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Titans' Adoree' Jackson has the goods, but not the job

When the Titans open the season Sept. 10 against the Oakland Raiders, it’s possible neither of their first-round picks will make a significant impact on the game.
In the case of receiver and No. 5 overall pick Corey Davis, it’s a matter of injury and time. He will matter this season. But the hamstring he injured Aug. 3 has kept him out since then, will keep him out of Sunday’s third preseason game against Chicago and then there’s no telling. Davis has said he’ll play in the opener, but the Titans are not going to rush anything with an injury that can linger and a player they’ll need.
In the case of cornerback and No. 18 overall pick Adoree’ Jackson, he’ll have a chance to impact every game this season as a returner – he’s as dangerous as advertised, confirmed in Saturday’s 34-27 preseason win over the Carolina Panthers. But on the days he is contained in that aspect, he may have nothing else to do with the outcome.
At least that’s how it looks with two preseason games to go and no indication that Jackson is seriously pushing LeShaun Sims for a starting cornerback job. Brice McCain is working the slot as the fifth defensive back when the first-team defense goes to nickel coverage, while Jackson saw time on the outside and in the slot Saturday with the No. 2 defense.
That’s not what I expected to see by now, considering Jackson’s draft-day prominence and physical gifts. I also didn’t know Sims would be this solid and consistent, and with free-agent pickup Logan Ryan locked in as a starter on the other side, this is partly about a secondary that has some depth and a chance to improve on last season’s dismal bottom line.
Still, Jackson was picked where he was picked to help this defense. He does enough spectacular things in individual drills to make you think that’s an inevitability. But there’s much more to succeeding in the complexity of Dick LeBeau’s defense.
“When you draft an athlete in the first round, you’re expecting him to come in and contribute pretty quickly, and I think Adoree’ is doing a great job,” LeBeau said this week. “He has a long way to go yet, so we’ll see. But he himself is doing an excellent job.”
You hear nothing but praise for the 5-foot-11 Jackson inside the Titans locker room. Rishard Matthews called him a “ball hawk” and said: “He’s not just your regular corner who’s just going to defend you. He’s going to defend you and also look up for the interception.”
“He’s a good guy, man. He’s a good teammate,” Ryan said of his young understudy. “And he handles everything coming at him pretty well. Nothing’s too much for Adoree’ on his plate. He’s making the most of his opportunity, returned that punt, made some plays on defense. He’s not pressing.”
Saturday did look like a step for Jackson, beyond the called-back 63-yard punt return that saw him split Carolina’s gunners and blaze past everyone else on his way to the end zone. He finally played corner in the fourth defensive series, with the twos, and he went on a little run in the fifth series.
He was in the slot, with McCain and Kalan Reed on Todd Frazier Youth Jersey the outside, when he read a receiver screen to Russell Shepard, darted past a block and finished an ankle tackle. He went across the field to tackle running back Fozzy Whittaker. He provided sticky coverage on Shepard and star Kelvin Benjamin on consecutive pass plays that went elsewhere.
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Brian Cushing among Texans players wearing new helmets

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Inside linebacker Brian Cushing is among some Texans players wearing the new Vicis Zero1 helmet that's designed to keep players from suffering concussions.
"There are advances in technology and awareness every year of trying to prevent (concussions) as much as possible," Cushing said. "There's been (improvement) by leaps and bounds, and they've really established themselves as (having) a good helmet.
"I was pleasantly surprised with it."
Vicis says the Zero1's "multiple layers work together to slow impact forces. The helmet features a soft outer shell and an underlying layer of columns designed to mitigate collisions from multiple directions."
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Vrabel impresses in new role with Texans

