The NFL’s most improved players, according to ‘Madden NFL 17’

With the beginning of the NFL league year and the Combine still a few weeks away, we have an opportunity for another look back on the season that just completed before turning the page forward.

It’s not fair to give Brady a longer halftime to make such adjustments, when 12 minutes is way too much for him already. It’s almost like it was by design that he created the challenge of a big hole to give himself a chance to find a higher gear as a competitor.

The thing is, Brady was in that gear from start to finish. Even with the bad throw Robert Alford took 82 yards the other way, Brady still hasn’t had one bad Super Bowl. Joe Montana’s 4-0 and no INTs still falls short to Brady going 5-2 with some mistakes.

Davis Webb Authentic Jersey When he errs, Brady’s best looks downright superhuman. It makes us appreciate his greatness at another level to compare and contrast within his own Hollywood-made legacy.

MORE: Why Brady should consider retirement

Don’t be surprised if he’s up at the podium with that grin and those duds one or two more times, making it look easy when it is so extremely hard.

Brent Qvale Game Jersey “He was the same as he always is, cool, calm and collected,” Amendola said. “He’s the leader, the general, the best ever.

Change is hard for any quarterback who hopes to hit his prime and actually earn his big money. Although Cousins’ new play-caller will be familiar in head coach Jay Gruden, the offense is bound to be more run-oriented and less passer-friendly. The lack of two veterans Cousins trusts will only add difficulty to his transition.

There’s no doubt Cousins will be a much wealthier quarterback in 2017. But the Redskins need to accept that his payday actually decreases his worth to them moving forward.

Pat McAfee took Adderall first day of retirement, now knows why it’s banned

Eventually, that strategy catches up. If not for Dallas’ stellar 2016 draft that provided two impact rookies, we would be discussing the Cowboys’ salary cap nightmares this year in a very different way.

Dallas has few cuts it can make to find cap relief, so it will need to get creative if it wants to gain significant cap room in 2017.

Elite Youth Marcus Kruger Jersey Teams that come off years like the Cowboys’ 2016 season typically don’t like to make big changes to their rosters, but Dallas faces the potential of large roster turnover in 2017. About 28 percent of Dallas’ snaps last season were taken by players who are now free agents, the fourth largest total in the NFL.

Colts punter and class clown Pat McAfee retired from the NFL after eight seasons on Thursday, and like a college freshman he had to get out and experience the free world outside of the No Fun League.

Elite Youth Bo Jackson Jersey For McAfee, that meant taking Adderall, which is banned by professional sports unless you have a prescription to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (which somehow nearly 10 percent of MLB players have).

Sounds like McAfee had a good time and unlike after his jokes about 4/20 earlier this season, the NFL isn’t going to come calling with a drug test.

Despite retiring from the NFL, McAfee has plenty of work lined up. He has joined Barstool Sports as a content creator and will have his own studio in downtown Indianapolis to create TV and radio content.

The one pitch Gonzales has seemed to steer clear of completely this season

But listen, like most things in life, there’s a time and a place for everything. Bautista flipping his bat to cut a deficit to four runs, after losing the first two games to a less-than-good Braves squad that’s five games under .500? Have some sense and self-awareness.

Limited Womens Mike Webster Jersey It’s turning into look-at-me-stuff, Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty said after the game. It’s not even about winning anymore.

Bat flipping down that much, that late? Come on. It’s not anything you haven’t heard or read yet but, here it goes: It’s selfish. It’s dumb. It’s tone deaf. It makes as much sense as Suicide Squad winning an Academy Award.

He’s also swinging at fewer first pitches, though when he does swing at the first offering in an at-bat he’s batting .455 with two home runs in 11 attempts.

Limited Womens Houston Rockets Jersey The one pitch Gonzales has seemed to steer clear of completely this season while batting left handed is the curveball. According to Statcast, he’s seen 66 curveballs while batting lefty and he whiffed once. The rest of the time, he’s watching it go by for a ball or a strike. Gonzalez hit a home run off a curveball batting righty on April 9 and a single on May 12.

Gonzalez is also drawing more walks this season. It’s as if someone flipped a switch. In 2015, he walked 16 times in 120 games. Last season, he walked only 22 times in 141 games. This season, he has already walked 18 times. That means he’s on pace for three times as many walks as those previous two seasons.

McVay can bring a similar approach to rebuilding the Rams’ offense

Despite his age, McVay has nine years of experience as a coach, seven with Washington. It was there that McVay earned a reputation as an offensive guru.

Before he was hired by the Rams, McVay spent the past three seasons as Washington’s offensive coordinator. The offense steadily improved each season. Last year, Washington finished with the NFL’s third-ranked offense, averaging 403 yards per game. It had the 12th-best scoring offense with an average of 24.8 points per game.

McVay can bring a similar approach to rebuilding the Rams’ offense, and he’ll have some familiar faces to help out.

