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Former teammates collide: DK Metcalf gets the better of Shaquill Griffin

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Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Former Seattle Seahawk cornerback Shaquill Griffin made his return to the northwest for the first time as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and his homecoming was less than stellar, to put it lightly. Needless to say, this wasn’t the outing that Griffin was hoping for, but lining up against a team that has Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf on the field is a one-sided mismatch for most defenses. And this is true whether Geno Metcalf or Russell Wilson is under center.

Things didn’t look so bad at first, as Griffin did his part to force a punt early in the game.

The play above came during Seattle’s second drive of the day. Lined up wide right, DK Metcalf had an opportunity to make a tough catch for a first, but Griffin’s tight coverage forced him to pull his route up short of the sticks. Physical coverage like this is impressive in the NFL against any player, but especially a player as imposing as Metcalf.

Unfortunately for Griffin, it was all downhill from here, as the next time Geno Smith looked his way, it ended up like this:

Things remained relatively quiet for Griffin for a bit until he found himself reeling along with the rest of the Jaguars’ defense as the Seahawks pulled out some vintage Pete Carroll trickery in the third quarter.

Shortly after this, he allowed another touchdown — again to Metcalf — on what would be Seattle’s final offensive score of the day (thank you very much, Travis Homer).

It is hard to really fault Griffin on either of Metcalf’s touchdowns, as this was just a tough draw for him. In the angle below, you can really see how difficult this was for him to cover. Metcalf’s huge catch radius combined with his speed is just lethal in the redzone where he is always going to be a mismatch in one on one.

On the day, Griffin was credited with three total tackles and no passes defended. He allowed at least three catches and two touchdowns — all to Metcalf — but he did have two third down stops that forced punts, as well. One of these was the tackle on Metcalf that can be seen above, and the other was on a dump off to Travis Homer on third and long.

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He was always a physical and willing tackler in Seattle, and that doesn’t seem to have changed. Obviously, Shaquill Griffin’s first season in Jacksonville isn’t turning out the way he had envisioned, as the Jaguars continue to struggle with first year head coach/quarterback combo Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence. And their struggles haven’t been one-sided; the Jaguars have fielded Football Outsider’s worst defense by a wide margin, and certainly looked the part this afternoon. Conversely, Griffin’s return to Seattle went about as well as any Seahawks fan could hope for, as the offense put up their highest point total since Russell Wilson’s injury, even accounting for Travis Homer’s onside return TD fiasco. Hopefully, Shaquill Griffin’s parting gift to his former team can be some confidence to get their offense back on track in time to save this season.





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South American 2030 World Cup bid seeks final in Montevideo

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BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Members of the South American candidacy for the centennial 2030 World Cup want to host the opening match in Buenos Aires and the final in Montevideo, where Uruguay won the first edition of the tournament in 1930.

Government and soccer officials representing the joint bid of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay held their first organizing committee meeting Tuesday. Argentine President Alberto Fernández also said he wants to add Bolivia to the group.

One other bid has already been formalized: Spain-Portugal-Ukraine. Morocco and another joint bid of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece are moving ahead.

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Alejandro Domínguez, the president of South American soccer body CONMEBOL, highlighted the historical links. Uruguay hosted the first tournament in 1930 and won the first title by beating Argentina 4-2 in the final.

“FIFA has the obligation of honouring the memory of those who came before us and made the first World Cup,” he said. “At the end, the ones who want it more win it. And in that Argentina and all of our countries have a tradition.”

FIFA will make the decision in 2024, two years before the next edition of the tournament takes place in the United States, Mexico and Canada with 48 teams for the first time.

Chile sports minister Alexandra Benado Vergara said Argentina’s World Cup title in Qatar gives an extra push to the South American bid, which she sees as stronger since other nations joined Uruguay’s initially single-nation candidacy.

“Argentina’s victory is also the victory of our region,” Vergara said. “We can totally say we will have a bid that is sustainable, clear, austere during these times of our region and the world.”

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Vergara’s Uruguayan counterpart Sebastián Bauzá said South America “feels we have the right to organize that World Cup.”

