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NFL Week 2 preseason winners and losers: Running backs, rookie QBs among top performers

Week 2 of the NFL preseason is just about wrapped up, with only Monday night’s Falcons-Jets contest still on the docket. That means we’re well over halfway through the entire exhibition slate, and roughly a week away from final roster cut-downs. The real games are just around the corner. But which players and teams took clear steps in the right (or wrong) direction this week?

Here are our biggest winners and losers from the second week of 2022 preseason action:

KaVontae Turpin

SHUT UP

The Cowboys already had premium offensive weaponry in CeeDee Lamb, Dalton Schultz and Tony Pollard. But they might have to find a way to include Turpin as well, after the minor-league veteran and recent USFL star logged not one but two return touchdowns in Dallas’ win over the Chargers. Even if just as a kick or punt returner, he probably locked up a roster spot.

Speaking of offensive weapons in the NFC East, Gibson genuinely appears to be losing his grip on the Commanders‘ top running back job. The former rookie standout, now entering Year 3, rotated with the second- and third-team units at practice recently. Against the Chiefs, he stood on the sidelines while rookie Brian Robinson Jr. started in the backfield, then totaled just two carries while being relegated to kick-return duties.

Kenny Pickett

SHUT UP

The Pittsburgh product was always going to be the fan favorite in the Steelers‘ QB competition, but he was decisive and unfazed in limited action against the Jaguarsmaking the case with a seamless up-tempo scoring drive that he deserves genuine consideration as the Week 1 starter over Mitchell Trubisky, who’s more experienced but maybe no more talented.

Not all young AFC North QBs had a good weekend, and Rosen will be the first to admit it after completing just seven of 20 throws against the Eagles‘ third-stringers. Flopping in each of his career stops, his shot at claiming No. 3 QB duties for the Browns behind Deshaun Watson and Jacoby Brissett is pretty much shot after Joshua Dobbs showcased both an efficient arm and play-extending mobility to keep Cleveland competitive.

Winner: The run game

James Cook

SHUT UP

If you played preseason fantasy football with second- and third-string running backs this week, congratulations. The Bills rolled all over the Broncos by deploying every member of their deep backfield: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, James Cook and Duke Johnson. The Eagles got a steady burst from Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell with Miles Sanders absent. The Lions‘ trio of Justin Jackson, Craig Reynolds and Godwin Igwebuike combined for over 100 yards against the Colts. Who says the ground game is dead?

Getting hurt isn’t necessarily his fault, but the star Saints receiver is trying to return to the field for the first time since 2020, and two days after sitting out his second straight preseason game, he missed practice with a hamstring issue. All while first-round rookie Chris Olave continues to rise up the ranks and approach 2022 as New Orleans’ most likely No. 1 target.

Malik Willis, right

SHUT UP

No one expects the third-round rookie to be a polished passer at this point in his career, so just witnessing his electricity as a scrambler and occasional side-armed thrower should be enough to entice Titans fans growing impatient with Ryan Tannehill under center. But, Willis isn’t about to take over at QB, but you can see, after his mobility and arm angles against the Buccaneerswhy Tennessee stopped his draft-day fall.

Loser: Kliff Kingsbury

Just kidding. Or are we? The Cardinals coach has jokingly allowed his QB, Kyler Murray, to experiment with play-calling this summer ever since Murray gave him a hard time about running the offense. But once Murray took over the headset late in Arizona’s preseason loss to the Ravens, the Cards’ offense was decidedly more effective, even threatening a comeback after an option touchdown run by backup Trace McSorley. Now let’s see if Kliff surrenders responsibility when it matters.

Winner: Isaiah Likely

Isaiah Likely

SHUT UP

Looking for a sleeper who’s likely to have a bigger impact on the Ravens’ offense this year than expected? A guy who’s likely to warrant some red-zone targets from Lamar Jackson? And maybe even Likely to share snaps with Mark Andrews? We can’t get enough Likely after the rookie fourth-rounder went off with eight catches for 100 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals, consistently finding or creating space against Arizona’s defense.

Top 100 Class Of 2023 Forward Al Amadou Commits To Marquette

If the attention paid during the spring and summer recruiting periods was any indication, what happened on Thursday afternoon was a foregone conclusion. Al Amadou, a top 100 forward in the Class of 2023, joined 247 Sports on their YouTube channel to announce his commitment to YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles and head coach Shaka Smart. He picked MU out of a final five that included St. John’s, Miami, Georgia Techand San Diego.

Amadou is currently listed by 247 as a 6’9”, 185 pound power forward. Hailing from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he attends Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia. The 247 Composite system rates Amadou as a four-star prospect and ranks him at #104 in the country in the Class of 2023. That makes him the 23rd best power forward in the class and the second best prospect in Pennsylvania, trailing behind only Justin Edwards, a Kentucky commit who is ranked #3 in the country. Internally, 247 is much higher at the moment on Amadou, ranking him nearly 20 spots higher than the Composite at #87 in the country. That’s still four-star prospect territory, so it’s not like that really represents that much of a difference, especially not with five-star territory cutting off at #21.

The explanation on the difference between the two is quite simple: Not everyone likes Amadou’s potential as much as 247 Sports does at the moment. Rivals doesn’t have a rating or ranking for him at all, he’s not in the ESPN top 100 although they do have him as a four-star prospect, and On 3’s internal system rates him as a three-star guy ranked #138 in the country.

In any case, this is all a big jump up for Amadou. When Marquette made their scholarship offer to him back last August, he wasn’t rated or ranked at all by 247 Sports. He first appeared in the top 100 of the 247 internal rankings back in November, and has slowly inched his way into the top 90. Effectively, this means that Amadou has gone from getting offers from local squads like Drexel and La Salle to being projected as a fringe Power Six contributor on Day 1 of his collegiate career. Not too bad.

