12

This is the David Johnson we’ve been waiting for

Coming into 2018, and off a season in which he missed 15 games with a fractured wrist, Johnson shouldered the expectation that he’d return to his 2016 level with the Arizona Cardinals. That season the running back led the NFL with 2,118 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns, rushing for 1,239 yards to go along with 879 yards receiving. He was an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler.

The bar was set. And it was high.

But through the first seven games of this season, Johnson’s performance dipped. He was a casualty of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s stagnant offense, producing just one game with 100 yards from scrimmage. In the other six games he never got above 71. He never caught more than five passes in a game. His runs were becoming predictable. He wasn’t used like he had been in the past.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Johnson had 100 yards from scrimmage against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 8 and then topped that in the next game. Johnson had the best game of his season Sunday in Kansas City, running for 98 yards and a touchdown in addition to 85 receiving yards and a score. The 183 all-purpose yards on a season-high 28 touches were his most since Oct. 6, 2016.12

“It made me feel like it was back to … two years ago — the 2016 offense,” Johnson said after Sunday’s game. “We got some momentum going as an offense running the ball. We got some good confidence going, as well.”

As the Cardinals prepare to play the Oakland Raiders this Sunday, coach Steve Wilks didn’t mind one bit that Johnson was taken back in time against the Chiefs.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“As long as David is getting yardage and he’s getting in the end zone, I don’t care what it feels like,” Wilks said.

Getting Johnson involved is the only thing Leftwich said he knows to do. Against the Chiefs, Johnson had his second-most carries this season (21) and most catches (seven) on his most targets (nine).

“I know what he is,” Leftwich said. “I’m just trying to put these guys in position. I’m not really thinking about 2016. I’m just trying to use the guys and what I know of the playmakers and just put them in position to make plays and if it turns out to be him playing like he was in 2016, that’d be good for us.”

Johnson has been implored by running backs coach Kirby Wilson to run more downhill and not bounce outside as much. The goal, Johnson said, is to turn 1-yard runs into 3-yard gains. While he did it more Sunday in Kansas City, it wasn’t easy. One of Johnson’s favorite moves is the jump-cut. Lowering his shoulder and bulldozing a defender isn’t natural for him, he added. He’d prefer to create with cuts, moves and jukes.

11

Don’t judge Le’Veon yet: How Bell could change old NFL thinking

What we do know is that Bell’s situation presents us with a chance — maybe even an obligation — to think differently about the NFL and its economic structure. One of the best players in the world just kissed off his age-26 season because he thought it was the smart long-term financial move. An employee used the maximum extent of his own leverage to try to gain ground in a system designed almost entirely for the benefit of the employer. If that doesn’t make us question what we thought we knew about how all of this works, that’s a missed opportunity on our part.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Let’s start with the franchise tag itself — a widely accepted fact of NFL economics but also an anti-capitalistic device designed to restrict the earning power of top players. The Steelers didn’t want to give Bell the deal he wanted and they also didn’t want to lose him. Fortunately, they operate one of 32 businesses in the world that can have that particular cake and eat it too. For as many as three years in a row, if it can afford to, a team can keep a player from hitting the open market simply by designating him its franchise player and assigning him a one-year deal for a collectively bargained salary.11

It’s a crazy idea which the players should have never agreed to back in the early 1990s when it was first proposed. But like so much else about the NFL, it’s become ingrained, and fans just accept it — especially when it keeps your team from losing its best players. Even the players don’t really fight against it in collective bargaining negotiations, because the vast majority of them will never have to deal with it (a perspective that wrongfully ignores the principle that higher salaries atop the market are beneficial for all salaries throughout).