Argentina’s Fernández said on his social media channels he wanted to add Bolivia to the bid because “this is the candidacy of the entire continent. That is why I will propose that Bolivia become a part of this dream.”

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2023 USFL schedule: Best early games, title odds and more!

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What are the best games in the early part of the USFL season? Who is favored to win it all? We break it down.



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NBA Trade Targets: 6 potential destinations for Raptors’ Anunoby

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O.G. Anunoby is a defensive ace, one of the most talented 3-and-D players in the NBA and a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate. So, the prospect of trading a player with that all-around skillset is a tough proposition.

But as Thursday’s NBA trade deadline draws closer, Anunoby is a player that will draw interest from several teams on the market as he has the tools that can fit into any scheme. Recent reports have linked him to several potential candidates.

With that kind of demand, the asking price and potential return will likely be the highest of the three big names being floated around in Toronto Raptors trade rumours: Anunoby, Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. Making Anunoby an even more attractive trade chip, the defensive wing has one more year of control on his contract and a player option worth $19.9 million (likely to be declined) for the 2024-2025 season.

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On the floor, Anunoby hasn’t been lights out offensively this season, averaging 16.9 points on 45.7 per cent from the field and 36.6 per cent from long range. But he is the defender often tasked with trying to shut down the opposing team’s No. 1 option, so going all out on both ends is a lot to take on. Currently, he leads the league in steals at 2.1 per game and is averaging a career-high 0.8 blocks. And he’s currently hitting corner 3’s at a 46 per cent clip and is 39 per cent on catch-and-shoot looks from beyond the arc.

Should he be traded, Anunoby is not going to be a first or second option on offence for a championship contender, but he can be a final piece as a role player that makes a defensive impact and contributes some offence when called upon.  

Here are six teams that could potentially swing a deal for Anunoby and what they would have to include to get it done.

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NEW YORK KNICKS

Adding Jalen Brunson in the summer, despite calls of it being an overpay, has been key to the success of the Knicks so far this year. Forward Julius Randle has seen marked improvements, bumping his averages from 20.1 points and 9.9 rebounds on .411/.308/.756 shooting splits to 24.7 points and 10.8 rebounds on .457/.341/.749 splits — good enough to earn him all-star honours. This season, he has 15 30-plus point scoring performances compared to the 14 he had over the course of last season.

Under coach Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks have been a solid defensive team but have regressed in recent years, finishing first in points-per-game allowed in the 2020-2021 season, sixth in the 2021-2022 season, and currently sitting 10th this year. Despite being in the top-third of the league, the Knicks will want to improve on those defensive numbers.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported interest from the Knicks in Anunoby, a player that could absolutely bump that rating to where it was in years past and be the true No. 1 defensive stopper that Thibodeau needs. Moreover, Anunoby would become the best corner 3-point shooter on the team, eclipsing Quentin Grimes’ 44.3 per cent, and the second-best catch-and-shoot option behind Brunson’s 43.0 per cent hit rate.

Potential player targets: It’s been speculated that any Anunoby deal with the Knicks is unlikely to get done unless the return package centres around either young guard Immanuel Quickley (two years, $2.7 million) or Canadian wing RJ Barrett (one year, $10.9 million + an extension that kicks in next season at four years, $26.7 million). However, the Knicks are unlikely to part with Barrett in this deal. Instead, the Raptors could look at a combination of forward Obi Toppin (two years, $5.5 million), big man Isaiah Hartenstein (two years, $8.0 million), and maybe Quickley.

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Draft assets: The more attractive part of this proposition is the potential haul of picks that Toronto could get from New York in return, with the Knicks having all of their own picks from now until 2030, as well as the first-round picks from the Mavericks (top-10 protected), Pistons (top-18 protected) and Wizards (top-14 protected) in the 2023 NBA Draft. The two latter picks are likely to transfer to next year’s draft, as the Pistons and Wizards seem to be entrenched in the lottery.

Regardless, the Knicks have a ton of draft capital, whether it be their own or from other bottom-feeding teams, and the allure of holding onto future selections from routinely lottery-bound franchises is an alluring proposition. Charania reported that the Knicks have “shown a willingness to offer multiple first-round picks for Anunoby.”

