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Jon Gruden’s return to the NFL as a coach — he was the Oakland Raiders’ headman from 1998 through 2001 and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 through 2008 — is a big deal. Big enough that the Raiders are on prime-time television four times in 2018. A rough start, which includes a “home” game in London, and a chilly finish will tell the tale for Gruden 2.0, even as the Raiders are tied for the fourth-easiest strength of schedule in the NFL. They had the fourth toughest in 2017.

Week 1: Monday, Sept. 10, vs. Los Angeles Rams, 10:20 p.m. ET

Welcome back to the NFL, Jon Gruden, and on ESPN’s Monday Night Football no less. Gruden’s first game on the Raiders sideline since the 2001 season is a monster test, against the likes of the Rams defense with Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Record: 0-1

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m. ET

The last time Oakland played here, Derek Carr broke three bones in his back. Hopefully for the Raiders’ sake, the Broncos’ defense does not break Oakland’s will. Record: 0-2

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

Gruden & Co. finally break through, in the South Florida heat and humidity, for Gruden’s first regular-season win as Raiders coach since Dec. 15, 2001. Record: 1-2

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, vs. Cleveland Browns, 4:05 p.m. ET

Remember when Hue Jackson said he was going to take an even stronger hand with the entire Raiders organization? Neither do the Raiders. Record: 2-2

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. ET

Things got ugly in a hurry the last time these two met on the Bolts’ temporary soccer pitch for a field. And the Chargers should be the division favorites. Record: 2-3

Full regular-season NFL schedule
The Eagles kick off the NFL season against the Falcons on Thursday, Sept. 6. View the complete week-by-week schedule here.

• Record predictions, analysis for all 32 teams
• Winners, losers of the schedule release
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• NFL draft news, analysis
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, vs. Seattle Seahawks in London, 1 p.m. ET

The Raiders are starting to coalesce with Gruden 2.0, while the Seahawks are in rebuild mode. Bruce Irvin and Marshawn Lynch have the last laugh over Uncle Pete (Carroll). Record: 3-3

Week 7: Bye

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. Indianapolis Colts, 4:05 p.m. ET

Will Andrew Luck be playing by this time? If not, be sure to peep the faux Twitter account of him as a Civil War captain. Trust me. Record: 4-3

Week 9: Thursday, Nov. 1, at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m. ET

Technically, Oakland is closer to San Francisco than Santa Clara. Also technically, there is more grizzled veteran talent on the Raiders roster … in mid-April. Record: 5-3

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. ET

Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are the NFL’s best pass-rushing duo. And Philip Rivers has a thing about driving daggers into the heart of Oakland. Record: 5-4

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m. ET

Gruden’s gang has been grinding and needs a laugher. The Cardinals provide the jokes. Record: 6-4

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET

How many times will Michael Crabtree be flagged for his Kenny Powers finger-sniff post-TD celebration against the Raiders? Depends on how many times the Raiders put Shareece Wright on him. I kid. Kinda. Record: 6-5

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 4:05 p.m. ET

Alex Smith is gone, much to the relief of the Raider Nation. Patrick Mahomes II, welcome to the Black Hole. Record: 7-5

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:20 p.m. ET

These ancient AFC rivals will conjur up images of Stabler-Bradshaw, Atkinson-Swann, the Immaculate, ahem, DE-ception. Carr outlasts Ben Roethlisberger under the lights. Record: 8-5

 

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET

New Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther should have the blueprint on how to attack the Bengals. Yet it has all the makings of a trap game, given the emotional home games surrounding Cincinnati. Paging Admiral Ackbar. Record: 8-6

Week 16: Monday, Dec. 24, vs. Denver Broncos, 8:15 p.m. ET

Khalil, Case. Case, Khalil. Yes, the Raiders’ all-everything edge rusher, Khalil Mack, should be in new Broncos QB Case Keenum’s grill all night in the Raiders’ fourth prime-time game of the year. Record: 9-6

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m. ET

Arrowhead Stadium has been Carr’s personal house of horrors. Can Gruden perform an exorcism? Record: 9-7

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CHICAGO — The Pittsburgh Pirates enjoyed opening day very much this year. All three of them.

Ivan Nova pitched seven solid innings, Francisco Cervelli hit a three-run homer and Pittsburgh ruined the Chicago Cubs’ home opener with an 8-5 victory on Tuesday.

It was the third opening day for the Pirates, who also beat Detroit in the Tigers’ home opener on March 30 and topped Minnesota in their first game in Pittsburgh on April 2. The Pirates’ 8-2 record is their best 10-game start since 1992, and they are a perfect 4-0 on the road for the first time in 15 years.

