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Austin Hooper, now a Pro Bowler, could thrive in Dirk Koetter’s offense

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When asked this week what he expects from a Dirk Koetter-run offense, the Atlanta Falcons’ Pro Bowl tight end didn’t come back with some elaborate response.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“I don’t know much,” Hooper said. “I just know he was the coach at Tampa and he’s now our offensive coordinator. I know he was in Atlanta prior to getting the head-coaching job [in Tampa]. So, we’ll see.

“I’ll let you know when I know what we’re running.”9

True, it’s not exactly clear how the typically pass-oriented Koetter will adjust during his second stint as a coordinator in Atlanta, with coach Dan Quinn wanting to maintain the same outside/inside zone principles the Falcons established under Kyle Shanahan and attempted to sustain under Steve Sarkisian. But no matter how the sharp-minded Koetter plans to call it, there’s a good chance Hooper will continue to thrive as a pass-catcher in what is likely to be a tight end-friendly offense. Under Koetter’s watch, tight ends such as Cameron Brate (80 targets for Tampa Bay in 2016) and Marcedes Lewis (81 targets for Jacksonville in 2011) have been used heavily.

Of course, no one is putting Hooper in the same conversation as Gonzalez. However, Hooper has the potential to be a reliable threat for years to come. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate and subsequently added to his first Pro Bowl roster this week after Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles pulled out.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“It’s a huge honor that not a lot of people get to be a part of,” Hooper said. “Just looking forward to the opportunity. It just solidifies the hard work that I’ve put in has paid off in a big way. I’m very fortunate.”

Hooper, who just completed his third NFL season, is fresh off a career-best 71 catches for 660 yards and and four touchdowns. He was targeted 87 times, second most on the team behind Julio Jones’ 170 targets. Hooper credited his former position coach, Wade Harman, for elevating his game to a Pro Bowl level.

Liverpool again show they will sacrifice style in favour of results on the road to the Premier League title

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In any title-winning season there are games that end up being almost forgotten: staging posts along the road that offer essential nourishment but nothing in the way of vivid scenery.

Should Liverpool see the job through in May, this laborious win over an excellently drilled Brighton side will only merit a few seconds of the highlight reel. It will not matter one bit, because these may prove to be their most important three points of the entire campaign.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Make no mistake, there were question marks over Jurgen Klopp’s side before this one; the smallest of signs that their narrow defeat at Manchester City had opened up wider wounds would have been seized upon. If that sounds harsh, it is just the way things work these days when you are in the throes of a title race with a margin for error that appears smaller than ever.

“From a maturity point of view, I would say it was the most mature of the season,” Klopp said of a slow-burning affair that was decided three minutes after half-time by a Mohamed Salah penalty. At full-time Klopp allowed himself an understated fist pump, and it was a reaction in character with the previous 90 minutes. There was not a lot to warm the blood — not even when Brighton, who had fulfilled one of Chris Hughton’s primary objectives by still being in the game with 10 minutes to go, sent the cavalry up at the end. But there was a coolness, a shared purpose, a diligence to Liverpool that has been the hallmark of their current campaign as much as the full-throttle approach that characterised the previous two.9

“We are not the Harlem Globetrotters,” Klopp said. “We have to deliver a result, and that’s difficult.” It was a revealing statement, because it reiterated that Liverpool are absolutely content to be mean and grim-faced when it suits them. Last season they won this fixture 5-1, blowing Brighton away either side of half-time. That never looked on the cards this time but nor, really, did any kind of mishap once they were ahead. With six minutes to play Roberto Firmino could be seen tracking back 30 yards to dispossess Anthony Knockaert, thwarting a promising counter for the hosts. in the time that remained there were big defensive interventions from Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk, and those were the moments that satisfied Klopp as much as any.c

“It was obviously a big challenge for everyone to stay calm and concentrated because each little situation can be a massive threat on the counter or whatever,” he continued. “And not to make any fouls because Brighton are unbelievably strong on set pieces. That level of concentration is difficult to keep, but they did it.“nike cheap nfl jerseys

It was a particular relief that Fabinho, whose increasing prominence in midfield had been a big factor in Liverpool’s recent form, stayed firm at the back. He faced a gnarled, wily customer in Glenn Murray, and when he let the striker go in the 15th minute, watching in relief as the resulting header looped over, their shortage of centre-back bodies seemed at risk of being laid bare. Fabinho took an arm in the face from Murray shortly afterwards but would respond later with one of his own; after that rocky start he looked well attuned to the physical battle and excelled just before the hour, too, with a vital block from Pascal Gross’s goal-bound shot.

