the Ravens need much more from their ground attack to match their Joe Flacco-led passing game

The disappointment of the last two years in Baltimore is balanced by the perpetual promise of a stable organization. With that said, another year of mediocrity could threaten coach John Harbaugh’s job security.

On offense, the Ravens need much more from their ground attack to match their Joe Flacco-led passing game, which now includes Jeremy Maclin. On defense, contributions from newcomers Marlon Humphrey and Tyus Bowser will be needed to help a unit that allowed 28 passing touchdowns last season.

There is a lot to sift through in Gruden’s remarks, especially with the NFL’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring after the 2020 season, near the time when Gruden’s ESPN contract expires in 2021. But don’t expect him to be the next coach of Ole Miss, or any college football program for that matter.

Yeah, when I first got fired I went to Alabama and spent a couple of days with Nick Saban, Gruden said about his time after being fired by the Buccaneers on January 16, 2009. Then I went to Oregon and spent four or five days out there with Chip Kelly just to see two polar opposite programs that were very successful. I was very determined to be a college coach. Then I realized that if I became a college coach I would probably have you on probation within four or five weeks.

Too many rules, man. I mean I like to work. I don’t like to be working 15 hours a week with players. The recruiting, Facebook, texting, e-mails all that stuff. Yeah, I’d probably have you in real deep, deep trouble if I was your college coach.

Gruden may just be keeping his ear to the sport and scouting for his role as a “Monday Night Football” analyst, but it’s the first time he’s said he’s actually preparing for a new gig on a daily basis.

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A dream come true can be awfully hectic.

His girlfriend, Faith Jewkes, started crying when she met up with him at McCoy Stadium. His parents, Mark and Kim, were at first skeptical on the phone, asking whether their son was serious. Of course he was, so they needed to act fast and find a plane of their own.

So many questions, so much to do, so little time. A dream come true can be awfully hectic.

Frazier is not the only Yankee living out his childhood fantasy this season. Ten pinstripers have made their major league debuts in 2017 and the second half is only just getting started. To put that in perspective, a total of 10 Yankees debuted all of last season.

“It’s a unique experience for all of us, you know?” Frazier, 22, told Sporting News. “It’s been really cool for all of us to experience the big leagues for the first time together.”

In addition to the first-timers, youngsters like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and more have truly turned New York into the Baby Bombers while enjoying varying degrees of success.

Angels (vs. Nationals)
Status heading into series: 46-49, 3.5 out of a wild-card spot
The bright side: This series doesn’t start until Tuesday, and facing the Nationals represents quite a challenge. Think about this: The Angels haven’t won a playoff game in the Mike Trout era (they were swept in their only appearance, the 2014 ALDS) and that has to change, right? They have to make a push, right? Winning a series against the Nationals would maybe convince ownership this team can contend for the next couple of months. On the other hand: This doesn’t look like a rotation that’s capable of producing the consistency necessary for an extended playoff run. They’re already out of the AL West picture, and if they get swept by the Nationals or even lose the series, their wild-card hill to climb will become even steeper.
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Dewayne Dedmon inks deal with Hawks, report says

The Hawks have reportedly found another center.

A month after sending Dwight Howard to the Hornets, the Hawks signed Dewayne Dedmon to a two-year, $14 million deal with a player option on the second season, according to The Vertical.

Dedmon, 27, spent last season with the Spurs, where he averaged 5.1 points and 6.5 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game. He appeared in 76 games and started in 37.

With Howard, Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. no longer with the rebuilding Hawks, this will be Dedmon’s best time to shine. The 7-footer will be great under the basket but will need to fight for playing time with centers Mike Muscala, Miles Plumlee and Diamond Stone on the Hawks roster.

For Galloway’s part, this is an overpay of a couple million per year, but it’s one that might work out in the end. At 6-2 with long arms, Galloway is a tough perimeter defender who can knock opposing players off their game. He’s best at defending point guards, but good at defending 2s as well.

The questions are on the offensive end, where Galloway is stil a streaky shooter that doesn’t give you much attacking the basket due to his inefficiency inside the arc. On the plus side: Galloway hit 39 percent on over 300 3-point attempts last season, so the streakiness might be going away. To end up being worth this deal, he’ll need to solidify those marks from 3, and he must become a better playmaker for others or a more efficient scorer in the paint.

We’ll see how the Detroit backcourt shakes out, but Galloway’s fit with Kennard off the bench would be stellar if you believe (like I do) that Kennard might be able to initiate some offense. He’s a solid fourth guard right now with the upside to be a top bench option if things break right. The Pistons are paying for the potential of the top-end outcome, but it could be fine in the end.
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Isaiah Thomas’ clutch explosion aided by Wizards’ lack of adjustments

Celtics star Isaiah Thomas was an absolute force in the final quarter and overtime of Game 2 against the Wizards Tuesday night. The diminutive point guard scored 29 of his 53 points in the fourth and OT and outscored the Wizards 9-5 by himself in the bonus period, leading Boston to a 129-119 win at TD Garden.