“There’s fight in the team,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

Not even the presence of Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the 98-year-old chaplain of the Loyola basketball team, could save the Cubs. She threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field.

Cervelli and Corey Dickerson each had three hits as Pittsburgh won for the fourth time in five games. Starling Marte hit his second homer, and Josh Bell had two hits and scored two runs.

Felipe Vazquez got four outs for his first save in a new jersey after he legally changed his surname to match that of his sister, Prescilla. He was known as Felipe Rivero, and he apologized Monday on Twitter to fans who bought gear with his old name.

Vazquez lives with his sister in the offseason, and she helped him in the negotiations for the contract he signed with the Pirates in January.

“We’ve been talking about it for the past 20 years, 20-something years,” he said. “We’ve been talking a lot, and we got to a point, it was time, so we just went ahead and (did) it.”

The Cubs became the last major league team to play at home a day after the series opener was postponed by snow. A crowd of 40,144 packed Wrigley on another chilly day — the gametime temperature was 43 degrees — but the fans had very little to cheer about after the first couple innings.

Javier Baez homered twice for the Cubs, and Willson Contreras collected three hits. Tyler Chatwood (0-2) was tagged for five runs and nine hits in five innings in his first home start since signing a $38 million, three-year contract with Chicago in the offseason.

“We didn’t play badly, they hit the ball well today, Pittsburgh did,” manager Joe Maddon said. “They worked the whole field.”

Baez’s solo drive to the back of the bleachers in left gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead in the second, but the Pirates took over from there.

Dickerson hit a tiebreaking two-run double in Pittsburgh’s three-run third. Marte went deep with two out in the fourth, and Cervelli made it 8-2 with a drive to center in the seventh after Mike Montgomery surrendered consecutive two-out singles to Josh Bell and Dickerson.

It was more than enough for Nova (1-1), who bounced back nicely from a shaky performance in a 7-3 loss to Minnesota last Wednesday. The 6-foot-5 right-hander allowed three runs and seven hits, struck out six and walked none.

The curveball “was good,” Nova said. “In the beginning, we didn’t have it, we didn’t throw it as much. Cervy kept calling that pitch until we finally got that rhythm.”

The Cubs loaded the bases in the eighth against Edgar Santana, and Jason Heyward bounced a two-run single back up the middle against Vazquez. But Baez struck out swinging to end the inning.

LOYOLA DAY

Loyola of Chicago coach Porter Moser and some of his players from the Ramblers’ Final Four team were recognized on the field before the game. Senior guard Ben Richardson and Sister Jean, the nun who rocketed to fame during the team’s NCAA Tournament run, each threw out a ceremonial first pitch.

Moser and a couple of the players also led the crowd in the singing of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove, who is on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain, threw a bullpen session.
Cubs: First baseman Anthony Rizzo was placed on the 10-day disabled list with lower back tightness. The move was made retroactive to Friday. “You got to stay smart and that’s what we’re doing,” Rizzo said. Infielder/outfielder Efren Navarro was promoted from Triple-A Iowa to take Rizzo’s spot on the roster.

UP NEXT

Left-handers Steven Brault of the Pirates and Jon Lester of the Cubs face off on Wednesday night. Brault (2-0, 1.13 ERA) pitched five effective innings in a 5-2 victory over Cincinnati on Thursday in his first start of the season. Lester (1-0, 2.89 ERA) is coming off six crisp innings in an 8-0 victory at Milwaukee.

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Perhaps as much as any NFL head coach, Pete Carroll is known for awarding jobs based on merit more so than a player’s contract or draft round.

A few notable examples:

In one of their first major moves running the Seattle Seahawks, he and general manager John Schneider traded for running back LenDale While — a star for Carroll at USC — only to cut him a month later.

Carroll went with rookie Russell Wilson as his starting quarterback in 2012 after the Seahawks gave veteran Matt Flynn $10 million guaranteed that offseason.

Everyone expected incumbent Thomas Rawls and/or free-agent pickup Eddie Lacy to lead Seattle’s backfield last season, but it was instead rookie seventh-round pick Chris Carson who broke camp as the starter after beating out the two favorites.

That history is worth keeping in mind when projecting how the Seahawks’ free-agent additions might fit into the team’s 2018 plans. Jaron Brown, among those additions, will have to earn the role he gets in Seattle’s wide receiver corps.

