11

Joe Flacco reluctantly performs unusual batted-passes drill

“He’s standing there with a bag in his hand that goes up to 12 feet high, unrealistically high for anybody’s hands,” Flacco said. “[One time] I just threw the ball and hit the bag on purpose. It’s just like, ‘I get your point. We got it.’”

Flacco added, “I was kind of laughing at him and getting mad at him at the same time.”

Flacco has had 11 passes batted down in the first six games of the season, which are tied with Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins for most in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They’re the only ones with more than seven deflected passes at the line this year.cheap nfl nike jersey

Flacco has had at least two passes knocked down at the line in four of his six games, including two in Sunday’s 21-0 win over the Tennessee Titans.11

“That’s something that’s a problem, because those are opportunities,” coach John Harbaugh said. “A lot of times, those guys are open, and those are chances to complete passes. That’s something that we’ve been working on the last couple of weeks. We still haven’t cleaned it up the way we want to, and we’re not happy about it. We need to clean that up.”

Should this be happening to one of the tallest quarterbacks in the NFL?cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“Those guys that are in front of him are pretty tall, too, but [6-feet] Drew Brees, I don’t think, has a batted pass yet this year [Brees has one], to make that contrast,” Harbaugh said. “So it’s probably not as much about that as it is about other issues. It’s always a team effort. Anything like that is always a team effort, and we have to get better at it.”

This hasn’t been a major problem for Flacco throughout his career. Since entering the league in 2008, he has had 62 passes batted down at the line, which ranks 18th in the NFL.

In Flacco’s previous 10 NFL seasons, he never has ranked higher than 16th in any year in deflected passes.

“It is what it is, and it’s something we’ll continue to pay attention to as the year goes on,” Flacco said. “There are some that you can’t prevent, but at the same time, you have to look at it for what it is. There has to be a reason behind it. We have to correct it.”

10

Wait, wasn’t Derek Carr supposed to thrive under Jon Gruden?

Derek Carr stood at the podium, talking and motioning solely with his right hand as his left shoulder looked frozen in place. The Oakland Raiders’ $125 million quarterback kept his left hand in his pocket, almost as if to keep the arm and shoulder stationary, during his 11-minute media appearance.

Midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 27-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks — a game in which Carr was hit 10 times and sacked six times — Carr was pounded to the Wembley Stadium pitch especially hard as Seattle’s Jarran Reed drove Carr’s left shoulder into the ground.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

On the flip side, though, Carr’s short passing distance has led to him having the lowest off-target rate in the league, 7.6 percent. ESPN Stats & Information defines “off target” as the percentage of passes over- or underthrown by a quarterback. And he is competing 71.7 percent of his passes thus far, after completing 58.1, 61.1, 63.8 and 62.7 percent in his first four seasons.

And therin lies an issue — Gruden wants Carr to be aggressive, but not reckless. Push the envelope, just not too far. Take your shots, but be smart about it.10

Sounds like the job description of any NFL QB, right? It’s just that the Carr-Gruden dynamic is so unique, with Gruden coming out of ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth after nine seasons to coach Carr in his decidedly old-school ways. Which make it look like, at times, Carr can’t get out of his own way. Almost as if Carr is playing to please his coach by overthinking things, rather than just, well, playing.cheap nfl nike jersey

Some of Carr’s issues, though, predate Gruden’s arrival. They actually started to rear their head under former offensive coordinator Todd Downing last season.

As ESPN Stats & Information found, Carr leads the NFL in interceptions on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield with 10 since 2017. He only threw two picks on such throws in 2016. Since the start of last season, Carr has only completed 33.3 percent of passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield, compared to 49.0 in 2016. His yards-per-attempt average the past two seasons is 12.2 yards, when it was 16.7 yards two seasons ago on throws of at least 20 yards downfield.

2

Antoine Griezmann brace sees France rally past Germany in Nations League

Antoine Griezmann scored twice as France came back from a goal down to beat Germany 2-1 in the UEFA Nations League on Tuesday.

Germany manager Joachim Low admitted he was feeling pressure over his job following a 3-0 loss to the Netherlands on Saturday which left them bottom of their Nations League group.

An early goal from the penalty spot gave Germany the lead before 10 minutes when Toni Kroos rolled the ball home past Hugo Lloris after a questionable call for handball on France’s Presnel Kimpembe.

Germany should have been up two minutes later, but Leroy Sane misplaced a cross to Timo Werner on a lightning-fast counter-attack and Lloris was able to come out and cut off the pass.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“We should not be disappointed tonight after such a performance,” said Loew after the match. “We were on the same level with the world champions and we should have scored a second goal in the first half. But the French have a lot of quality and scored two goals from just a handful of chances.”