Thomas did it all offensively — drives to the basket, midrange jumpers, 3-pointers. Everything was working. It was an unstoppable tour de force that was met with whatever is the opposite of an immovable object. As good (exceptionally good) as Thomas was, he climbed over the 50-point plateau in part because the Wizards offered no solutions in guarding him.

Many observers thought the No. 2 seed Spurs would make quick work of the No. 7 seeded Grizzlies in this series. The Spurs are basketball royalty, with five NBA titles in the past 18 seasons. The Grizzlies are still trying to find their way out of the postseason wilderness; they’ve advanced past the first round of the playoffs only three times in 22 seasons of play.

Bad news for the Spurs: the fourth time could come in this playoff series. Memphis has a lot of weapons both in the starting lineup and on the bench. Everyone knows what Conley can do. He finished with 35 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and is averaging 27.7 ppg over the last three games.

Gasol added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Andrew Harrison, 22, came off the bench for some key minutes, including a critical block in overtime that might have saved the game for Memphis. Vince Carter, who’s almost twice Harrison’s age, continued to surprise, scoring 13 against the Spurs.

And in first-year coach David Fizdale, the Grizzlies have found a leader who is not just colorful in his media sessions, but knows his Xs and Os, too. He also knows the Grizzlies still face an uphill battle, with two of the final three games in the series (if it goes seven games) in San Antonio.

Steph Curry has NBA’s top-selling jersey, four Warriors in Top 11

Stephen Curry has the No. 1 selling jersey in the NBA. Two titles and back-to-back MVPs will do that for somebody.

And while Curry’s being No. 1 on that list may not be surprising, to see that four Golden State Warriors in the Top 11 might catch some off-guard.

Kevin Durant is third, Klay Thompson is 10th and Draymond Green is 11th. To see Green in the Top 11 may be the most surprising of all of the players, but NBA fans love their instigators and Green is the biggest instigator in the sport.

People love the way he plays and how he has helped the Warriors win two of the last three NBA titles.

It wasn’t the best follow-up to a Super Bowl win, and Elway may or may not have guessed wrong at quarterback after being blessed with Peyton Manning for so long. And time will tell whether Vance Joseph was the right hire to replace Gary Kubiak — but he set the bar high there when Kubiak ended up as the perfect replacement for John Fox. Expect the Broncos to keep contending.

Yes, the same McKenzie who was Sporting News’s Executive of the Year in 2016 … and who was dead last in this ranking just two years ago. He has done everything right since, including this offseason, pulling Oakland’s own Marshawn Lynch out of retirement and taking care of Derek Carr’s contract nice and early. No one will ever know if the Raiders could have taken the Patriots down in the playoffs last year, because Carr got hurt. It’s safe to wonder if they can do it now.chargers_007

NBA Finals 2017: Game 4 conspiracy theory makes no sense

When Draymond Green was assessed a technical foul in the third quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals but not ejected from the game Friday night, conspiracy theorists pounced.

Virtually everyone watching the game – including ABC’s announcers and the scorers at Quicken Loans Arena – thought the technical was Green’s second of the game, which would have resulted in an automatic ejection. According to the referees, though, the first technical was called on Warriors coach Steve Kerr, not Green.

“I’m not doing that,” he told reporters at a news conference Tuesday while generally vowing to stay the course despite his team’s plight.

Basic Cavs/Ty Lue message at practice today: Won’t change lineup, won’t change pace, won’t make big adjustments, just play a little better.

Smith has attempted only six shots from the field in just more than 42 minutes of court time through the first two games of the Finals, making one of them. He played only 13 minutes, 59 seconds in Game 2.

Shumpert was on the floor for 21:41 in Game 2, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him surpass Smith’s minutes again going forward, no matter who gets the start.

This is now known as the Giannis Antetokounmpo draft. The Cavs took Anthony Bennett at No. 1, and he can’t even make an NBA roster these days. Orlando had the second pick and went with Victor Oladipo, now with the Thunder after three so-so seasons with the Magic. After the “Greek Freak,” the second-best player in the draft shapes up as another little-known international player at the time. Utah wound up with defensive ace Rudy Gobert, taken at No. 27 by Denver and then immediately traded to the Jazz.
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The Seahawks were 10-5-1 in the regular season despite ranking No. 25 in rushing yards.

That’s what happens when a consistent weakness suddenly turns into a strength when it counts the most. For most NFL teams, a solid rushing attack represents make or break in the playoffs. For Seattle, it’s gravy.

The Seahawks were 10-5-1 in the regular season despite ranking No. 25 in rushing yards. Only the Giants and Lions were worse among playoff teams.

They already were a very dangerous passing team with Russell Wilson. They still stop the run and rush the passer better than anyone in the playoffs.