Here’s what he told 247 Sports about what was important to his recruiting process back in late July:

“My main thing for having this top five was to have really good relationships with each coaching staff,” he said. “Just knowing that the people around me, trusting them, and having my mom trust them. I’m a relationship type of guy and loyalty runs deep for me.”

Remember: Relationships are a core value for Shaka Smart at Marquette, to the point where it appears on promo material the team posts on social media. Based on information from our article when Smart made the scholarship offer, it looks like Marquette has been the longest involved team with Amadou, so that probably plays a big part in knowing the staff and the people that will be around him in Milwaukee. Unspoken in Amadou’s comments here are his emotions over losing his father and his father’s younger brother two weeks apart in the spring of 2019. I highly recommend that you go read this feature from City Of Basketball Love on Amadou’s development between then and now, both as a basketball player and as a person.

Here’s what Amadou told 247 Sports in late July about his recruitment by Marquette:

“They’ve been at every game and coach Smart made it an effort to really recruit me. It’s crazy because coach Smart is a great coach and they would call my phone every day and keep in touch with me. Our relationship runs deep.”

That first sentence is what I alluded to at the top of the page. It seemed that every time I turned around, there was a new mention of Smart and sometimes an assistant as well at Amadou’s games on the club circuit in the spring and in the summer. You can see the value of Smart’s commitment to both Amadou as well as growing the relationship with Amadou in his comments there.

Here’s a quick scouting report on Amadou that 247 Sports published in mid-July.

Amadou is a long-term stock who combines good size, mobility, and developing skill. He needs to get much stronger and more consistent with both his motor and overall productivity, but he has a chance to be an inside-out scoring threat and versatile frontcourt defender in time.

And now, the new scholarship chart!

As you can see from the chart, adding Amadou to the 2023-24 roster closes out the known available scholarships for Marquette with Zaide Lowery already committed. While that would be good enough to give Marquette a top 20 recruiting class at the moment according to the 247 Sports Class Calculator, there’s a real chance that the Golden Eagles aren’t done recruiting for a year from now. There’s just been way too much buzz around various 2023 prospects, most notably Tre Norman, to declare MU officially done now, and on top of that, there are some question marks hanging in the air. Is Emarion Ellis going to be able to recover from his stress fracture and play for Marquette again? Is Oso Ighodaro going to take advantage of enrolling with a big pile of AP credits and graduate early and leave? Does Olivier-Maxence Prosper turn into a big time pro prospect over the next seven months? Are there going to be transfers in the new era of immediate eligibility? While I’m not trying to push anyone out the door, it certainly feels like something else is on the way, so we’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.

Blue Devils camp report: Part 9

Duke appears to iron out issues in passing game in final scrimmage of fall camp, with opener less than two weeks ago

Eli Pancol had a big touchdown catch early in Duke's scrimmage on Sunday.

Eli Pancol had a big touchdown catch early in Duke’s scrimmage on Sunday. (William Howard/USA Today Sports Images)

DURHAM – Sunday’s second and final scrimmage of fall camp at Wallace Wade Stadium didn’t bring a sense of finality for the Duke sophomore safety Brandon Johnson.

The Blue Devils still have plenty to do before the opener against Temple on Sept. 2.

“We’ve still got work to do, so I wouldn’t say (this was) the end of camp,” Johnson said, “but we’re into game mode now, so we’re just preparing for Temple and trying to get better every day.”

Along with the normal caveat that everything in preseason college football is a catch-22, an additional one needs to be made for Duke’s second scrimmage: Duke’s first-team offense was going against the second-team defense, and hence the first-team defense was facing the second-team offense (with the exception of a few rotating players).

While the first scrimmage had a lot of good-on-good action, this had more of a game-week feel.

What comes with that is a few mismatches.

The part that stood out – this probably has something to do with it being under the microscope entering the scrimmage – is that the Blue Devils’ passing game appeared to click into gear.

Riley Leonard connected with Eli Pancol for about a 50-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline on the first series of the scrimmage, and that was the first of five touchdown throws by Duke QBs. Freshman Henry Belin IV had two touchdown throws, and Leonard threw another on the second play of an overtime simulation.

The Blue Devils’ other passing touchdown was a strike from Gavin Spurrier that freshman wide receiver Jaden Watkins.

Duke’s passing game has come under scrutiny this week after coach Mike Elko called it inconsistent following last weekend’s scrimmage. He again said Saturday that he had been inconsistent this week, noting Saturday morning’s practice was a good performance but Friday morning’s practice wasn’t.

To Pancol, Duke’s receivers have been stacking good days and Sunday’s scrimmage was the best performance yet.

“They’ve all been really good,” Pancol said. “We’re just stacking each day, so yeah I guess technically it is the best day because the next day is the best day.”

On the other side of the ball, Duke’s defensive standouts were something of the usual suspects from the past three weeks.

Transfer safety Darius Joiner continues to impress with his knack for being around the ball, and his ability to lay big hits on receivers trying to complete catches. Early in the scrimmage, Belin made a downfield throw to Andrew Joneswho was jarred loose from the ball by Joiner.

Defensive tackle DeWayne Carter had a sack and batted down a pass at the line; linebacker Dorian Mausi had a third-down sack and showed some range in coverage. Cam Dillona grad transfer linebacker from Columbia, batted down a pass and got into the backfield for a couple of pressures.

Johnson, too, made some plays out of the nickel as that position looks more like a third cornerback than a third safety in Duke’s new defensive scheme.

“I wouldn’t say it was too many challenges,” Johnson said of moving to nickel. “You’ve just got to make sure you’re on your P’s and Q’s.”

