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49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo excused from mandatory minicamp as QB rehabs shoulder, team explores trade options

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was not at OTAs, and he won’t be with the team for mandatory minicamp, either. According to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones, the team has excused Garoppolo from participation at minicamp as he continues to rehab from shoulder surgery while the franchise continues to look for a trade partner. 

The 49ers are poised to move forward with former No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance under center, and the franchise is attempting to treat its former starting signal-caller with the respect he deserves by finding him a good landing spot. Unfortunately for Garoppolo, a trade hasn’t come to fruition just yet. Something that has complicated this process is his shoulder surgery. It was initially reported that the procedure was not expected to affect his trade market, but it absolutely did.

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Back in March, Pro Football Talk reported that 49ers general manager John Lynch was telling interested teams that they had an offer of two second-round picks for Garoppolo on the table, but the game of QB musical chairs commenced and Garoppolo and Baker Mayfield were left without a seat. The Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers have been two potential landing spots for the two quarterbacks, but it remains to be seen if San Francisco would trade Garoppolo within the division. 

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan recently said he expects Garoppolo to be traded, but that it’s “not a guarantee.” Garoppolo’s shoulder is reportedly expected to be ready to go in late June or early July.

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WNBA Power Rankings: Aces, Sky title favorites as playoffs begin; Mystics lurking as darkhorse

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After a thrilling close to the regular season, it’s time to turn our attention to the 2022 WNBA playoffs, which will tip-off Wednesday night with two first-round Game 1s. In the first game of the night, the Chicago Sky will host the New York Liberty, and in the finale the Las Vegas Aces will take on the Phoenix Mercury. 

The Aces (+165) and Sky (+200) are the top two seeds and the top two title favorites entering the postseason, per Caesars Sportsbook.

The league has once again revamped the playoff format, eliminating the first-and-second-round byes in favor of a standard bracket. Play will begin with a best-of-three first round series, followed by best-of-five series in the semifinals and Finals. One interesting twist, though, is that in the first round, Games 1 and 2 will be hosted by the higher seed, while the lower seed will get to host a deciding Game 3, if necessary. The semis and Finals will be a standard 2-2-1 arrangement. 

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As we wait for the action to begin, here’s a look at how each team fares in our pre-playoffs power rankings. 

1. Las Vegas Aces — No. 1 overall seed

Sunday’s comeback win over the Storm to secure the No. 1 seed capped off a tremendous close to the season for the Aces. They won four straight, including a win over the Sky and two over the Storm. Their reward was a first-round matchup against a depleted Mercury team that should be little challenge, and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. During their mid-season slump there was concern that the Aces had peaked too early, but they’re back on track and the title favorite. 

2. Chicago Sky — No. 2 overall seed

A mini skid during the final week cost the Sky the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage for the entire playoffs. They won the title as a No. 6 seed last season, though, so they won’t be too concerned about their position. What is worrying, is they haven’t been playing their best basketball down the stretch. They went 3-3 in August after losing just four games in June and July combined, and have not been great defensively. Still, we know this team can flip the switch and they have championship experience, cohesion and the ability to be elite on both sides of the ball. 

3. Connecticut Sun — No. 3 overall seed

On the one hand, Sun had an easy schedule post-All-Star break, and cleaned up by going 11-3 down the stretch to secure the No. 3 seed and best net-rating in the league at plus-9.5 points per 100 possessions. On the other, they were 10-0 against bottom-seven opponents and 1-3 against top-four opponents, picking up just a solitary win over the Storm. The Sun are a definite contender, but their 1-6 record against the Aces and Sky is of real concern, especially considering they would likely have to get through both teams to win the title. 

4. Seattle Storm — No. 4 overall seed

Even in defeat to the Aces on Sunday in the regular season finale, we saw how dangerous the Storm can be when everything is clicking. Moving Tina Charles into the starting lineup has indeed juiced their offense, and that new unit has a plus-20.9 net rating in 16 games together. In the last two playoff runs where the trio of Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird have been healthy, the Storm are 12-2 in the postseason and won the title both times. Can they do it again? Perhaps, but they have not been one of the elite teams over the balance of the season, and do not have the same level of supporting cast as they did in 2018 and 2020. 

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5. Washington Mystics — No. 5 overall seed

Despite being the No. 5 seed, the Mystics could be a darkhorse contender. They coasted through the regular season to some extent in order to keep Elena Delle Donne healthy for the playoffs, and it’s clear they could have been a higher seed if she played a full schedule. In her 25 games they went 18-7 – a .720 winning percentage that would be right in line with the Aces and Sky over a full season – and had a plus-12.3 net rating with her on the court. In the 11 games she sat out, they were 4-7. This team could cause problems if Delle Donne can withstand the demands of a playoff schedule, but they would almost certainly have to beat three of the top-four teams in succession in order to win the title, which may be too much to ask. 

6. Dallas Wings — No. 6 overall seed

The Wings caught fire toward the end of the season and won five straight games from July 30–Aug. 8 to clinch a second consecutive playoff berth. That stretch included victories over the Aces and Sky, and they seemed to have unlocked something by giving more playing time to Teaira McCowan. They will be without All-Star guard Arike Ogunbowale for at least the first round, however, due to a hip injury, and while they’ve had some good games in her absence, her shot creation will be missed in the playoffs. During the regular season they were 2-1 against the Sun, and should be competitive, but actually winning the first-round series will be difficult. 

