Joined: 13 Jun 2018
|Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 3:34 am Post subject: and step up on the
|NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (12-6)
OPEN CAMP: July 26 Matt Breida Jersey , Ochsner Sports Performance Center, Metairie, Louisiana
LAST YEAR: Helped by infusion of elite young talent, Saints pulled out of three-year rut of mediocrity and won NFC South. They were seconds away from advancing to NFC title game, only to be thwarted by Minnesota receiver Stefon Diggs' winning touchdown as time expired in divisional round. New Orleans received major contributions from running back and Offensive Rookie of Year Alvin Kamara, and cornerback and Defensive Rookie of Year Marshon Lattimore. Several other first-and second-year players filled regular roles as well, and veteran Drew Brees remained one of NFL's top QBs.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: LB Demario Davis, S Kurt Coleman, CB Patrick Robinson, WR Cameron Meredith, Rookie DE Marcus Davenport.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: S Kenny Vaccaro, TE Coby Fleener, WR Willie Snead, G Senio Kelemete, RT Zach Strief, CB Delvin Breaux.
CAMP NEEDS: Lineup is relatively stable from last-season's playoff run, but New Orleans looking to bolster pass rush by finding someone who can make offenses pay for sending multiple blockers at All-Pro end Cameron Jordan. Saints want Davenport to develop into that player. But he is raw in first season out of UTSA. Saints also want to figure out which running backs can fill in for Mark Ingram during his four-game suspension to open season. Veteran free agents Shane Vereen and Terrence West, along with draft pick Boston Scott and second-year pro Trey Edmunds, are competing for those snaps.
EXPECTATIONS: Saints appear to have gotten stronger and deeper than last season, particularly with additions on defense. Keys to improving are how well new players fit and, as usual, avoiding injuries. If Davenport develops quickly, Saints could be elite. If not, teams with good plan to block Jordan could give New Orleans fits.
AP NFL website: pro32.ap.org and AP_NFL
CAROLINA PANTHERS (11-6)
OPEN CAMP: July 26 Adrian Peterson Jersey , Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina
LAST YEAR: Panthers enjoyed bounce-back season after failing to reach playoffs in 2017. Carolina lost three times to New Orleans, including wild-card playoffs. No deep threat, lengthy injury to TE Greg Olsen and poor pass protection doomed offense. Defense remained one of NFL's best behind high MLB Luke Kuechly.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookie WR D.J. Moore, WR Torrey Smith, WR Jarius Wright, RB C.J. Anderson, RB Kenjon Barner, G Jeremiah Sirles, DT Dontari Poe, rookie CB Donte Jackson, CB Ross Cockrell, S Da'Norris Searcy.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: G Andrew Norwell, RB Jonathan Stewart, DT Star Lotulelei, DE Charles Johnson, S Kurt Coleman, CB Daryl Worley, QB Derek Anderson.
CAMP NEEDS: Panthers need to adjust to three new coordinators: Norv Turner (offense), Eric Washington (defense) and Chase Blackburn (special teams). Turner's relationship with QB Cam Newton critical to team's success. Second-year RB Christian McCaffrey is featured back with Jonathan Stewart gone. Team expected to use more two tight end sets, play-action under Turner. Addition of WRs D.J. Moore, Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright should bolster passing game. Washington inherits defense looking to replace four starters (Lotulelei, Johnson Jerry Rice Jersey , Coleman and Worley). Kuechly, DT Kawann Short, LB Thomas Davis, CB James Bradberry and pass-rushing tandem Julius Peppers and Mario Addison (11 sacks each) all return. GM Marty Hurney thrilled with second-round pick CB Donte Jackson, who'll start.
EXPECTATIONS: Core of team that's been to postseason four of past five seasons remains intact, but aging quickly. Peppers is 38, S Mike Adams 37, Davis 35, and C Ryan Kalil and Olsen are 33. Newton is 29. Plenty of pressure to win now under new owner David Tepper before window closes. Carolina should compete for NFC South title with New Orleans and Atlanta if offense improves.