That’s good, because Duke is running out of time to be on its P’s and Q’s before it’s keeping score in an actual game.

Here were my observations during Duke’s 16th practice and second scrimmage of fall camp:

Equipment: Full pads

Was today won by the offense, defense or neither: Offense

If not made clear above, the passing game was strong. It wasn’t flawless, but it felt like a consistent performance that Elko has been looking for all week.

Duke isn’t all of a sudden going to trot out the top receiving corps in the ACC, but it needs sure-handed receivers who can eat up yards after the catch, and who can occasionally stretch the field. For the most part, those characteristics were on display.

It’s also worth mentioning in this section that Duke’s running game has been consistent throughout fall camp. The Blue Devils’ offensive line is solid, and Duke goes (at least) four deep at running back.

After a lot of focus has been spent recently on the passing game, and QB battles are always going to attract headlines, it’ll be interesting to see how balanced Duke’s offense is against other teams.

Catch of the day: Hmmm… I didn’t mark down any ridiculous catches.

Sahmir Hagans had a busy day and a couple of his catches were thrown into tight windows that he pulled in on the sideline.

Nicky Dalmolin had a catch from Leonard on a perfectly thrown back-shoulder ball for a 22-yard touchdown during an overtime segment. The timing was perfect and that’s harder than Dalmolin and Leonard made it look.

Matt Smith caught an early 24-yard touchdown from Belin in which the tight end caught it short of the end zone, pinballed through a couple of hits, and crossed the goal line.

All in all, no catch stood out above the rest.

Quote of the day: “I’ma be honest, I don’t care who’s going against me, I’ve got the same mentality, I want to dominate every time.” – Eli Pancol on whether he has a favorite defensive back to line up against in practice

Freshman/newcomer of the day: Henry Belin IVfreshman quarterback

Quarterbacks who enroll in the summer instead of January and start in their first season are a rare breed.

Calm down, Belin isn’t going to be Duke’s starter – but he’s further along developmentally than most QBs in his position.

We knew the 6-3, 212-pounder had the size, but the last three weeks have given Duke’s staff plenty of time to evaluate Belin’s arm and grasp of the offense.

The arm is, in an oversimplification, strong. Sunday’s scrimmage offered several more examples of Belin firing bullets into tight windows, and also putting deep balls in correct places.

It’s the grasp of the offense that needs to come, plus some work on short-to-intermediate throws. Improvement in those areas comes with reps and time – of which Belin will have.

News of the day: Without giving away anything depth-chart related…

Jordan Moore didn’t take a single snap at quarterback.

Now, there’s a disclaimer here that I missed a few snaps in traveling from the field to the press box. As many as 10 snaps. It’s *possible* he got a few in that window – but unlikely.

Leonard and Belin had strong days throwing the ball. There were zero interceptions (when Spurrier and Ty Lenhart were in, also) and five touchdown passes (at least).

Moore is going to play – he’s too good of an athlete not to be on the field in some capacity. And as good as the receivers were Sunday, it’s still a team that’s gone through the past three weeks trying to figure out who can make plays on the perimeter.

There will be a projected depth chart sometime in the next week that lays out I think Duke will line up ahead of the season opener.

Why Manchester United’s American owners, the Glazers, are so hated

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 02: A Manchester United fan walks past a banner saying Love United, Hate Glazers ahead of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Brentford at Old Trafford on May 02, 2022 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
A Manchester United fan walks past a banner protesting the Glazers’ ownership late last season. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Manchester United supporters will gather outside Old Trafford on Monday night for a massive match against Liverpool, but also for a protest. Some will meet at Tollgate, a nearby pub. They’ll march towards the Trinity, a famous statue outside the stadium. And thousands of them will, in some form or fashion, tell the Glazer family, Man United’s American owners, to get their hands off English soccer’s most famous club.

Some have been protesting since 2005, when the Glazers, who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, bought a majority stake in the club. Their controversial 2005 takeover is what most of the present-day hatred stems from. Eight years of on-field success under Sir Alex Ferguson tempered that hatred, but nine years of mismanagement and on-field embarrassment have since unleashed it.

It boiled over last spring when the Glazers and their henchman, now-former Man United CEO Ed Woodward, helped hatch the infamous plot for a European Super League. Prior to United’s first home game after the plot was foiled by widespread backlash, anti-Glazer supporters broke into Old Trafford, protested on the pitch, and forced the game’s postponement.

This time around, the catalyst for anger was a 4-0 loss at Brentford that left United 20th out of 20 in the Premier League after two weeks. “We don’t normally comment on matches,” the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust said in a statement, “but extraordinary times call for a different approach.” The “humiliating” result, the representative fan group said, felt “like the culmination of a long-term direction of travel.” They blamed the owners “for this new low in our decade of decline,” and demanded “urgent and radical change.”

A more vocal anti-Glazer group, The 1958, organized this latest protest to “show the world our deep discontent for this villa ownership, [a]n ownership that is systematically starving and killing the greatest football institution in [the] world.” And over the years, they have explained why they believe that to be the case.

The controversial Glazer takeover

Malcolm Glazer, the late family patriarch, bought his first shares in Manchester United in 2003, and ultimately spent some 790 million pounds — over $1.4 billion at the time — to acquire nearly 100% of the club in 2005. He did so via a controversial method known as a leveraged buyout.

He essentially took out a nine-figure loan, used it to buy the club, and foisted the resulting debt onto the club. The family has since used over 700 million pounds (over $1 billion) in Manchester United revenue to service that debt — to pay the interest on it. Many fans interpreted this as Manchester United, their beloved social institution, paying an American billionaire so that the American billionaire and his family could own the institution — and squeeze money out of it.