That said, the contract the Seahawks gave Brown — two years, $5.5 million with $2.75 million guaranteed — suggests they believe he can be an impact player in their offense as opposed to someone who contributes sparingly from the bottom half of the depth chart.

The Seahawks added Brown after losing Paul Richardson in free agency. Richardson was Seattle’s No. 2 receiver last season, behind Doug Baldwin and ahead of Tyler Lockett on the depth chart. Lockett would seem to have the edge to fill that No. 2 role, but anything can happen.

Lockett played around 65 percent of Seattle’s offensive snaps last season as the third receiver. Who knows exactly how new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will prefer to rotate his receivers, but whomever ends up in that role should be heavily involved one way or another.

Amara Darboh (2017 third-round pick), David Moore (2017 seventh-rounder), Marcus Johnson (acquired in the Michael Bennett trade), Tanner McEvoy (2016 UDFA) and Cyril Grayson (2017 free agent) are the other receivers on Seattle’s roster.

Brown’s 2018 base salary of $800,000 is fully guaranteed. That and a $1.95 million signing bonus make up his $2.75 million in guarantees.

Here’s the full breakdown of the contract:

2018

Salary-cap number: $1.775 million

Base salary: $800,000 (fully guaranteed)

Signing-bonus proration: $975,000

Incentives: Up to $750,000 (tied to receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs)

Potential dead money/cap savings: $2.75 million/none (if released or traded before June 1)

2019

Salary-cap number: $3.725 million

Base salary: $2.75 million

Signing-bonus proration: $975,000

Incentives: Up to $750,000 (tied to receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs)

Potential dead money/cap savings: $975,000/$2.75 million (if released or traded before June 1)

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook loves to tell people he plays every game the same way, even sometimes going as far to make people tell him in return, but he has a tell when he’s really got it cranked up an extra notch.

With the San Antonio Spurs in Oklahoma City for a significant game for a variety of reasons, Westbrook’s focus and effort — on the defensive end — was all anyone needed to see that this one mattered a little bit more. Westbrook dug in, guarding on the ball like a bulldog and hitting a number of help rotations, even blowing up a couple of would-be layups for LaMarcus Aldridge at the rim. The tone was set, and despite some bumps along the way, the Oklahoma City Thunder put away an extremely important 104-94 win over the Spurs and jumped back up to the No. 5 seed in the West.

“That’s the key every night, defend at a high level,” Westbrook said. “I feel like we put ourselves in great position to win games when we defend like that.”

It was something Spurs coach Gregg Popovich marveled at before the game, in talking about what his young point guard Dejounte Murray could learn from a matchup with Westbrook, how the reigning MVP doesn’t relax at any point. He’s full-go from tipoff, testing the limits of his own abilities while hoping to raise the level of his teammates’ to a higher place, as well. And as former teammate Kendrick Perkins would often say, Westbrook was on one Saturday night.

Westbrook has that ability to dominate and overwhelm a game without necessarily stuffing the box score — which he also is quite obviously very good at — and that was the case against the Spurs. He finished with his 19th triple-double of the season — 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists — and the 98th of his career but ran the game in a way only a few players in the league can. His fingerprints were all over everything as the Thunder handled the Spurs with Paul George scoring just 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting, Carmelo Anthony finishing with only two points on 1-of-8 and the second-highest scorer being Jerami Grant with 15.
Behind Russell Westbrook’s league-leading 19th triple-double of the season, the Thunder have now won seven of their past 10 games. Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports
The energy was there, the effort right along with it, and the intentions were good, but the Thunder didn’t take advantage of some excellent first-half defense and quality execution to build any kind of first-half lead. There were multiple opportunities to open up and extend a big lead, but the largest it stretched in the first half was 14. The Spurs were able to trim it down before a quick burst before the break from the Thunder, punctuated by a corner 3 from Corey Brewer right before the buzzer.

Those missed chances came back on OKC early in the third as Steven Adams picked up his fourth foul, colliding midair with Dejounte Murray and then coming down hard and rolling his left ankle. Adams exited the game and did not return. The Spurs took advantage of Adams’ absence, going to Aldridge on the block. Aldridge had three points on 1-of-8 shooting in the first half but scored eight on 4-of-7 in the third without Adams.

It was a strange night offensively for the Thunder, with Brewer leading them in scoring at halftime, while Anthony didn’t score until midway through the third quarter (his only points of the game). They missed a lot of great looks, both at the rim and from 3, leaving the door propped open for a Spurs comeback. San Antonio flirted with it at times, trimming the lead down to four in the third, then again down to seven in the fourth, but with the help of some pop from Nick Collison, the Thunder put the Spurs away.