Steven Wright agrees with Red Sox on one-year contract

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Knuckleballer Steven Wright and the Boston Red Sox agreed to a one-year contract for $1,375,000, a raise of $275,000, in a deal that avoided arbitration.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

An All-Star in 2016, the 34-year-old right-hander started the 2018 season late following left knee surgery and a 15-game domestic violence suspension. He made four starts and six relief appearances, went back on the disabled list in late June because of the knee, then returned in September.11

Wright went 3-1 with a 2.68 ERA in four starts and 16 relief appearances. He was removed from the Division Series roster following the opener against the New York Yankees, a day after re-injuring his left knee during a workout, and had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Nov. 13.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Nine Boston players remained set to swap proposed arbitration salaries on Friday, including AL MVP Mookie Betts. The outfielder had a $10.5 million salary last year after winning a hearing against the Red Sox.

Also eligible for arbitration are outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., shortstop Xander Bogaerts, right-handers Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, utiliyman Brock Holt, catcher Sandy Leon and catcher/first baseman Blake Swihart.

Nolan Arenado doesn’t reach deal with Rockies, might still avoid arbitration

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The Colorado Rockies and third baseman Nolan Arenado did not reach a settlement on a one-year deal for the 2019 season on Friday, but league sources told ESPN there is a strong sense that the two sides will reach an agreement before an arbitration hearing.

Arenado, a four-time All-Star who is seen as the gem of the 2019-20 free-agent class, requested $30 million. The Rockies, meanwhile, offered $24 million. Sources told ESPN that it’s likely that they will settle in the $27 million range.

At whichever amount he does settle, it will be a single-season arbitration record, breaking the mark of $23 million set by Josh Donaldson with the Toronto Blue Jays last year.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Arenado, a slick-fielding, slugging 27-year-old, is coming off a season in which he hit .297 and led the National League with 38 home runs and was second with 110 RBIs and a .935 OPS.9

Meanwhile, his teammate with the Rockies, shortstop Trevor Story, was one of the many players to reach a post-deadline settlement. After originally appearing like he was headed to an arbitration hearing, Story, who made $555,000 last season, settled on a $5 million salary for 2019.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

The 26-year-old Story hit .291 with 37 home runs, 108 RBIs and 27 stolen bases for the Rockies last season.

Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola, New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino and Houston Astros teammates Gerrit Cole and Carlos Correa were among those who did not reach settlements on one-year deals for the 2019 season and are expected to head to arbitration hearings to determine their salaries.

Nola (17-6, 2.37 ERA, 224 strikeouts) and Severino (19-8, 3.39 ERA, 220 strikeouts) are both first-time-eligible starting pitchers, a market that has been notoriously difficult for players.

While first-time-eligible closers regularly exceed $6 million salaries, the only starting pitcher to do so was Dallas Keuchel coming off his Cy Young season with the Houston Astros in 2015.

Also not reaching deals Friday are Trevor Bauer, T.J. McFarland, Kyle Barraclough, Ryan Tepera, Tommy Pham, Alex Wood, Michael Fulmer, Chris Devenski and Michael Taylor.

The non-settlements capped a wild morning in which more than 100 eligible players negotiated their contracts.

Ben Simmons calls 76ers ‘too soft’ after loss to Hawks; Jimmy Butler disagrees

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In November, Simmons also used “soft” to describe his team — and Embiid agreed — after a 25-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets, though that was before the Sixers completed a major trade to acquire swingman Jimmy Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves.cheap wholesale nike nfl jerseys

Butler would not go as far as Simmons did Friday night and took issue with his teammate’s choice of words.

“I don’t like the word ‘soft,'” Butler said, and added a whistle. “I just don’t think that we did what we were supposed to do. I’m not gonna say that anybody’s soft. I just think that we got beat in every aspect of the game. They came out from the jump and did what they wanted to do, and they did that for 48 straight minutes.”

“I hope we’re still together,” Butler said. “Nobody pointing fingers at anybody.”10

Simmons, who had 23 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds, wasn’t naming names, but said he wanted to see more physicality from the entire team.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

“I just don’t think we’re physical enough. I think defensively, we’re not taking it personal enough when guys score on us. It should be a pride thing when somebody scores; you should be frustrated every time,” he said.

“I think that comes with age — we have a lot of young guys — but at the same time, I think we have to expect more from each other to get better and get to that next level. ‘Cause I know once playoff time comes, it’s another level.”

Asked whether he had spoken with his teammates about the issue, Simmons said: “We know. We know we gotta be more physical.

“We have to take it as a challenge. You don’t wanna come out on the floor and have guys go at you every game. You wanna make that a pride thing. You wanna come out and get stops and lock down your man. And that’s everybody, including me.”

The November trade of Butler to join fellow stars Simmons and Embiid hasn’t gone as smoothly as the Sixers had hoped. Embiid at times has complained about his role in Philly’s offense, and Butler recently challenged coach Brett

Kyrie Irving says desire to win was root of frustration after loss to Magic

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“I never want to come from a place where I don’t want to sound like, or make it feel like, I don’t want to win a championship. Sometimes I may come off and say things, never to question my teammates in public like that ever again; I just want to win so bad,” Irving said on Monday at the Celtics’ shootaround.