And although some of the debt has been paid off over 17 years, it has not disappeared. United’s annual interest payments are still the highest in the EPL. Since 2010, the club has paid almost as much in interest as the rest of the league combined.

The debt has not prevented the Glazers from shelling out for players. Over the past decade, United’s net spend on transfers (over $1.1 billion) is the highest in global soccer. Its wage bill is unceasingly enormous.

The issue, though, is two-fold: 1) The money has not been spent well on players, and 2) the gigantic sum used to service the debt has seemingly left less-visible facets of the club — the academy, the training facility, the stadium — underfunded and, in the eyes of many fans, “rotting.”

Manchester United’s ruthless commercialism

United can still spend big on players because it is a sprawling commercial enterprise for which the Glazers are partially responsible. Under their ownership, the club’s annual revenue more than doubled roughly $305 million in 2004-05 it over $800 million in 2018-19the last full season pre-pandemic.

The primary reasons for that surge, of course, are that United has always been one of soccer’s most popular brands, and that revenues in English soccer have soared across the board this century. But United’s savvy and ruthless commercialism was ahead of its time. It allowed United to keep financial pace with clubs achieving more on-field success, and left others who did not adopt similar commercial strategies in the dust.

That ruthless commercialism, though, has also rankled fans, many of whom generally resist the capitalist urges that now govern the sport. In fact, almost every foreign owner of a Premier League club has incited skepticism. The Glazers, though, are the most despised.

They have run United less like a soccer club, more like a soulless company. Until last year, the club’s two most influential decision-makers in transfer dealings were Woodward and Matt Judge. The latter was originally the “head of corporate development.” Both were finance bros who crossed paths decades ago at PricewaterhouseCoopers and JP Morgan, and who had relatively little experience in soccer.

With Judge negotiating contracts and Woodward closing deals, and without legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson presiding over the soccer side of the club, United spun into a cycle of misguided signings, lackluster performance and crisis.

And all along, the Glazers, who initially promised to connect with fans, have been astonishingly silent.

Manchester United fans protest against the Glazer family, ahead of the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester.  Picture date: Thursday April 28, 2022. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Manchester United fans protest against the Glazer family, ahead of the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: Thursday April 28, 2022. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)

Glazer hatred goes mainstream

The Glazers did not prevent Ferguson from continuing to win. He lifted five Premier League trophies and a Champions League crown in the eight seasons between the Glazers’ takeover and his 2013 retirement. But in many ways, he papered over cracks that had begun to appear, and that have since become visible for all to see.

And as they have, the discontent, which for years survived in a vocal minority, has gone mainstream.

Some of that vocal minority would still frequent Old Trafford and roar players on to championships, but, starting in 2010, they’d sports green and gold scarves as a symbol of protest. Others disavowed the club and started their own one, FC United of Manchester. Results under Ferguson quelled the fierce resistance that had initially greeted the Glazers at Old Traffordbut didn’t completely quell it.

It began to re-gain steam in early 2020. Anti-Glazer chants crescendoed. A small faction within the resistance attacked Woodward’s house.

The owners themselves aren’t often present in Manchester — Malcolm died in 2014, and his three sons who now control most of the club, Joel, Avram and Bryan, live in the US — so they are somewhat sheltered from the vitriol. And it naturally ebbed again when COVID-19 struck in 2020 and stadiums emptied.

But the Super League fiasco reignited it. An eighth and ninth season without a true Premier League title challenge have since sustained it. A new manager brought cute storylines and cautious hope, but two season-opening losses confirmed that the same forces that have powered the crisis cycle since 2013 are still at play.

And so, on Monday night, the fans will gather at 5:30 pm local time, and march at 7, and chant until the 8 pm kickoff. Some will enter the ground and cheer on their beleaguered players; others won’t. All will implore the Glazers to sell up.

“Bring the heat, bring the noise, bring the passion,” The 1958 wrote in a message to supporters. “Let’s show the Glazer family that this time it won’t blow over.”

Draws, dates, prize money, and everything you need to know

The Hologic WTA Tour heads to New York for the final Slam of the season at the US Open. The fortnight promises to be a memorable one, as Emma Raducanu tries to defend her historic title, Serena Williams is set to play her final tournament before retiring, and a host of contenders primed to make their mark on the biggest court in the world.

Here’s what you need to know:

When does the tournament start?

The US Open is the fourth and final leg of the Grand Slam season. Played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York, the tournament features a 128-player singles draw, 64-team doubles draw, and 32-team mixed doubles draw. The tournament is played on outdoor hard courts and the women will use the Wilson US Open Regular Duty ball.

Main draw play begins on Monday, Aug. 29 and runs for two weeks.

When are the finals?

The singles final will be played on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 4:00 pm

The doubles final will be played on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 12:00 pm

The mixed doubles final will be played on either Friday, Sept. 9 or Saturday, Sept. 10.

Who are the top seeds?

  1. Iga Swiatek
  2. Annette Kontaveit
  3. Maria Sakkari
  4. Paul Bados
  5. Ons Jabeur
  6. Aryna Sabalenka
  7. Simona Halep
  8. Jessica Pegula
  9. Garbiñe Muguruza
  10. Daria Kasatkina
  11. Emma Raducanu
  12. Coco Gauff
  13. Belinda Bencic
  14. Leylah Fernandez
  15. Beatriz Haddad Maia
  16. Jelena Ostapenko

Who are the defending champions?

Emma Raducanu made history last year, becoming the first Slam qualifier in the history of the sport to go on and win the title. Raducanu defeated Maria Sakkari in the semifinal and defeated Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 to stun the field and win her maiden major.

