Quinn’s expectations for Falcons over summer break

There are plenty of enticing storylines for the Falcons heading into training camp this year. The defense is coming off of a top-10 finish with even bigger goals in mind, while the offense is looking to make a leap in its second season with Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator.

But those are just the tip-of-the-iceberg storylines.

A majority of fans will also get their first chance to view the Falcons’ 2018 rookie class, which head coach Dan Quinn has raved about over the offseason. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley already looks like he belongs in the NFL, and cornerback Isaiah Oliver has been impressive both on and off the field. It’s unfair to highlight any one player in this class, however, because they brought a lot of energy to minicamp and already look up to speed for training camp.

For those who want to attend one of the training camp dates that are open to the public this summer, visit the Falcons’ training camp page and plan a trip up to Flowery Branch.Falcons’ wide receiver Mohamed Sanu works out with Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson

The former Clemson quarterback threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns in the seven games he played in.

A native of Gainsville, Ga., Watson has a special connection to the Falcons. He used to be a ball boy for the team through the Boys and Girls Club. His duties included folding towels, picking up cups and throwing passes to the wide receivers as they got warmed up, which he at the time hoped would get him ready for where he is now.

In his seventh season, Sanu has taken on more of a leadership role for the Falcons, mentoring several of the young players, including first-round pick, Calvin Ridley. Each year Sanu has been in Atlanta, his role in the offense continues to be enhanced. Sanu is coming off his best season in Atlanta, a year in which he caught 67 passes for 703 yards and five touchdowns.

While J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney grab the headlines, McKinney holds his own in the middle of the field.

The 6’4, 260-pound linebacker has become a force in Houston’s defense since being taken in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft. He had a breakout season in his second year in the league, recording 129 combined tackles, five sacks and one forced fumble. That performance was good enough to earn him second-team All-Pro honors.

Last year, he had 95 combined tackles, three sacks, one pass defended and one forced fumble.

Houston lost its all-time-leading tackler when it released Cushing earlier this offseason. However, the team believes McKinney is ready to lead the linebacking corps. Texans general manager Brian Gaine said as much about the 25-year-old linebacker in May, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle:

The free-agent safety saw his pair of drug charges, which included a third-degree felony charge, dropped on Thursday, according to Hillsborough County (Fla.) Court records.

Ward was arrested Jan. 3 and charged with possession of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia stemming from an Oct. 25 incident when Tampa police investigated an alarm call at Ward’s apartment, according to an incident report. During the investigation police discovered approximately 99.9 grams of marijuana in two glass jars. The Tampa Bay Times reported the Jan. 3 arrest was on an outstanding warrant related to the October incident.

PAMONA, NY Giants defensive end/linebacker Olivier Vernon was one of the NFL players who took a knee last season during the Star Spangled Banner in protest of police brutality and social injustice, which drew the ire of President Donald Trump.

However, Vernon says that the Giants have yet to meet as a team regarding the rule change and what the plan is for 2018.

It’s different territory for a whole lot of us, Vernon said. I can only go off of what I know right now. Eventually. When we have a conversation, that’s what we’ll do. We haven’t gotten to that point yet.

[laughs] I think if guys were in the physical shape to be able to play more positions and be able to be elite in multiple positions, then that would elevate the sport of football. I think it would be that much better to have these guys who just don’t come off the field, kind of like basketball. That’s why I try to stay in shape, I try to eat right, just in case the game takes that left turn and goes that way, I’ll be ready to play whatever.

Harbaugh hasn’t had great success yet—at least not by Michigan’s standards.

Sure, the Wolverines are better than they were when Harbaugh took the job back in 2015, but they have yet to win a Big Ten championship or beat Ohio State. Harbaugh’s Wolverines are 1-5 against the Buckeyes and Spartans, and Michigan’s recruiting hauls have been underwhelming as of late.

Neither the coach or the school will admit it, but things haven’t gone according to plan for Harbaugh in his return to his alma mater.

This isn’t a coach who crawled back to the collegiate ranks with his tail between his legs. Harbaugh was a foot away from winning the Super Bowl with the 49ers.

His return to the NFL may not be especially likely, but it could be tempting if Michigan endures another ho-hum season.

Success in college and success in the NFL are two different animals. For every Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll, there’s a Steve Spurrier, Butch Davis and Chip Kelly. And for as well as the Sooners played on 2017, it’s just one season—Riley’s first.

