Pellegrini unsure of best attack

first_img Negredo’s performances could put him in line to replace Dzeko but Pellegrini wants both players in good form with a tough spell of fixtures ahead. Pellegrini said: “Alvaro Negredo is always a very important option, Edin Dzeko is exactly the same. “They are different players but they are both very good players, so the important thing is how useful both are for the team. “They have competition always for a place but they can play together also, so they are two important players for the team. “We have to play seven games in 21 days, so the most important thing is not the 11 that start, but the performance of each player in every game. “All the players we have, if they give a high performance, have the option to play.” The paths of Pellegrini and Negredo briefly crossed at Real Madrid after the club, having sold the player to Almeria two years previously, exercised a buy-back option on him in 2009. But with other forwards competing for places in the Real side, notably Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, he was sold soon afterwards to Sevilla, for a nine million euro (£7.5million) profit. Pellegrini said: “He had just played that year in Almeria and he had a very good year but in Real Madrid at that moment was Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Higuain, Ruud van Nistelrooy – too much. “So it was very important for him to continue growing as a player and he signed for Sevilla and it was a very important four years for him.” Press Association Negredo has made a good impression since his £20million summer arrival from Sevilla, scoring off the bench in the last two games against Cardiff and Hull. The Spaniard also found the net on his debut against Newcastle, only to have his effort ruled out in a tight offside call. After also scoring on international duty last week, the 28-year-old is pressing for his first City start as Pellegrini’s men travel to Stoke in the Barclays Premier League this weekend. Pellegrini, who briefly worked with Negredo during his short spell in charge of Real Madrid four years ago, said: “I think that in every game he played he did very well. “He has scored in all the matches so I hope we will see the best of Negredo, that I saw in Spain for the last seven, eight years. “He was a very young player when I was at Real Madrid. He started there and after that, every year, he has been a very important striker in Spain. He will be here in England also.” Negredo is competing with Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and another summer arrival in Stevan Jovetic for a place up front. Between them the four players cost City £107million and Pellegrini has no firm idea of which pairings might be the most effective. “No, I don’t know exactly,” he said. “We have four important players for that combination.” Dzeko has so far been the preferred option alongside Aguero, while Jovetic is still awaiting his debut. Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini concedes he does not know his best striking combination – but expects Alvaro Negredo to build on the superb start he has made at the club.last_img read more

How Aaron Hackett bided his time to become Syracuse’s top tight end

first_imgBlock first, catch second. That’s what tight ends need to do to earn playing time under head coach Dino Babers. If a tight end is one-dimensional, it’ll be hard for them to ever see the field in Syracuse’s offensive system. But if they can block, run routes and catch, then they’ll have opportunities.For two years, Aaron Hackett blocked. In 2017, during his freshman year, he played in nine games, usually as an extra blocker, without recording a stat. Last year was a step up. He played in all 13 games and caught four total passes, including a touchdown against Pittsburgh. For the second-straight year, he honed his blocking skills, spending most of his time on the field on special teams and in goal line formations.Now a junior, Hackett has evolved into one of quarterback Tommy DeVito’s top options in the passing game, which finally broke out Saturday against Western Michigan. Expected to be the starting tight end this summer, Hackett polished his route running skills. He’s caught at least one pass in each of Syracuse’s (2-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) games, including a career-best six-catch, two-touchdown performance against the Broncos.Ravian Pierce, Syracuse’s starting tight end the past two years, graduated in the spring while Gabe Horan, who caught a touchdown as a true freshman last season, was medically disqualified earlier this year. That’s left the Orange to rely heavily on Hackett as both a blocker in the run game and a receiver this season.“There’s a lot on (Hackett’s) shoulders,” Babers said before the start of the season. “So we expect a lot out of him and he’s gonna have to hold that group together.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThat group includes fullback and tight end Chris Elmore and true freshman Luke Benson, who Elmore and Hackett have had to transition faster than usual thanks to SU’s now-thin tight end corp. The size of the group also meant more practice reps for Hackett, who played more snaps than expected during training camp.Eva Suppa | Digital Design EditorHe’s made up for now-graduated tight end Pierce’s lost production and then some, with already 10 catches through four games. That’s just six fewer than Pierce had all season. And Hackett is already two-thirds of the way to Pierce’s touchdown total (3) from last year.“It felt good to finally get my first touchdown in the dome,” Hackett said after having two touchdowns against Western Michigan. “That was awesome. They really gave movement up front, losing me in the play-action.”DeVito simply lobbed the second score up to Hackett, who ran underneath it and nearly got the ball swatted away. Hackett clutched the ball in his left hand, showing it to the referee as he tumbled to the ground. He credits some of his playmaking ability to his background in basketball, much like his favorite tight end growing up, Tony Gonzalez.Currently, his favorite NFL tight end is Chicago Bears’ Trey Burton, who grew up in the same town as Hackett did. Despite their seven-year age difference, Hackett was always around Burton when they were younger, and was once even the water boy for one of Burton’s basketball teams. He still stays in touch with Burton’s brother Clay, a former tight end at the University of Florida, and even worked out with Clay this past summer.“I try to kind of fit to that script of (Trey Burton) where he’s not just a receiver,” Hackett said. “He’s a receiver, he’s a full back, in-line blocker, a jack of all trades. That’s who I want to try to model myself after.”Aside from working out with Clay and gaining nine pounds of muscle, Hackett also worked on getting in-and-out of breaks quicker this summer. He learned in Tampa with a trainer named Route God, whom Hackett found on Twitter and direct messaged. Hackett, along with Florida State tight end Tre’ McKitty, worked out together under the tutelage of Route God, who’s trained NFL players like Deebo Samuel in the past.Along with his offseason training, one factor that led to Hackett’s production in 2019 is his relationship with DeVito — the two began starting roles at SU at the same time. Following their second touchdown connection against Western Michigan, the two embraced, knocking their helmets together and low-fiving. DeVito jogged to the sidelines. Hackett jogged back to the middle of the field, assuming his position in the extra-point unit. Tight ends have to block, after all. Comments Published on September 22, 2019 at 11:05 pm Contact Eric: | @esblack34 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