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Mike Vrabel isn't making any drastic changes in his first season as the Houston Texans' defensive coordinator.
After what the unit did last year, he knows that isn't necessary. The defense was the strength of the team in 2016 and finished the season allowing the fewest yards per game in the league despite defensive end J.J. Watt missing all but three games because of back surgery.
"I'm not really trying to put my stamp on our defense," Vrabel said. "I'm just trying to coordinate a group of professional athletes that were successful last year as a group ... our guys play hard and I appreciate that. So, I don't know if that's my stamp or that's their stamp, but we try to have a culture that is built around competitiveness and winning."
Vrabel spent three seasons as Houston's linebackers coach before he was promoted to coordinator when Romeo Crennel became the assistant head coach. As the Texans prepare for their second preseason game Saturday night against the New England Patriots, coach Bill O'Brien has already been impressed with the work he's done in his new role.
"They're doing a good job over there mixing it up. We're mixing it up," O'Brien said. "I think he's doing a good job. He's very organized, detailed, works very hard. He's got a great way with the players, so I think so far, so good."
Before becoming a coach, Vrabel spent 14 seasons as a linebacker for Pittsburgh, New England and Kansas City, where he piled up 511 tackles and 57 sacks. His extensive playing experience is a big reason why the players have taken to him so well as a coach.
"He brings (enthusiasm) every day and we just kind of feed off of his energy," cornerback Kareem Jackson said. "He's been in the situations that we've been in and some big-time ball games. So, we're definitely going to follow him. He's going to be our leader, and he's a great leader for us."
Vrabel spent the bulk of his career with New England, spending 2001-08 there and winning three Super Bowl titles. This week when the Patriots and Texans had joint practices, it gave Vrabel a chance to catch up with some old friends and gave those friends an opportunity to laud him for work he's done in his coaching career.
New England coach Bill Belichick wasn't surprised that Vrabel transitioned into coaching when his playing career was done.
"He could call signals, he had great leadership, was a multi-year captain, so his leadership, his presence, his communication, awareness, situational awareness in addition to just being a good football player, those things were traits that carried over into coaching," Belichick said. "And Mike's one of the physically and mentally toughest players I've ever coached, so I'm sure that will serve him well in this profession, too."
Vrabel credited Belichick for helping him develop as a player when he joined the Patriots after spending four years with the Steelers where he didn't start a single game.
"If you can pay attention and focus in the meetings, you can learn a lot," Vrabel said.
Tom Brady is thrilled to see his former teammate and close friend moving up the coaching ranks and can already see him doing even more.
"It won't be long before he's a head coach," Brady said. "He's just got a great presence. He was a great player for us. He's been one of my great friends for a long time ... I love the guy and what he's accomplished."
The Texans enjoy Vrabel's coaching style and Brenton Bersin Jersey believe his energy rubs off on them and makes them better every day. He brushes off such compliments, and said he's just focused on trying to get the most out of a talented defense led by Watt which also includes 2014 No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and veterans Brian Cushing and Johnathan Joseph.
"They know I'm passionate, they know that I do this for one reason, and that's to make the players better," Vrabel said. "I can't (play) anymore. I love the game. I love every coach that I've played for. I felt like they've made me better, from Bill Belichick all the way down to a college coach. I've played for great guys and they tried to make me better and I try to do the same thing for them."
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How does Panthers WR Brenton Bersin stay in the NFL? Guys like him have a label

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Every season is going to be Carolina receiver Brenton Bersin’s NFL finale. Receivers arrive in the draft and from other teams. Some of the new receivers dazzle us with their hands and speed. And there’s Bersin.
Bersin, 27, seems to have come with Spartanburg. When the Panthers elected to hold training camp at Wofford, owner Jerry Richardson’s school, there was Bersin standing in the middle of the field.
Bersin is from Charlotte and played at Wofford. If (when) he makes the Panthers he’ll begin his fourth season with the team. In 2013, he tried out for and was cut by the Panthers, and in 2014 he made the practice squad. Last season he caught two passes for 17 yards. In three seasons he has caught 24 passes for 287 yards.
You see the newer, sleeker receiver models show up. They look like Porsches. And then, on the used car part of the lot, there’s an older model. He looks like a van.
But if Bersin were easily expendable he would have been gone years ago. I think of one training camp practice in which he ran crisp routes, made nice catches and always was in the right place for his quarterbacks to find. He was that day as good as anybody on the field.
Linebacker Thomas Davis saw the surprise on the faces of the media and laughed.
Davis said he wasn’t surprised. He said he sees Bersin work like that in practice all the time.
There are stars in the NFL. There also Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie Kids Jersey are survivors. I like Bersin. I bet he survives another season.
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BAR: Who should get the next statue at Great American Ball Park?

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The Blog Above Replacement a daily look at the Reds, their minor leagues and whatever else is on the mind of Enquirer Reds beat writers, C. Trent Rosecrans and Zach Buchanan. You can follow them on Twitter (@ctrent and @ZachENQ), Facebook (C. Trent Rosecrans and Zach Buchanan) and Instagram (ENQReds).
It’s Friday and that means it’s mailbag time.
I’d say there are two choices – Barry Larkin and Marty Brennaman.
The Great Eight was that, but we’re talking a Hall of Famer here and a winner of the Hall of Fame’s Frick Award.
Larkin was not only a Hall of Fame player, he was a noted leader and a native Cincinnatian to boot. He checks off all the boxes for me (and to me, the perfect pose is from Michael Keating’s picture from the 1990 World Series with Larkin’s hands in the air celebrating the last out shown above.)
And then there’s Marty. He’s the Reds to several generations of fans, as much a part of the 1990 team as the 1975 and 1976 team. I could see it being done to commemorate his final year, which hopefully won’t be for another 20 years or so. The question is, what hair style do we get?
It's good. I think he can be here the rest of the year and has a good chance to be here for a while. A recent Baseball America poll of International League coaches and managers named him the best reliever in the International League.
Well, I don’t like to read too much into two games good or bad, but he at least has the floor of a fourth outfielder because of his mix of power and speed.
He’s had two pretty good days and there is certainly talent there.
I was born in 1975. I didn’t see Davey Concepcion in his prime. Many of those who did, say he belongs. Me? I didn’t see that.
I only see the numbers, and the numbers don’t back that up.
I am a Hall of Fame voter, but Concepcion wouldn’t be on my ballot, that’s up to the Eras Committees, what was once referred to as the Veteran’s Committee. The people who complain about the writers and their election results certainly haven’t been paying attention to the veteran’s committee, which used to be rife with cronyism and now is exclusionary, having not elected a living player since Bill Mazeroski in 2001.
So to answer your question, I don't see him getting in.
Now this is my kind of question.
I’m going to Atlanta this weekend and you Trai Turner Womens Jersey can pretty much go anywhere in Krog Street Market and find an amazing meal. I’ll also go to bat for Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q.
Since we do most of our travel in the NL Central, that’s my wheelhouse, so I’ll do my top picks for each NL City.
• Pittsburgh – Gaucho. It may be my favorite place in baseball.
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Giants' Johnny Cueto: Plays catch, feels normal