But if the Sooners chew up college football again in 2018, some NFL teams will try to talk themselves into Riley being more Carroll and less Kelly.

Because this stats count as occurring on May 15, this officially was Soto’s first big-league hit although the Nats apparently have been told by MLB that there will be an asterisk next to it.

Soto has been raking for the Nats, as he’s hitting.316 with six homers and 14 RBIs in 24 games.

However, a jump to the NFL makes more sense for certain college coaches. When NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah polled five NFL executives to identify head coaching candidates in the collegiate ranks, two singled out Washington’s Chris Petersen.

Petersen would easily be my top candidate, one executive said. He’s an outstanding coach and I know some teams have done their homework on him. Recruiting is such a mess for these coaches. I wouldn’t be totally shocked if he decided to make the jump. He would be a home-run hire for any NFL team.

Petersen’s something of an elder statesman at 53, and he doesn’t have any NFL experience. But in nearly two decades as an offensive coordinator and then head coach at Boise State and Washington, Petersen has proved to be a top-notch offensive strategist and motivator. He transformed Boise State from a tomato can into a national power.

Boise’s 2007 Fiesta Bowl upset of Oklahoma is one of the best-coached offensive games you’ll ever see.

Pete Carroll concerned about what players are up to during six weeks off

The Seahawks’ mandatory minicamp is over and training camp doesn’t start until late July, and coach Pete Carroll is hoping his players are staying focused on football during their time away.

I’m concerned about the six weeks coming up, that the guys do a really good job taking care of themselves, coming back stronger and faster, Carroll said. They’re in good shape right now, we would be ready to go into camp and we’d be in good shape.

Some players like to give their bodies some rest during the time off, but Carroll said they should be pushing themselves to be in top shape when camp opens.

The secondary made strides last year despite a nonexistent pass rush and should be markedly improved this year. Adams and Marcus Maye have a year of experience under their belts after solid rookie seasons, with Johnson around Claiborne won’t have to shadow opposing top receivers as he did last year, Buster Skrine won’t have to worry about moving out of the slot, and Wilcox was added recently to give depth to the safety position.

It’s outstanding, man, Adams said. Playmakers. We’re just adding to the New Jack City crew, so we’re excited. Just to have those guys a part of us, just to go out there and compete, it just adds more energy to the defense.

I just didn’t feel like going back and forth and hitting the same shot over, Mickelson said. I took the two-shot penalty and moved on. It’s my understanding of the rules. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve wanted to do that. I just finally did.

This does not go unnoticed by NFL players.

Last July, Bills receiver Sammy Watkins tweeted: We gotta get paid more. He noted the NFL is the most-watched sport in the U.S., but NBA players make way more.

When the NBA’s salary cap jumped an unprecedented $24 million in 2016, Jeff Diamond of Sporting News recapped the reactions from NFL players.

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders tweeted, Looks like I chose the wrong sport.

Safety T.J. Ward said, We getting peanuts compared to these NBA and MLB cats! Whoa.

Jason Heyward hits walk-off grand slam to stun Phillies

Jason Heyward provided some heroics Wednesday to help the Cubs shock the Phillies.

Having just allowed two runs to Philadelphia in the top of the ninth inning, the Cubs found themselves down two runs with one at-bat left. After loading the bases, Heyward sent them all home with his first-career walk-off home run.

Jose Quintana started for the Cubs, allowing just two runs in 5 2/3 innings while striking out 10 batters. He out dueled Aaron Nola, who allowed three runs in six innings with six strikeouts.

It is safe to assume and safer to predict he will meet this medical challenge head-on, the way he tore through his early months on the job.

Gettleman, in a statement released by the team, said a recent annual exam discovered the lymphoma, which is a cancer of the lymphatic system. This type of cancer starts in the white blood cells and can spread to different parts of the body. He will begin treatment in the very near future.

News of the diagnosis filtered through the Giants facility a few weeks ago and the shock was intertwined with Gettleman’s upbeat approach to his new normal.

Over the past week, I have undergone more testing to determine the course of treatment, Gettleman said. The doctor’s outlook for the treatment and the prognosis is positive, and so am I.

New York could consider moving ace Jacob deGrom, who has tallied a 4-2 record and a 1.55 ERA in 87 1/3 innings pitched this season. But New York would only trade him if it received a boatload of talent in return, according to the report.

The Mets are also expected to shop reliever Jeurys Familia, who was activated from the disabled list this weekend. The 28-year-old closer has picked up 14 saves and registered a 2.70 ERA in 2018.

