9

How the Rams won the offseason

A light rain fell along the shore of Wailea, on the Hawaiian island of Maui. It was the last Thursday in February, three days before the start of the NFL scouting combine and the first opportunity for Snead to take a family vacation.

Snead sat at a steakhouse adjacent to the pool at the Four Seasons, sipping a glass of red wine and eating a filet mignon. He appeared to relish the downtime following a season that spanned seven months and included the Rams’ first division title in 14 seasons and first playoff appearance since 2004.

Snead gave no hint that he had spent the day holed up in his hotel room with his family at the beach.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

When he departed Los Angeles a day earlier, he thought negotiations for Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters were dead. The Chiefs’ asking price was more than the Rams GM was willing to spend. So Snead boarded a five-hour afternoon flight across the Pacific, leaving behind the thought of acquiring a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

He awoke the next morning to a flurry of text messages and voicemails. Four time zones away from Kansas City, Snead had slept through the Chiefs’ attempts to jump-start the negotiations.

“I’m like, ‘Holy cow, I’m playing really hard to get,'” Snead said. “But really I was just sleeping.”9

As his wife, Kara, and the kids went out to explore the island, Snead stayed behind to orchestrate a move to answer the Rams’ pressing questions at cornerback.

Snead called chief operating officer Kevin Demoff, senior assistant Tony Pastoors and coach Sean McVay. Pastoors drew up the paperwork. McVay alerted the staff to gather film, and the head coach vetted the 25-year-old Peters, who was kicked off the University of Washington football team in 2014 and faced a one-game suspension last season after he threw a penalty flag into the stands before exiting the field for the locker room.

“You talk to the people that have been around him, that you really value their opinion, you trust it,” McVay said. “Got a lot of good things that came back in terms of a guy that loves football, does a lot of really good things for his community.”

Defensive coordinator Wade Philips and the defensive backs coaches watched more than 200 plays that focused on Peters’ strengths and areas that needed improvement. Each walked away with the same conclusion.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“It was unanimous,” McVay said. “We all wanted him.”

Peters was a proven playmaker. The one-time All-Pro had 19 interceptions in three seasons and was the prototypical corner to play man-to-man in Phillips’ scheme.

7

New year, same story: Major injury threatens Redskins offense

It’s almost as if the 2017 season never ended. The Washington Redskins dealt with serious injury after serious injury a year ago. And after their first preseason game, they had to deal with yet another crucial blow, one that could alter the direction of their season.

The player they had drafted to finally provide a strong running game is out for the season after one preseason game. An offense that had hoped to be more versatile will now be questioned.

In some ways it’s hard to say what the Redskins have lost with running back Derrius Guice now sidelined with a torn left ACL. He hadn’t yet played a game. But the promise of what he could do left others feeling good. His presence was supposed open up the attack, allowing the Redskins to move away from relying on the pass for consistent success.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Now we’re back to the same question the Redskins faced in 2017: Can they coax a consistent run game from Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine? Coaches say both players are quicker this summer, owing to their familiarity in the offense and perhaps having shed some weight.7

Perine did look quicker Thursday vs. New England; he also was inconsistent running up the middle and lost one ball (a quick whistle negated a likely fumble). Kelley has lost weight and also ran with a little more pep. In two seasons he’s averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Will they be any different this season? Not if the blocking — the line and the tight ends — doesn’t improve. Good health will help the line, but after last season — and now with Guice out — does anyone want to predict that will happen?

The ground game was inconsistent last season with the same group, ranking 30th in yards per carry and 28th in total rushing yards. The hope for Guice was that he could help create extra yards with his vision and quick cuts and violent running style, overcoming whatever blocking issues arose. He also excelled in the red zone at LSU, and the Redskins ranked 25th in red zone yards per carry last season.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

They also have Chris Thompson, who’s coming off a broken fibula. They will keep either Byron Marshall or Kapri Bibbs, but both are third-down types. They could always call a veteran; Adrian Peterson and former Redskins running back Alfred Morris are among those unsigned. A team source said Friday they will go with what they have.

10

When Manchester City face Chelsea, Pep Guardiola will see similarities in Maurizio Sarri

Time moves fast in football. In the short term, it’s remarkable that we’re already preparing for Sunday’s Community Shield between Manchester City and Chelsea at Wembley (10 a.m. ET, ESPN+), just three weeks after France were holding the World Cup trophy aloft in Moscow. In the longer term, it’s incredible that Pep Guardiola is now a decade into his managerial career.