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Cueto (flexor strain) played catch on flat ground prior to Friday's game for the first time since initially feeling discomfort on July 31, and said everything felt normal, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports.
Cueto has hinted that the injury is something he could probably pitch through in a playoff setting, but considering the Giants are just playing out the string, everyone is taking a cautious approach with his recovery. His next step is to be determined, but a return to the big-league rotation in late August is still a possibility.
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Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury: Back in leadoff role Wednesday

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Ellsbury will start in center field and lead off Wednesday against the Mets.
A night after hitting seventh, Ellsbury will jump six spots in the order to set the table for the Yankees with Brett Gardner receiving the evening off to rest. Manager Joe Girardi has been rotating in a number of different players at designated hitter of late with Matt Holliday (back) on the disabled list, but it appears that Ellsbury could be the main beneficiary of the shuffling of the lineup more often than not. Ellsbury will be making his sixth start in eight games Wednesday.
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Film Room: Christian McCaffery shines in short stint vs. Titans

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The scoreboard may have shown Titans 34, Panthers 27, but the tape shows some brilliant play from Carolina rookie sensation Christian McCaffery.
McCaffery may have only played nine snaps against the Titans on Saturday, but he easily filled the highlight reel and box score.
McCaffery rushed three times for 33 yards, including a 17-yard scamper for a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 39 yards, one of those for 38 yards on a screen.
Let’s dive into those two plays in particular to see what went right to allow McCaffrey to go off.
The Panthers line up in 12 personnel with Kelvin Benjamin in close to the formation at X and Devin Funchess split out at Z. Greg Olsen is the in-line Y tight end and Ed Dickson lines up at fullback, with McCaffery at tailback.
Andrew Norwell is the pulling guard and collides with the edge defender down the line of scrimmage. This looks like your typical trap play with Dickson leading up the middle. That’s really all McCaffery needed, as he let his speed to the rest. Norwell’s block sealing the edge and Dickson’s block up the middle springs the hole open, McCaffery finds it, races to the edge past the second level and into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
Credit also goes to Benjamin for selling the post route and taking the cornerback with him, opening up the right side of the field.
The Panthers again are in 12 personnel, as Dickson is again lined up in the backfield, lining up directly behind the tackle and tight end. Benjamin and Funchess line up in twins to the left, tight end right. The receivers all clear out, leaving space in the short field for McCaffery to operate.
The Titans send a cornerback on the blitz, but the Panthers let him go, which is what you want on a quick screen: let defenders come up and attack and take themselves out of the play. Excellent job by Trai Turner. A quick punch, selling pass protection, then getting out and making the block for McCaffery in the open field. Tyler Larsen, the backup center, also does a nice job staying with his block, as McCaffery races past them, also picking up extra yards thanks to an extra block downfield by Dickson, resulting in a gain of 38.
Next week is the regular season tune-up Todd Frazier Kids Jersey against the Jacksonville Jaguars, so expect to see quite a bit more of No. 22, and potentially more highlights.
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We know he is the shortest player in baseball. Barely 5-foot-6.
We know that fans adore him. Check out the crowds asking for autographs.
And we know he’s really good.
But if you want to see the true “Altuve Effect,” check out the MVP candidate during pregame warmups.
It’s worth it.
When the Houston Astros are on the road for a 7:10 p.m. start, their warmup window begins at 5 p.m. and ends at 6. We recently shadowed Altuve before a game against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. Here’s what you need to know:
José Altuve is a magnet.
Born in Puerto Cabello, a major port on the north coast of Venezuela west of Caracas, his popularity knows no limits. Everyone wants to be around him. Latino players. White players. Black players. Pitchers. Infielders. Outfielders. Rival players.
Players lean on him. They steal his hat. They ask him questions. They tell him jokes. And according to the Astros’ media relations people, this happens before every game, regardless of what city they’re in.
When Altuve begins stretching outside of the batting cage, you almost lose him in the mat. He takes up a tiny amount of space, but we don’t have to be reminded to never judge him by his height.
Five All-Star appearances
Three Silver Slugger Awards
Two AL batting titles
Two AL stolen base titles
2015 Gold Glove Award
Oh, and the kids love him. A pack of young White Sox fans started randomly calling his name. “Altuve! Altuve! Over here!” No reaction.
An older man told the kids, “Everyone yell ‘José’ at the same time. 1, 2, 3 … JOSÉ!”
Altuve immediately turned around, smiled brightly and waved at the kids, who of course, cheered wildly. He’s the shortest player in Major League Baseball, but everyone wants his attention.
So, how does he do it? How does he bring so much energy to the game and still perform, leading the majors with 163 hits and a .361 average as of Aug. 14? Why do players flock to him? Why is he the team leader of the best team in the Star Lotulelei Kids Jersey American League?
It may be his basic approach to the game.
“I have a job that I like. I always dreamt of being a ballplayer. I’ve loved [this game] since I was a young kid,” Altuve said in Spanish. “I’m working at something I really like. That’s why I play.”
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Dalvin Tomlinson Rookie Blog: NFL Debut Reaction