What Bell has done here is reject the notion that there’s nothing you can do about the franchise tag. The Steelers had it as leverage against him in contract negotiations and used it — two years in a row — to make sure no other team but Pittsburgh could offer him a long-term contract. The premise is that Bell had two choices: Sign a long-term deal under the Steelers’ terms or play on the one-year franchise tag. The deal the Steelers offered wasn’t the one he wanted, and the franchise tag meant they didn’t have to improve on it in order to get him to stay.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Turns out, Bell had a third choice, which was to flex his own leverage and withhold his services. Even when Bell telegraphed this back in January, almost no one believed him because … well, who does that? Sure, Sean Gilbert and Dan Williams did it in the late ’90s, but neither one of those guys was getting $14.5 million on their franchise tags, as Bell would have if he’d played in 2018. The size of that number and the assumption that playing football this year was among Bell’s top priorities made the threat easy to dismiss, pretty much up until he officially made good on it Tuesday afternoon.

12

Josef Martinez brace powers Atlanta past New York City FC, into Eastern Conference final

With a hop, skip and a jump, Josef Martinez helped put Atlanta United FC through to the MLS’ Eastern Conference final.

Martinez scored twice, including on a penalty kick in the 25th minute, and host Atlanta defeated New York City FC 3-1 on Sunday to claim the home-and-home semifinal series by a 4-1 aggregate.12

Atlanta held the edge in the tie after winning the first leg 1-0 last weekend at Yankee Stadium.

Martinez, who set an MLS record with 31 goals in the regular season, was awarded the penalty kick after NYCFC defender Ismael Tajouri-Shradi was called for taking down Atlanta’s Franco Escobar in the penalty area. Escobar drove the right wing to the end line and then tried to turn around, bumping into Tajouri-Shradi.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Martinez clinched the victory with a goal in the 83rd minute off a pass from Eric Remedi, who lobbed the ball over the NYCFC back line to spring Martinez. His 15-yard shot beat Johnson just inside the right post.

Atlanta will play either the New York Red Bulls or the Columbus Crew in the conference final. Those two teams were slated to meet Sunday night.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

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Paul Pogba dismisses Juventus return, says Manchester United is ‘home’

Paul Pogba has ruled out a return to Juventus and reiterated his commitment to Manchester United by describing the club as his “home.”

Pogba joined United’s youth academy in 2009 but having failed to break into the first team, joined the Serie A champions in 2012 where he established himself as one of the game’s leading midfielders. He made his return to Old Trafford for a then world record £89 million deal in 2016.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

In recent months, there have been question marks over Pogba’s United future following various bust-ups with manager Jose Mourinho. The midfielder has been linked with a return to Juventus but Pogba said his stint with the Bianconeri was like a “holiday” rather than anything long term.11

“When I came back to United, it was the best feeling ever,” Pogba told Inside United. “I came back home.

“I always dreamed of playing for United, to have many games and score goals. Nothing had really changed, except for maybe the team and the manager, but the rest of the club was the same.

“I just came back home, it was like I didn’t really leave — I just went on holiday. It was a great feeling to come back home.”

Pogba started the campaign as United’s vice-captain, as he wore the armband for the opening matches in the absence of skipper Antonio Valencia.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

However, following comments about the club’s playing style, Mourinho stripped the France international of the vice-captaincy role.

Pogba missed Sunday’s 3-1 defeat in the Manchester derby through an injury which also forced him to pull out of the France squad, having been called up for the upcoming internationals against Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League as well as the friendly with Uruguay.

12

The final days of the Butler saga, and why it could cost Thibodeau his job

As Tom Thibodeau’s plan disintegrated, owner Glen Taylor lost his last remnants of belief in this crumbling regime. Taylor had delivered Thibodeau a long and rich contract as the Minnesota Timberwolves president and coach, control of basketball operations and the trust to be a steward of a franchise forever in disrepair.

Taylor’s judgment has been perpetually suspect, from a secret Joe Smith deal that cost Minnesota draft picks to wasting Kevin Garnett’s prime to the David Kahn catastrophe. In getting things wrong, Taylor has been spectacular in his mishaps.

In the end, Taylor didn’t sign off on a Jimmy Butler trade as much as he surrendered to one of the most embarrassing episodes in franchise history.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Thibodeau sold Taylor on trading a starry young core and a high lottery pick to Chicago for Butler on draft night in 2017, sold him on waiting out Butler’s preseason trade demand for two months.