Matt LaFleur is the new Rams offensive coordinator. He was the quarterbacks coach for four seasons in Washington, from 2010 to 2013, and spent the last two seasons in Atlanta in the same role. During that time, he worked with the likes of Robert Griffin III and Matt Ryan, two quarterbacks with entirely different skill sets who both had their best seasons working with LaFleur.

He’s been a model citizen with the Patriots, and now the Eagles have another big offensive weapon to work with next season. Blount joins an offensive backfield that includes Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews, and rookies Donnel Pumphrey and Corey Clement.

Blount’s addition may indicate that Mathews’ time with the Eagles is coming to a close. Eagles executive vice president of football operations, Howie Roseman, didn’t even mention Mathews’ name when discussing how Blount fits into the offensive backfield.

Blount flourished last season on third and fourth downs and in short-yardage, goal-line situations. The Eagles identified those as the primary reasons for adding Blount to the roster.
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Cowboys DL David Irving facing four-game PED suspension, reports say

Hyde was drafted in the second round as the heir apparent to Frank Gore in Roman’s scheme. That seems ages ago. Now with continued concerns about his health, the 49ers aren’t sure they can trust him to both stay on the field and fit in an unfamiliar zone blocking attack. Hyde disappointed under Chip Kelly in a system that seemed to mesh with his talents. That doesn’t inspire much confidence with the new regime.
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With former Saint Tim Hightower as the new insurance for Hyde, rookie fourth-round pick Joe Williams is the most intriguing back on the roster. He has elements of what made both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman successful for Shanahan in Atlanta. He has Coleman’s speed and open-field ability as a receiver with room to grow as an early-down option. Shanahan loves Williams, so expect to see him get plenty of big-play opportunities right away.

Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving is facing a four-game suspension after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancer, according to multiple reports, confirming the initial report on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

Youth Mickey Mantle Jersey The banned substance was in a supplement that Irving uses as part of a marketing deal, according to the NFL Network, which cited unidentified sources.

Irving, 23, recorded four sacks, fourth on the team, and added 17 tackles in 2016, his second season in the league.

At 6-7, 273 pounds, Irving is a rangy edge rusher entering his third season the NFL after joining the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa State.

2017 MLB spring training: Five storylines to watch

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It’s that time of year again as baseball heads south to the warmth of Arizona and Florida to prepare for a new season that begins with a fresh slate.

As the first of many spring training games begin this Friday ahead of the 2017 season, there are still plenty of question marks surrounding this year’s expected contenders.

Steven Stamkos Elite Jersey It was so outstanding because after we quit playing ball, nobody knew anything about the league,” the Palm Springs, Calif., resident said. After the league (folded), we were supposed to go home and put on our aprons and wash the dishes.

We couldn’t do anything. And then when the movie came out, it brought back women to be able to do what we wanted to do — and that was play ball and enjoy our lives.

MORE: The untold story of a groundbreaking baseball documentary

Davis was the center of attention again Sunday, as if she were Dottie Hinson all over again. She grounded out in her only at-bat, but this whole thing was her doing. The reunion game capped the weeklong Bentonville Film Festival, an event she co-founded to promote diversity and gender equality in film.

Aisha Tyler, who is in town to promote her movie directorial debut, Axis, came to the game in part to grab a hot dog and check out the scene.

Who isn’t a fan of ‘A League of Their Own’? Tyler said. What a sensational collection of actors. And such an important story.

Daniel Brown covers sports for The San Jose Mercury News and has seen A League of Their Own more than 50 times.

Stieb said he wasn’t that surprised with the outcome.

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Dave Stieb on Hall of Fame: ‘I surely did not deserve to be just wiped off the map’

Who he was: Dave Stieb made his only appearance on the writers’ ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.

A case can be made with sabermetrics that Stieb — not Jack Morris — was the best pitcher of the 1980s and would be a worthy addition to Cooperstown. But by traditional measures, the former Toronto Blue Jays ace might have looked far short of a plaque, with sciatica and other ailments chasing Stieb away from the game in his mid-30s and limiting him to 176 wins. Stieb drew just 1.4 percent, or seven votes, of 506 votes cast in 2004 — and that was that.

On one hand, Stieb said he wasn’t that surprised with the outcome.

I said right off the bat, ‘I don’t belong in the Hall of Fame, I did not win enough games and so forth,’ Stieb told Sporting News in a recent phone interview from Reno, Nev., where he does land development work.
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Joe Torre told me that of all his sound bites in the documentary — the arguments, the ranting, the coaching — the clip that seems to have gotten the most attention through the years is a comment about needing a haircut. In the clip, Torre, fidgeting with his hat, rubs his hand through his hair and tells Gibson that he’ll wait to get a haircut until he’s in St. Louis. Here you are in the middle of a game and I’m talking about getting a haircut somewhere, Torre said. People kept reminding me of that one.

The Jaguars didn’t pick up Blake Bortles’ fifth-year option

Chubb is a name to know. He has plenty of NFL fans and may have been a late first-rounder this year. He’ll emerge as a Mario Williams-level talent this year if he’s healthy.

