New England Patriots Trade QB Ryan Mallett to Texans for Conditional Pick

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/52127828

Houston has acquired Mallett in a trade, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. In return, the Patriots will get a conditional draft pick that could be as high as a sixth-rounder, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora said.

 

Logan Departure: Patriots Shock Fans By Dealing Veteran Guard to Tampa Bay

Leave it to the New England Patriots to make a deal that nobody saw coming.

At a time when most teams are trimming their rosters down to 53 men and discarding players deemed unworthy of making a game day roster, the Patriots went ahead and traded away their six-time Pro Bowl guard for second-year tight end Timothy Wright and a fourth round draft pick from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Even the most die hard Patriots fan did not see Logan Mankins not being on the final Patriots roster for the 2014 season.

So, what gives?

For a New England team that has been a perennial Super Bowl contender, it seems the last thing it would want to do in the twilight of quarterback Tom Brady’s career would be to trade away an all-pro guard.  In fact, it has been widely reported that Brady was outright livid that the trade took place.  With Brady only having three or four more seasons playing at a high-caliber level, it seems like the last thing the team would want to do would be to trade someone who has helped protect him on a consistent basis ever since the 2005 season, especially when you let that person go for an unproven second-year tight end and a fourth round draft choice.

And yet, in an odd kind of way this move represents exactly how and why the Patriots have continued to maintain their success over the past fifteen seasons.  Despite the fact that the term “Patriot Way” has come to mean someone on the team who sacrifices everything for team rather than individual glory, the Patriots organization as a whole has been very hard, some would even say cutthroat, toward players they deem having been past their peak performing days.  We see the team time and time again let go players who were beloved members of the team is what initially seemed like the height of their careers:  Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, Wes Welker.  All these players were let go at a time when many fans were left scratching their heads as to why that particular decision was made.

However, for the most past, these decisions have proven to be in the best interest of the organization.  Of the players mentioned above, only Ty Law went on to continue the level of play he had with the Patriots while all the others saw a dramatic drop off in terms of their production.  It actually can be argued that Law was let go due to a contract dispute rather than being let go of declining performance.  Of course with Wes Welker, he has had only one season with Peyton Manning and he went from the primary receiver to the third option so a drop in production was inevitable in his situation.  However, the rest of the players mentioned never really got back to that same level of success they had while playing eight games a year at Gillette Stadium for the hometown Patriots.

The Patriots might simply have come to the conclusion that the time was right to part ways with Mankins.  He did give up 11 sacks last year and seemed to not play his best in key situations.  It also cannot be overstated as to how letting Mankins go will help the Patriots with their salary cap issues for the next two seasons.  With Mankins gone, the Patriots were able to clear up 21.5 million in salary cap room over the next two seasons, including 5.75 million for this year.  With the team needing to resign safety Devin McCourty, running back Shane Vereen, and potentially looking to sign cornerback Darrelle Revis to a long-term deal, the money gained by the Mankins departure certainly helps the team moving forward and staying in contention for years to come.

Lastly, lost in all of this is the potential of Timothy Wright.  Ever since the loss of the former number 81, the Patriots have struggled to find a true identity on offense.  Last year, the team struggled with a slew of rookie receivers, and with Rob Gronkowski currently rehabbing from major off-season knee surgery, the team needed an additional tight end to be a receiving threat.  Since they didn’t take one in the draft, it was assumed they would go after someone like former Jet Dustin Keller or former Packer Jermichael Finley.  However, that simply didn’t happen, so the Patriots were left with Gronkowski and blocking tight end Michael Hoomanawanui on the roster.

Wright comes from the Rutgers program, which has become the Patriots farm team.  Last year he had 54 catches for 571 yards and 5 touchdowns in his rookie season.  All in all those are respectable numbers, especially considering the fact that rookie quarterback Mike Glennon was the one throwing to Wright and the Tampa Bay offense ended up being ranked dead last in passing yards and third-to-last in scoring.  Wright won’t become number 81 replacement overnight, but he has the tools in place to be a reliable second weapon at tight end.  By adding Wright into the mix as well as Carolina receiver Brandon LaFell, the Patriots already have a much improved passing offense from a team that ended up winning twelve games last year and coming up one game short of Tom Brady’s sixth Super Bowl.  As long as Wright is able to contribute on a consistent basis, it will help Patriots fans to swallow the pain of losing Logan Mankins.