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It was exciting. I always get butterflies before any type of game, so I expect that every game day. I’m just going out there, getting used to the new atmosphere in the NFL, getting used to the speed of the game, the plays we run, the schemes we run, the different offensive schemes we get to see, and just different things like that. So my goal was just to get used to that and just take it all in.
It was crazy putting on the full uniform for the first time. It was a crazy feeling just because I’m used to wearing crimson on game day. But going out there with that blue jersey, it was amazing. I enjoyed it, just going out there with my new teammates and it was just a great moment to take in. When I walked out of the tunnel, I had to just take a minute and take everything in because MetLife Stadium is amazing. There’s nothing like an NFL game and everything that goes into it.
My first play, we got an interception. Valentino Blake got the interception, so I can’t complain about that start to my career. I thought he was going to run behind me so I could get a lead block. But I saw everybody cut back across the field, I look back, he had already cut across the field, so I was like, there’s nothing much else I can do right now. Definitely a great start.
I feel like, from that game, I learned it’s all about the small details. I pretty much got used to the speed of the game for the most part, but the different schemes that different teams run, I just need to make sure I pick up the schemes a little bit better. That way, I can be more prepared on game day.
Now we’re back grinding out the last days of camp. Training camp’s training camp. There’s not much to explain. It’s been good. It’s more chill physically than college, as you know Coach Saban can put it to you down there. It’s more mental here. I also like it a lot more up here because you actually get a breeze, rather than just the heat waves you get day after day in Alabama. So I’m enjoying training camp. It’s all a process.
Don’t forget to follow the second-round Curtis Samuel Womens Jersey pick on Twitter @DalvinTomlinson.
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Counterpoint: Why Tajae Sharpe’s roster spot is not (and should not be) guaranteed

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WARNING: You’re probably not going to like this article.
Yesterday Graver wrote a great piece about Tajae Sharpe and why he thinks he is a lock to make the Titans roster. Today, I’m going to present the argument for why I think there is a real shot that Sharpe is not a Titan when cut day comes on September 2nd. Before we get in to it, I want to say that I don’t hate Sharpe as a player. He was a revelation last year in camp and he absolutely outperformed his draft slot. He is, by all accounts, a hard working guy who wants to get better and make his team better. I like the guy. I just don’t think he’s a guarantee to make this roster and here are some reasons why.
I’m not saying that any of these stats below are the be-all-end-all measure of a good receiver, but each of them provides a little point of data that can help paint an overall picture of a player.
Wide Receiver Rating: 77.9 (73rd out of 96 in NFL with at least 25% targets)
This stat is simple. It is the QB rating for the team on throws to this player. This stat measures both the QB and the WR so you do end up with some good players towards the bottom of this list who are being dragged there by their QBs — guys like DeAndre Hopkins (91st), Allen Robinson (87th), and Terrelle Pryor (79th) all ranked very low — but I don’t think any of us think that was the case with Sharpe. Even if we did, it would be pretty easily refuted by pointing out that Rishard Matthews finished with a Wide Receiver Rating of 104.8, good for 27th in the NFL.
Yards Per Route Run: 1.08 (79th out of 96 qualified WRs)
This is one of my personal favorite stats for receivers because it cuts to the core of what a good receiver does: get open, make the catch, and generate yardage. There can be some noise in this stat as well though. For example, if a receiver is regularly designed to be the 2nd or 3rd option on most passing plays that can artificially Daeshon Hall Youth Jersey suppress his YPRR, but you simply don’t find good receivers at the bottom of the list with this stat.
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18 Seasons and 18 Stories That Represent the Cleveland Browns' Modern Era