He sold him a strategy of publicly excusing Butler’s disruptive behavior, compromising his own credibility within his locker room, because Thibodeau believed he could navigate the dysfunction and win games.12

Thibodeau sold Taylor on passing on a strong Miami trade package, because he was sure Pat Riley would come back with a better offer, and the league would chase in a bidding frenzy for Butler.

Taylor kept doubling down, and when he hung up the phone with Philadelphia owner Josh Harris on Saturday morning, Minnesota had lost everything — the four-time All-Star in his prime, the trade standoff, and ultimately, the trust to stay with Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden beyond this season.

Even at the expense of sullying his professional standing, Butler played them all in Minnesota — and shamed the Timberwolves into trading him to a big market contender. The Timberwolves couldn’t find a team to bail them out of this debacle, and Thibodeau couldn’t sell Taylor on one more basketball game with Butler in a Timberwolves uniform.

Eventually, Thibodeau had lost hope that he could convince Butler to stay for the long term, but his ego still believed he could coach these Timberwolves into playoff contention before the February trade deadline. He underestimated this saga’s impact on the rest of the team, especially his young max-contract players, as they watched Thibodeau excuse behavior and beg Butler to play games.cheap nfl nike jerseys free shipping

Minnesota desperately tried to cobble together trade offers in the past week, including extensive discussions with New Orleans, league sources said. The Pelicans are limited on tradeable assets, but desperate to find star power to keep Anthony Davis for the long run. The Pelicans wouldn’t include point guard Jrue Holiday in its offer, nor multiple draft picks, league sources said.

11

Adam Silver supports ‘Enough’ T-shirts, players speaking out

With NBA commissioner Adam Silver in the stands and supporting the cause, the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks honored the victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting by wearing black T-shirts with the message “Enough” on the front.

The Lakers and Hawks followed what the Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks did on Saturday when players from both teams first wore the T-shirts.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

“As I’ve always said, our players aren’t just ballplayers, they’re citizens,” Silver told ESPN after watching the Lakers beat the Hawks 107-106 on Sunday. “They have strong feelings about what’s happening in society and they react to them. I think this was something that was a groundswell within the league. It came from the players and it spread by word of mouth from one team to another.11

“It obviously began here in California and other teams around the league supported them,” Silver continued. “Again, I support our players’ desire to speak out on issues that are important to them and important to society.”

The T-shirts also had the names of all 12 people killed by a gunman who opened fire inside the Borderline Bar & Grill, a popular local spot about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

LeBron James, who has been outspoken on several issues pertaining to social injustice, said he felt the same feelings of outrage that so many have repeatedly felt following a mass shooting.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

“Probably the same that went through everybody’s mind: ‘Not again.’ Or: ‘Wow. What the hell?'” James said of what he initially thought when he heard the news of the shooting not far from where he plays and lives. “Probably some more explicit terms that I won’t say right here. It’s just how do we clean up this. … It all comes back to this gun situation that we have in America and gun violence. I don’t want to go into that right now, but I can do it at a later point. We know that these people are just being able to go and buy guns and do things with them, and innocent lives are being taken at young ages. Young ages.”

James then reflected on his youth while growing up in Akron, Ohio, and how it felt like a much more innocent time.

12

Saints’ offense erupts with five first-half TDs in win vs. Bengals

Bold prediction: The New Orleans Saints will keep their spot as the No. 1 team in ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings this week.

The Saints (8-1) scored on each of their first nine possessions Sunday in a 51-14 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals — – making them just the third team to do so since 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The only thing that stopped them was the clock. Backup QB Teddy Bridgewater started taking a knee after the two-minute warning.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Apparently the Saints’ offense was just getting warmed up during the first half of the 2018 season.

They scored touchdowns in each of their first five possessions Sunday to take a 35-7 halftime lead. And they have now scored a total of 96 points over the past two weeks to leapfrog the Kansas City Chiefs as the top-scoring team in the NFL this season (36.7 points per game).12

“We just found our swag, we found our stride,” said Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who scored two more touchdowns to bring his season total to 14. “This team is persistent, consistent, we take advantage of opportunity. The schemes that Sean [Payton] and those guys upstairs, the offensive coordinator [Pete Carmichael Jr.] put in place, we execute. We execute and we make sure we handle our business, from top to bottom, no matter who’s in.