Other revolutionary managers find themselves washed up 10 years after their “defining” campaign, as Guardiola’s 2008-09 season should probably still be considered. Either they’ve become weighed down by the stress of football management, like Arrigo Sacchi, or they’ve discovered their methods have been replicated and improved upon, like Arsene Wenger found. Guardiola, a decade on, is still the most revered manager in Europe, having avoided the Sacchi problem by taking a sabbatical year after his Barcelona stint, and avoided the Wenger problem by continuing to evolve his approach and keep his rivals guessing.nike cheap nfl jerseys

Since his arrival at Manchester City two years ago, Guardiola’s main two rivals have not included Jose Mourinho, his previous nemesis. The first was Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, who somewhat overshadowed Guardiola in their debut Premier League campaign, evolving the English top flight with his 3-4-3 and inflicting a memorable 3-1 defeat upon Guardiola at the Etihad.

The second was Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, whose gegenpressing caused Manchester City major problems in direct confrontations, most memorably in the stunning 3-0 Champions League victory at Anfield last season. Unlike Guardiola’s previous run-ins with Mourinho, relations between these managers have been professional and cordial. Guardiola respected Conte, and he respects Klopp.

But he absolutely adores new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, who may prove his most entertaining rival thus far.10

Conte’s defensive-minded system felt like the opposite of Guardiola’s love of possession play, as did — in a completely different manner — Klopp’s high-energy, aggressive football. But Sarri’s Napoli played in a manner that recalled Guardiola’s Barcelona, their passing so structured and so incisive that it felt like a new iteration of tiki-taka.

The extent to which Sarri asks his players to “provoke” the opposition in possession is quite remarkable, the defenders toying with opponents before suddenly striking passes through them, transferring the ball from defence to attack quickly without a hint of a long ball. It was remarkable to watch and, while Napoli didn’t quite overtake Juventus in Serie A, unquestionably highly effective.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Sarri and Guardiola share the same footballing philosophy. When City and Napoli met last season, Guardiola said Sarri’s side was “maybe the best team” he had faced. When Sarri was unveiled at Stamford Bridge last month, he declared Guardiola “a class act, a champion, a genius,” before admitting that overturning the 30-point gap between Chelsea and City from last season would be hugely difficult. City boast two years of experience in Guardiola’s methods, Chelsea’s barely a month in their man’s. City have a better starting XI, a better squad and more tactical variety. What do Chelsea have? Well, Chelsea have Jorginho.

9

Vegan diet helping Manchester United’s Chris Smalling fight for place

Chris Smalling is hoping his new vegan diet will give him an advantage in the battle for places at Manchester United.

Smalling is one of five centre-backs at Old Trafford alongside Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo.

Competition for places could increase even further if Jose Mourinho gets his way and brings in another central defender before the transfer deadline next week with sources telling ESPN FC that Leicester’s Harry Maguire, Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld and Yerry Mina at Barcelona are all on the list of candidates.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

No other centre-back made more starts for United last season than Smalling — he was fourth on the overall list behind only Nemanja Matic, David De Gea and Romelu Lukaku.

And the 28-year-old, who has had injury problems in the past, says it is proof he is benefiting from a transition to a fully vegan diet.9

“My wife is vegan and has been vegan for a few years,” he said. “She cooks a lot at home and half the time I was eating vegan anyway. I wasn’t fully vegan and when we would eat out I would eat what I would normally have.

“After a while I started to cut out red meat. One of the reasons I started to was because red meat causes quite a lot of inflammation and I had quite a lot of tendinitis in my knee, which quite a lot of footballers get.nike cheap nfl jerseys

“It causes a lot of that inflammation and when I was cutting that down, the tendinitis started to go. It used to be quite a problem in terms of all warm-ups because getting going was a bit of a nightmare. I ended up cutting that out and my tendinitis has got better and better and I’ve started to feel it less.

“Now I’ve gone fully vegan and normally the start of preseason can be quite a tough time because you’re loading and that’s normally when it’s at its worst but I haven’t felt it at all.

“The last step was, that took me a little while, was the club, especially in terms of travelling. Mike [the chef] has been very accommodating and when I told him, we worked out different menus and different options.