Manchester City’s Loss Proves Nothing Can Be Taken For Granted In Premier League

Make no mistake, there were folks who thought Stoke City had a chance to win when they hit the road to face defending Premier League Champions Manchester City Saturday. There just weren’t very many of them.

None of that seemed to bother coach Mark Hughes’ team against a powerful Sky Blues side. Behind a second half tally from  Mame Biram Diouf, the Potters buckled down, stayed organized and defended with determination to post a shocking 1-0 victory at Etihad Stadium.

For Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini, a second home defeat in two seasons couldn’t have been more unexpected. His squad, carried by enough world-class skill to buoy five Premier League teams, possessed the ball 74 percent of the time, outshot Stoke more than 2-to-1 and looked dangerous offensively for the balance of the second half.

In the end, Diouf’s goal was all it took for a middling side to take down the reigning champs.

The win could serve as a jumping off point for Stoke. Always regarded as a tricky team to negotiate, the Potters play with the kind of plucky scrappiness that often confounds elite sides like the Sky Blues.

On the other side, Manchester City is now left to face one unmistakable truth, winning the Premier League is an exercise in overcoming adversity. While English teams have been derided in recent seasons for poor showings on the European stage, no league boasts a deeper set of squads than the Premier League.

Will the defeat define Manchester City’s season? Probably not. When a team carries as much skill and depth as Pellegrini’s does, extended slumps don’t happen often. Nevertheless, Saturday’s loss should serve as a wake-up call for a club that has claimed two of the past three English titles.

No team, no matter how talented and deep, is safe in the Premier League these days. Parity is the name of the game in England, a fact revealed in stark fashion Saturday.

Manchester City will be afforded the chance to bounce back in coming weeks with matches against Arsenal, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and AS Roma. If Pellegrini’s side was guilty of overlooking Stoke on Saturday, those concerns should be put to rest with such stiff competition coming up.

It isn’t games against Europe’s elite that will define the season however. Rather, Manchester City’s fate may be determined by its ability to defeat lower level opponents at the domestic level.

Last Season, Liverpool saw its title hopes go up in flames against another plucky side in Crystal Palace. Cross-town rivals Manchester United can also look to several recent defeats against smaller clubs as a primary reason for their current malaise.

Until now, the Sky Blues have avoided a similar fall from grace. But if the loss to Stoke proves one thing, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to the Premier League. Hopefully, Pellegrini’s team will embrace the message whole-heartedly. Otherwise, that third domestic title in four years will be little more than a dream.

Rusney Castillo Signing Reveals Larger Plan For Red Sox

The Red Sox made a statement when they agreed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Cuban defector Rusney Castillo. They are (at least for now) back to using their financial muscles in the free agent market, and seem prepared to spend to get their targets. But in showing that they still are willing to behave like a large-market club, the Red Sox also gave away part of their plan for the coming offseason. Adding Castillo makes it abundantly clear that the Red Sox will use their organizational depth on the trade market to add at least one major, franchise-changing piece to the roster.

The idea that the Red Sox are now in a position to make a major splash on the trade market is based solely on the numbers game. The team is stockpiling players, creating a situation where they have many quality players for few available spots. This depth is going to basically force the Red Sox to make some type of move, because there is no use having so many quality players if they do not get the chance to play at all. There is now surplus is almost every area of the Red Sox organization, which means someone will have to go in order to clear the picture. The outfield, for example, now appears more crowded than the Mass Pike at rush hour, with a combination of veterans and prospects vying for playing time. But the prospects are the key here, as they are the most valuable commodity and the most tradable asset in this scenario. Despite his recent demotion, Jackie Bradley Jr. was likely going to be in the team’s future plans in some capacity, and Mookie Betts is currently getting a chance to prove he can be the impact player he was in the minor leagues. Castillo’s signing now suggests that neither player will start for the Red Sox in the near future. Third base is becoming crowded as well, with Brock Holt and Will Middlebrooks currently splitting time there and Garin Cecchini waiting in the minors. Christian Vazquez has stabilized things behind the plate for the time being, but Blake Swihart has been more highly regarded as a prospect and is getting closer to the majors. This is all to say nothing of the tremendous organizational pitching depth that was only bolstered at the trade deadline.