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The Browns' preseason begins tonight against the Saints of New Orleans. Brock Osweiler, the latest name to bounce around the front office spin cycle, will take the helm at QB. You can almost write the rest of the season from there.
But before all of that begins, we'd like to take you on a trip into the past. Before we abandon all rationality and dive into a season of numbing pain, we, as Browns fans, must take a moment to remember from whence we came
Here, after 18 seasons, are the 18 stories that best encapsulate the modern Browns era.
18. Trading Our Opening Day Starting QB After One Game - Charlie Frye or Derek Anderson? Derek Anderson or Charlie Frye? Or maybe Brady Quinn? That was the question throughout training camp, leading up to the 2007 season. Charlie Frye won the job in camp. The hometown kid was tapped to start the opener. The whole town rallied behind him against the Steelers, the old rivals from across the border. Frye played less than one half of that season. He was benched before halftime, the team lost 41-7 and, the next day, the Browns traded him to Seattle. (This one was embarrassing at the time, but this move actually helped, as the Browns went 10-6 this year behind a career season from Derek Anderson.)
17.Draft Day - A movie being made about your hometown team should be exciting. But this fictional film wasn't about playing football, it was about the NFL Draft. And because of how awful they've been as a franchise, the Browns are now so synonymous with the NFL Draft that of course they were the subject of this film, an extremely unrealistic portrayal of what it's like in an NFL war room on the day of the draft. (Cleveland notoriously got the nod after Ohio's film tax credits beat the bottom line on what the studio would have to spend on the original subject, the Buffalo Bills.)
16. Two Bad Endings in 2015 - 2015 was another bad year for the Browns. Go figure. In the grand scheme of things, losses are actually helpful to the organization, always improving their draft position. But these two losses were just so bad that they had to be included.
The first loss was in October to the San Diego Chargers. The Browns moved the ball all the way down the field in a last-minute drive, scored a touchdown and converted for two points to tie the game up. San Diego then drove the ball back down to set up a last-second 39-yard field goal. Kicker Josh Lambo kicked the ball wide right, and it seemed like the Browns would get a chance to win the game in overtime. However, seconds after the miss, it was revealed that cornerback Tramon Williams was offsides. Lambo got another chance, made the field goal, and the Chargers won the game. However, replays clearly showed that Williams actually wasn't offsides; he said that the NFL told the Browns that they made the wrong call, the NFL denied they said anything.
The other loss was to the Ravens on Monday Night Football toward the end of the season. With the clock running down, quarterback Austin Davis scrambled to set up a potentially game-winning 51-yard field goal. Browns rookie kicker Travis Coons had connected on all 18 of his field goals up to that point. With time expiring, Coons attempted kick was blocked, the Ravens Will Hill picked it up, and ran 64 yards for the winning touchdown.
15. The Motorcycle Accident - The Browns had high hopes for tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., drafted with the sixth overall pick in 2004. Winslow broke his leg after two games of his rookie season. Then, after rehabbing his leg injury, he decided to get on a motorcycle a few months before the 2005 season. He got in an accident, tore his ACL, and missed the entire 2005 season. Winslow did have a couple of good years Tony Perez Jersey for the Browns, including an excellent 2007, but his career never reached the level that many had hoped.
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Herald-Journal/GoUpstate Boys Cross Country Preview

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A look at the area’s teams as the season gets underway.
Team Previews
Boiling Springs Bulldogs
Coach: Caleb Weathers
Last year’s region finish: Region III-5A champions
Last year’s state finish: 4th
Preseason ranking: No. 9 in 5A
Starters back: 4
Top individual runners: Kade Gosnell, jr., Region III-5A champion, all-state; Drew Thomas, sr., all-region, all-county; Tyler McCraw, sr.; Alex Forrest, jr.
Outlook: The Bulldogs claimed the school’s first region title last year and have some powerful runners at the top of the pack. They’ll need newcomers Stephen Forrest, Nathan Fish and Josh Steadman to step up in order to make a repeat happen. Gosnell will again be the favorite to win the region’s individual championship and will be a leader for the young Bulldogs.
Byrnes Rebels
Coaches: Kevin Wyatt, head; Tim Thigpen, Griffin Eubanks, assistants
Last year’s region finish: 5th in Region III-5A
Preseason ranking: No. 10 in 5A
Starters back: 7
Top individual runners: TJ Thipgen, so.; Aidan Hearne, sr.; Preston Slate, jr.; Daniel Kitts, so.; Clayton Stratton, sr.; Camden Stratton, eighth grade; Christian Burnette, fr.
Outlook: In order for the Rebels to compete against other top teams in their region they’ll need to shorten the distance between the Nos. 1 and 7 runners. Byrnes will have good leadership and has more experience and depth than in recent years.
Dorman Cavaliers
Coaches: Jeff Buys, head; Jacob Anderson, assistant
Last year’s region finish: 2nd in Region III-5A
Last year’s state finish: 6th
Preseason ranking: No. 4 in 5A
Starters back: 5
Top individual runners: Wynn Johnson, sr.; Noah McLain, sr., all-county, Alex Umberg, sr.; Jackson Reid, so.; Theo Morand, sr.; John Lee, jr.; Carter Sexton, so.
Outlook: The Cavaliers will be led by Johnson, who won the 1600- and 3200-meter state championships in track in the spring. They’ll miss two all-region performers but still have the runners to make a push for the conference championship. They must work on their depth as the season goes on.
Spartanburg Vikings
Coaches: Jack Todd, head; Mike Baird, Rebecca Jones, Casey Sumner
Last year’s region finish: 4th in Region III-5A
Starters back: 5
Top individual runners: Bryan Huff, jr.; Trevor Oyugi, jr.; Nathan Jones, jr.; Marvin Brooks, jr.; Will Kendrick, jr.; John Bolinger, eighth grade; Jack Graham, so.
Outlook: The Vikings didn’t qualify for the state meet last year but hope to change that this season as they return a quality core of Fozzy Whittaker Authentic Jersey juniors, even as they’ll miss Hudson McKinney. The Vikings have had a strong summer of training and have shown enthusiasm as they prepare for the new season.
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Why Panthers WRs Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess struggled in 2016