Kylian Mbappe came closest to scoring an equaliser for France, but Griezmann’s ball over the top of the German defence was just out of the Paris Saint-Germain striker’s reach as the visitors took a 1-0 lead to the dressing room.2

Mbappe had another great chance go begging just after break when he poked a right-footed shot wide of Manuel Neuer’s goal after getting in behind the German defence.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

France were back on level terms just after the hour mark when a well-marked Griezmann was able to redirect a perfect Lucas Hernandez cross over Neuer to make it 1-1.

And France would then take the lead with a controversial penalty of their own, as Griezmann left no doubt from the spot after Mats Hummels was whistled for a harsh foul on Blaise Matuidi in the box.

“This is the difference between a team with a lot of confidence and a team like Germany which lacks some confidence and is maybe not as efficient,” France coach Didier Deschamps told reporters.

“There is nothing better for my team, my players, than this. The best vitamin is victory and tonight we had a difficult game and won against a difficult team.”

The result means the Netherlands and France will be left to battle it out for top spot in League A’s Group 1 with the loss meaning Germany cannot reach the final.

1

Ex-Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger eyes January return to management

Arsene Wenger wants to return to management in January, saying he has received “enquiries from all over the world” and does not know whether it will be with a club or a national side.

The former Arsenal manager said he could even be tempted to return to Japan, where he managed before moving to the Premier League in 1996.

However, Wenger dismissed the idea he would join Bayern Munich and said the club should stick with under-fire coach Niko Kovac.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“Yes, it looks like it,” Wenger told Sport Bild when asked whether he is still planning to return to management. “I believe that [I’ll] start again on Jan. 1. I don’t know yet [where I’m headed]. I am rested, and I am ready to work again.”

“There are associations, national teams; it could be also [in] Japan,” Wenger said. “Thanks to my 22 years at Arsenal, I have big experience on different levels. There are enquiries from all over the world.”1

Wenger also said Mesut Ozil’s withdrawal from international football could be bad for his future.

Ozil decided to quit playing for Germany after the World Cup, saying he was subjected to racism following the team’s group-stage exit, and was widely criticised at home before the tournament over his decision to pose for a photo with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“I did not love it that he withdrew from the Germany team [because] the Germans respect what he achieved,” Wenger said. “A small bit of motivation disappears when you know that you don’t have to be ready for a World Cup, a European Championship. I love it when the players are as good as possible. He loses a bit if he does not play at an international level.”

6

Astros keep finding new ways to dominate

Major league batters are very good at hitting fastballs. They aren’t very good at hitting fastballs thrown by Astros pitchers. The Astros held batters to a .225 average on four-seam fastballs, the lowest rate in the majors. They also held batters to the lowest OBP and lowest wOBA on four-seam fastballs. If you include all fastballs, including two-seamers, the Astros rank first in lowest slugging percentage and lowest wOBA allowed. In fact, the four remaining playoff teams all rank among the top five in lowest wOBA allowed on fastballs.nfl cheap jerseys nike

As a staff, the Astros had the second-highest average four-seam fastball velocity at 94.8 mph, as well as the highest average spin rate. The Astros have constructed an entire staff of Tom Seavers. No wonder it’s one of the best team-pitching seasons we’ve ever seen. Houston’s ERA+ (adjusted ERA) of 130 — 30 percent better than league average — ranks sixth best in the divisional era, since 1969. (Last year’s Cleveland Indians staff actually ranks first at 138.) Via FanGraphs WAR, Houston’s staff ranks second since 1969 to the 2017 Indians and tied for third in adjusted ERA.

In one sense, modern analytics merely confirm age-old baseball theories with new data and specifics. The smart teams, however, find the best ways to apply that data and make their players better.6

So how did the Astros turn a so-so reliever on a bad team into one of the best relievers going? They noticed the spin rate on his curveball. Studies show that a high spin rate on breaking balls leads to more effective results. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings, Pressly’s average spin rate on his curveball ranks second in the majors, behind Garrett Richards.

With the Twins this season, Pressly threw his curveball 24.4 percent of the time; with the Astros, he has thrown it 36.9 percent of the time (while throwing fewer of his mid-90s fastballs and maintaining a similar rate with his slider). Batters are 2-for-34 against the curveball since he joined the Astros.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“They’ve reiterated that my curveball’s probably one of the best in the league, so you should be able to use it more,” Pressley told The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan in September.

Cole has been a talented pitcher since the Pirates selected him first overall in 2011. He finished fourth in the 2015 National League Cy Young voting, but he had stagnated in Pittsburgh and had a 4.06 ERA in 2017. The Astros acquired him in the offseason — and promptly changed his approach.