The Red Sox have reportedly been trying to acquire Giancarlo Stanton from Miami for quite some time, especially since Stanton appears unhappy with the Marlins’ front office. However, to this point the Marlins have been publicly adamant that they will refuse to trade him, despite numerous reported offers. This could potentially be they offseason where a deal gets done, just because of the sheer magnitude of the situation. The Red Sox can go to the Marlins with the organizational surplus mentioned above, and essentially overwhelm them into working out a trade. At some point there will be an offer they can’t refuse, and the Red Sox are in a good position to make it.

There have also been various reports on the potential availability of Jason Heyward. An argument could be made that Heyward is the better fit for the Red Sox, given the enormous right field at Fenway Park and their current lack of left-handed hitters. Heyward would be more useful in this sense because of his increased athleticism and much better defense (34 DRS, 27.8 UZR/150 in 2014) compared to Stanton (6 DRS, 1.4 UZR/150), though he would currently represent less of a power threat at the plate. Heyward would also likely be easier to trade for than Stanton, as he is only a year away from hitting the open market and therefore gives the Braves less trade leverage.

The Red Sox having been setting themselves up for this coming offseason since the trade deadline. Every move has been made to make the team better for 2015, but also to create roster flexibility. Depth is always strength because it creates options and opens doors. The surplus here is incredible, and sets the table for a series of moves to reshape the organization.

2014 College Football Week One Predictions

The wait is over my friends: college football is back. With the explosive Abilene Christian-Georgia State matchup on Wednesday night, the 2014 FBS season will be underway and the run to the College Football Playoff will be on (check out my predictions here). There are some high-profile non-conference showdowns in the opening week, who will open their campaign the right way? Here are my picks for week one.

The Must-See Soccer Games On TV This Labor Day Weekend

When we have an honorable mentions section on this feature, its always a firm indicator that the weekend is going to be a bit of a special one. And a week ahead of the dreaded international break (I know, I know, sorry for mentioning it) we have a few days bristling with top quality action is most welcome.

Serie A joins the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga this weekend in getting their campaign underway, making the five top games of the weekend exceptionally difficult choices. But fear not, if you don’t like the look of one of our selected five ties, there’s plenty more to whet the appetite.

So before the domestic leagues take a brief yet untimely hiatus, why not immerse yourselves in a few games that should be thoroughly engrossing?

As usual, all kick times are Eastern time. Enjoy the games and enjoy your weekend!

Honorable Mentions

Burnley vs. Manchester United, Saturday August 30, 7:45AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra

Turf Moor should be the venue where Angel di Maria makes his first ever appearance in English football. Can he inspire United to their first win of the season, or can Burnley raise their game to snatch three points against the Red Devils?

Schalke 04 vs. Bayern Munich, Saturday August, 12:30PM, GolTV

A trip to Schalke represents one of Bayern’s toughest games of the campaign, and we’ll be afforded an early indication of just how good Pep Guardiola’s team are going to be this season by their showing at the Veltins Arena.

Atletico Madrid vs. Eibar, Saturday August 30, 3:00PM, beIN SPORTS Espanol and DishWorld

After getting their first ever season in the top flight off to a dream start with a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad, minnows Eibar travel to the capital to take on Diego Simeone’s Spanish champions. Atleti toiled at Rayo Vallecano in their season opener and will be desperate to make amends in front of their own fans.

