The Packers defense ranked second in the league in points allowed in 2010 and second in yardage allowed in 2009.


Since 2012, however, the Packers have only had six total defenders earn Pro Bowl nods. At no area has their defensive decline been more apparent than in the secondary. Injuries and aging phased out a once-intimidating unit, forcing the team to look for help in the draft. Instead of breeding a new generation of ball hawks, Green Bay has gotten limited returns from draftees like Quinten Rollins, Damarious Randall, and Demetri Goodson. The biggest free agent defensive back it signed from 2012 to 2016 was Jarrett Bush.

Further compounding the problem has been the team’s inability to retain valuable contributors. Casey Hayward struggled with injuries toward the end of his tenure with Green Bay and was allowed to walk in free agency in 2016. He earned his first All-Pro selection last season with the Chargers after leading the league with seven interceptions. The loss of other free agents like Davon House (who returned to Green Bay this offseason after two years with the Jaguars) and Tramon Williams didn’t have as big an impact but still cost the Packers valuable contributors in a season they were desperately needed.

That limited output has shown up in the box score. The Packers defense ranked second in the league in points allowed in 2010 and second in yardage allowed in 2009. Since 2011, they haven’t ranked higher than 11th in either category. Last fall, those ranks dropped to 21st and 22nd, respectively, and they managed just four interceptions all year.yankees_1092_6e22755ac0c004f0-180x180

Chicago fans boo Mitchell Trubisky at Bulls-Celtics game


Newly drafted Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was welcomed by Chicago fans with some boos during Game 6 of Bulls’ NBA playoff series with the Boston Celtics, according to ESPN.

The Bears made a shocking move to trade up to select Trubisky at No. 2 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday; Chicago made a deal with the San Francisco 49ers, moving up just one spot in return for giving the 49ers a third- and fourth-round pick this year (picks 67 and 111) and a third-round pick in 2018.

Part of fans’ frustration is the shock that came with picking Trubisky. The Bears signed quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year deal with $18.5 million guaranteed in the offseason (which was also highly criticized).

You would think a decision like this would involve input from the coaches, but Chicago’s front office was operating by itself. Perhaps they don’t feel too confident in Fox’s future with the franchise considering this is a move that will affect the team for several years.

As for Pace and McCaskey, they clearly saw a guy they wanted, and they took drastic measures to make sure they got him. In addition to the major trade, they set smokescreens, as Mortensen noted, with reports just the day before that they were looking to trade down.

Pace had a necessary seal of secrecy within his own organization because at least two teams, including the Cleveland Browns, had discussed potential trades within the top of the draft to select Trubisky. But Fox, as head coach, was indeed involved and well aware of the options, including the one that led to Pace’s decision to swap the No. 3 slot for the 49ers’ No. 2 slot and subsequently land Trubisky.

Jusuf Nurkic will return from his leg fracture for Game 3 against the Warriors


Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic will play, albeit limited minutes, in the team’s Game 3 matchup against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Nurkic suffered a non-displaced fibular fracture in his right leg in a March 30 win over the Houston Rockets and has been sidelined ever since. He returns to action in a game where the Warriors will be without Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes and Steve Kerr.

The Trail Blazers acquired Nurkic and a 2017 first-round pick in a trade deadline deal with the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Mason Plumlee. The Bosnian big man has since proven indispensable, helping lead Portland to a 15-7 record after the trade, knocking the Nuggets out of the Western Conference’s eighth seed in the process.

Portland finished the season 4-5 after losing Nurkic in late March. He averaged 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals in 29 minutes per game for the Trail Blazers this season.

What’s been absolutely out of left field, however, is the response from Pittsburgh media. Two pieces in particular have made their way across the internet over the last few days, the second more incredulous, and more dangerous, than the first. I’m linking them here for the sake of journalistic integrity in sourcing your information. One of the first rules of journalism school, kids. Don’t forget it.

The Magic have been incredibly stale since the Dwight Howard trade in 2012. Fox could change that. He plays both ends of the floor as hard as anyone in this draft. He’ll be one of the fastest players in the league for the moment he plays his first game. He also just has a way of making winning plays. That’s been missing from the Magic for years.

Lynch narrated his original Beast Quake run.


Lynch coined his own nickname, Beast Mode, when he came into the league. Those words came to represent his style of play, best epitomized by his two Beast Quake runs.

In the first one, against the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round following the 2011 season, Lynch made contact with seven different Saints defenders, none of whom came close to slowing him down, on his way to the end zone. The Saints had finished the regular season 13-3 and were heavily favored to beat the home team. Seattle went 7-9 in 2011 and made it into the postseason by being just good enough to win the NFC West with a losing record.