PHOENIX SUNS

The other team mentioned by Charania as having interest in Anunoby is the Suns, and considering how disappointing their season has been until now, it’s not surprising that they’d be in the sweepstakes.

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After making the NBA Finals two seasons ago, they crashed out in seven games against the Dallas Mavericks in Round 2 last year and have been a hot bed for drama since. They’re currently the seventh seed, sporting a 27-26 record in a crowded middle-ground out West. Since superstar guard Devin Booker went out with a groin injury on Dec. 25, they’re 10-11 and rank dead last in the NBA in points-per-game.

Booker is scheduled to return as early as Tuesday night against the Brooklyn Nets, and the team is 18-11 when he plays. He could come back just in time for the Suns to make a run at the trade deadline and use that momentum to climb the standings in the West.

Anunoby would be an interesting fit in Phoenix, playing alongside another great wing defender in Mikal Bridges. The two could form one of the most dynamic and versatile defensive tandems in the league, jumping passing lanes with their length in zone defence, or keeping the top-two opposing offensive options at bay in man-to-man defence.

Potential player targets: The Suns don’t have a lot of players that would draw much interest from the Raptors, as most are either too old, not good enough, or deemed untouchable. On the more optimistic side, the hope would be a return package that included one of Deandre Ayton (four years, $33 million) or Bridges (four years, $22.7 million). However, Ayton still has a no-trade clause that he could exercise if he doesn’t want to come to Toronto and Bridges remains a valuable piece in Phoenix.

Instead, if this deal were to be made, the package would likely centre around wing Cameron Johnson (one year, $5.8 million) and cap filler in the form of Jae Crowder (one year, $10 million) or Dario Saric (one year, $9.2 million), both of which would likely be sent to another team or bought out.

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Draft assets: The more appealing part of a potential deal with the Suns is that they, unlike most other contenders, still hold onto all their draft picks between now and 2030, and they could choose to go all-in this year while Chris Paul is still a positive player.

Even better for the Raptors, with the Suns already struggling, who knows where they could be in three-to-five years when those eventual first-round picks begin to pay off. If the Suns continue to fade even further as guys age out or become unsettled, those picks could be incredibly valuable come 2025 or 2027.

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INDIANA PACERS

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The Pacers have been one of the surprises of the season. Despite winning only two of their last 14 games, they’ve shown a willingness to contend for at least a playoff spot this year. Extending Myles Turner is emblematic of that mentality.

Turner has been a name perennially floating in trade rumours, with even the Raptors being named as a potential destination. That won’t be the case anymore, as his place in Indiana is set in stone and the franchise clearly considering him part of the core.

Though they’ve taken a clear leap this year around Turner, first-time all-star Tyrese Haliburton and Canadian rookie Bennedict Mathurin, the team is still lacking on the defensive side, giving up the sixth most points-per-game this season. Bringing in Anunoby would go a long way in addressing those issues.

Indiana’s other Canadian rookie Andrew Nembhard has been a great depth addition on the defensive end with his ability to guard 1-3. However, Anunoby takes it a step further, as he’s able to take on anyone that two-time block-leader Turner isn’t taking care of in the paint.

The Pacers are also projected to have enough cap space next season to re-sign Anunoby and etch him in as a part of the core moving forward. A line-up of Haliburton, Mathurin, Anunoby, Aaron Nesmith and Turner is small but quick and versatile, with Haliburton leading the charge on offence and Anunoby carrying the load on defence.

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Potential player targets: Now that Turner is off the table, the Raptors would have to shift their attention to the depth pieces that the Pacers possess. As far as the younger players go, Mathurin (four years, $7.4 million) is also likely off limits, so if Indiana intends on getting an Anunoby deal done, they’d probably have to include Nembhard (four years, $2.1 million).

To make the deal financially viable, big-man Daniel Theis (three years, $8.9 million) would likely have to be included. And to make up the rest of the cost, the Pacers could throw in 22-year-old stretch-four Jalen Smith (three years, $5.0 million) and 25-year-old Canadian wing Chris Duarte (three years, $4.4 million) alongside the aforementioned Nembhard.