Milan vs. Lazio, Sunday August 31, 12:00PM, beIN SPORTS and DishWorld

Even though box office Mario Balotelli will no longer frequent the San Siro, the progress of the Rossoneri is well worth keeping an eye on. They start life under Pippo Inzaghi with a tricky test against Lazio; the legendary forward will be desperate to get his tenure off to a winning start.

Everton vs. Chelsea

Saturday August 30, 12:30PM, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra

The Toffees face their second consecutive home game against a big hitter as they get set to welcome Jose Mourinho’s men to Goodison Park in the Premier League’s late game on Saturday.

For Roberto Martinez, it’s been a frustrating start to the campaign. Everton have looked a little undercooked in their outings so far, letting slip four vital points in the latter stages of their opening games. But a gritty win against Chelsea in their second home game of last season helped spark a wonderful run and Evertonians will be hoping history repeats itself here.

The visitors are an extremely tough team to beat, though. Defensively ruthless and boasting a wealth of quality midfield options, Chelsea look like they could be the team to beat in the Premier League this season. Although some hope will have been afforded to Everton with the news that Diego Costa—the Blues’ prolific £32 million summer signing—is coming into this one with a hamstring injury, leaving Chelsea without myriad striking options.

By contrast, Everton now boast a pair of excellent forwards and both Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o will be desperate to prove themselves against their former employers. If the Toffees are going to take all three points here, then you suspect one of that pair will play a critical role.

Roma vs. Fiorentina

Saturday August 30, 2:45PM, beIN SPORTS and DishWorld

Serie A is back on our screens this weekend, and one of the teams every will be keeping a close eye on is big spending AS Roma. The Giallorossi will have little time to settle either, as they face an exuberant Fiortentina team first up.

Not only has Roma boss Rudi Garcia recruited experienced figures like Ashley Cole on cheap deals, they’ve splashed the cash on quality players like Radja Nainggolan and Juan Iturbe. And after former Juventus manager Antonio Conte walked out on the Bianconeri in pre-season, many are tipping the capital club to mount a title charge.

But Fiorentina will be buoyed heading into this one too. Speculation has lingered over the club all summer regarding the future of Juan Cuadrado, but up to now La Viola have managed to keep hold of their prized asset. And with the Colombian flyer set to remain in florence, this team could be capable of mounting a charge towards the Champions League.

After the dominance Juventus have enjoyed over the past few seasons, Serie A looks the most open it has done for many a year. These two teams will desperate to make a positive impression in Week 1.

Tottenham vs. Liverpool

Sunday August 31, 8:30AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra

Inspired by Luis Suarez’s majestic display, the Reds thumped an abject Spurs side 5-0 in this fixture last season. But plenty has changed since Liverpool ran riot at White Hart Lane back on that cold December night.

The Uruguayan that inspired that stunning performance has since departed, of course. And although his big money sale has yielded a flurry of incoming players through the Anfield gates, Liverpool haven’t really clicked into gear as of yet. Even more of a concern for Brendan Rodgers is that the Reds have showcased the same defensive deficiencies that curtailed their campaign last season.

Tottenham will be looking to take advantage of those lapses at the back and with players like Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli looking revitalised, they’ll fancy their chances of handing the Merseyside outfit their second consecutive defeat on the road. Mauricio Pochettino has overseen two wins from his two games in charge so far, but this match against last season’s runners-up represents his biggest test as Spurs manager by far.

Both teams will play with intensity and an attacking purpose that should make this a fascinating battle. That should guarantee goals and if the game starts at a fast tempo, this one could catch fire. Oh, and Mario Balotelli will be making his debut too.

Villarreal vs. Barcelona

Sunday August 31, 1:00PM, beIN SPORTS beIN SPORTS Espanol and DishWorld

There was plenty to be encouraged about in Luis Enrique’s first La Liga outing as Barcelona boss. The Blaugrana ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against Elche in Week 1, and there were promising facets aplenty to take from the match ahead of this tricky trip to Villarreal.

While he was flanked by strong performances by young players Munir and Rafinha, Lionel Messi hogged the spotlight once again with two goals and an all-round dazzling display. The majestic No.10 looked sharp and confident in this early outing, and Enrique will be delighted at the focus and leadership his star man showcased throughout.