But the lack of a reliable running game meant too much pressure on Wilson and that defense, which has a major chink in it without safety Earl Thomas. The defense needed help in keeping it’s legs fresh so it could play tighter against the pass in the second half.

Rawls’ second breakout game worked well on both accounts. It opened up favorable coverages and big-play opportunities for Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson because the Lions couldn’t afford not to commit an extra defender to run support. It also allowed the Seahawks to possess the ball for nearly 37 minutes.

Similarly, Bill Belichick can make the same claim as Brady, plus one. Belichick now has 25 postseason wins (25-10) as head coach, 24 with Brady and the Patriots and one as head coach of the Cleveland Browns (1994 regular season). Yes, he went 11-5 with a trio of running backs named Leroy Hoard, Eric Metcalf and an aging Ernest Byner.

If you include Belichick’s stint as defensive coordinator with the New York Giants, he’s coached in eight Super Bowls, having won six of them.

York has been the constant in the quick rise and the precipitous fall. He took over operation of the franchise in 2009 and oversaw the descent to the bottom under an overmatched coach and GM.
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Ben Roethlisberger not committing to playing for Steelers next season

At 34 years old (35 in March), Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is starting to think about calling it a career.

Appearing Tuesday on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger was asked about returning for his 14th NFL season and said he’s ‘going to evaluate things’ with his family. He wants to make sure a return to football would be the ‘right thing’ to do.

Bisciotti, 56, has a point though it’s not one typically voiced by an NFL owner.

Commercials usually air after a team scores, after the kicker attempts the extra point and after the scoring team kicks off. For a sequence of events that should last just a minute or two, commercials make it much longer.

Of course, everyone involved in the NFL benefits from advertisers airing their commercials, but Bisciotti is willing to work around that to shorten games.

Weve got to figure that out,Bisciotti said. Again, if you change that, it could mean a reduction in income, but thats going to hit the players more significantly than its going to hit the owners. I still dont know any owner thats in this business because of the money.

Everything is on the table, and if we have to go to ABC and NBC and say that weve got to cut some commercials out and give some money back and half of that money doesnt go into the player pool, maybe thats what were going to have to do. But our expenses would be adjusted accordingly too. So, Id like to see some things cleaned up.rams_002

only seven ever have won an MVP award and only one has earned a Cy Young.

When Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last summer, he became the first man selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft to land in Cooperstown.

What’s more, of the 51 men who have been picked No. 1, only seven ever have won an MVP award and only one has earned a Cy Young.

The fact is Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft, held since 1965, has produced as many busts as future superstars among the players selected with the No. 1 pick. For every Chipper Jones or Bryce Harper, there is a Steve Chilcott or Brien Taylor. And many of the top picks fall somewhere in the middle.

By all accounts, the Pirates were thrilled with their pick.

“Tool-wise, he’s got everything you’re looking for as a complete ballplayer,” Buzzy Keller, the Pirates’ director of player development, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in August 1987. “You might find some players who run faster and throw harder, but his combination (of tools) and makeup make him a complete player.”

One anonymous scout told the Post-Gazette back then that Merchant was the best prospect to come out of Florida in nearly 30 years. Still another compared him to then Cincinnati Reds outfielder Eric Davis.

Not only does he currently showcase top of the line stuff, but his 6-2, 180-pound frame could easily support more weight that could, in theory, continue to increase his velocity. Often, scouts and analysts will speak of a player’s projectability and upside, referring to where that player could be down the road, and Gore is a classic example of this; He has really good stuff right now, but could have great stuff after a few years in the minors. And that has teams drooling.

Gore may take a little longer than others on this list to make it to the big leagues, but he’ll be worth the wait. Expect to see the youngster make his debut in late 2020 or early 2021.nike_cardinals_532

Michael and Martellus Bennett pull out of Israel-bound NFL delegation

Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and his brother, Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, are foregoing a trip to Israel by several NFL players because of the country’s human rights policies regarding Palestinians, the Seattle Times reports.

Bill Belichick and Vince Lombardi: Troy Aikman, FOX analyst for Super Bowl 51 and three-ring QB for the Cowboys, caused a mild stir by suggesting the Lombardi Trophy should be renamed the Belichick Trophy.

Somehow, that blew up into disrespecting Lombardi and more invoking of “Belicheat.” Both coaches are all-time greats, one just came before the other, and you know, won the first two of the games that became the Super Bowl. If Belichick doesn’t care about the trophy name, everybody should just chill.

Falcons and inexperience: Wait, the Falcons are a young team with a lot of young players playing in the Super Bowl for the first time? Thanks for letting us know, over and over again.

Wait, what’s this? The Patriots have a lot more championship experience that might give them an advantage of Sunday? Whoa. Mind. Blown.

Fun fact: More experienced Team A vs. less experienced Team B has happened in every single Super Bowl.seahawks_091