Draft assets: The Pacers, like most teams that were thought to be tanking this season, already possess a bevy of future picks at their disposal, including all their first-rounders from now until 2030. They also control Cleveland and Boston’s picks in this upcoming draft, and though those are projected to be picks in the mid-to-late 20s, they possess value in what should be a pretty stacked draft class.

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OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

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Currently sitting at 25-28 as the 12th seed in the West, the Thunder have had a surprising season, surpassing expectations for a team that most had already written-off (especially after theseason-ending injury to rookie Chet Holmgren). Though they’re not in a position to contend right now, their young core takes shape more and more each day.

Canadian first-time all-star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a revelation and is finally getting his well-deserved flowers, Josh Giddey has taken an under-appreciated step in his sophomore season, bumping his shooting splits from .419/.263/.709 to .485/.326/.778, and rookie Jalen Williams has been a Swiss Army knife, doing everything and doing it efficiently.

Pairing Anunoby with defensive stalwart (and famed James Harden stopper) Luguentz Dort on the wing would be a match made in heaven. Additionally, SGA has been a stud on that end as the only guard in the top-25 in blocks-per-game this season with 1.1 a night. He has also averaged 1.7 steals, good for eighth across the league.

The Thunder are the youngest team in the league with an average age of 22.6. Adding Anunoby, a championship-winning player who has been on his fair share of playoff runs, to a roster this young and inexperienced would signal a change for the Thunder. It would mean that all those years of tanking are finally coming to an end, and that it’s time to cash in on the surplus of youth and draft capital.

Potential player targets: Let’s make this clear off the top: Toronto is not getting SGA. No amount of Photoshopped jersey swaps can change that for the time being.

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Instead, the Raptors could ask for a combination of OKC’s young talent. That could include 19-year-old Ousmane Dieng (four years, $5.2 million), 22-year-old Darius Bazley (one year, $4.2 million) and 21-year-old Tre Mann (three years, $3.5 million). Then maybe add 31-year-old Mike Muscala (two years, $3.5 million) as cap filler and that could get the deal done. Or, if the Raptors want to target a more valuable piece in return, they could ask for Canadian Dort (five years, $16.5 million) and Dieng as a package.

Draft assets: The more intriguing element to a potential deal with the Thunder is the draft capital that could come back to Toronto. Thunder general manager Sam Presti has been stockpiling draft picks for years, collecting them in trades that sent stars like Paul George and Russell Westbrook out of town. As it currently stands, the Thunder have 31 picks between now and 2030, with 16 of those being first-round selections (with minimal protections).

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MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES AND NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

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Recently, oddsmakers have pegged both the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans as not only possible, but highly likely destinations for Anunoby. Both teams see themselves as contenders, with the Grizzlies sitting in second place in the West at 32-21 and the Pelicans (despite recently going through a 10-game losing streak) have looked every bit like a contender at points this season when superstar Zion Williamson is healthy.

Both squads are rivals in the Southwest Division, and reports have suggested that neither team wants the other to acquire Anunoby’s services, for obvious reasons.

Both teams also have the assets to get a deal done, with neither team having sacrificed much draft capital to get where they are now.

Here’s how a potential deal with the Grizzlies could look:

Memphis acquires: Anunoby (two years, $18.0 million)

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Toronto acquires: Dillon Brooks (one year, $11.4 million), Xavier Tillman (one year, $1.7 million + team option next season), Ziaire Williams (two years, $4.7 million + team option in 2024-2025), 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick (via Golden State), and a 2025 pick swap

Here’s how a potential deal with the Pelicans could look:

New Orleans acquires: Anunoby (two years, $18.0 million)

Toronto acquires: Dyson Daniels (two years, $5.6 million + team options in 2024-2025 and 2025-2026), Jaxson Hayes (one year, $6.8 million), Garrett Temple (two years, $5.3 million), 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick (via Milwaukee), 2025 first-round pick.

Should the Raptors decide to cash in on one of their most valuable assets in Anunoby at the NBA trade deadline, there will be no shortage of suitors lining up to make a deal.

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