Day: August 29, 2019

Predicting NFL’s Next Superstars

Running back: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Replacing: Todd GurleyLos Angeles Rams

We don’t need Barry Sanders to tell us that Barkley has “potential for all-time greatness.” The NFL’s most physically gifted tailback forced 71 missed tackles last season, per Pro Football Focus. No other player at his position forced more than 60. On his best days, Barkley seems to combine Bo Jackson’s speed, Walter Payton’s determination, Marshawn Lynch‘s power and Marshall Faulk’s receiving ability. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft accounted for 33.5 percent of his team’s yards from scrimmage, second only to Ezekiel Elliott‘s figure of 34.2. In Barkley’s case, that number stands to rise with an improved offensive line and the absence of ultra-productive wideout Odell Beckham Jr. Speaking of whom …

Will Daniel Jones supplant Eli Manning on Giants

Wide receiver: Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns

Replacing: Tyreek HillKansas City Chiefs

After spending a half-decade concealing the blemishes of Eli Manning‘s decline phase, Beckham landed in Cleveland with the quarterback of his dreams. Whereas Manning’s diminishing deep ball has too often limited the Giants‘ aerial attack to a series of slants and screens over the past few years, Baker Mayfield broke the rookie record for touchdown passes by burning opposing secondaries with pinpoint downfield strikes. From the time Freddie Kitchens took over play-calling duties in Week 9 through the end of the regular season, Mayfield led all NFL quarterbacks in completion rate (55.9), yards per attempt (19.3) and touchdowns (7) on deep passes (20-plus yards), according to Next Gen Stats. Meanwhile, Beckham’s average of 2.6 yards of separation from the nearest defender leads all receivers since 2016. In other words, this is a match made in heaven — perhaps even of 2007 Tom Brady-Randy Moss proportions. We have the most talented big-play receiver in football joining forces with an exceptionally accurate, strong-armed passer with the aggressiveness to carpet-bomb the furthest reaches of the field.

Edge rusher: Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

Replacing: J.J. WattHouston Texans

The formerly downtrodden Browns are suddenly awash in blue-chip talent. A textbook havoc-wreaking 4-3 defensive end, Garrett won his play-to-play battles to the tune of 66 QB pressures, per Next Gen Stats, behind only Aaron Donald (73) and Dee Ford (69) last season. Now that blockers have to contend with Olivier Vernon on the other end and Sheldon Richardson alongside earth-mover Larry Ogunjobi in the middle, Garrett figures to face fewer double-teams. From Garrett’s rookie year to his second go-around, his sacks-per-game percentage increased from 63.6 to 84.4. A similar spike this season could see him making a serious run at Aaron Donald‘s sack crown.

Cornerback: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars

Replacing: Kyle FullerChicago Bears

Ramsey was never right last season, bickering with the press in training camp and battling through ankle and knee injuries once the games began. Hall of Fame careers are not always ascendant. The year before, Ramsey was arguably the most complete corner in football, teaming with A.J. Bouye in a shutdown secondary. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2016 draft appeared to be on his way to a Patrick Peterson-like string of All-Pro selections and perennial contention for Defensive Player of the Year honors. Now that Jacksonville has added promising rookie Josh Allen to an already-formidable front four, Ramsey’s job should be easier than ever in a bounce-back season.

Safety: Jamal Adams, New York Jets

Replacing: Derwin JamesLos Angeles Chargers

Already the leader of Gang Green’s defense entering his third season, Adams earned one of the starting safety spots on my 2018 eye-test All-Pro squad. Now that versatile Chargers star Derwin James is sidelined following foot surgery, Adams is the natural choice to force his way onto The AP’s official list. Rivaling James as a terror at the line of scrimmage, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2017 draft led all safeties with 22 combined sacks, hits and hurries, per Pro Football Focus. Considering new coordinator Gregg Williams’ history as a blitz-happy button-pusher, Adams will be wrecking more backfields in 2019.