What the Thunder have been searching for over the past month is a defensive consistency to support all the work they’ve done in figuring out their offensive issues. And while the sample size is small, the two games since inserting Brewer have looked different. There’s a rhythm and comfort to the way they’re playing, with a palpable chemistry restored to at least sort of mimic what they had with Andre Roberson.

But most of all, it has been Westbrook, who — when at the levels at which he has played the past two games — can cure almost any issue on his own. Westbrook has adjusted, taking only one 3-pointer in those games — not a coincidence — and focusing on rim attacks and rhythm midrange jumpers. Westbrook is often his own worst offensive enemy, unable to resist the siren song of the 3, but when he channels his abilities to other areas, he and the Thunder are at optimal levels.
The Thunder are working to restore belief that they are capable in the West while also trying to actually cement their place in the postseason. George said at shootaround that the Thunder are resisting the urge to scoreboard-watch and root for other teams to lose. They’re trying to look only at themselves.

Anthony said post-All-Star break was “showtime,” but the results have been … well, not that. They’re 5-3, but the three losses are in the understandable category: at the Warriors, at Portland and vs. Houston. Their wins have been against teams they should beat, which is what made Saturday’s matchup bigger, outside of the playoff implications.

The Thunder needed to prove, to themselves more than anybody, that they’re tracking in the right direction again. And if anything is going to put them on that path, and keep them there, it’s Westbrook.

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Of all the coaching changes that took place on Mike McCarthy’s staff this offseason, the one that came as the biggest surprise was the replacement of quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt.

Even quarterback Aaron Rodgers claimed recently that Van Pelt’s departure from the Green Bay Packers took him by surprise, saying during an appearance on ESPN Radio’s Golic and Wingo show from the Super Bowl that some of the moves were “a little strange” and the team changed quarterbacks coaches “without consulting me.”

Before that, McCarthy indicated that more than a year ago, Van Pelt essentially made the decision that he would leave at the end of the 2017 season after he opted to go into the final year of his contract rather than take another extension. That would allow Van Pelt to interview for jobs with other teams, and the Packers could not block him.

Van Pelt had expressed a desire to become an offensive coordinator again. He held that position with the Buffalo Bills in 2009, but he not only didn’t get the Packers’ open coordinator job, which went to Joe Philbin, but also didn’t get one elsewhere.

It didn’t sound like returning to Green Bay was an option, so Van Pelt instead took the quarterbacks job with the Cincinnati Bengals.

“When you get to this point, frankly, this decision was made last year,” McCarthy said last month of Van Pelt. “I don’t want to speak on Alex’s, his thoughts, but this is a moment he’s prepared himself for.”

Like McCarthy, Van Pelt was somewhat vague when asked about how things ended in Green Bay. The comments came during an interview with Bengals.com, the team’s official website.

“It’s never easy to leave someplace that you’ve been, especially when you have a relationship with the people you worked with,” Van Pelt told the website. “So it’s tough.”

When asked about Rodgers’ comments, Van Pelt said, “It was nice of him to acknowledge that. I tell my family all the time that we’re never looking back, we’re always moving forward. So I had a great experience in Green Bay, I learned a lot of football in Green Bay. I had a chance to work with some really good coaches, so now my goals are to take everything I’ve learned and move forward and continue to grow.”
The Packers hired former New York Giants quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti Jr. to replace Van Pelt, who had been with the Packers since 2012 and served as Rodgers’ position coach since 2014.

McCarthy, a former quarterbacks coach himself, knows the importance of the relationship between the starting quarterback and his position coach. He said during the 2016 season, “It’s clearly one of the most important relationships in our football program.”

Van Pelt is the only quarterbacks coach Rodgers has had who played in the NFL. Rodgers spoke at length about their relationship for a story about Rodgers and Van Pelt that appeared on ESPN.com during the playoffs following the 2016 season.

“He’s a great game-day manager, giving me exactly what I need and nothing more,” Rodgers said. “He cares about it. The guy puts a lot of work into it. He’s a great coach. There’s no reason why his name shouldn’t be out there for coordinator spots right now, but he’s done a great job for us. And he and I have become very close.”

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams said everything is fine between him and Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis after the two spoke face-to-face this week for the first time since Adams accused Davis of “head hunting” for a blindside hit that gave him a concussion.

Adams said Thursday that Davis sought him out on Monday, when the NFC players arrived in Orlando for the Pro Bowl, and apologized for the hit, which occurred late in the Panthers’ 31-24 victory at Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 17.