“Some of the staff are vegetarian and some of the players try bits and pieces even though none of them are vegan. At the end of the day it’s about eating more good things.

5

The $15M question: How will Le’Veon Bell do in free agency?

“I think if he is productive, then maybe [he gets] around where he is making this year,” the exec said. “I think his year will really dictate what he gets. Think people won’t really focus on what he has done in the past but rather just this year.”

Teams generally stay cautious with numbers this time of year, especially with running backs. Some agents, however, predict that Bell will blow the roof off the market with at least $16 million per year.

“Whatever he wants,” said one veteran agent with direct experience with the franchise tag. “He’s a rarity. No one ever like him. Ultra special.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Although no one disputes Bell’s talent, some NFL evaluators aren’t sold on a sustained running back market at Gurley’s value. One exec called the Gurley deal — which includes $21.95 million guaranteed — a “total outlier” for now, acknowledging that Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson will have their impact.

“I think he does well … but if he’s really thinking about the $16 million number, that won’t be what people [in the league] are thinking about,” one exec said.5

Another exec added: “I’m not sure with that workload and history that he gets as much [as Gurley].”

Another factor is the fact that the final two years of Gurley’s rookie contract are blended into his four-year extension, which creates an average payout of $11.57 million per year. Some teams could try to use that against Bell.

However, former Washington Redskins salary cap analyst and Priority Sports agent J.I. Halsell said Bell is in a sweet spot regardless. He has proved to be an elite playmaker, and Halsell predicts that at least one team will pay Bell in excess of $15 million per year.

Having the cash to spend is no problem. Six NFL teams entered 2018 free agency with at least $60 million in cap space.

“Assuming he’s healthy, as productive as he’s been historically, he’ll have multiple suitors,” Halsell said. “Gurley has established what an elite playmaking running back market is. That’s Le’Veon’s floor — maybe not in every aspect, but he should be able to get to free agency and get that in guarantees.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“If you’re a team like the Detroit Lions that hasn’t had running back production in recent years and you need an elite player to get over the hump, then you pay that money.”

The wild card is the Steelers, who have options to retain Bell. The Steelers likely will consider placing the $17.8 million transition tag on Bell, which would allow Bell to negotiate with other teams but would give the Steelers the right to match. They would lose the compensatory pick due to them if Bell left in free agency outright, but they could try to parlay a draft pick out of the team that offered Bell a deal to match.

10

Braves land starter Kevin Gausman from Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles sent right-handed pitchers Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves, the teams announced Tuesday.

In exchange, the Orioles are getting four minor leaguers — right-hander Evan Phillips, infielder Jean Carlos Encarnacion, catcher Brett Cumberland and left-hander Bruce Zimmermann — and international slot money.

Braves manager Brian Snitker applauded four trades made by general manager Alex Anthopoulos. The Braves also added outfielder Adam Duvall, acquired from the Reds late Monday, and relievers Brad Brach and Jonny Venters in the past five days.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

“I feel really good,” Snitker said. “We talked about what you would like to have, and I think he hit all the boxes. Bullpen depth, starting pitcher, maybe a bat off the bench. I think they did a great job.”

Gausman, 27, is 5-8 with a 4.43 ERA for the Orioles this season. He is under contract and arbitration-eligible through the 2020 season.10

O’Day appeared in 20 games for the Orioles before having season-ending surgery on his left hamstring. He had a 3.60 ERA and two saves before the injury. The 35-year-old veteran has a 2.56 career ERA in 11 seasons and is under contract through 2019.

Cumberland, 23, was selected by the Braves in the second round of the 2016 draft. He is hitting .228 with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs in two levels of the Braves’ system this season. He is currently at Double-A Mississippi.

Phillips has an 8.53 ERA in four appearances with the Braves this season. The 23-year-old right-hander is 4-4 with a 1.99 ERA in 31 appearances for Triple-A Gwinnett.

Zimmermann, a 23-year-old left-hander, is 9-4 with a 2.86 ERA in two levels of the Braves’ system this season. He also is currently at Double-A Mississippi.

Encarnacion, 20, is hitting .288 with 10 home runs and 57 RBIs for Class-A Rome this season.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

“We’re always reluctant to move some of our higher-ranked guys,” Anthopoulos said. “… We like the guys we lost. There are certain guys that are more high-profile. We didn’t go into the trade deadline saying we refuse to move on our top prospects. Certain guys are harder to acquire than others. For the right deal for the right player, we’re open to it.”

