Monthly Archives: August 2017

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It’s nowhere near a guarantee, but Lions head coach Jim Caldwell at least sounds mildly positive about getting top pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah back for Week 1.

Ansah (ankle) remains on the team’s physically unable to perform list, but according to practice reports from Tuesday, did jog around in front of reporters.
“I’m not a soothsayer. I’m not a prognosticator,” Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. “… I can’t tell the future. I can’t predict that. But I feel good about it. But anything can happen these days. You just don’t know.”

After the Lions lost Kerry Hyder for the season with a torn ACL a few weeks back, concern regarding their pass rush reached a critical level. Hyder had a team-high eight sacks a year ago, 3.5 more than Devin Taylor, who now plays for the New York Giants. Their search for a productive pass rusher may have to intensify during cut-down day when each team trims their roster from 90 down to 53. A few able bodied veterans could be on the chopping block and ripe for the picking.

The Lions have survived without a fearsome pass rush. Last year’s near-miracle playoff season featured just two sacks over 13 games from Ansah. Detroit was tied for second to last in sacks with the Cleveland Browns (26) and allowed the highest passer rating in football (106.5) over 16 games.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been tasked with remaking the identity of this pass rush post-Ndamukong Suh — a nearly impossible task for a defense that operated a certain way for so long. Developing Ansah was his best hope, and while that has not gone according to plan at times, having him on the field for a contract year certainly can’t hurt.

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Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead gave his greenhorn, first-year head coach Sean McVay a shiny new toy to play with. After the Rams shipped a second-round pick and corner E.J. Gaines to Buffalo for star receiver Sammy Watkins, McVay ruminated on the possibilities for his offense.

“With Sammy, I think clearly you’re getting a special receiver,” McVay said, via the team’s official website. “Obviously, his career when he’s been available, he’s been outstanding in terms of being able to stretch the field vertically, but when the balls in his hands, good things happen. We feel like he’s going to be a good addition to our offense.”

Watkins’ ability to stretch the field will benefit quarterback Jared Goff most. With defenses now forced to send help toward Watkins, the rest of the field should open up for the second-year passer.

“I think it certainly helps him because anytime that you have good playmakers where it makes it more difficult for defensive guys to be able to key in on one player, it certainly loosens up and regulates some of the coverages and I think it’ll be very helpful for our team and especially for our quarterback,” McVay said of how Thursday’s addition will help Goff.

The trade finally gives the Rams a bona fide playmaker at receiver after years of playing with third and fourth fiddles. McVay seems to believe adding Watkins will slot the rest of his receiver corps perfectly into position.

“I think the thing that you really think about is that when you look at some offenses that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of,” McVay said, “you’ve got a handful of good playmakers and that’s where you can truly say, ‘Quarterback, be a good decision maker, distribute the ball and there’s plenty of touches to go around.’ You look at some of the success that Washington’s offense was able to have with some of the playmakers they have and we’re trying to do something similar here.”

The coach continued: “I feel like adding Sammy to the mix with guys like Robert Woods and Tavon Austin — you’re looking at the emergence of Cooper Kupp. Pharoh Cooper’s done a nice job, done some nice things, done a nice job filling in. And then the tight ends continue to do a nice job as far as developing in their roles. And obviously we know what a special back Todd Gurley is.”

Snead added that Austin “definitely has a place” on the team, even after all the additions in 2017 would suggest he’s close to sliding off the depth chart.

After trading a stockpile of draft picks for Goff, Snead doubled down with the Watkins addition. Giving up a second-round pick isn’t the move of a rebuilding team. It’s a move of a man who can feel the leash tightening. Snead rolled the dice hoping Watkins will be the missing piece that opens a restricted offense. McVay is the beneficiary of that dice roll.

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Nashville Predators captain Mike Fisher has announced his retirement after 17 NHL seasons.

Fisher, 37, told The Tennessean on Thursday that he was hanging up his skates after tallying 276 goals and 309 assists in 1,088 career NHL games with the Predators and Ottawa Senators.

“This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, but I know I’ve made the right one,” Fisher wrote in a letter for Thursday’s edition. “I’ve decided to retire from the NHL.”
Mike Fisher had 276 goals and 209 assists over 17 seasons with the Predators and Senators. “I’m looking forward to a future that includes a lot more time with my family,” he said. “Things change when you have kids and you have a family.” AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
Fisher had 18 goals and 24 assists last season as he helped lead the Predators to the Western Conference title and the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

“The way the city was behind us was unbelievable, and that’s what makes the memory such a high — but also bittersweet,” wrote Fisher, who is married to country music star Carrie Underwood. “Can you imagine if we had a parade down Broadway?

“It’s moments like that which I know I’ll miss. This job I’ve been able to have for a majority of my life is so much fun. To help create that entertainment and to see the joy we can bring to people is such a unique and exciting opportunity. I’ll miss my teammates, my coaches and the game itself.”
Fisher played seven seasons with the Predators, scoring 237 points on 109 goals and 128 assists. In 11 seasons with the Senators, who selected Fisher with the 44th pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Fisher tallied 167 goals and 181 assists.

Fisher, who was named the Predators’ captain prior to last season, had 23 goals and 28 assists in 13 career playoff games.

“Knowing we were so close to winning it all in June only makes it more difficult to leave it behind, but I do so with hope,” Fisher wrote. “Endings are always tough, but I believe when something ends, there are new beginnings, new opportunities and new things to be excited for, too.

“I believe that this team, that this city, is going to win a championship, and I’m going to be the biggest fan. No one will be happier than I will be to see it happen, because, these fans, they deserve it.”

Forward James Neal, acquired from Nashville by Las Vegas in the June expansion draft, thanked Fisher on Instagram for all he taught him on and off the ice.

“Your leadership and friendship allowed our team to bring an entire city together in our quest for the Stanley Cup … and that will always be one of the greatest memories of my life,” Neal said. “Congratulations on an incredible career, but the greatest mark on your résumé is the Man you are one of the best examples of hard work, integrity, humility and class. We’ll all miss you!!!”
The Predators had wanted Fisher back. While waiting for the captain’s decision, general manager David Poile made sure to protect the roster by signing center Nick Bonino away from the Penguins . Poile also signed forward Scott Hartnell for veteran leadership.

Now Nashville will have to pick a new captain for a second straight year. Fisher was named the seventh captain in team history last year after the Predators traded defenseman Shea Weber to Montreal for defenseman P.K. Subban .

Defenseman Roman Josi, who will be going into his seventh season with the franchise, is a top candidate.