The “Quake” part of its name came from the seismic activity at CenturyLink Field immediately after Lynch’s touchdown. It registered as a magnitude-one earthquake, SB Nation’s Matt Ufford learned from John Vidale, the director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

And that wasn’t the only time Lynch pulled off a Beast Quake. In 2014, he pulled off the longest touchdown run of his career, bouncing off multiple Arizona Cardinals defenders en route to a 79-yard touchdown. The Week 16 win over the Cardinals helped the Seahawks lock up the NFC West.

During a visit to the NFL Films Studio, Lynch narrated his original Beast Quake run. Lynch’s commentary is probably the only thing that could make this play better.

We can’t get enough of Beast Quake, or anything else Marshawn does, and we’re thrilled he’s back.

He struggles to shed blockers — a lapse that will only grow during the transition from the AAC to the NFL. He also has a tendency to bite hard on play-action fakes, luring him toward the line of scrimmage and taking him away from his duties over the top. These are all coachable fixes, but at 23 years old, he’s an older prospect who may not have as high of a ceiling as some of the younger defensive backs in the class of 2017.

Yup, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is the pitcher Pat Mahomes’ son


If you’re a fan of journeymen Major League Baseball relief pitchers from the mid-1990s and early 2000s, this is your kind of NFL draft.

Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes went 10th overall to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. Mahomes is a former 37th-round pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2014 and, more significantly, the son of 11-year MLB reliever Pat Mahomes. This is a family that’s proven adept at throwing balls in competitive environments.

The elder Mahomes has a glorious Baseball Reference page. He tossed 709 major league innings between 1992 and 2003, pitching for the Twins, Mets, Red Sox, Rangers, Cubs, and Pirates. He had a cup of coffee in the Montreal Expos’ organization in 2004, which is why he’s in an Expos uniform in the headshot topping this article.

And the impact of the rebuilt line doesn’t stop there. If the Browns draft a quarterback to develop into the franchise signal caller the team has needed since 1999, he’ll have a solid line to play behind. That, coupled with Crowell’s production, should ease a young player’s transition to the NFL.

Corey Coleman, last year’s first-round pick, has the potential to become the Browns’ top wideout this season. Last year’s quarterback woes and injuries kept him from contributing much in his rookie year.

On defense, the Browns acquired outside linebacker Jamie Collins from the New England Patriots via trade last season. Collins only played in eight games, but finished 2016 third on the team for tackles and added two sacks. The Browns signed him to an extension this offseason, locking him up for the next four years. He could have an even bigger impact on the defensive side if the Browns can add an edge rusher to complement him.dodgers_351

6 NFL draft predictions that will surprise you early


Twists and turns happen every year: players sliding out of the first round, big trades, and kickers getting picked early. Here are a few curveballs to watch for on draft night.

He repeated it three times. Belichick then preached ball security, preparation and four familiar concepts, starting with the one that gets the most attention and even has its own hashtag: “Do your job” (or #DYJ).

“I know that term gets thrown around a bit, but to me it’s not ‘Do your job,’ it’s ‘Do your job well,'” Belichick said. “We’re not getting paid to show up, we’re getting paid to perform well professionally.”

Pay attention. Work hard. Put the team first. Belichick has weaved simple coaching concepts into a process that has formed a NFL dynasty stretching two decades.

This isn’t the Belichick you’re used to seeing on TV. Instead of the hoodie, Belichick wore a designer suit with matching lavender shirt and pocket square. Instead of delivering monotone two- and three-syllable answers, Belichick dove into a speech delving into a coaching philosophy that has produced five Super Bowl championships with the Patriots — with detailed examples for every step.

He was a great runner. He was good at reading defenses, sometimes fooling them completely, and flicking an easy deep ball. From last season against Bama:

Jim Kelly spoke at some length about his nephew in an Associated Press article in 2015. He said his nephew had a “very special arm.”

Welcome back! Here’s Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” from this week to follow along to.


L.A. wants an offensive-minded coach, huh? Give Kirk Muller a call. Also, I can’t wait to see how an offensive coach handles that roster. It probably indicates that Blake is ready to start some major overhauls throughout the Kings’ system. I bet Kings fans would welcome it.

OK. I’m not the biggest Dean Lombardi fan, mainly because of his USA Hockey roster management. But sending Friedman on a wild goose chase about the Keystone Pipeline? Mad respect.

I hope Denver coach Jim Montgomery gets a look at the NHL, but it might not happen this year with the market flooded with quality NHL coaches.

Justin Faulk. Jaccob Slavin. Ryan Murphy. Now Noah Hanifin is being brought up in Hurricanes trade circles? I don’t know what to believe anymore, because three of those guys would be untouchable on any other team.

Following the 2002 season Rooney, then head of the league’s diversity committee, sought to establish more opportunities for minority coaches to have opportunities in the NFL. The eponymous “Rooney Rule” stated that teams must interview at least one minority candidate in a hiring process for head coach, or senior football positions.