“He came and hollered at me the first day,” Adams told ESPN. “It happened about a little over a month ago now so we kind of settled it. I’m trying to let bygones be bygones.

“Obviously you don’t forget things like that, but at the same time we’re teammates out here and you want to be civil and still have a good time so that’s what it’s about.”

The day after the play happened, Adams, via Twitter, accused Davis of “head hunting” because he led with his helmet. Adams posted a series of tweets critical of the hit and Davis, who responded to one of the tweets and apologized.
Davante Adams

@tae15adams
I’ll never understand it. Game is already dangerous enough and we got Pro Bowl players out here head hunting and saying they “didn’t mean to harm me”
11:45 PM – Dec 18, 2017
697 697 Replies 5,933 5,933 Retweets 23,756 23,756 likes
Twitter Ads info and privacy

Davante Adams

@tae15adams
Somebody please explain to me what I wasnt trying to hurt him means when we nowhere near the play and u lead with ya head and ear hole a defenseless player….
11:46 PM – Dec 18, 2017
462 462 Replies 4,135 4,135 Retweets 18,426 18,426 likes
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“In no way was I trying to hurt you,” Davis tweeted. “My first instinct was turn and make a block. In all sincerity I do apologize. I truly respect you as a player and I made a mistake!”

That was the second concussion that Adams had suffered in 2017.

18 Dec

Davante Adams

@tae15adams
I’ll never understand it. Game is already dangerous enough and we got Pro Bowl players out here head hunting and saying they “didn’t mean to harm me”

Thomas Davis

@ThomasDavisSDTM
I understand your frustration and I do apologize for the hit! In no way was I trying to hurt you. My first instinct was turn and make a block. In all sincerity I do apologize. I truly respect you as a player and I made a mistake!
12:29 AM – Dec 19, 2017
868 868 Replies 1,870 1,870 Retweets 9,313 9,313 likes
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Davis was suspended two games by the NFL for the hit. He told ESPN on Thursday that he wanted to apologize to Adams in person. “That was one of the things that I was most looking forward to, having that opportunity to sit down face-to-face with him and kind of explain my side of that situation, officially apologize to him face-to-face,” Davis said. “It wasn’t anything malicious and I said that to him in the message, but just I just really wanted to reiterate what I said to him in that message on social media.”

Davis said it was received well and that Adams accepted his apology.

“He said he understood,” Davis said. “He said that he was emotional when it happened. He was mad. But we’ve talked it out. We’re in a good place right now.”

Having won the Walter Payton Man of the Year, Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year and Bart Starr Award in his past, Davis has enjoyed a sterling reputation across the league when it comes to character.
He acknowledged that it’s been a challenge, however, conforming to new league rules as they pertain to hard hitting and avoiding the head and neck area. It was a much different league when he entered it in 2004 and he admitted that he is still figuring out how to adjust.

“The guys I looked up to when I started — Derrick Brooks, Ray Lewis — the way that those guys played the game. I just try to mirror my game after that,” Davis said. “But at the same time, we’re moving to a different place in the NFL and guys like myself just have to understand that we have to comply with the rules.”

Davis added, “It’s definitely a lot harder to conform. It takes some time, just changing up the style of play.”

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Mel Kiper Jr. is right: the Green Bay Packers should address their pass rush in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

It’s why the ESPN draft analyst has the Packers taking defensive end Marcus Davenport of UT-San Antonio with their first-round pick, No. 14 overall, in his first mock draft of 2018.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder who had 21.5 career sacks in college was the second pure pass-rusher to come off Kiper’s board. The other, N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb, went No. 3 to the Colts. Kiper also had a linebacker — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, who’s a potential pass-rusher — at No. 12 to the Bengals.
UT-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport had 21.5 sacks in his college career. Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire
Either way, the Packers would be getting one of the top pass-rushers in the draft.

But they shouldn’t stop there. Not with how bereft they were of edge rushers this past season. They had only two players with more than five sacks, and none even came close to double digits. Clay Matthews led the team with 7.5, and Nick Perry had 7.

Matthews will turn 32 this offseason and is entering the final season of his contract. He underwent knee surgery already this offseason and missed two games in 2017 because of other injuries.

Perry, who signed a five-year, $60 million deal, couldn’t follow up his career-best season in 2016 (when he had 11 sacks). He reverted to his oft-injured ways, missing four games.