“Everybody knows their role and plays their role. Nobody’s trying to one-up each other.”

The Saints have now won eight straight games as they head toward a showdown with the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in New Orleans next week.

But they took it up a few notches on Sunday.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

Drew Brees was 22 of 25 passing for 265 yards and three touchdowns — including two to receiver Michael Thomas. Mark Ingram had 162 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. And Kamara had 102 yards from scrimmage, along with his two TDs.

Ingram, Kamara and Thomas were all throwing up “Xs” in the end zone during the first half as an homage to receiver Dez Bryant, who tore his Achilles tendon Friday just two days after joining the team.

11

After tragic week in L.A., Rams do their best to rally the community

For the last several days, football – even for the Rams — became somewhat of an afterthought as tragedy and a natural disaster swept across the greater Los Angeles area.

“Hoping today provided a little bit of joy,” Jared Goff said after the game. “And regularity.”

Last Thursday, the Rams organization awoke to the news of a mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill, located just over four miles from the team’s practice facility in Thousand Oaks and seven miles from their business headquarters in Agoura Hills.

A gunman killed 12 people, including Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus, who was on duty and rushed into the bar to save lives.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

During a team meeting this week, Whitworth implored teammates to wrap their arms around the community. Then the 13th-year pro set the example.11

Whitworth’s game check from Sunday – about $60,000 – will be donated to the Ventura County Community Foundation’s Conejo Valley Victims Fund, a fund to support the families of the victims.

“I texted my wife that day and just said, ‘We’ve been blessed by this game and so many millions of things have been just amazing, that I’m glad to be a part of,’” said Whitworth, who lives in Thousand Oaks with his wife and four children. “The least I can do is say, ‘I can give away the financial reward of playing this game this week to try and just put my arms around, our love and appreciation for what people are going through and what they’re feeling.”cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Then, on Thursday, the Rams took to the practice field Thursday afternoon, as smoke plumes began to fill the air.

By early Friday morning, wildfires raged across Ventura County and eventually spread to Los Angeles County, invading communities where many in the Rams’ organization live. Sean McVay was on a text-message chain with assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and defensive line coach Bill Johnson, who informed McVay that they were being evacuated from their homes.

12

Warriors’ Draymond Green leaves with foot injury; X-rays negative

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green left Monday night’s 117-101 win over the Memphis Grizzlies after injuring his right foot in the first half.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

“They took X-rays. X-rays were negative,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “But it didn’t make sense for him to go out and play in the second half. He sort of tested it out, and we decided to shut him down. We’ll see what happens — hopefully, we got a couple days before our next game. But we’ll see what happens.”12

Green injured the foot in the first quarter and had it checked during the game, but after coming back into the contest in the second quarter, he did not return following halftime.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“I hope he’s all right,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. “I think he’s all right. He came back out there after he did it and then sat out the second half, but hopefully he’s all right. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him.”

11

Lakers make Tyson Chandler deal official

Center Tyson Chandler has signed with the Los Angeles Lakers after clearing waivers on a contract buyout with the Phoenix Suns, general manager Rob Pelinka announced Monday.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

The new contract for Chandler will pay him $2,109,867, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, with the Lakers incurring a cap hit of $1,333,140. Chandler agreed to shave $2.1 million off his $13.6 million salary with Phoenix. He is eligible to be traded Feb. 6, one day before the trade deadline.11

Chandler, 36, will be a backup to starting center JaVale McGee for the Lakers, who are desperate for an infusion of size and defensive rebounding.

A native of Los Angeles, Chandler is considered one of the strong, veteran leaders in the league — a welcome addition to a largely youthful Lakers locker room.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Chandler is in his 18th season after entering the NBA draft out of high school in 2001. His productivity has been on the decline in recent years. He averaged 6.5 points and 9.1 rebounds in 46 starts for the Suns during the 2017-18 campaign.