After Boston’s loss Saturday, Irving said his team’s lack of experience was a factor in Boston falling short of preseason expectations.

The Celtics (25-17) are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference entering Monday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets. They will play Monday without Irving (quad injury) and Marcus Smart (illness).cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

Many considered Boston the favorite to win the Eastern Conference after LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Irving on Saturday suggested his team — which features several key contributors who lack championship experience — was feeling the burden of expectations this season.9

“It came from a place where I asked for a trade and I’m coming here and I believe in this organization and I want these young guys to be successful,” Irving, who won a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, said on Monday of his postgame critique. “In order to that, we all got to be on the same page and have that mindset that, a championship or nothing. And sometimes that can get the best of me at times.”

With Irving and Gordon Hayward sidelined with injuries, Boston reached the Eastern Conference finals last season. Younger Celtics such as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Smart played key roles in the team’s run last season.

Boston coach Brad Stevens agreed that the increased expectations may be affecting the group. Although he noted that, internally, last year’s team expected to compete for a conference title despite the injuries to Irving and Hayward.

“It takes a lot of teams a long time to get there, some teams never get there,” Stevens said. “We’ll see if this team does from a [consistency] basis. But we’ve shown that we have a chance, so that’s good.”

Irving said it’s the responsibility of the entire organization to help the younger players deal with the burden of title expectations.cheap wholesale nike nfl jerseys

“But I’m leading this thing,” said Irving, who is likely to opt out of the final year of his contract in 2019-20 and become a free agent this summer. “I’m going to take most of it.”

K.J. Wright hopes he won’t be the Seahawks’ latest big-name departure

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One of the biggest contract questions facing the Seattle Seahawks this offseason shouldn’t actually be that much of a question if you ask Bobby Wagner.

But even as Wagner doubled down on his comments from the summer about how the Seahawks would be erring in letting fellow linebacker K.J. Wright leave as a free agent, what he said in the same breath underscored how and why it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

“I don’t know,” Wagner said after the Seahawks’ season ended Saturday with a 24-22 wild-card loss to the Dallas Cowboys, which was the best game Wright played in his injury-shortened season. “… It’s a crazy business. I watched a lot of guys leave last year, so I don’t know. The right thing to do would be to bring him back. He’s been an amazing teammate, amazing person in the community, he helps young guys, he never held out, he did everything right.10

Working against his return are his age — he turns 30 in July — and that he missed all but five regular-season games with a knee injury. It required surgery late in the summer, kept him out for the first six games and then sidelined him for another five after he suffered a setback in his return.

But if this game was Wright’s last shot to make his case for a third contract from Seattle, he sure made a strong one. His juggling interception of a Dak Prescott pass in the end zone gave the Seahawks life in the fourth quarter. He adeptly sniffed out an earlier fly-sweep to drop Tavon Austin for a 3-yard loss. That was one of his nine tackles, second most on the team behind safety Bradley McDougald’s 10.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Wright and receiver Doug Baldwin are the second-longest-tenured Seahawks behind safety Earl Thomas. Adding to the uncertainty over Wright’s future is how the Seahawks started to drastically reshape the core of their roster over the offseason by moving on from defensive mainstays like Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

But if they had no use at all for aging starters, they wouldn’t have extended left tackle Duane Brown this summer right before his 33rd birthday. And Wright’s experience carries tremendous value for a defense whose youth was all too evident at times this season, including Saturday in Dallas. Wright said he anticipated the route that receiver Noah Brown was going to run on the play that resulted in his interception after seeing the Arizona Cardinals run the same thing last week with Larry Fitzgerald. Indeed, Wright was a step in front of Brown the entire time.

On fast track: Lamar Jackson set to become youngest QB to start in playoffs

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Now, Jackson not only is suiting up for a postseason game in his eighth career start, he’s making NFL history: He will become the youngest quarterback ever to start an NFL playoff game.

The fact he will be the first quarterback to start a playoff game before his 22nd birthday has seemed to impress everyone except Jackson himself.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“I’m here to play football. I was 21 all year,” Jackson said. “So, it’s another game for me.”

Jackson will start Sunday’s wild-card game between the Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers at 21 years, 364 days. He will surpass Bernie Kosar, who was 22 years, 40 days old when he started for the Cleveland Browns and threw his first touchdown pass in a 1985 postseason game to Ozzie Newsome (who drafted Jackson 33 years later).