2018 NFL DRAFT
When: April 26-28
Where: Arlington, Texas
NFL draft home page » | Draft order »

•Insider Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 1.0 »
•Insider Todd McShay’s Mock Draft 1.0 »
• Which NFL teams could draft a QB? »
•Insider Kiper’s Big Board »
•Insider McShay’s Top 32 »
• 2018 draft QB class primer »
• Underclassmen who have declared »
It’s why new general manager Brian Gutekunst might have to go all-in on pass-rushers early in the draft, unless he’s able to find at least one impact rusher in free agency. His predecessor, Ted Thompson, ignored the position in free agency last year until he signed Ahmad Brooks (who had 1.5 sacks all season) at the end of the preseason. He waited until the fourth round of the draft to take an edge rusher, Wisconsin outside linebacker Vince Biegel, whose foot surgery last May all but ruined his rookie year.

It wouldn’t be an upset if Gutekunst drafted multiple pass-rushers in this draft. He watched his old boss, Thompson, take defensive backs with his first two picks last year (cornerback Kevin King and safety Josh Jones).

For what it’s worth, Kiper had the Packers taking running back Christian McCaffrey a year ago at this time in his first mock draft of 2017. McCaffrey ended up going much higher, at No. 8 overall to Carolina, and Kiper’s mocks will surely change as draft season progresses.

Fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay’s first 2018 mock draft had the Packers taking a pass-rusher, Boston College outside linebacker Harold Landry. Kiper had Landry at No. 25 to the Titans in his first mock.

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With two top-four picks, we know the Cleveland Browns have the most 2018 NFL draft capital.

Now, how will it shake out for playoff teams? Fans of more than 20 franchises are looking ahead to free agency in March and the draft in late April. As the postseason continues, we’ll update this page as teams drop out of the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy and into the confirmed 2018 NFL draft order. The top 28 picks are below, with one coin flip pending between the Raiders and 49ers.

Round 1 of the draft begins on ESPN and WatchESPN at 8 p.m. ET on April 26 and takes place in Arlington, Texas.

Note: The projected order for 27-32 is based on FPI projections from the end of the regular season.
1. Cleveland Browns (0-16)

The Browns will want a quarterback. The question for Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold might now be: Do they want the Browns? Both underclassmen have declared for the draft.

2018 NFL DRAFT
When: April 26-28
Where: Arlington, Texas
NFL draft home page » | Projected order »

• 2018 draft QB class primer »
•Insider Todd McShay’s Mock Draft 1.0 »
•Insider McShay’s Top 32 »
•Insider Mel Kiper’s Big Board »
• Kiper, McShay answer 25 questions »
• Underclassmen who have declared »

2. New York Giants (3-13)

The Giants locked up the second overall pick despite beating the Redskins in their season finale thanks to the Colts, who beat the Texans in their final game.
3. Indianapolis Colts (4-12)

Though they would have been much better off with the No. 2 slot, the Colts will be in the enviable position of having the best draft pick among teams that don’t need a quarterback. That means they might be able to return a haul if they decide to trade down.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans, 4-12)

In addition to potentially drafting a quarterback No. 1 overall, the Browns can take another premium player here or — in the spirit of the old Browns regime — trade down.
Deshone Kizer finished the season with 11 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

5. Denver Broncos (5-11)

John Elway was a quarterback. John Elway needs a quarterback. John Elway might draft a quarterback. There are four first-round caliber quarterbacks in Darnold, Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. The question is: Will the QB that Elway wants still be available at No. 5?
6. New York Jets (5-11)

This is the third time in four years the Jets have ended up with the No. 6 pick. If it works out the way Leonard Williams and Jamal Adams have so far, they ought to be in good shape. Vernon Gholston on the other hand …
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

The Bucs don’t need a quarterback but have the benefit of drafting early. They could use some help in the secondary, however.

EDITOR’S PICKS

Underclassmen who have declared for 2018 NFL draft
Among the star underclassmen who have announced their intention to enter the draft: quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen. Here’s the full list.

2018 NFL draft QB class primer: Everything you need to know about Rosen, Mayfield, Darnold and more
Scouting reports, insight from NFL personnel and what’s next — we’ve got it all on the best signal-callers in next year’s draft. Catch up on the most-talked-about class in years.

McShay’s 2018 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Time for Cleveland to take a QB?
How does Sam Darnold look in a Browns uniform? With two picks in the top six, this is Cleveland’s chance to have a dream draft — or miss out again. The 2018 NFL draft is loaded with talent. Here is Todd McShay’s first mock.