Raducanu playing with freedom ahead of US Open title defense

In doubles, Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai defeated Coco Gauff and Caty McNally to win their second major title as a team.

Desirae Krawczyk and Joe Salisbury won the mixed doubles. With the win, Krawczyk became the first player in 15 years to win three consecutive mixed doubles titles.

What does the draw look like?

The draw ceremony will take place on Thursday, Aug. 25th

Venus Williams headlines US Open wild card recipients

What is the prize money and ranking points on offer?

First round: $80,000/10 points
Second round: $121.00070 points
Third round: $188,000/130 points
Round of 16: $278,000/240 points
Quarterfinals: $445,000/430 points
Semifinals: $705,000/780 points
Final: $1.3 million/1,300 points
Champion: $2.6 million/2,000 points

Key storylines

Serena Williams is playing her final tournament: Earlier this month, the 23-time major champion and six-time US Open champion announced she would hang up her racquets after the US Open. Her opening round match in New York will be her fifth match of the season. She earned her first win in over a year at the National Bank Open in Toronto, where she defeated Nuria Parrizas Diaz in straight sets. She comes into the US Open off a 6-4, 6-0 loss to defending champion Emma Raducanu.

Watch this: Emma Raducanu honors Serena Williams after Cincinnati win

2022 Cincinnati

Emma Raducanu under pressure: Raducanu comes into New York off a confidence-boosting week at the Western & Southern Open, where she beat Williams and Victoria Azarenka. She’s defending 2,040 points, but the British phenom has already acknowledged she’s looking forward to life after the US Open. Anything short of a title defense will see her ranking drop, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Raducanu. As she said, she’s keen for a clean slate.

Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff lead the American charge: Pegula and Gauff have had strong summers, with Pegula making back-to-back semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati [CHECK] and Gauff posting strong wins to make back-to-back quarterfinals in San Jose and Toronto. The duo also sit atop the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals Doubles Leaderboard after capturing their second WTA 1000 title of the season in Toronto.

Gauff provides fans with an optimistic injury update

Three former champions to watch: Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu, and Sloane Stephens know how to win in New York. While their results over the US Open Series haven’t stood out on paper, there have been signs that a deep run could be coming. Andreescu did well to make the quarterfinals of her home tournament in Toronto, while Stephens showed good form in some tight losses.

Iga Swiatek is playing the long game

Simona Halep and Caroline Garcia primed for a run: Halep has won majors on the natural surfaces but has yet to crack through at a hard-court Slam. Given the focus and form that vaulted her to the Toronto title, that could change this year. Meanwhile, Garcia flourished in the quick conditions in Cincinnati, becoming the first qualifier to ever win a WTA 1000 titlebeating three Top 10 players along the way.

Garcia casts aside her doubts to make history in Cincy

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Dodgers leave Cy Young favorite Sandy Alcantara buried and beaten in sweeping win

Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger, right, celebrates next to Miami Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings.

Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger, right, celebrates next to Miami Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings after hitting a two-run home run during the second inning of the Dodgers’ 10-3 win at Dodger Stadium. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

Last week, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner got through only five-plus innings before being chased by the Dodgersdominant offense.

On Sunday, this year’s Cy Young front-runner couldn’t even complete four.

In his worst start of an otherwise stellar season, Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara was battered, beaten and eventually buried by the Dodgers in a 10-3 win, which completed a three-game weekend sweep in front of 41,125 at Dodger Stadium.

In a season-short 3⅔ innings, Alcantara was tagged with a season-high in runs (six) and hits (10).

He lost possession of the National League’s ERA lead, falling behind the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin after his mark rose from 1.92 to 2.19.

And he looked nothing like the quick-working, innings-eating, hard-throwing right-hander who had become baseball’s premier pitcher over the first four months of the season.

“He’s one of the game’s best,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But we came out with a really good plan today.”

The Dodgers entered the series finale well aware of Alcantara’s dazzling campaign.

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara delivers against the Dodgers on Sunday.

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara delivers against the Dodgers on Sunday. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

When Clayton Kershaw was chosen to start the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium last monthKershaw called the 26-year-old to say it easily could have been him, and not Kershaw, who deserved the honor.

Before first pitch on Sunday, Roberts also gushed about the Marlins pitcher, whose almost automatic ability to work deep in games (he’d pitched nine innings four times and seven innings in 17 of his 24 starts) had separated him from the pack in the Cy Young races.

“Honestly,” Roberts said, “when you see his name on the [pitching] probables, you dread it.”

However, Roberts also said the Dodgers (84-36) were looking forward to the challenge.

Just like when they faced Milwaukee Brewers ace and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes on Thursday, Alcantara presented the type of elite-level pitching they’ll see in the postseason.

And unlike their performance against Burnes, when they were shut out for five innings before finally scratching across three runs in the sixth, the Dodgers on Sunday got to Alcantara early and often.

In the bottom of the first, they drove up Alcantara’s pitch count while producing a run after Mookie Betts singled, stole second and scored on a Will Smith base hit.

In the bottom of the second, the Dodgers teed off on Alcantara’s fastball, with Joey Gallo driving a two-out triple off the right-field wall before Cody Bellinger blasted a two-run home run over the barrier and into the outfield pavilion.

After a Max Muncy RBI single in the third, the Dodgers knocked out Alcantara in the fourth, when Betts singled home a run and Smith tallied the second of his three RBIs with a ground-rule double.

Los Angeles Dodgers' Max Muncy points skyward at home plate after his solo home run.

Max Muncy points skyward as he crosses home plate after hitting a solo home run in the seventh inning Sunday. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

“He wore down a little bit and left pitches over the plate for us,” Muncy said. “And we hit his mistakes.”