The Braves entered Tuesday’s trade deadline a half-game behind first-place Philadelphia and five games ahead of third-place Washington in the NL East. The Phillies have also made a push, adding catcher Wilson Ramos and left-hander Aaron Loup on Tuesday after picking up infielder Asdrubal Cabrera last Friday. The Nationals traded away reliever Brandon Kintzler but otherwise stood pat at the deadline.

9

Brewers acquire 2B Jonathan Schoop from Orioles at trade deadline

The Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday traded second baseman Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers, who added another option to a crowded infield as they make a push for the playoffs.

In return, Baltimore acquired veteran second baseman Jonathan Villar, as well as right-hander Luis Ortiz and shortstop Jean Carmona, both minor leaguers.

Schoop, 26, was hitting .244 with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs for the Orioles this season.

An All-Star in 2017, Schoop missed some of the first half of this season with an oblique strain, but he’s heated up since the All-Star break. His nine home runs in July are tied for the second-most in the majors behind Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals (10) entering Tuesday.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

The trade is the second the Brewers have made for an infielder in recent days, following Friday’s deal for Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals.The plan then was for left-handed-hitting third baseman Travis Shaw to shift to second base. The 26-year-old Schoop now gives Milwaukee a right-handed option at second.

The Brewers have also played Hernan Perez at second of late. The upside of having so many infielders is having another quality bat available on the bench.9

“Really, what it comes down to for us is we think we’re getting better and we think we’re adding to our overall depth,” general manager David Stearns said.

In Schoop, Stearns acquired a young player still under contract for 2019. He has a guaranteed $9 million salary for next year.

“We talk about control and in this case it certainly played into the valuation of the player,” Stearns said.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Milwaukee (62-47) entered Tuesday’s action one game behind the first-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. It also traded for reliever Joakim Soria from the Chicago White Sox last week.

But the Brewers did not add a starter, which was an area of concern following injuries to Brent Suter (elbow) and Zach Davies (shoulder). Jimmy Nelson (shoulder) remains sidelined after getting hurt late last season.

Stearns said the team could still look to deal in August, though he voiced confidence in a rotation currently headlined by Jhoulys Chacin (10-3, 3.45 ERA).

“I think we’ve probably had a little bit more confidence in our group throughout this year than perhaps there’s been externally and that’s fine,” Stearns said. “Certainly we were open and active to add to that group, but at this point we were unable to do so.”

Signed by Baltimore at just 16 years old, Schoop played parts of six seasons with the club and was an All-Star last year, when he hit .293 with a career-high 32 home runs and 105 RBIs.

11

Packers lose Jake Ryan, Kentrell Brice to injuries

What looked like a standout practice for the Green Bay Packers’ burgeoning defense — which picked off Aaron Rodgers three times — turned into an injury-filled disaster.

Two potential starters — linebacker Jake Ryan and safety Kentrell Brice — were carted off the field Monday with injuries. And that was after defensive tackle Mike Daniels dropped out.

While Daniels appears to have avoided anything serious, Ryan and Brice might not have been as fortunate. One source said the Packers fear Ryan sustained a significant and potentially season-ending injury to his right knee. The injury occurred during an 11-on-11 drill late in practice. Ryan pounded his fist on the ground as he received medical attention.

Ryan was slated to start at inside linebacker next to Blake Martinez, who tied for the NFL lead in tackles last season.nfl cheap nike jerseys

“He was just devastated,” Martinez said after practice. “Obviously, he was super-excited about the season. He’s been putting a tremendous amount of work in. He’s been awesome throughout OTAs and these past four practices. It’s been good for him. It’s just really tough.11

“I talked to him right after I got off the field. Basically, told him if he needs anything, I’m here for him. I obviously don’t know the extent of it. Obviously, everybody will know when they know. I’m just praying for him and hoping the best for him. I know he’ll come back even stronger.”

This could accelerate the need for rookie third-round pick Oren Burks to play a bigger role on defense. Also, defensive back Quinten Rollins has worked at inside linebacker in the sub packages, and the Packers are high on undrafted rookie linebacker Greer Martini of Notre Dame.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

Meanwhile, Brice also had been working with the No. 1 defense and was perhaps the leading candidate to replace Morgan Burnett, who signed with the Steelers in free agency. Brice missed the final nine games of last season with a right ankle injury. It was unclear if Monday’s injury was related.