8. Chicago Bears (5-11)

Given that the Bears desperately need to get Mitchell Trubisky some help, one has to think that Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley would be a candidate to land with them.
9/10. Oakland Raiders (6-10, coin flip pending)

The Raiders and new head coach Jon Gruden could use some help on defense.
9/10. San Francisco 49ers (6-10, coin flip pending)

Through Week 12, the 49ers had a 99 percent chance to end up with a top-five pick. Then Jimmy Garoppolo happened. Hard to imagine there will be any complaints out of San Francisco, though. They have found their franchise quarterback.
11. Miami Dolphins (6-10)

The Dolphins are another team with an interesting decision to make at quarterback after the Jay Cutler experiment didn’t work out. Do they hand the reigns back to Ryan Tannehill? Do they bring in some veteran insurance? Or do they draft another young QB with high upside?
12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9)

Is it totally crazy to imagine the Bengals moving on from Andy Dalton and entering the quarterback free-for-all? Maybe not. If so, they might be better positioned to try a veteran, but at No. 12, maybe they have a shot at one of the second-tier rookies.
13. Washington Redskins (7-9)

Jay Gruden will be back. Will Kirk Cousins join him? If not — and if the Redskins don’t replace Cousins in free agency or the trade market — then we can add them to the list of teams that could add a first-round quarterback. At this spot they might be in range for Mayfield, or maybe they could trade up for one of the other hot names.

Grades, Offseason Questions, More
NFL Nation reporters grade each eliminated team’s regular season, assess what position each should target in the 2018 draft and look ahead to the offseason. Full coverage »

14. Green Bay Packers (7-9)

It was apparent after watching the Packers without Aaron Rodgers that this team needs help. In particular, they could use some help on defense, perhaps part of the reason why Todd McShay had Green Bay selecting Boston College pass-rusher Harold Landry in his first mock draft.
15. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

Carson Palmer has retired, and the Cardinals need a quarterback of the future. They could absolutely be in the mix for the four potential first-round signal-callers.
16. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

The Ravens had a 97 percent chance to reach the playoffs heading into their regular-season finale against the Bengals, per FPI. Sometimes, that 3 percent happens.
17. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)

Here’s another sleeper quarterback team. Rivers is still good enough that the Chargers can win with talent around him — and they do have talent around him — but they also might want to start thinking about life after him.
18. Seattle Seahawks (9-7)

The Seahawks need help on the offensive line. Everyone knows that. They might be hoping that one of the Notre Dame offensive linemen — offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey or guard Quenton Nelson — fall to them here.
19. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)

With Dez Bryant’s future in Dallas uncertain, perhaps Dallas could look to the draft for another top-flight wideout at No. 19.
20. Detroit Lions (9-7)

The Lions already have a good cornerback in Darius Slay, but it’s hard to have too many corners in the NFL.
21. Buffalo Bills (9-7)

Although they made the playoffs, the Bills were just the 24th-best team in the league according to FPI ratings before their wild-card matchup with the Jaguars. They have plenty of room for improvement. The good news: They have two first-round picks …
22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs, 10-6)
Blowing an 18-point lead in the playoffs is a bummer. Chiefs fans get to think about that all offseason while also remembering that they have no first-round pick this year. They dealt it away last season to trade up for Patrick Mahomes.
23. Los Angeles Rams (11-5)

Now that Sean McVay has checked winning the NFC West off his list, he can get ready for another first: Being part of a first-round selection as a head coach. The Rams didn’t have one last year because they had traded it to the Titans in the Jared Goff deal the year before.

24. Carolina Panthers (11-5)

The Panthers need another receiving threat after trading Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills. Perhaps a speedster like Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk would fit the bill.
25. Tennessee Titans (9-7)

The Titans got further than they could have reasonably expected. Given that Marcus Mariota was sacked by the Patriots eight times in the divisional round, Tennessee could look to upgrade the pass-blocking on the interior of the offensive line.
26. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)

All the Falcons had to do was beat Nick Foles. I suppose that’s actually a lot harder than holding on to a 28-3 lead. Regardless, Atlanta blew a pretty decent opportunity to at least pick in the back four.

 

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5)

The Saints made great strides on defense this year but still could use help if they’re going to win another Super Bowl with Drew Brees.

 

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)

After flirting with retirement a year ago, Ben Roethlisberger indicated after the Steelers’ loss to the Jaguars in the divisional round that he intends to return next season. Even so, Pittsburgh could try to get a jump on finding his successor by drafting an early-round quarterback.