The Pirates aren’t averse to analytics; heck, Travis Sawchik wrote an excellent book titled “Big Data Baseball” that outlined how analytics helped the Pirates end a 20-year streak of losing seasons and make the playoffs three seasons in a row. The Pirates, however, had a different philosophy: They linked two-seam fastballs and ground balls.

1

Knicks waive Joakim Noah, will clear cap space for 2019

After waiving Joakim Noah on Saturday, the New York Knicks will use the stretch provision on the remaining year of his contract to clear salary-cap space in an effort to pursue top free agents in the summer of 2019, league sources told ESPN.

Using the stretch provision reduces Noah’s cap hit of $19.3 million in 2019-20 to $6.4 million, saving the team $12.9 million toward the cap. Stretching his contract, though, will cost the Knicks $6.4 million in cap space in the summers of 2020 and 2021.

Next summer’s free-agent class includes Golden State forward Kevin Durant, Toronto forward Kawhi Leonard, Boston point guard Kyrie Irving and Minnesota guard/forward Jimmy Butler. Irving, however, said earlier this month that he plans to re-sign with the Celtics.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

With the Noah contract stretched, New York is closer to having enough cap space for a max player.

If the Knicks, as expected, do not give Kristaps Porzingis a max rookie extension by Oct. 15, they project to have $31 million in room next summer. The room does not factor in the salary owed to their 2019 first-round pick or the free-agent hold of Enes Kanter, who is in the final year of his contract.1

The projected max contract next season for a player with seven to nine years of service is $32.7 million annually, and it is $38.15 million for a player with 10-plus years of service.

The Knicks will need to complete at least one more transaction to reduce their 2019-20 salary commitments in order to sign a free agent to a max contract.nfl cheap jerseys nike

The club had hoped to trade Noah without taking back much salary, which would have gotten them closer to having the cap space for a max free agent.

Dating back to last February, Knicks general manager Scott Perry had been attempting to move Noah, but he had been cautiously unwilling to include the necessary assets — a good young player or a future first-round pick or picks — to make Noah’s contract palatable to another team.

Noah will become an unrestricted free agent and be available to prospective teams after clearing waivers early next week. The Timberwolves have showed no interest in signing Noah, league sources said. Minnesota’s Tom Thibodeau coached Noah for five seasons when they were with the Chicago Bulls.

3

Young QBs like Patrick Mahomes have struggled on road vs. Pats

The New England Patriots have had many notable accomplishments in the 19 years of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era, and Sunday night’s showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs brings one to the forefront.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

The Patriots are 23-0 at home in the regular season against quarterbacks younger than 25 years old, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information. It started with a win over Tim Couch and the Cleveland Browns in 2001, while the most recent game to fall into this category was the 2018 opener against Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans.3

Next up: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who became the first player to throw for 10 touchdowns in a team’s first two games. He turned 23 on Sept. 17.

As one would expect from a Belichick-coached team, the Patriots aren’t relying on history to win them a game Sunday night.

“He’s looking like he’s been playing in the league for a few years,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “You’re either a good pocket passer or a scramble quarterback, and obviously he does both well. One thing he does really well, that you don’t see a lot of young quarterbacks do, he tries to protect himself. A lot of runs, it’s him getting out of bounds or getting down a little sooner than expected. He’s a really good quarterback.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

At the same time, Mahomes has only six career starts, so Hightower acknowledged that part of the Patriots’ success Sunday night will be “maybe giving him some things he hasn’t seen before.”

That has helped against other under-25 quarterbacks who have come to Gillette Stadium over the past 19 years, a group including the Rams’ Jared Goff (2016), the Raiders’ Derek Carr (2014), the Colts’ Andrew Luck (2012) and the Falcons’ Matt Ryan (2009), among others.

1

The end of Eli in N.Y.: Time for Giants to move on from Manning

Yet now, at 37, it is slowing down to a grinding halt. Manning has devolved into a shadow of his two-time Super Bowl MVP self, and it was clear Thursday night to every fair-minded fan in the house that his time as the New York Giants’ franchise player is coming to an end.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

Actually, that time already has expired. In professional sports there is no such thing as a franchise player for a 1-5 franchise, or for a team that has lost 18 of 22 games over the past two seasons. As much as it hurts to say it about an athlete who has always carried himself with grace in the world’s noisiest market, Manning’s exit is no longer a question of when, but how.