“I think he’s definitely having one of the best offseason programs,” McCarthy said during the June minicamp. “The thing that goes unnoticed, and rightfully so from our perspective, is his communication skills. I love the way he plays. I think the ability to get past the injury and be here the whole time, having him full-go in the strength and conditioning program, you can see he’s really comfortable out there with the adjustments and the communication. I would definitely be shocked if we’re not sitting here after the season thinking that he’s definitely taken a big jump, because I’ve seen it throughout the offseason.”

9

Matt Patricia trying to change Lions’ culture with more physicality

Matt Patricia had players lay down on the ground, offense on one side, defense on the other. At the whistle, they popped back up and the offensive player — the ball carrier — then had to try to beat the defensive player one-on-one.

On the first padded day of Detroit Lions practice Sunday, they ran a modified version of the Oklahoma drill — just one example of the physicality and intensity under Patricia, the first-year Lions head coach, who is trying to change the culture of a team that hasn’t won a division title since 1993.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

To do so, Patricia said at some point the Lions will tackle to the ground — a stark difference from former coach Jim Caldwell, who rarely had live tackling during practices. Patricia does want to keep his players upright for the most part, but he recognizes there are times that tackling has to happen.

Just to be prepared.9

“At some point you have to go live. You have to be able to experience that both offensively and defensively because you don’t want to do it for the first time in a game,” Patricia said. “You have to be able to get in good position. There’s certainly a manner in which we can practice in pads where we can thud each other up and be in a good hit position and know that from the strike standpoint everything is clean and we’re in good space but then not really follow through or try to finish at that exact moment.

The potential for more tackling and contact is just one area where Patricia has changed Lions practices. Detroit does more running under Patricia than it did under Caldwell — including running laps for mistakes made in practice, something the defense had to do at least once Sunday.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

On Friday, Patricia opened his first training camp practice by working on goal-line strategy because of the importance Patricia places on it in games. The Lions offensively struggled in goal-line and short-yardage situations in 2017, something general manager Bob Quinn said after the draft bothered him during Caldwell’s final season.

Now, as the pads go on, they can work on that even more. The players noticed an increased energy having pads on as well. The linemen can hit. The players move just a little faster. For the third straight day, practice ran at least two hours.

“It’s definitely physical and that’s what we want to be, a physical team,” receiver Marvin Jones said. “So we’re out here working hard and the most dominant team wins every Sunday, so that’s what we have to be and that’s how we practice.

10

LAFC’s Adama Diomande says he was called racial slur in Portland Timbers game

LAFC striker Adama Diomande says he was subjected to racial abuse during Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup match against the Portland Timbers.

Diomande, who joined LAFC in May, reacted angrily during the second half of his team’s 3-2 win at home, and wrote on Instagram after the game that someone called him by a racial slur.

“Today was the first time in my professional career that I was called the ‘N’ word on the field,” Diomande wrote. “They will say sorry to me after the game and please let it go, but If I don’t say anything racism will just continue to grow.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

“No matter which country, color, religion or which language [you’re] speaking we all are human being and we should respect each other no matter what! #saynotoracism”

Diomande did not specify if the slur came from a player or from the crowd, though he was involved in an incident with Timbers players late in the game.10

Diomande had words with a number of Timbers players in the 90th minute after a hard foul on his teammate Carlos Vela. They had to be separated and Diomande then attempted to state his case to the referee while Timbers players tried to calm him down.

Then a few minutes later, Portland’s Julio Cascante was booked for a late tackle into Diomande’s back, and the LAFC man squared up with a number of Timbers players again.

ESPN FC on Thursday morning reached out for comment to both teams and U.S. Soccer, which organizes the U.S. Open Cup.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

The Timbers, who are also protesting the game’s result over the number of LAFC’s foreign players, issued a statement saying the club would investigate the incident.

“The club is aware of the accusations posted on Instagram following Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup game and is in direct communication with LAFC management, league officials and internal staff to gather more information,” the Timbers’ statement said. “At this time, we are awaiting more details as we actively continue to investigate the matter. The club will provide further information when it becomes available.