarterback Lamar Jackson continues to be one of the biggest puzzles of the 2018 draft, due in part to the fact that Jackson doesn’t have an agent. Because he doesn’t have an agent, some teams continue to have a hard time getting in touch with him to arrange pre-draft visits and/or workouts.

Per a league source, one team tried at least seven times to contact Jackson. The team in question wasn’t able to reach him, and the team as of earlier on Thursday had not heard back from him.

Not surprisingly, Richard Sherman (whose decision to represent himself wasn’t an isolated lark but part of a crusade to wipe out agents altogether) supports Jackson’s decision, claiming that “in terms of improving his draft stock or the amount of money [Jackson] receives, there isn’t much they can do.” All due respect, that’s just not accurate — and it reveals that Sherman simply doesn’t understand what good agents do to help their clients get drafted as high as possible and, in turn, get paid as much as possible.

Here’s a quick summary of the things a good agent can do for a rookie, as posted previously in other PFT items regarding rookies choosing to go it alone.

First, despite the relative simplicity of the rookie wage scale, players selected in the first round need to be able to navigate certain nuances and hot spots in the draft order relevant to offset language, guaranteed pay, cash flow, and other structural devices.

Berhe will help the Steelers’ special teams, which Pittsburgh sought to upgrade this offseason.

“We are very comfortable with the direction of the team,” McCarthy said. “The team is well managed by Amy Adams Strunk and has strong leadership in place with executives such as Steve Underwood. The team is very committed to the community and has tremendous momentum on the field as a playoff team last year and a new coach for this season. League staff is working with the club and the finance committee to resolve any outstanding issues.”

McCarthy, in a follow-up, declined to identify the “outstanding issues.” They could involve the same issues that has been the core issue since Bud Adams died: The NFL wants one person to essentially be THE owner, with no misunderstandings about who calls the shots for the franchise.patriots_104-223x223

That was essentially Giancarlo Stanton’s advice to Aaron Judge following Judge’s spectacular, historic rookie season.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that coaches were heavily involved in the decision to potentially eject players who lower their heads and make initial contact with the crown of the helmet when making a tackle. Payton noted that the ability to use replay to confirm an ejection aided coaches’ comfort level with the process.

Don’t look back. Never look back.

I would say not try to be better than he was last year, Stanton said Wednesday, a day before the Yankees faced the Blue Jays on Opening Day.

Stanton, preparing for his first game in pinstripes, spoke for about seven minutes to reporters during a press conference before the team worked out at the Rogers Centre.

Don’t try to compare numbers or compare where you were at this point last year, Stanton said he’d tell Judge, who finished with a rookie-recored 52 homers, second in the American League MVP vote and tops in the Rookie of the Year race.

Just build off (of it). Trust yourself. Trust your preparation. Know you’re going to do well and that you set yourself up to do well. Not worry about those side expectations or the sophomore slump or whatever you want to call it. It only exists if you put it in your mind.

Stanton, traded from the Marlins, is coming off a huge season, too.

With only veteran clipboard holder Brian Hoyer (undrafted, 2009) on the roster, the Pats have a glaring need for a developmental project who can one day become the heir to Brady’s throne. It makes logical sense for New England to add one signal-caller within the top three rounds of next month’s NFL draft.

As Rapoport referenced, the 2013 Harvin blockbuster cost the Seahawks the Nos. 25 and 214 picks in the 2013 draft as well as the No. 96 pick in 2014. Beyond that war chest of draft capital, Seattle also gave Harvin a new contract, making him one of the highest-paid receivers in the league.

General manager Dave Gettleman can’t be blamed for expecting similar compensation — if not more — for a franchise cornerstone not even on the trade block in the first place. Beckham is a more complete, more productive receiver than Harvin was at a similar stage in his career. broncos_001-500x500