The rule has had a lasting impact on the NFL. At the start of the 2006 season, 22 percent of high-level coaches in the league came from minority backgrounds, compared to just 6 percent before the rule was implemented.

Current Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who is hispanic, credits Rooney in part for his job.nike_bears_410-223x223

The Sidney Jones situation is different.


Reed: Realistically, this pick came down to how much and what kind of risk the Colts are willing to take with a second-round pick. They could go for an off-field risk and take OLB Tim Williams or RB Joe Mixon, both great values at this point in the draft at positions of need, or an injury risk in CB Sidney Jones. As Stampede Blue writer Matt Danely pointed out in his article, Four Draft Prospects Who Won’t be on the Colts Board, it’s unlikely either Williams or Mixon are selected by the Colts. I doubt Chris Ballard risks taking Williams after multiple failed drug tests at Alabama. I doubt Ballard risks the PR backlash of taking Mixon.

The Sidney Jones situation is different. As we all know, Jones tore his Achilles and requires at least another four to five months of rehab. However, he didn’t have any injury concerns during his lengthy career at Washington. Additionally, an Achilles injury is not the career ender it once was. Players like Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith both came back from it and produced at a high level. In general, major injuries haven’t deterred teams from taking high-quality players early.

J.J.’s little brother has seen his projection rise to Round 1. T.J. Watt, who is more of a second- or third-round talent than worthy of a top-30 draft choice, likely won’t go as high as current projections have him.

He tested well and is more than just a high-motor edge player, but Watt’s projection is situational and upside-driven. If he gets drafted in the first round, it’ll quickly become clear he was a reach.

The complete opposite of McDowell, Barnett does not offer great length, athletic upside or projection, but he is about as reliable character- and work ethic-wise as one can ask for in a prospect.

That said, drafting a prospect without great athletic upside in Round 1 is a trap. Barnett’s projection is reliant on the fact that he’s a snap anticipator. His rush moves that were successful in college might not work consistently in the NFL.

Vikings vs. Seahawks 2017 game preview: Percy Harvin is back


Percy Harvin will be making his debut for the Seattle Seahawks and, yes, he’ll be playing against his former teammates on the Minnesota Vikings. This is a big deal, and makes this game eminently watchable.

Otherwise, Sunday’s game is admittedly not a big a matchup. The Seahawks will almost assuredly be going to the playoffs and the Vikings almost assuredly will not. The fact the game is in Seattle where the Seahawks have now won 12 straight means that the Vikings will likely be heading home with a loss in tow.

But that Harvin subplot, man — How much will he play? Are his legs back? Has he been healthy for weeks now, and preparing in wait to blow up against the team that traded him? — should make this game fun to watch.

Carlisle deserves immense respect for pulling a team starring Seth Curry, Yogi Ferrell, Harrison Barnes, and Dirk Nowitzki to relative respectability. A playoff nod would have gotten Carlisle into the conversation.

Now I’ve spent the last three years quietly hoping this outcome would happen. Gold medals are cool and I like international hockey, but not if it costs my team a Stanley Cup.

I mean, I feel bad for the players. Alex Ovechkin is a wonderful human being and I want him to be happy.

But I’d also like him to be healthy and win a Stanley Cup, y’know? Or Carey Price. Or Henrik Lundqvist. And so on.


The Cavaliers stink now, but will this carry over to the playoffs?


There’s no getting around this: Cleveland’s defense is straight up bad. It’s the worst defense a LeBron James team has had in more than a decade. Even when it seems as though the Cavaliers are set up for a narrative-changing course correction, they give up 100 points.

Offense: Giovani Bernard, Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals: No change here. For the last month or so, Giovani Bernard has been the pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Eddie Lacy and Zac Stacy have a chance to push him, but Bernard has made a consistently positive impact on his offense since the beginning of the season. His workload is only getting bigger, so expect big things from him down the stretch.

Week 11 in the NFL had blustery wind conditions, important matchups with playoff potential and larger questions at quarterback. It still gave us a few excellent plays, and the strangest Terry Bradshaw moment of the season.

The Cincinnati Bengals needed to find creative ways to fight through the wind whipping through Paul Brown Stadium. Andy Dalton struggled to fight through crosswinds in a Week 10 game against Baltimore, and on Sunday the team tried a touch of trickery when they needed to go deep.

Johnson, who is regarded as one of the nicer and more level-headed players in the NFL, did the smart thing by walking away instead of adding fuel to the fire. He headed to the locker room with a couple of seconds still left on the game clock, though all Oakland had to do at that point was just take a knee at that point. The loss marks Houston’s eighth straight loss, and the fifth time they’ve lost by five points or fewer.