The Marlins’ series-long defensive woes didn’t help Alcantara either.

Betts’ first-inning single came on a hard ground ball that third baseman Jon Berti failed to corral.

Right fielder Brian Anderson also aided a couple of Dodgers rallies, failing to snag Gallo’s triple at the wall and letting Smith’s ground-rule double soar over his head. (Anderson also committed a throwing error in the eighth that led to a run).

The Dodgers defense had a far different kind of day, thanks to two highlight-reel plays from Gallo in left.

In the top of the first, Gallo threw out a runner at home plate for the final out of the inning. In the third, he robbed the leadoff hitter potentially of extra bases with a diving catch near the foul line.

The Marlins (52-69) did eventually crack Dodgers starter Ryan Pepiot, when Lewin Díaz hit a two-run homer in the fourth. But those were the only runs the rookie right-hander gave up in a season-best six-inning, seven-strikeout display.

And while the Dodgers’ top-ranked offense piled on late, getting a solo home run from Muncy (his MLB-leading seventh in August) in the bottom of the seventh and three more insurance runs in the eighth, their destruction of Alcantara had already served as the biggest statement of the day.

“A guy like this, you’re gonna see in the postseason,” Roberts said. “It says a lot for how good we can be.”

Short hops

Brusdar Graterol (shoulder) will be activated from the injured list Monday, according to Roberts. … Kershaw (back) likely won’t need a rehabilitation assignment after all, Roberts said. The left-hander will instead throw an extended bullpen session this week, then a simulated game against teammates.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

2022 NFL preseason Week 2 rookie QB roundup: Kenny Pickett makes case to start, Malik Willis keeps impressing

The penultimate week of the NFL preseason has typically been the “dress rehearsal” for NFL teams, but joint practices have changed that line of thinking in recent years. Regardless of how teams handle their business in the preseason, rookie quarterbacks — draft picks or not — have plenty of opportunity to leave a mark as their organization takes a look at the future.

Kenny Pickett made a case why he should be the No. 1 quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 of the preseason, while Desmond Ridder seems primed to start for the Atlanta Falcons at some point and Malik Willis showcased why he should be starting for the Tennessee Titans down the road.

How did each of those quarterbacks — and the other rookie signal callers — fare in Week 2? Let’s take a look.

Kenny Pickett, Steelers

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Pickett made his case to be the Steelers starting quarterback after a strong follow-up to his impressive debut. He finished 6 of 7 for 76 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a 151.5 passer rating. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had Pickett run a no-huddle offense, finding Benny Snell for the score to cap off a five-play, 63-yard drive in just 42 seconds.

Pickett is 19 or 22 for 171 yards with three touchdowns and a 138.6 passer rating in two games. He’s looking like the top quarterback on the Steelers, even if Pittsburgh may go with Mitchell Trubisky to start the year.

Malik Willis, Titans

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Willis looked impressive in his second game with the Titans, even if he still needs work throwing the football. He finished 7-for-17 for 80 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions (75.6 rating) while also being sacked three times. Willis also led the Titans with 42 yards on five carries.

Accuracy issues remain a concern for Willis, but he’ll be learning behind Ryan Tannehill to start the year. Willis has completed just 48.4% of his passes in the two games he’s played, but has 10 carries for 80 yards and a score.

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Howell’s second outing didn’t go as well as his debut, finishing 10 of 18 for 122 yards with no touchdowns and an interception (53.5 rating). He also had two carries for 13 yards, including a long run of 11 yards. Howell had some good throws to Dax Milne and Eli Wolf, yet threw his interception with the Commanders down three in the final minutes.

Howell has completed 55.9% of his passes with an interception and a 69.1 rating. He has five carries for 32 yards and two scores, learning as the No. 3 quarterback behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke.

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Corral’s season is likely over after he suffered a LisFranc injury in the Panthers’ second preseason game. Slated to be the No. 3 quarterback in his rookie year, Corral went just 9 of 15 for 58 yards before exiting Friday’s game in the second half.

The Panthers may place Corral on injured reserve.

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Zappe was the third quarterback to enter the game for the Patriots and played the remainder of the contest, finishing 16 of 25 for 173 yards and an interception — which was returned for a touchdown — for a 67.6 rating. The fourth-round pick is in line for the No. 3 job in New England, although he could surpass Brian Hoyer for the No. 2 rolls.

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Purdy completed 14 of 23 passes for 128 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, entering the game in the second quarter and playing the rest of the way. The seventh-round pick has earned his fair share of snaps this preseason, going 17 of 29 for 164 yards with a touchdown (86.0 rating).

Purdy is in line for the No. 3 jobs in San Francisco.

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Crum entered the game late in the fourth quarter, completing all three of his passes for 27 yards while playing the final three possessions for Kansas City. The former Kent State quarterback was an undrafted free agent signed by the Chiefs, yet is a long shot to make the roster right now as the No. 4 quarterback.

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Coan earned an extended look with the starters resting in Saturday’s game, finishing 7 of 11 for 83 yards and a touchdown (116.9 rating). The undrafted free agent from Wisconsin and Notre Dame is the fourth quarterback on the depth chart, behind Matt Ryan, Nick Foles and Sam Ehlinger for the No. 3 jobs.

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Thompson continues to impress in Miami, finishing 9 of 10 for 129 yards and a touchdown after entering the game late in the third quarter. His touchdown pass to ZaQuandre White was Miami’s lone touchdown of the game.

Thompson is the No. 3 quarterback in Miami and the seventh-round pick has been more than impressive this preseason. He’s 29 of 38 for 347 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions (121.3 rating).

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Strong made his debut after being a healthy scratch last week, as the undrafted free agent threw just one pass Sunday. The third-down throw should have extended the drive for pass interference, but the penalty wasn’t called with no flag thrown.