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The Carolina Panthers had a problem at the wide receiver position in 2016.
Kelvin Benjamin was close to 1,000 yards for the second time in his career, but behind him there was not much production to go around. Ted Ginn Jr. came in second with 752 yards, followed by Devin Funchess with 371. No other Panthers wide receiver had more than 276 yards for the year.
Carolina attempted to fix this conundrum by signing Tampa Bay Buccaneers standout Russell Shepard and drafting Curtis Samuel. The slot receiver position may be filled now, but the true problems were never there to begin with.
Here are three depressing facts about starters Benjamin and Funchess from last season.
Kelvin Benjamin ranked last in the league in separation
Benjamin is a big wide receiver. At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, he’s by no means the team’s the quickest player. That’s no excuse for his consistent lack of separation, though. Benjamin only managed 1.8 yards of separation on average, which ranked dead last among NFL players with 20 or more receptions in 2016.
Benjamin’s problem lies mostly in his poor route running. His routes are rudimentary and offer almost no ‘bait’ for the cornerback to take. You can tell which direction he is going to go by reading his hips almost immediately, as you can see here.
As you cans see, Benjamin’s route took him straight to the corner of the end zone. No fakes, stutters steps or head turns. James Bradberry was easily able to read the play and defend the pass as a result.
In this second example, you will see Benjamin employ a different strategy, but once again refusing to show any route-running prowess. Benjamin relies solely on his size to try to box out his defender.
Although it works on this play, it makes Benjamin’s playing style extremely one dimensional. Notice the lack of separation he gets here as well:
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Fantasy booms, busts and breakouts from Preseason Week 2