Eli will play out the rest of the year, and in the spring the Giants will pick his replacement at the top of the NFL draft. Start tracking top quarterback prospects such as Missouri’s Drew Lock and Oregon’s Justin Herbert and NC State’s Ryan Finley, Giants fans, because Manning won’t be earning $23 million under center in 2019, the final season on his deal. His employers will try to put the best possible face on the divorce after the mess they made of the marriage in 2017. Most likely, they will try to persuade Manning to retire as a Giant, to go out with his dignity and his body intact, while eating the $6.2 million in dead-cap cash they’ll take by releasing him.1

The son of Archie and kid brother of Peyton has never wanted any other job but the one he has. It’s why he cried last season when Ben McAdoo and the Giants’ hierarchy took it away, botching an attempt to keep alive his consecutive starts streak while giving some of his playing time to Geno Smith and Davis Webb. Eli ended up on the bench for a singular Sunday that sealed the terminations of McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

But Manning has to be replaced after this season, just like Tom Coughlin had to be replaced after the 2015 season. Eli is 43-58 in the regular season and 0-1 in the playoffs since winning his second Super Bowl title with Coughlin in the 2011 season, and despite the talent deficiencies around him over the years, especially on the offensive line, he has become a conspicuous part of a problem that has no easy solution.

“My confidence in myself is good,” Manning maintained after his Giants were embarrassed at home by the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles. “I know I can play. It’s just a matter of we’ve just got to figure out how to be more consistent and be better at home.”

7

Mason Greenwood needs patience and luck but can succeed at Man United

Manchester United’s 2018-19 season began in the unlikely surroundings of Glendale, Ariz. as Jose Mourinho’s side took on Club America of Mexico. A soporific game ended 1-1 and was only brightened up by young substitutes, one of whom coaches believe can be as good as — if not better — than Marcus Rashford.

“Did you enjoy that?” I asked Mason Greenwood as he walked through the mixed zone toward the United team bus. “Yeah!” he replied, smiling with childlike enthusiasm. Who could blame him, a 16-year-old living the dream of playing for one of the world’s biggest clubs.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

“Mason Greenwood has got the tools to go right to the top of the game and be a top player for United and England,” says Danny Webber, who also came through the United system and is a regular watcher of the club’s younger teams. “He’s two-footed and can take set pieces with either foot. He’s learning the centre-forward role properly now and he’s scoring a lot of goals, but he needs to be challenged.”7

Greenwood, who celebrated his birthday on the first of this month, has played for the Under-18s and 19s in the UEFA Youth League this season, scoring in games vs. Berne and Valencia. He still has some way to go, but what is clear is that he looks far too good for his age group, where he has scored seven goals in his last four games.

“He went to an Under-20 tournament at the end of last season and won player of the tournament,” Webber adds. “A player like him doesn’t come along very often and you need to keep stimulating him and giving him challenges. He needs to keep his head down, keep the right attitude and work at his craft, but he’s already got the stature. He’s six foot; he’s got a frame similar to Cristiano Ronaldo when he arrived at United. When Mason fills out that frame he’s going to have even more power because at the moment he is doing it on ability.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Greenwood is one of the few young players from his club involved with England. Nobody from United was in the national team’s Under-16 squad that trained at St Georges Park in August, while Manchester City had five players and Chelsea three. A recent 50-strong Under-15s camp featured only one from United; Tottenham had eight, Chelsea five and City four.

The Old Trafford youth system is still righting wrongs after several years of underinvestment, but the club have kept hold of Greenwood, despite numerous suitors that included Man City. He was recently given his first professional contract and the money involved is significant for him and his family.

1

Usain Bolt scores two goals for Central Coast Mariners in trial game

Playing in a central striking role, he scored his first in the 55th minute to put Central Coast 3-0 up with a powerful left-footed finish after racing onto a Ross McCormack through-ball. He promptly produced his famous lightning bolt celebration.

His second goal came in the 68th minute when he capitalised on a defensive error to tap home from close range.

Bolt had a number of other chances before being substituted in the 75th minute, but he struggled early in the game to maintain possession.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Just under 6,000 people turned up on Friday night at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, and they gave Bolt plenty of support whenever he touched the ball, especially one enthusiastic horn blower.1

“Scoring a goal in your first proper match, the first start and scoring two goals, it was a good feeling,” Bolt told Fox Sports. “Because this is what I’ve worked for. I’ve tried to prove myself — I’ve tried to get better. I think I’ve improved in every area.

“I think my touch is that little bit better. My vision needs to improve a little bit more. I think my running off the ball is where I’ve improved most.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

McCormack added: “The best thing about Usain Bolt is he’s so humble. He’s fitted in well with the lads. From my first day even to where he is now, the transformation is huge.”

Before his double, Bolt wasn’t always convincing, either in his finishing or in holding and distributing possession.

As early as the second minute, he broke clear but wasn’t able to get a shot on goal, as he lost the ball before getting to the penalty area.

In the 23rd minute, he won the ball in the penalty area after losing it, but his close-range shot came off a defender and was comfortably saved.

He came close in the 39th minute when he had his best moment of the first half. The 195cm Jamaican made a strong, well-timed run and jump at a left-wing cross from Tommy Oar, winning an aerial contest and putting a firm header just wide of the post.