New York could also try to deal starting infielder Asdrubal Cabrera.

Brought in during the final week of the 2017 season, replacing the fired Jerry Reese, Gettleman hit the ground running, and for five months barely stopped. He hired head coach Pat Shurmur, traded for linebacker Alec Ogletree, signed left tackle Nate Solder in free agency, navigated around Odell Beckham Jr. trade murmurs with his familiar tough-talk, and oversaw an intense NFL Draft evaluation process, eschewing a top-rated quarterback, instead focusing on and landing mega-prospect Saquon Barkley, a dynamic running back.

Happ and Walker played together with the Pirates in 2015 — the start of Happ’s career renaissance.

Happ had a 4.64 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) with the Mariners before Pittsburgh acquired him at the trade deadline. Going into that season, he had a career 4.24 ERA and a 51-53 record over seven years.

Walker said the Yankees saw more of the same when they faced him on Opening Day in Toronto this year, though Happ took the loss, giving up two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.

It was what we thought, Walker said. He works both sides of the plate — four-seam (fastball), cutter, changeup, slider, curveball. He has a good mix of stuff. What I remember watching him as a second baseman is what he was doing this year.

And it’s no secret that Machado isn’t interested in re-signing with the Orioles.

That would make Machado a prime candidate to be moved before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.

So why is Orioles general manager Dan Duquette dragging his feet in working on a deal to move Machado? Duquette sort of gave an answer to the Baltimore Sun :

He said again Tuesday that there has been significant interest in Machado, which would only be a major revelation if there wasn’t. If anything was surprising about his comments, it was that the Machado auction has not yet reached the point where Duquette is fielding specific offers.

He’s having a great year, Duquette said, so I’m sure that will take care of itself in time.

The Orioles have good pieces to trade and it’s about time to trade them. Machado obviously is at the top of the list and should bring in some players who fall into the category above, but it’s unclear whether the apparent lack of urgency surrounding his availability comes from inside or outside the organization.

Annual Detroit Lions charity softball game touches bases for fun, camaraderie

The Detroit Lions showcased their skills on a different type of field Saturday and it was all for a good cause.

A little over two miles away from the team’s practice facility, over 20 players traded in their helmets and cleats for bats and gloves at the Lions’ annual charity softball game at King Boring Field.

According to Martin, last year’s charity game raised more than $20,000. And that went a long way, helping his foundation put on a Christmas and Thanksgiving event, an early movie screening and other events with the Michigan Humane Society.

It’s nonstop, said Martin, who was hoping to surpass last year’s money mark. We’re constantly doing stuff, but we typically do about three or four big events a year that we raise money for, that are fundraisers for my foundation.

Many of the Eagles players had no desire to rub shoulders with Trump, who lacks a sympathetic ear on such issues. He’s the same person who last fall referred to any player who kneeled as a son of a (expletive) for protesting during the playing of the national anthem. The president did not engage on the issues driving the protests and instead painted players as anti-patriotic and unappreciative of the military.

So as the president again bashed the NFL, touting the canceled visit as a matter of respect for The Star-Spangled Banner, Jenkins and his teammates stuck to their message.

Jenkins’ other posters displayed a lengthy list of NFL players, which he called TRUE PATRIOTS because of their charitable work. Many of those players were his fellow members of the Players Coalition, which worked with team owners to secure $90 million for social justice efforts over the next several years.

The list of players included exiled quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has now given $1 million to charity. Another was Jenkins’ teammate Chris Long, who donated his entire 2017 salary to Philadelphia schools.

Yankees demote Kahnle

In the second round, Oppenheimer nabbed Josh Breaux, 20, out of McLennan Community College in Waco, Tex. It was the 61st choice.

Breaux hit 18 homers in 56 games last year.

He is what you’re going to get, like that’s who he is, Ellison said. He doesn’t change around different people or in different positions. He is who he is. He’s real, he’s a great communicator and he’s a great teacher. The speed that we’re picking up this offense is really awesome and that’s a credit to him and the coaches that he hired.

ESPN’s Buster Olney has begun to speculate on the idea of the Astros improving its one major weakness: The backend of the bullpen.

So the Astros could go after a late-inning reliever if they identify someone in the market whom they believe has the stuff to step in as an October closer. Roberto Osuna of the Blue Jays might have been an option, but he is on administrative leave as MLB continues to investigate allegations of a domestic violence incident, and it’s possible he will face suspension.