Projected 29-32, from FPI (as of Week 17):

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)
30. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
31. Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
32. New England Patriots (13-3)

Authentic Cheap NBA Nike Sacramento Kings Womens Jerseys China 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After preaching patience most of the season, Vince Carter is seeing signs of growth from his young Sacramento teammates.

It certainly helps when the 40-year-old eight-time All-Star can be a part of things, too.

Carter scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and the Kings held off the Denver Nuggets 106-98 on Saturday night.

De’Aaron Fox had 18 points and seven assists, Willie Cauley-Stein added 17 points and Buddy Hield had 14.

“We have a lot of talent around here, it’s just patience,” Carter said. “They have to learn how to play this game and have to go through all the different scenarios that you could possibly face in an NBA game, and you won’t see that until the second part of the season.

“Everybody wants to see that growth, they want to see it now, and it doesn’t happen that way.”

Sacramento was up 13 early in the fourth, but Denver rallied and Trey Lyles’ layup pulled the Nuggets to 92-89 with 5:22 remaining.

Cauley-Stein made back-to-back layups for the Kings and, after Will Barton made a 3-pointer for the Nuggets, Hield made a short jumper and Coleman hit a 3-pointer to help Sacramento pull away.

The Kings had dropped four straight, including both matchups this season.

“We’re not a finished product but it’s a step in the right direction,” Sacramento coach Dave Joerger said.

Lyles led Denver with 19 points, Jamal Murray added 18, and Will Barton and Gary Harris had 17 apiece.

The loss capped a frustrating night for Denver, which was playing the second half of a back-to-back. The Nuggets committed a season-high 26 turnovers, missed four consecutive free throws down the stretch and coach Mike Malone — who previously coached in Sacramento — was hit with a technical foul. Sacramento capitalized on almost every mistake Denver made and scored 40 points off turnovers.

That wasn’t the type of performance Malone was looking for two days before playing the Golden State Warriors.

“Bottom line is you gave a team that had three days off life by giving them 40 points off of your mistakes,” Malone said. “If you do that in a couple nights in Oakland, you’ll get beat by 50.”

The Nuggets erased most of an early 12-point deficit but fell apart after going scoreless for 5 1/2 minutes while missing their first nine shots in the second. Denver’s frustrations boiled over when Malone, who spent one-plus seasons coaching in Sacramento, picked up a technical foul.

Things didn’t get much better in the third. The Nuggets, who had 15 turnovers in the first half, made another to open the second half when Cauley-Stein intercepted the inbounds pass at midcourt and drove in for a dunk.

KINGS FIRE SCOUTING DIRECTOR

The Kings fired scouting director and former assistant general manager Mike Bratz, who was previously an assistant coach in Sacramento under Rick Adelman and Eddie Jordan. “We agreed to part ways and appreciate all of his contributions to the Kings,” the team said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the best.”

STEALING THE SPOTLIGHT
Cauley-Stein led the Kings’ defensive charge with a career-best seven steals that also matches the most in the NBA this season. Overall Sacramento had 16 steals. “Just being ready and active, being in the right spots on defense,” Cauley-Stein said. “That’ll happen. It’s big. It feels good.”

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Denver shot 46.1 percent, slightly better than Sacramento, but never led. Barton didn’t score until 1:28 remained in the third. . Kenneth Faried sat out his fourth consecutive game because of coach’s decision.

Kings: Carter had a season-high eight rebounds. . It’s the first time this season Sacramento has led the entire game. . Center Zach Randolph (oral surgery) and guard George Hill (personal reasons) did not play.

China Cincinnati Reds Cheap Baseball Hoodies For Sale 2018

The Cincinnati Reds signed right-handed reliever Jared Hughes to a two-year contract on Tuesday, the team announced.

The deal also has a team option for the 2020 season.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but The Associated Press reported that Hughes will get $2,125,000 in each of the next two seasons. The Reds’ option in 2020 is worth $3 million with a $250,000 buyout, according to the AP.

Hughes tweeted about joining the Reds after the deal was announced.
Jared Hughes

@locatejared
When playing in Cincinnati, you can feel the baseball history. The Queen City is the heart of not just the @MLB, but all of professional baseball. I am thrilled to join the @Reds. I look forward to winning and adding to the history!
3:37 AM – Dec 27, 2017
147 147 Replies 421 421 Retweets 2,553 2,553 likes
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Hughes, 32, went 5-3 with a 3.02 ERA and one save in 67 appearances (59 2/3 innings) for the Milwaukee Brewers last season.

He spent the first six seasons of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and has a 2.86 ERA in 369 career innings. He is 20-16 with four saves in 380 appearances.