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7. New York Liberty — No. 7 overall seed

The Liberty enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league. They closed the season on a 6-2 run, and had the third-best net rating (plus-6.8) in the league in August. When healthy and at their best, they have the ability to play with and beat any team in the league thanks in large part to their prolific 3-point attack. However, they have not been able to reach that level on a consistent basis this season, and will be sizable underdogs against the defending champion Sky. 

8. Phoenix Mercury — No. 8 overall seed

After losing in the Finals last season, the Mercury went all in for another run at the title. Their plans fell apart over the course of the last six months, however, as Brittney Griner was detained in Russia, Tina Charles abruptly left the team mid-season and both Diana Taurasi (quad) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (personal reasons) are now sidelined. They deserve a lot of credit for even making the playoffs, but they lost five of seven games to close the season and it’s hard to imagine them being competitive against the Aces. 



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Stat Trolls Tua Tagovailoa As He Tries To Make A Change

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(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

 

Much is left to be desired from Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

In two NFL seasons, the former Alabama standout has amassed 4,467 yards and 27 touchdowns.

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However, he has thrown 15 interceptions, which put him in a bad light.

But there have been changes that can turn the tide for him in 2022.

First, he will have an offensive-minded head coach in Mike McDaniel.

Second, they gave him more targets downfield like Cedrick Wilson, Chase Edmonds, and Tyreek Hill.

Third, the Dolphins also improved the protection around him with offensive linemen Terron Armstead and Connor Williams.

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Those additions should help him rise above this eye-popping comparison.

The NFL on CBS tweeted that Odell Beckham Jr. has more 30-yard passes (2) for touchdowns than Tagovailoa (1).

While the claim may sound dubious, it should motivate Tagovailoa to throw more deep balls and to trust his teammates.

He has no excuse to falter, especially after getting everything he needs on offense.

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Likewise, he should build more confidence to throw the deep ball with ease.

Doing so will help him overtake Beckham on that statistic.

 

No Excuse For Failure

Coming into his third NFL season, Tagovailoa will be compared to his NFL Draft classmates Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert.

The former has already led the Cincinnati Bengals to a Super Bowl stint while Herbert has become Offensive Rookie of the Year.

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Those are the lofty standards that Tagovailoa should live up to if he wants the Dolphins to take the next step.

Gone are the days of finding an alibi because he already has several weapons around him.

Therefore, Tagovailoa should make a significant jump in performance to make the front office consider him as a long-term option.

The post Stat Trolls Tua Tagovailoa As He Tries To Make A Change appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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Chargers HC Brandon Staley Is Pushing The Envelope

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(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

 

The NFL has been changing and evolving over the years, as it has become more of a pass-friendly league through the past decade or two.

Part of that evolution has been the offensive philosophy on fourth down, which was, until recently, strictly a punt-only situation.

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But now, more and more teams are going for it on fourth downs, and Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley is one of the men who is leading the way in that department.

Last season, his team went for it on fourth down 34 times, which was third in the NFL.

But the Chargers went for it on 31.5 percent of their fourth downs, the highest percentage in the league.

Staley explained his mindset regarding such situations in an interview with Daniel Popper of The Athletic.

“There has to be a fearlessness to play in this game, and what I wanted to establish was that,” Staley says. “The history of this team when I got here, it was like someone’s going to get hurt, they’re going to blow a lead, something catastrophic is going to happen. There’s this ‘Chargering’ thing. There’s all of these external factors that I know in my life, they’re just all excuses. They’re just all excuses.

“And so, how do you change that? Well, you have to do things different, you have to have a different approach. … Our mindset’s going to be on us, it’s not going to be on the opponent. It’s going to be on us. So creating that fearless mindset of, we are going to be aggressive, we’re going to put the ball in our hands, we’re going to trust our guys to make plays.

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“If we lose, we’re going to do it on our terms, not someone else’s terms.”

There is certainly an argument to be made for leaving your offense on the field during a fourth down, but some feel the Chargers overdid it last season, and in doing so, possibly cost themselves a playoff berth.

 

Live By The Sword, Die By The Sword?

For most of the NFL’s century-plus history, teams usually only went for it on fourth down if it was in a desperate situation at the end of a game where it was down to its last chance.

But over the last several years, that has been changing, as fourth-down attempts have been rising, as have fourth-down conversion rates.

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Analytics, which have taken over multiple team sports over the past decade-plus, has been a big factor in this change in philosophy.

Staley is absolutely right when he says that fearlessness must be present in order to win in the NFL, even more than in baseball, basketball, hockey or any other team sport.

But sometimes, one’s aggressiveness can go from his greatest asset to his greatest flaw, as it can be a double-edged sword.

With quarterback Justin Herbert running and gunning his way to a Pro Bowl appearance in just his second pro season, L.A. forged an 8-5 record and had a real shot at finishing first in the AFC West.

Its next contest in Week 15 versus the Kansas City Chiefs was billed as the that would likely decide the division winner.

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But in the first half, the Chargers failed to convert on two fourth-down situations inside the Kansas City 10-yard line, and they trailed 14-10 at intermission.

They failed on another fourth-down conversion attempt in the second half, and given that they lost 34-28 in overtime after leading 21-13 in the fourth quarter at one point, those failed attempts look bad in retrospect.

Then came the season-finale versus the Las Vegas Raiders, which was a doozy.

The Chargers converted six of seven fourth-down attempts, but the one they failed on was one even Staley may have wanted to take back.

The argument in his favor is that Herbert is an MVP-caliber QB who is turning into a clutch signal-caller, as evidenced in that contest against the Raiders.

But even with someone as talented as Herbert on your side, sometimes a bit of caution is a good thing.

The post Chargers HC Brandon Staley Is Pushing The Envelope appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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