As written here last weekend, Kelvin Herrera of the Royals checks every box for contenders with his experience in various roles, and he still has not issued a single walk, but the Astros will weigh their own assessment of whether he would give them the needed bullpen boost and could engender confidence with the ball in the ninth inning of a Game 7. And there is the matter of the price tag: The Royals have leverage to ask for a high price, because there will be so few relievers of Herrera’s caliber available in the market.

If the Astros land, say, San Diego’s Brad Hand, Baltimore’s Zach Britton, Osuna or Herrera, baseball’s reigning champions would have almost zero holes. That would force the Yankees to keep pace (acquire a starting pitcher) in order to stay on Houston’s level.

Yankees relievers have thrown 15 1/3 consecutive shutout innings.

eagles_089Judge grounded out with the bases loaded to end the fifth but later sent the first pitch from Anthony Swarzak (0-1) into the left-field seats.

Judge showed no ill effects from jamming his thumb on a slide Friday night during the Yankees’ 4-1 win. Judge’s 18th homer got the Yankees fans finally shouting louder than their Mets counterparts in a sellout crowd.

In the end, it wasn’t enough.

Baseball’s a funny game like that, Nimmo said. We’re just going to try and not sit around and wait for it, we’re going to try and make things happen.

Wright’s potential emergence could be a big factor in the AL East battle royale with the Yankees. With Drew Pomeranz on the disabled list, Wright has started twice and allowed no runs in 13⅔ innings against the Detroit Tigers and Orioles. This isn’t necessarily a fluke for the knuckleballer; remember, he was an All-Star in 2016 before injuring his shoulder in August while pinch running. He had knee surgery in 2017 and missed most of the season, then was suspended 15 games this year after violating MLB’s domestic-violence policy.

His performance comes at a time when the Yankees suddenly are scrambling in their rotation. Jordan Montgomery is out with Tommy John surgery, Masahiro Tanaka just landed on the DL after tweaking both hamstrings running the bases over the weekend, Domingo German has a 5.32 ERA filling in for Montgomery, Luis Cessa is on the DL with an oblique strain and prospect Chance Adams has struggled at Triple-A.

At the same time, the Red Sox’s bullpen has kept pace with the Yankees’ pen, with a small edge in ERA (2.98 to 3.02) and a bigger edge in save-to-blown saves ratio (24/5 to 18/8). As Monday’s game indicated, the Red Sox have solid depth in front of closer Craig Kimbrel. The Yankees may be the team looking for additional bullpen help, especially with a rotation that isn’t eating up as many innings as one would like. Indeed, the back page for the New York Post on Tuesday features San Diego Padres reliever Brad Hand and the subhead, Why Padres’ star reliever may be best cure for Yanks’ pitching problems.

Heath Hembree (3-1) struck out the side in the 11th and Craig Kimbrel got three outs for his 21st save.

eagles_090It was a very well-pitched game by everybody that was on the mound today, from the starter all the way through Craig, said Brandon Workman, who contributed 1 1/3 innings of one-hit relief. Everybody threw the ball well. Put up 12 zeros. That’s hard to do at any level of baseball.

It was the fifth straight loss for the Orioles, who have been shut out seven times this season. Baltimore left 13 on base and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

The second was a Coors Field home run, Goldschmidt said of his 354-footer into the left-field bleachers that drove in three runs in the fourth.

The last Arizona hitter to post consecutive multi-homer games was Jean Segura on Sept. 13-14, 2016.

The Rockies have allowed seven or more runs in each of their six straight losses at home, and the D’Backs have collected 22 homers in their seven straight wins in Denver’s launching pad of a downtown ballpark.

Mariners: RHP Nick Vincent (groin) threw a bullpen and will head out on a rehabilitation assignment later this week, according to manager Scott Servais. … C Chris Herrmann (oblique) took on-field batting practice and is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment this week. … RHP Juan Nicascio (knee) received a cortisone shot in his knee and played catch.

Angels: Jaime Barria (5-1) will be recalled from Triple-A to face Seattle on Tuesday. The 21-year-old right-hander has a 2.48 ERA in seven big league starts this season and will make his first career start against the Mariners.

Mariners: RHP Mike Leake (6-3) will make his 14th start of the season and second against the Angels. He’s 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA, 24 strikeouts and two walks in his last six outings.President Trump could be subpoenaed by Colin Kaepernick’s legal team in NFL collusion case, report says