LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-6)
OPEN CAMP: July 26 [url=http://www.dolphinsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-daniel-kilgore-jersey]http://www.dolphinsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-daniel-kilgore-jersey[/url] , UC Irvine, Irvine, California
LAST YEAR: Coach Sean McVay led one of most remarkable single-season transformations in recent NFL history. Rams ended their streaks of 12 consecutive non-playoff seasons and 13 straight non-winning seasons with rampage to first NFC West title since 2003. Franchise with NFL’s worst offense in 2016 became league’s highest-scoring team, racking up 478 points after scoring 224 in previous year. Quarterback Jared Goff emerged as solid starter in second season, and running back Todd Gurley was NFL’s top offensive player with relentless year. Coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense also took quantum leap, with NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald leading makeover into versatile, hard-nosed group. Despite tepid home playoff loss to Atlanta, Rams captured city’s attention in second year back in LA, shrugging off competition from relocated Chargers.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: DT Ndamukong Suh, CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib, WR Brandin Cooks.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: LB Robert Quinn, CB Trumaine Johnson, LB Alec Ogletree, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Tavon Austin, LB Connor Barwin, offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.
CAMP NEEDS: Donald skipped all of last season’s training camp, and is likely to hold out again while he attempts to land one of biggest contracts in NFL history. His absence didn’t hurt much last season, but every day he waits to begin partnership with Suh is missed opportunity. Rams acquired four elite veteran talents in offseason, and they all must connect with teammates quickly. Defense must adjust to styles of Talib and Peters, its two new aggressive cornerbacks. New starting middle linebacker must be chosen after Ogletree’s cap-related departure, with Cory Littleton likely to get first shot. Goff and Cooks must build chemistry to keep McVay’s high-octane passing game in top form.
EXPECTATIONS: Rams all-in on pursuit of first Super Bowl berth since the 2001 season [url=http://www.atlantabravesteamShop.com/authentic-david-justice-jersey]David Justice Jersey[/url] , and have talent to get there. They’ve brought back almost every important part of last season’s excellent offense, and added three game-breaking stars to defense. Even if they still haven’t written gargantuan check necessary to make Donald happy, Rams intend to contend for championships for next several years, starting now.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Renton, Washington
LAST YEAR: Seattle missed postseason for first time since 2011 and injuries and depth issues caught up with aging core. Once-vaunted defense took significant step back and offense that had been best at running was downright dreadful. Seattle had one rushing TD last year by running back and QB Russell Wilson again spent large portions running for his safety. That Seattle won nine games and was in playoff conversation into late December was remarkable.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookie RB Rashaad Penny, WR Brandon Marshall, WR Jaron Brown, TE Ed Dickson, OL D.J. Fluker, DT Tom Johnson, DT Shamar Stephen, rookie DE Rasheem Green, LB Barkevious Mingo, rookie LB/DB Shaquem Griffin, K Sebastian Janikowski, K Jason Myers, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, offensive line coach Mike Solari, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: RB Eddie Lacy, WR Paul Richardson, TE Jimmy Graham [url=http://www.titansauthorizedshops.com]Titans Game Jerseys[/url] , OL Luke Joeckel, DE Cliff Avril, DE Michael Bennett, SS Kam Chancellor, CB Richard Sherman, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, offensive line coach Tom Cable, defensive coordinator Kris Richard.
CAMP NEEDS: Happy Earl Thomas is good place to start. Thomas held out from offseason activities and has said he will not take part in team functions until contract situation is addressed. Thomas’ deal expires after season. Who will be Seattle’s No. 2 wide receiver? Tyler Lockett, now fully healthy after broken leg suffered late in 2016? Veteran Brandon Marshall after injury-filled 2017? Seattle must also find pass rush after departures of Bennett and Avril. Frank Clark can’t do it alone.