Strong — an undrafted free agent — isn’t going to make the 53-man roster, but is a practice squad candidate.

Boston’s Jayson Tatum reveals he was playing injured during 2021-22 season, 2022 NBA Playoffs

While old Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum usually stars each season gradually building up his level of intensity, the 2021-22 campaign and subsequent 2022 NBA Playoffs were the first instances in his career that he seemed to fall apart a bit at the end of the campaign as well.

Some of that was just the sheer amount of high-level basketball the St. Louis native had been playing, with Tatum on the court almost without a break since the league started back up in 2020 after a four-month break due to the pandemic. But in a recent interview with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks, the Celtics star shared that he had also been playing injured since the weekend of the NFL’s Super Bowl LVI.

“I remember driving back to the house, and I had my watch on in the car,” recalled Tatum. “I kept looking at my wrist because it’s like something is weighing on it.”

“Long story short, my wrist was really really bothering me,” he added. “I started taping my wrist; I had a pad on and I started taping my wrist.”

“My trainer, Nick (Sang), who is becoming famous by the day, we talked about getting it looked at before the All-Star break. And I was like, ‘Fine, that’s cool’. But as the All-Star break approached, I got nervous to get it looked at because I knew how much pain I was in. I couldn’t really push my wrist back; at home, I couldn’t hold a plate or cup. So after this game, I was wearing a brace to keep it stable — I had to sleep in it. But I was nervous to go get it checked out because I never want somebody to tell me I can’t play.”

“If anybody knows me, (like) my teammates, I never want to miss a game,” Tatum shared.

“I’ve tried to play every game of every season that I can,” continued the Duke product. “I hate coming out. I hate getting subbed out. I hate missing (time), so I push it to the side.”

“I didn’t go get it checked out before the All-Star break. Fast forward to right before the playoffs during the play-in game. We had six or seven days off. And Nick was like, ‘Yo, we’ve got to get it looked at’. I’m like, ‘Alright, that’s cool. But it’s the playoffs; I don’t care what they say, I’m playing’. Come to find out — this was eight weeks later — it showed that I had a nondisplaced fracture in my wrist, and it was small but it was still a nondisplaced chip.”

“So, I chipped a bone but it didn’t leave the surface, but it has shown that the bone had grown over it, so it had healed, but I was still in pain because I kept getting hit or falling on it,” revealed Tatum.

“I played with like somewhat of a fracture for like two months,” said the St. Louis native. “And then in the playoffs, there was a play against (the) Milwaukee (Bucks) in Game Three.”

“I dunked it, Giannis chased me down, and he fouled me and I fell into the crowd, and that was the most painful it’s been since that day that I hurt it.”

“I ended up getting a cortisone shot in my wrist that night and you can see the color in my hand because it kills the fat cells,” he shared. “I’ve lost color right there.”

“After each game, I would have to wear a brace, (and) to shoot around” noted Tatum. “I would take it off before the camera saw me then pregame taking my nap, and I had to put it back on, just to make sure it was stable.”

The Duke product explained how he avoided getting an MRI despite the brace out of concern he might be told he can’t play. “Everybody’s a little banged up” by that part of the league calendar, he reasoned.

And while it wasn’t his dominant hand, any time he hit or fell on it, he felt excruciating pain.

“Oftentimes, if you pay attention closely, I’m like shaking my head or I’m at the free throw line, trying to calm it down, and that would be every game,” Tatum suggested.

Thankfully, the wrist is no longer an issue for the Duke product. “It’s all good,” he said. “I’m taking time off to heal properly and not get aggravated.”

Check out the Celtics Lab podcast he:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire

Damian Lillard’s Climb Up the Blazers Career Games Played List

Almost two decades into his NBA career, Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem isn’t retiring yet. According to Shams Charania of The AthleticHaslem recently announced at his youth camp that he will be suiting up for his 20th NBA season with the Heat.

Haslem, 42, becomes only the third player in NBA history (after Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant) to spend an entire career of at least 20 seasons with one franchise. He holds Miami’s franchise record for seasons played with the team and is second behind Dwayne Wade for most games played.

Haslem’s impressive longevity got us thinking at Blazer’s Edge about who the longest-tenured Blazers are in franchise history and star Damian Lillard’s ascent up the record books. How far will his climb reach?

The all-time list begins — like a lot of franchise records do — with the great Clyde Drexler. Let’s take a look:

Most Games Played in Franchise History

  1. Clyde Drexler — 867
  2. Jerome Kersey — 831
  3. Terry Porter — 758
  4. Damian Lillard — 711
  5. LaMarcus Aldridge — 648

Watching Lillard try to catch the Glyde — in career games and points, in which Lillard ranks second — will be a compelling storyline during the next few seasons. 157 games away from taking the top spot, if Lillard doesn’t miss a single regular season game, he’ll claim the record on Game 75 of the 2023-24 season. This means, barring a serious injury, he’s likely three seasons away from becoming the franchise leader in games played. Lillard’s $122 million contract extension signed this summer, which in theory keeps the franchise star in Portland through the 2026-27 season, will help his chances to see the record through.

Maybe a more debatable question is whether Lillard will join Haslem’s near-exclusive club of players who have logged at least 20 seasons with the same franchise. Lillard is halfway there at 10 seasons played in Portland, but the back-half of that milestone is a much dicier road. (If you’re wondering, Lillard’s 10 seasons ranks third-most in franchise history, trailing Kersey’s 11 and Drexler’s 12, according to Land of Basketballl).