Why Eagles’ Carson Wentz might regret settling for a team-friendly contract

first_imgIn the final analysis, if he is winning big, it probably won’t matter to Wentz if his contract lags behind his contemporaries. But what are the chances Wentz and the Eagles will have the kind of success of Brady and the otherworldly Pats?Not great, wherein Wentz would come up short in this deal if he becomes a perennial top QB.Jeff Diamond is a former president of the Titans and former vice president/general manager of the Vikings. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year in 1998. Diamond is currently a business and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work. He makes speaking appearances to corporate/civic groups and college classes on negotiation and sports business/sports management. He is the former chairman and CEO of The Ingram Group. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL. The problem I foresee is that the QB market is going to continue to jump significantly in the next few years. Part of the reason is the fact that there will be a new collective bargaining agreement that already is in early negotiations. When it takes effect in 2021, and as new TV deals also are negotiated, the players’ share of league revenue will likely see a significant increase. That will translate to higher player salaries with the QBs leading the way as usual.There also is the presence of some talented young passers led by 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, who will surely approach or hit $40 million per year in new money from the Chiefs when his contract is extended in the next two years. Jared Goff, the QB picked by the Rams just ahead of Wentz in 2016, also will command big bucks, as will Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson and, possibly, the top two picks in the 2015 draft, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Then the class of 2018, led by Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, will be headed to new deals in about three more years.So a couple years from now, Wentz could be far down the list of highest-paid QBs, and at that point, he might regret not waiting another year or two to see how the QB market was shaping up. He can earn another extension four years from now, when he will have two years left on his current deal, and that’s definitely the end game in his agent’s mind. But Wentz will have a hard time catching up to the top-paid QBs in terms of total career compensation.NFL UNIFORM RANKINGS:Where Eagles’ look ranks among NFL’s bestUnder the tutelage of an excellent coach and QB guru in Doug Pederson, Wentz is a player I think will improve in areas such as getting rid of the ball quicker before taking big hits and protecting himself better when he runs. These advancements should help him stay on the field and off the injured list. Which in turn will lead to higher production and, eventually, a contract he has outperformed. Such is the risk that goes along with the peace of mind in a long-term deal. 2019 NFL QB RANKINGS:Why Wentz is in the second tier of QBsDespite Wentz ending each of the past two seasons sidelined with major injuries, Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman is going all in on the player he traded up to the second overall pick in 2016 to draft. Roseman and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie are betting $107 million that Wentz can stay healthy and play at the level he displayed in 2017, when he was an MVP candidate until his December ACL injury.That $107 million is the amount of guaranteed money in Wentz’s four-year, $128 million extension. The new money in this deal is just below that contained in the recently signed deals of Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. However, the good news for the Eagles is that Wentz still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, so the total value of the six years for which he is signed is $154 million.That’s $25.66 million per year, an amount that falls below the per-year dollars for the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo ($27.5 million) and the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins ($28 million). Considering the market value of top 10 QBs — which Wentz is when healthy — this is clearly a team-friendly contract.But there is that injury risk; the scenario in which the Wentz deal would blow up on the Eagles. In my GM years in Minnesota, I tried to do the biggest deals with players who had a record of durability, such as Hall of Famers Chris Doleman, John Randle and Cris Carter. When I was with the Titans, the same held true with Pro Bowl QB Steve McNair on his big extension in 2001.Occasionally I would gamble, as I did in matching a league-high $5 million-per-year offer for running back Robert Smith, who had two ACL tears early in his career. Fortunately that worked out, as Smith became a Pro Bowler and led the NFC in rushing in 2000. But I was plenty nervous every time I saw Smith make a sharp cut or take a big hit.With a lot more money at stake, that’s how Roseman will feel every time Wentz is sacked or takes off on a run. I can already hear the GM yelling, “Slide!”MORE: The NFL’s 25 highest-paid playersFrom the perspective of Wentz and his agent, I understand it’s hard to pass up the security of a long-term deal that has him financially set for life, especially considering his injury history. Wentz has 13 missed games over the past two seasons — eight due to the ACL tear in 2017 that carried over to the first two games in 2018, plus five games missed late last season (including two playoff games) due to a fracture in his back.Perhaps there’s some of the Tom Brady factor at work here, with Wentz being happy in Philly and willing to take less money than he could have eventually received so Roseman would have more money available to bring in a talented supporting cast. Wentz indicated after the signing that he wasn’t interested in chasing the last dollar in a new deal.”I wanted this to be home for a long time,” he said. “As soon as we found something that was a win-win, a really fair opportunity, I jumped at it. Because I love this place.”If that leads to Super Bowl titles a la Brady, the endorsement income will more than make up for any contract shortfall. But that’s a big if. All NFL contracts carry an inherent risk-reward factor for both the team and the player. When the player has a history of injury, the level of risk rises significantly for the team. And when the contract involves a star quarterback for whom the money skyrockets, and said QB has suffered major injuries in his career, that can cause high anxiety for the general manager. But the GM can lessen the angst if he feels he got a team-friendly contract while he prays the QB stays healthy.In accordance with the above scenario, I give you the extension Carson Wentz signed last week with the Eagles. Today it looks like a fair deal for both sides with equal amounts of risk-taking. But I venture to say that, a few years down the road, the Eagles will be the winners in this negotiation, as I expect Wentz to stay relatively healthy and play at an elite level.last_img read more