Aside from Messi’s typical brilliance, Ivan Rakitic was marvellous alongside Andres Iniesta at the heart of the Barcelona midfield, while Jeremy Mathieu was solid in defence. But the upcoming visit to the Madrigal will afford us a much more realistic indication as to where this new look Blaugrana outfit currently stand.

Enrique could be set to welcome Neymar back to his squad for this one after he trained this week for the first time since spraining his ankle. And he could be needed too, as Villarreal are an extremely capable outfit capable of giving anyone a game on their day. If the Catalans aren’t on it from the get go, then the team dubbed the Yellow Submarine could capitalise.

Real Sociedad vs. Real Madrid

Sunday August 31, 3:00PM, beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS Espanol and DishWorld

After securing an historic tenth European Cup last season and spending the cash in typical fashion throughout the summer, the vast momentum Real Madrid have accrued pointed towards an opening day demolition of Cordoba.

But stellar names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez struggled for long spells against their less illustrious opponents, although goals from Karim Benzema and Ronaldo eventually saw Carlo Ancelotti’s side notch an unconvincing victory.

After toiling in Week 1, Ancelotti will be well aware that his team must improve when they travel to the Anoeta to face Real Sociedad. And although the Basque outfit have lost a key man in Antoine Griezmann, they still boast some quality players and will be keen to bounce back from that disappointing away defeat against Eibar.

Without Xabi Alonso in their ranks, it’ll be intriguing to see what player is tasked with filling the void of playmaker for Real Madrid. And if Los Blancos fail to snaffle three points here, questions will undoubtedly emerge about the wisdom of letting the veteran midfielder leave.

 

Michael Sam Confident He’ll Make Roster After Leading Team With Six Tackles

Defensive end Michael Sam told reporters Thursday night that he’s very confident that he’ll make the final cut on Saturday and be on the St. Louis Rams 53-man roster. Sam tallied six tackles despite playing in a different scheme due to a number of other defensive ends sitting out the game. Instead of the typical 4-3 scheme that the Rams utilize, only three defensive lineman were employed during Thursday night’s game. This not only gave Sam an opportunity for more snaps, but also allowed him to show that he can play in a different scheme.

From the beginning of training camp, it had been assumed that Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was going to keep nine defensive linemen when he settled on his final roster. Based on established players and position needs, the 9th spot is being decided between Sam and undrafted rookie free agent Ethan Westbrooks. While Sam has shown so far this preseason that he is a more polished pass-rusher whose technique is sound, Westbrooks has the ability to play on the interior and has far more size than Sam.

The fact is, both players have played really well this preseason and have proven that they deserve roster spots on an NFL team. It is possible that Fisher decides to keep 10 linemen and go short at another position. Since the team utilizes a 4-3 scheme, that wouldn’t be unheard of. The other option is to try to keep one of the players on the practice squad. However, that entails cutting  one and allowing him to clear waivers first. Based on both players level of play this preseason, it is almost a given that one will get picked up by another team and placed on a roster after being cut.

In the four preseason games he’s played, Sam has tallied 11 tackles and three sacks. For a defensive end, that is all you can ask. He has shown a phenomenal work ethic, accomplished moves for an end and an unrelenting motor on the field. Any concerns about his size or lack of speed have not been realized on the field of play. Basically, he is proving to fans and coaches alike why he won Defensive Player of the Year last season the toughest conference in college football.

The Rams will have to make their final roster decision by 4:00 PM ET on Saturday. After the game Saturday night, Fisher told reporters that Sam has proven to everybody that he belongs in this league. At the same time, he kept his final decision close to the vest. As for Sam, he said the following to reporters.

“That was a very good day to see that I could play the run. I was very successful and made some plays and got some tackles…I’m very confident that I’ll be playing on an NFL roster this fall. I know I can play in this league.”

Sam is looking to become the first openly gay player to play in the NFL. Even if he gets cut by the Rams on Saturday, it seems very likely that we’ll see him on the playing field before the end of September. History will be made this season.