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Meaningful or meaningless? Starts, per usual, played only sparingly in the opening act of the Preseason, but several newcomers made statements, others underwhelmed in brief action. Below, Yahoo fanalysts Brad Evans, Andy Behrens and Liz Loza discuss guys moving up and down their cheat sheets.
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The biggest fantasy winner Preseason Week 2 was ________.
Brad – CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY. Reggie Bush. Marshall Faulk. NOT Danny Woodhead. McCaffrey resembled a number of RBs in a scintillating effort against the Titans. Carving out his own path of totality with the first-team offense, he cut, glided and dashed his way to 72 total yards and a TD on only five touches.
Yes, it’s the Preseason and all schemes are generic, but McCaffrey is a uniquely skilled player who could be deployed in a larger capacity than most originally anticipated. It’s very unlikely he surpasses 200 carries, but 13-14 touches per game is in the cards. Still, with Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart operating as goal-line gremlins, his TDs will be of the home run variety, probably topping out in the 5-7 range. Selectable in the latter portion of Round 2 in PPR, he’s also a worthy investment a few picks later in standard. For now, I’m confident he’ll finish around RB15 when the dust settles in December.
Andy – MARLON MACK won’t step into a featured role, like several other backs in this year’s rookie class. (See above and below.) But he was awesome against Dallas on Saturday. He was playing mostly against JV defenders and special teamers, but, well … look at this. He gained 59 yards on seven touches and generally looked like the angriest man on the field. Frank Gore will probably never retire, of course — he’ll finish as RB14 when he’s like 49 — but Mack sure looks like a playmaker.
Liz – DALVIN COOK. Steadily rising in my ranks since the Spring, Cook has been one of the most impressive rookies of the preseason. Lighting up defenders like one of Daenerys’ dragons, Cook managed 40 yards on seven attempts in his second preseason effort. Continuing to receive looks in the passing game, and demonstrating applause-worthy elusiveness, the rookie started the game and played through the first-half with the ones. The more time Latavius Murray misses, the more time Cook has to impress and to strengthen his hold on the RB1 duties. While the Vikings’ offensive line remains an issue, Cook’s volume and talent make him a top-fifteen fantasy prospect.
Conversely, the biggest fantasy loser Preseason Week 2 was ______.
Andy – I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s the guy who lost a significant position battle: PAXTON LYNCH. The second-year QB passed for only 39 yards on 13 attempts against the Niners, which ain’t easy. Trevor Siemian, who isn’t particularly good, has been named Denver’s starting quarterback. It’s ridiculous that an otherwise ready-to-win team finds itself in this situation. Lynch has to be viewed, at this stage, as a horrendous disappointment. The upside for every Broncos skill player is diminished by this abysmal quarterback mess.
Liz – LEGARRETTE BLOUNT. After logging over 300 total touches and crossing the goal line 18 times last season, Blount appears to be zapped of all power. Totaling just 17 yards on nine carries over the first two weeks of the preseason, whispers are swirling that the former Patriot is in jeopardy of being cut from Philly’s backfield.
With Ryan Mathews released, there was a massive opportunity for Blount, especially on early downs and near the end zone. However, after underwhelming in camp and in an offense that likes to feature pass-catching backs, Blount’s appeal has expired faster than a set of counterfeit eclipse glasses. While some are expecting Wendell Smallwood to earn the lead back job, I’d bank on Darren Sproles seeing the most fantasy friendly touches.
Brad – MIKE GILLISLEE. The New England backfield is a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. It’s complicated and hard to decipher for myriad reasons. However, one thing is coming into focus, Gillislee is overvalued (64.1 ADP, RB25).
Rex Burkhead, operating with the Vernon Butler Youth Jersey ones, performed brilliantly against the Texans. His versatility and interior power were on display en route to 70 total yards and a TD on 10 touches. A top-15 RB in juke rate a season ago and a phenomenal receiver (No. 3 in catch% in ’16), Burkhead is equipped to handle a multi-down role, including operating as the goal-line option. It’s entirely possible the late-round sleeper opens the season as the primary “big back.”
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FILM ROOM: DeShone Kizer, Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson debuts

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The Jacksonville Jaguars are about to bench their starting quarterback in favor of a journeyman quarterback who has just one season where he’s thrown for more touchdowns than interceptions.
The Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, and Cleveland Browns, however, all took big gambles in the 2017 NFL Draft to upgrade at that position.
Despite this quarterback class being rather underwhelming (on paper) compared to groups in years past, all four teams threw their cards on the table and hoped against hope that Lady Luck would reinvigorate their franchise.
Whether or not their shiny new quartet of signal callers — Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, Pat Mahomes, and DeShone Kizer — will work out in the long run is obviously still up in the air, but there is no doubt that the early returns have been fantastic. On this week’s episode of The Film Room, we’ll take a deep dive into each and every one of those four debut performances and what they mean for this quarterback class as a whole.
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Damiere Byrd looks like good bet to make Panthers roster

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Halfway through the exhibition schedule, the Panthers still have a lot of questions about the makeup of their roster.
Their secondary depth remains an issue, particularly at safety. Two of their drafted rookies are still dealing with injuries, and the first-team offense was a mess at Tennessee.
On the positive side, they have several players whose versatility provides a great deal of roster flexibility – not the least of whom is do-it-all, first-round pick Christian McCaffrey.
Projecting the Panthers’ 53-man roster.
QUARTERBACKS (3): Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Joe Webb.
The skinny: Anderson had a rough start against the Titans, although you can’t blame him for Devin Funchess’ first-play fumble. The biggest question, of course, involves the health of Newton, whose workload will increase this week.
RUNNING BACKS (5): Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey, Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne, Alex Armah
WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard, Curtis Samuel, Brenton Bersin, Damiere Byrd.
TIGHT ENDS (3): Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson, Chris Manhertz.
The skinny: Dickson’s value as a blocker could impact what the Panthers do with their fullbacks.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9): Ryan Kalil, Matt Kalil, Daryl Williams, Trai Turner, Andrew Norwell, Taylor Moton, Tyler Larsen, Amini Silatolu, Gino Gradkowski.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9): Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei, Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson, Mario Addison, Wes Horton, Daeshon Hall, Kyle Love, Vernon Butler.
The skinny: No changes to the defensive front, despite the fact Butler (knee) and Love (ankle) remain sidelined.
LINEBACKERS (6): Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson, David Mayo, Jared Norris, Jeremy Cash.
The skinny: It was a mixed bag for the backup linebackers at Tennessee. Mayo, who started in place of Luke Kuechly, led all defenders with 10 tackles. And Cash was active with four tackles, a sack and another quarterback hit.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (9): James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, Mike Adams, Kurt Coleman, Captain Munnerlyn, Colin Jones, Teddy Williams, Cole Luke, L.J. McCray.
SPECIALISTS (3): Graham Gano, Michael Palardy, J.J. Jansen.
The skinny: The punting competition is the real battle among the specialists, and right now Palardy looks to have the edge. Andy Lee, coming off a hamstring injury that ended his 2016 season in October, did not punt against the Titans. Palardy averaged 49.5 yards on two punts, with a net of 49.0.
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Gregory Polanco’s return this year may or may not be in question