ATLANTA FALCONS (11-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 27, Falcons practice facility, Flowery Branch, Georgia
LAST YEAR: One year after reaching Super Bowl, Falcons finished third in NFC South and lost to Philadelphia in second round of playoffs. Quarterback Matt Ryan, working under new coordinator Steve Sarkisian, had decline in production from 2016, when team led NFL in scoring. Ryan still signed five-year, $150 million deal in offseason. Good news is young defense, led by speedy linebackers Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell and safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, allowed 318.4 yards per game, significant drop from 371.2 in 2016.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: G Brandon Fusco, rookie WR Calvin Ridley, TE Logan Paulsen, CB Justin Bethel, rookie DT Deadrin Senat Randy Moss Jersey , QB coach Greg Knapp, RB coach Bernie Parmalee.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: DT Dontari Poe, DE Adrian Clayborn, WR Taylor Gabriel, FB Derrick Coleman, TE Levine Toilolo.
CAMP NEEDS: Spotlight will be on WR Julio Jones after team announced it won't renegotiate his current $71.5 million contract. Jones has three years remaining in five-year deal. Jones did not attend minicamp, and training camp holdout could be major distraction to "brotherhood" atmosphere promoted by coach Dan Quinn. Defensive front will be concern following losses of Poe and Clayborn. Senat could have opportunity for immediate playing time, if not starting role. Ridley needs to prove he can handle No. 3 receiver spot behind Jones and Mohamed Sanu and be ready for even bigger role.
EXPECTATIONS: Ryan is 33, Jones is 29, RB Devonta Freeman had two concussions, including one in preseason, and knee injury last season, and RB Tevin Coleman could be free agent after this season. These are all alarm signals as window for current offense is narrowing. While young defense is emerging as team's strength, Atlanta's offense needs to re-emerge in second season with Sarkasian if team can have real hope for second Super Bowl appearance in three years. Addition of Fusco should add more stability to interior offensive line. Competitive NF
LAS VEGAS — It looked like it was going to be so easy.
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights swept their first-ever playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings, then opened the second round of the Western Conference playoffs with a stunningly lopsided 7-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
But the Sharks won Game 2 in double overtime 4-3, and bounced back from a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 3 to blank the Golden Knights 4-0 on Wednesday night to even the best-of-seven series at 2-2.
Still, Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said it’s no time to push the panic button heading into Friday night’s Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena.
“We’re 2-2 and we’ve got home ice,” Gallant said Thursday afternoon. “It’s best two out of three. There’s no panic. We get ready to play.”
Vegas is 32-11-2 on its home ice this season. However, San Jose won the last meeting there and comes in with momentum, winning two of the last three games in the series.
“We’re playing in the second round of the playoffs,” Vegas forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “We’re playing a good team. It’s how we handle it. We had times in (Wednesday night’s shutout loss) that we played better in the game, but for 60 minutes they were the better team.”
Gallant took it one step further, questioning the effort of a few of his players in the loss.
“It’s about playing fast,” Gallant said. “When you don’t play fast Kelechi Osemele Jersey , you give San Jose a chance to break out and that’s what happens. They played fast last night and we didn’t have a chance to break out. It all goes hand-in-hand.
“When our forecheck is good we play a real good game. … When 10 to 15 percent of the guys don’t show up and forecheck like all the other guys, that makes the biggest difference in the world. San Jose had 20 guys competing and playing hard last night, and that’s why they were the better team.”
One thing is for certain. The Sharks have adjusted to the speed of the Golden Knights after the Game 1 blowout and put a premium on forechecking. They’re an overtime loss in Game 3 away from leading the series, 3-1.
“There’s a bunch of pieces that go into that,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said of slowing down the Vegas attack. “Puck management is a big part of it. They feed off turnovers and transition as quickly as any team in the league. That’s obviously a huge part of it. Your attention to detail through the neutral zone, top of the circles in your end to top of the circles in the other end, has to be really good to handle that.”
“When we make them come through us, 200 feet through all five guys, we’re a lot tougher team to play against,” Sharks goalie Martin Jones said.
Jones, yanked after allowing five goals on 13 shots in the opener, bounced back to garner his sixth career playoff shutout on Wednesday night, stopping 34 shots in the process. San Jose also was a perfect 5-of-5 on the penalty kill.
“We’ve done a better job of not forcing plays through the neutral zone,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. “If you don’t have it, just chip it and forecheck. That at least gives our defensemen a chance to get their guy and step up on them so they’re not flying through the neutral zone.”
Still, San Jose must find a way to win at least one more time at T-Mobile Arena, where a Game 7 would be played if needed on Tuesday, to advance to the Western Conference finals.
“It’s nothing to worry about,” Vegas center Cody Eakin said of Wednesday night’s loss. “It’s 2-2. Two of the (remaining) three are at home. We have the advantage.”
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