Defensive back: Earl Thomas, Baltimore Ravens

Replacing: Desmond KingLos Angeles Chargers

Three years ago, the Ravens signed 31-year-old Eric Weddle to stabilize their secondary. The longtime Chargers stalwart went on to earn three consecutive Pro Bowl berths before Baltimore opted for an upgrade. Counting on lightning to strike twice with a savvy veteran safety, the Ravens brought in the best of his generation in 30-year-old Earl Thomas, who earned first-team All-Pro honors in three straight seasons from 2012 through ’14. On pace for career highs in interceptions and passes defensed, Thomas proved he had plenty of playmaking ability left in the tank before breaking his leg in Week 4. If Ravens coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale still has the top combination of scheme and talent in the league, as CBS analyst Tony Romo opined in Week 13 of last season, Thomas will be the centerpiece of the defense.

Interior defensive lineman: Shelby Harris, Denver Broncos

Replacing: Fletcher CoxPhiladelphia Eagles

Sometimes the million-to-one shot pays off. This projection is a considerable reach, a flight of fancy based on Harris’ flashes of dominance, Vic Fangio’s defensive brilliance and Pro Bowl defensive lineman Akiem Hicks‘ epiphany in Chicago. Hicks showed his own flashes of disruption with the Saints and Patriots before Fangio helped flip the switch that transformed him into one of the most productive interior defenders in the league. Albeit in part-time duty, Harris jumped off the film as a menace against the run as well as the pass in 2018. He picked up where he left off last season in the Broncos‘ “Monday Night Football” preseason Week 2 clash with 49ers, batting down a pass on each of the first two series. If Fangio turns him loose and doubles his snap count with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb bringing constant heat off the edge, this could be a fearsome trio at the heart of a rejuvenated Denver defense.

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Mets Needed Thor to Come Up Big, Now Tonight is a Must-Win Game

By Scott Mandel –

Mets’ Noah Syndergaard on nightmarish start: ‘When you get your s— kicked in like that, it gives you a different perspective’

Noah reflects on bad start00:01:40Noah Syndergaard reflected on the 10-7 loss and said he let the team down and got his “S— kicked in”.

The Mets needed Noah Syndergaard at his best on Wednesday in a crucial game against the Cubs, but the right-hander’s outing was nothing but disastrous. 

Syndergaard, who had dazzled in his eight second half starts, was the victim of some poor defense and poor luck in the Cubs’ six-run first, but he also left hittable pitches in the zone. 

Jason Heyward went down swinging to start the inning, but things quickly went downhill from there. After Nicholas Castellanos was hit by a pitch and Kris Bryantsingled, Javier Baez grounded a slow-roller to short that Amed Rosario underhanded into shallow center field, allowing the first run to score.

Then, after a Kyle Schwarber RBI double, Addison Russell blooped a perfectly placed single into right, scoring two more. Ian Happ then provided the final two runs of the inning with an opposite-field two run homer.

Things didn’t get any better for Syndergaard in the second. Bryant lifted what should have been an easy out to shallow left, but miscommunication between Rosario and J.D. Davis allowed the ball to drop in for a double.

Two batters later, Schwarber slammed the Cubs’ second home run of the night, extending the Cubs’ lead to 8-1.

Through the first two innings, Syndergaard allowed eight runs (seven earned), on seven hits. He walked three and struck out two.

“They capitalized on every mistake that I made, and it just seemed like tonight when it rains it pours,” Syndergaard said after the game. “When you get your sh-t kicked in like that, it gives you a different perspective on things. Definitely a terrible feeling. I’m disappointed in myself. I had the opportunity to go out there and do something big tonight, and I let the team down.”

Mickey Callaway stuck with Syndergaard in the third, but with two away, Castellanos blasted the Cubs’ third home run, ballooning the lead to 10-1. The Mets did battle back to make things interesting, but they ultimately lost the game 10-7, dropping further back in the Wild Card race.

“Obviously a few plays weren’t made,” said Callaway afterwards. “He battled, left some pitches middle, they made him pay. They didn’t miss the ones that were big mistakes. Some of the credit has to go to their offense. It’s still hard to hit even when a Noah Syndergaard makes mistakes. But he just couldn’t get into rhythm. Off night for him. He’s been pitching so well, and we know that our rotation is one of our strengths. Just an off night for one of our starters.”

Syndergaard’s night ended after three innings, allowing a career-worst 10 runs (nine earned) on nine hits. It was the first time in his career that he allowed three home runs in a start.