The Jaguars didn’t pick up Blake Bortles’ fifth-year option, and their future quarterback isn’t on the roster. Allen is a wildly under-developed gunslinger, and whether or not he’ll develop in 2017 remains to be seen. But the upside is there.

An underrated factor in Prescott’s immediate explosion was the fact that it came unexpectedly. He wasn’t just the No. 2 before training camp; he was tabbed as a developmental No. 3 behind both Romo and Kellen Moore. Prescott came out relaxed and had an excellent preseason. That cool confidence was a natural carryover in his quick double promotion.

This year, everyone is looking for the “next big step” toward elite status, not just efficient play off a strong running game. Prescott was broken in well, reined in at first to keep him from getting rattled as a rookie. As the Cowboys throw more from their playbook at him, opponents will dig deeper to find ways to thwart him.

In his weekly column at MMQB.com, Peter King broke down the current state of the most important position in the NFL, and not surprisingly, much of it was laughable. (The first name he listed: Tom Savage, Texans.)

But he added this about Kaepernick: He “has bought a place in downtown Manhattan and lives in the big city fairly anonymously.” Some around the 49ers, King added, believe he “might actually rather do social justice work full-time than play quarterback.” In a league with so many dire circumstances at the position, he wrote, “it’s crazy that a quarterback who four years ago was coming off a Super Bowl appearance and looked to be a long-term answer has no team now and no hot NFL prospects that anyone can see.”

The last couple of weeks in the life of the Kaepernick, the NFL and this country might put it all into perspective.nike_cardinals_309

You can make a very good case that Betances has been the best

Elite Kids Antwon Blake Jersey A speedy centerfielder of the 1910s, some called Poles the black Ty Cobb. Negro League historian John Holway wrote, We can only guess what (Poles) might have hit in the major leagues. The hints we do have are eye-popping, to say the least. In ten games against the best white big leaguers of his day, Poles came to bat an estimated 41 times and drilled 25 hits for an average of .610!

No less an authority on black baseball than Buck O’Neil considered Allen a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Negro League Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick tweeted a few years ago. The website CooperstownExpert.com also noted that O’Neil included Allen on his all-time Negro League All Star team.

It’s just mind-boggling. Listen to Betances again. He was going to let it go until Levine opened his mouth.

Here’s the thing: You can make a very good case that Betances has been the best, most reliable reliever in baseball since the 2014 season. He’s made the All-Star team three years in a row, which is just stunning for a non-closing reliever, and proves others in baseball recognize his worth.
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Over those three years, Betances is first among relievers in innings pitched (247) and first in strikeouts (392). He’s top five among relievers with at least 150 innings in ERA (1.93), fielding-independent pitching (1.97), batting average against (.168), hits per nine innings (5.28) opponents OPS (.507) and OPS+ (41).

Chicago could have won it in the ninth inning, too. The Cubs had runners at first and second with one out, but Phillies reliever Jeanmar Gomez caught Ben Zobrist sleeping at second and picked him off. Kris Bryant singled, which would have scored Zobrist had he still been on base. Anthony Rizzo then grounded out to end the inning.

Kyle Schwarber might be batting leadoff for Cubs this season

The Cubs can seemingly do no wrong at this point, but manager Joe Maddon has a risky trick up his sleeve.

Maddon is interested in trying out Kyle Schwarber as the team’s leadoff hitter this season, after losing Dexter Fowler to the Cardinals.

Joe Schobert Kids Jersey Schwarber returned to the team late in the postseason last fall after missing almost the entire season with a severe knee injury. The lingering effects, and risk of a re-injury, will likely force Schwarber to miss some games this season for rest purposes.

Limited Youth Coby Fleener Jersey Twins ace Ervin Santana spun a gem to beat the Indians, 1-0. Santana tossed seven scoreless innings with just two hits and four strikeouts to improve to 6-1 on the season with a miniscule 1.50 ERA. Santana is the first pitcher to allow one or fewer runs in seven starts in his team’s first 32 games since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.

Brewers outfielder Hernan Perez went 3 for 4 with a solo home run and a walk in a 7-4 win against the injury-plagued Mets. Perez plays a multitude of positions, but he helped Milwaukee in the outfield Friday.

Pirates rookie Tyler Glasnow had another rough outing in his disappointing season while losing 11-4 to the Diamondbacks. Glasnow was lit up for seven earned runs off of seven hits and two home runs in 2 1/3 innings, and now has a 7.98 ERA for the season.

Cubs (18-17) at Cardinals (19-15) 4:05 p.m. ET 鈥?Chicago busted out of a slump to snap the Cardinals’ six-game win streak. The Cubs will try to keep it going with Jon Lester (1-1, 3.27 ERA) on the mound, while the Cardinals will counter with Carlos Martinez (2-3, 3.86 ERA) in a battle between opening-day starters.