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Nuance is a funny thing. According to Pirates Prospects (sub. req’d), Pirates’ head trainer Todd Tomczyk characterizes the possibility of Gregory Polanco returning this year from his latest left hamstring strain as “questionable.” The Post-Gazette says the Pirates are “optimistic” he’ll return.
I suspect this is two ways of saying the same thing: Polanco might return but it’s not guaranteed.
What pretty much is guaranteed is a lost season for a guy who was supposed to be a major part of the Pirates’ core. Polanco has played in just 91 games and posted an indifferent slash line of 255/311/407. Even if he does come back for a couple weeks, those numbers are unlikely to improve, because his history is that he struggles badly for a while after returning from one of his countless minor injuries. It’d probably be better if he just scrapped the rest of the season and tried to get healthy for next year. The Pirates could let Jordan Luplow play the position the rest of the way, if Clint Hurdle could be restrained from putting soon-to-be ex-Pirate John Jaso in the lineup every other day.
As for other players, Francisco Cervelli also isn’t close in any immediate sense, but the main question seems to be whether he should do a minor league rehab. With George Kontos, the Pirates are hoping for a return once he’s eligible on August 30.
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Kris Bryant: Joey Votto is 'the best player ever

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In the midst of arguably his best career season, Reds first baseman Joey Votto received the highest of praises from reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant.
“He’s the best player ever,” Bryant said Wednesday, per CSN Chicago. “He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain."
Votto has a 1.049 OPS this season with 32 homers and 86 RBI, on track to break his career-highs in all three categories.
“He’s not just doing it this year – he’s doing it his whole career,” Bryant said. “He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”
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Noted for his plate discipline, 33-year-old Votto won the MVP award in 2010 and has finished in the top-10 on four other occasions. Votto leads the majors with 99 walks through Thursday.
“I feel like he’s aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it," Bryant said. "He mentioned that to me, too, when I got to first (on Monday night). He said: ‘Your approach looks a lot better this year.’”
Votto has spent his entire 11-year career with the Reds, batting .313 since his debut in debut in 2007.
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Woodworker creates superior marquetry in northern Minnesota studio

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A win at a national competition is the latest in a string of plaudits for woodworker Joe Morgan.
His "Labyrinth Table" earned praise at the 2017 Veneer Tech Craftsman's Challenge, the 13th annual competition recognizing excellence in veneer woodwork design. The panel of judges involved experts from the fields of woodworking, education and manufacturing.
Competitors included "well-established, professional guys I admire and look up to," said the self-taught craftsman, designer and artist from Park Rapids. "I was completely surprised to win that category. I'm basically an unknown woodworker from northern Minnesota. To have my piece recognized within that circle is pretty special."
Morgan captured first place in the furniture category and received $1,000.
"I've already started to buy more hand tools to explore more options with woodworking and try new things," he said.
Morgan's specialty is marquetry, the art of creating an image using pieces of veneer, a thin decorative covering of fine wood.
The labyrinth pattern on the outer ring of the table comprises 650 pieces, all cut by hand. A marquetry image of an octahedron is inlaid at the center. The 104 pieces for that image were also cut by hand.
"The precision veneer work and optical effects display exceptional craftsmanship," wrote the judge.
Morgan conceived the design a couple years ago. He'd seen the 16-piece, repeating pattern in paintings or using old, stone tiles on Greek tables.
The outer ring of the table was most time-consuming. Morgan labored on it for several months.
"It was wintertime and I really had nothing better to do," he said. "Each piece must be cut the same size. Any little deviation would be noticeable."
The octahedron was inspired by an image on Pinterest.
"I saw it and thought, 'That's kind of cool. I think I could do that in marquetry,'" he recalled.
All told, some 250 to 300 hours went into the table's creation, using only four types of hand precision tools.
"I nicknamed that table 'Patience Test," he said.
"Labyrinth Table" is currently displayed at The Art of Fine Furniture in Rochester. It received the Judge's Award of Excellence and Excellence in Veneering at the 2017 Northern Woods Exhibition, an annual competition hosted by the Minnesota Jon Niese Youth Jersey Woodworkers Guild.
Morgan is using a Region 2 Arts Council grant for his marquetry endeavors and regional art shows. This summer, he exhibited at six art fairs.
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