EXPECTATIONS: Different than they’ve been since first couple years of Pete Carroll’s tenure. Seattle clearly decided to refresh locker room this offseason. Gone are big personalities of Sherman and Bennett. Also gone: lots of talent, a void that may not be filled immediately. There is optimism about Seattle’s rookie class, but for first time since 2013 Seahawks don’t go into season as one of favorite.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (8-8)
OPEN CAMP: July 27, Glendale, Arizona
LAST YEAR: Cardinals dealt with myriad injuries but managed to pull out win in Seattle in finale to finish 8-8 in coach Bruce Arians’ final game. He announced retirement next day. Arians finished with franchise-record 50 wins, but his teams failed to make playoffs in last two years. QB Carson Palmer, after another season shortened by injury, also announced retirement. 8-8 record came despite loss of standout running back David Johnson when he dislocated wrist in opener. It was another standout year for Larry Fitzgerald: In 14th NFL season, he finished second in league in receptions with 102. Outside linebacker Chandler Jones led NFL with 16 sacks.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Coach Steve Wilks, QB Sam Bradford, QB Josh Rosen, QB Mike Glennon, RT Andre Smith, RG Justin Pugh, WR Brice Butler [url=http://www.authenticsjacksonvillejaguars.com/cheap-tanner-lee-jersey]Tanner Lee Color Rush Jersey[/url] , WR Christian Kirk, CB Jamar Taylor, RB Chase Edmonds.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Arians, Palmer, S Tyrann Mathieu, WR John Brown, WR Jaron Brown, QB Drew Stanton, OT Jared Veldheer, CB Justin Bethel, OG Alex Boone, DT Frostee Rucker, ILB Karlos Dansby, DT Josh Mauro, TE Troy Niklas, OT Earl Watford.
CAMP NEEDS: With new coach and new systems on offense, defense and special teams, plen
MIAMI — The New York Mets have their staff ace, at least for the next few weeks. The Miami Marlins hope they begin finding their next ace Friday night.
Rookie Sandy Alcantara is scheduled to make his season debut and his first major league start Friday night when the Marlins host the Mets in the opener of a three-game series between the two teams battling to stay out of the National League East basement at Marlins Park.
Both teams are coming off losses in their most recent games. The host Marlins fell Thursday afternoon to the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-0. The Mets were off Thursday after suffering a 5-3 loss Wednesday night to the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
The present is pretty bleak for the Mets (32-46) and the Marlins (32-50), who have the two worst records in the NL.
But both teams may get a glimpse at things to come when the 22-year-old Alcantara steps to the mound against perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, New York ace Jacob deGrom (5-3, 1.69 ERA).
For the Marlins, who acquired Alcantara from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Marcell Ozuna last Dec. 14 as part of the organization’s latest teardown [url=http://www.bengalsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-cordy-glenn-jersey]http://www.bengalsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-cordy-glenn-jersey[/url] , Friday marks the latest step in the development of a pitcher believed to have upper-rotation potential.
Alcantara, who entered the season as Baseball America’s 70th-ranked prospect, throws in the high 90s and also offers an above-average curveball, slider and changeup. He was 5-3 with a 3.71 ERA in 14 starts with Triple-A New Orleans, for whom he exceeded 95 pitches in each of his final six appearances.
“He’s got all the weapons, so for him it’s just being able to sequence (pitches), stay ahead in counts and then the other part is managing the game holding runners, things like that,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly told reporters Thursday.
Alcantara didn’t get a decision and posted a 4.32 ERA in eight relief appearances last season with the Cardinals.
As for deGrom, the next month should determine whether or not he becomes the Mets’ building block for the future, or the player whose trade sparks the organization’s rebuilding efforts.
John Ricco, who became one of the three men filling the general manager’s role with the announcement Tuesday that Sandy Alderson is taking an indefinite leave of absence to focus on his cancer treatments, said Wednesday that moving deGrom and/or Opening Day starter Noah Syndergaard is not something the club is necessarily looking to do. But he also admitted that he, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi need to entertain all possibilities as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
The Mets have a bottom-five minor league system and deGrom, who turned 30 earlier this month, has a 2.81 ERA in 123 career starts and does not become a free agent until after the 2020 season, would likely bring back the biggest haul of any pitcher on the market over the next month.
“For me, everything has to be on the table,” Ricco told reporters. “But you have to look long and hard before you move a game-changing, top-of-the-rotation pitcher.”
Alcantara has never faced the Mets. DeGrom is 4-4 with a 3.62 ERA in 14 career starts against the Marlins.
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