Young quarterbacks have recorded mixed success in the postseason. Since 2001, only four quarterbacks 23 years old and under have won a playoff game (Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Flacco and Mark Sanchez). Over that span, quarterbacks 23 and younger have a 10-11 record (.476) in the postseason.9

Jackson shows his youthful exuberance on the field, from dancing in the huddle to somersaulting into the end zone. But the Ravens don’t think too much about Jackson’s age. Players and coaches have praised Jackson for his poise in going 6-1 as a starter this season.

“Lamar’s maturity has impressed me greatly,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Players see it when he walks around. He’s very comfortable with who he is. That’s a sign of maturity, for sure.”

In comparison, Jackson will be making his eighth career start, while Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will be starting in his 10th postseason game.

When Jackson and Rivers, 37, square off, it will be the third-largest age gap between starting quarterbacks for an NFL postseason game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Jackson was only 7 years old when Rivers threw his first NFL pass, against the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 2, 2005.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

But Jackson appears unnerved by his whirlwind season. At this time last year, Jackson was playing in the TaxSlayer Bowl. He’s now three wins from reaching the Super Bowl.

“It’s just a name — ‘the playoffs,'” Jackson said. “You’re trying to get the championship now. It was for us to get in it, and we’re in it now, so we want the big thing. We want the big thing now.”

Former Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has died at age of 82

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Hill-Wood served as chairman for 31 years after taking over the post from his father, Denis Hill-Wood, in 1982. He stepped down because of health reasons in 2013, handing over to Chips Keswick.

“It is with deep regret that we announce the death of former chairman Peter Hill-Wood, at the age of 82,” Arsenal said in a statement. “During his time at the helm, the club enjoyed unparalleled success.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

“Early in Peter’s tenure he presided over the appointment of George Graham as manager and a subsequent, trophy-laden spell that incorporated two league titles, the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup.

“That success was followed by the remarkable era of Arsene Wenger, appointed by Peter and the board of directors to some surprise from the footballing world in 1996.”7

While Hill-Wood was not in charge of any football operations as chairman, he helped oversee the move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium. His family have been an integral part of Arsenal since the 1920s, with his grandfather Samuel Hill-Wood having also served as club chairman.nike nfl jerseys for cheap

He was initially against Stan Kroenke’s takeover of the club, saying in 2007 that “we don’t need Kroenke’s money and we don’t want his sort.”

However, he ended up selling his last shares in the club to Kroenke, having previously allowed former vice-chairman David Dein to buy up most of his holdings.

“As we celebrate the unique achievement of 100 consecutive years in the top flight this season, the Hill-Wood family were at the helm for the lion’s share of this special century, a testament to their tenacity and judgment in ensuring we have remained a significant force in English football for so long,” Arsenal said. “Peter and his family’s influence on the club cannot be understated, but at this most difficult time for his family and friends, it is Peter the man who we remember with great fondness.

Al Horford returns for Celtics just as Boston searches for consistency

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Any discussion about the Boston Celtics over this holiday weekend was centered around the team meeting that took place after Friday’s dismal showing at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.

There was plenty more talk about it after the Celtics came out and blew the doors off the Charlotte Hornets Sunday night, winning 119-103 here at TD Garden in a game that wasn’t nearly that close. But what had a far bigger impact on the Celtics than a team meeting — both Sunday night and moving forward — was the return of Al Horford after a seven-game absence with a knee injury.
Horford has always been a player, going back to his first days in the league with the Atlanta Hawks more than a decade ago, who has filled in whatever gaps his team has needed him to. That’s no different in Boston, where Horford provides the Celtics with both elite passing and spacing at the center spot offensively — not to mention marshaling a defense that once again ranks among the NBA’s best.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

His presence was a big part of why the Celtics beat the Bucks here in Boston on Nov. 1 — and it was no coincidence things were much different without him spacing the floor and contorting Milwaukee’s defense Friday night. Ditto Boston’s mastery over the Philadelphia 76ers the past two years — and why his return, coming on the eve of Boston’s rematch with Philadelphia in a Christmas Day showdown, couldn’t have come at a better time as far as the Celtics are concerned.7

“It’s tough when there are so many guys in and out of the lineup and so many things [changing],” Horford said. “It puts a lot of pressure on some of our guys, so it’s just good we’re getting healthy. Marcus Morris being back, that’s huge for us, me being back obviously. [Aron] Baynes is out now but at least we are getting healthy again, so that is all going to help our offense, and help our team.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

There have been plenty of things contributing to Boston’s wild swings back and forth throughout this season thus far. Arguably the biggest, though, has been Horford’s play. When he plays well — as he did in Boston’s run to the brink of the NBA Finals last season without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward — the Celtics are a far different team. This season, though, he has looked hampered by his balky knee, which Boston labeled as patellofemoral pain syndrome during his recent seven-game hiatus.

Between Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez, Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, and Indiana’s Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, each of the other contenders in the East has weapons at the pivot that Boston will need Horford to square off against — and, often, get the better of — if the Celtics want to be the team they were expected to be before this season began.