By now, Lillard’s “don’t run from the grind” brand doesn’t sound like cheap talk. He could’ve gotten out of dodge by now — and maybe had good reason to — yet he hasn’t. Lillard has even likened himself to Nowitzki and the All-Star’s dogged title pursuit and loyalty during his 21-season tenure with the Dallas Mavericks.

The front office giving Lillard that mammoth extension this summer shows it’s willing to invest in its aging star. As general manager Joe Cronin said at a press conference announcing the deal, the extension furthers the organization’s commitment to “making him a lifetime Blazer.”

But despite motivation from both sides to remain together, 20 seasons still seems like a pipe dream for the partnership. Unlike Nowitzki and Bryant, who entered the NBA at ages 20 and 18 respectively, Lillard was 22 during his first NBA season. After Lillard’s extension ends in 2027, he’ll turn 37 that summer and still be five seasons away from the 20-season milestone. This means he’ll have to play through his Age 42 season in 2031-32 to catch Haslem, Nowitzki and Bryant.

Haslem saw his first NBA action at 23 and will be playing as a 42-year-old this season, but his battle with Father Time has been helped by a severely reduced role. Over the last six seasons, Haslem has only appeared in 58 regular season games, acting more like a glorified assistant coach than a player. If Lillard is to last as long, he’d likely have to assume a similar role. Lillard’s more enduring skills of shooting, leadership and taking care of his body makes a run at 20 seasons maybe more possible than for most small, score-heavy guards. Still, Lillard has clocked a ton of mileage dragging Portland rosters to the playoffs during his career and a bench mentorship role may be a tough ask for someone with that much star power and ambition.

Along with Lillard, the two other most likely candidates to join Haslem’s ranks and play at least 20 seasons with the same franchise are Stephen Curry and Bradley Beal. Curry, 34, is entering his 14th season with the Golden State Warriors. Beal, 29, is entering his 11th season with the Washington Wizards.

Blazers fans, what do you think? Will Lillard break Clyde’s franchise record for most games played? Will he do the near-impossible and play 20 seasons as a Blazer? And what would either milestone do for his legacy in Portland?

Kansas State Wildcats football Thad Ward Malik Knowles RJ Garcia Jadon Jackson Xavier Loyd Collin Klein

THOUGHTS ON RJ

It has been mentioned elsewhere, but one of the bright spots on the offense throughout the offseason has been redshirt freshman receiver RJ Garcia. He was praised last year during his developmental season with Kansas State.

He is primed for significant snaps this season and those inside the program, both privately and publicly, have been endorsing his ability and anticipate him making a large imprint on the offense during the 2022 season.

Assistant Thad Ward echoed those sentiments when speaking with the media on Wednesday.

Ward noted that Garcia really came on during the Spring and it has shown up on the practice fields during fall camp. He’s very happy about what he has seen from the Tampa product.

He called Garcia a hard worker, dependable and someone that his teammates can trust. Garcia grows every single day and is cerebral in his approach to the game. Ward looks forward to coaching him further and watching to see how far he can go.

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KNOWLES’ EVOLUTION

Another key piece to the 2022 season will be if Malik Knowles can become a more consistent player. He has an all-conference skill-set, but it hasn’t resulted in all-conference production.

That will take more consistency instead of a flash every few games.

According to his coaches, his desire and hunger has been ratcheted up a few levels for this season and it has been evidenced by him becoming more detail-oriented and coming for one-on-one meetings with his wide receiver coach.

Ward shared that Knowles has a very clear and comprehensive understanding of the offense and the different coverages that have been or will be thrown at him. He can take the next leap when it comes to becoming more crisp and tightening up his technique.

Malik Knowles

Malik Knowles (Kansas State Athletics)

EXPANDED ROLES

Will there be any changes to the wide receiver position, roles or responsibilities under the new scheme, and philosophy being implemented by the new offensive coordinator Collin Klein?

Ward admitted that there would be. He specified that all of their roles are expanding and their involvement within them is increasing by a large amount. That is the most transparency we have heard from a K-State assistant.

It’s not surprising. If they are going to be more quarterback-friendly under Klein, it would be the receivers that probably see the most tangible benefit.

Whether it is in two-wide receiver, three-wide or four-wide sets, Ward’s room is competing for bigger roles. But, as has been the case in Manhattan and Ward re-emphasized, the best players will play the most.

YOUNGER GUYS WITH A SPARK

When coaches speak with a hoard of media members during fall camp, they are almost always asked which younger players are flashing in the first few practices. That was no different when Ward stepped up to the microphone on the side of the field in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

His first answer was to discuss RJ Garcia again. After all, he’s still a young guy. But he also heaped some complimentary words onto the walk-on Xavier Lloyd from Blue Springs and new transfer addition Jadon Jackson.

Loyd has been mentioned before, unprovoked, and is probably a walk-on receiver that will show up on many of the special teams phases and push for playing time at some point in his career.

Jackson arrived in Manhattan after a few years under Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss. He has shown up on the camp highlight packages a few times that Kansas State’s in-house media team creates each day.

Where is Warner?

Kade Warner (Kansas State Athletics)

IMPRESSIONS OF KANSAS STATE

As the newest face to Manhattan and having been on campus for a few months already, Ward was asked for his overall impressions on the roster entering the 2022 season. He used it as an opportunity to praise the culture that has been created at K-State.

The culture at Kansas State is set, according to him. It’s not that way at other places or different schools. Every coach comes early. Every player is early to meetings. Everyone arrives prepared and eager to learn.

“Our locker room is second to none.”

According to Ward, everyone cares about each other. They’re a real family. Every program preaches family and brotherhood. They say it everywhere you go. It sounds good, but it doesn’t happen everywhere. It just doesn’t work that way.

At some places it’s real, while at others it’s not. It’s real at K-State. That’s an important piece to success.