Ravens

Porter formally takes the reins in Portland

Porter formally takes the reins in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) For months, Caleb Porter has been torn by his loyalty to the Akron Zips while waiting to take over as coach of the Portland Timbers.

``I wanted to get going,'' Porter said Tuesday when he was formally - and finally - introduced by the Timbers. ``I can't wait for that first meeting, the first training session.''

Porter was hired as the Major League Soccer team's coach in late August, but he wrapped up his seventh season with Akron before fully making the move. He guided the Zips to an 18-1-3 record, the Mid-America Conference championship and into the third round of the NCAA tournament. It was the sixth straight season Akron had made it to the tournament; the Zips won the national championship in 2010.

He finished with a 123-18-17 overall record at Akron and the highest winning percentage (.832) among current Division I coaches.

The Timbers, meanwhile, fired coach John Spencer last July and replaced him in the interim with general manager Gavin Wilkinson. Portland finished up the season 8-16-10, ranked second-to-last in Major League Soccer's Western Conference and falling far short of the team's goal to reach the playoffs.

Porter, who was captain for three years during his college career at Indiana, went on to play two MLS seasons for San Jose and Tampa Bay. Knee injuries cut short his career. His goal, he said Monday, was to eventually return to MLS.

``In some ways I was uncomfortable being comfortable in Akron,'' he said. ``I was antsy.''

Porter, 37, finally moved his family to Portland on Dec. 17.

Honest and to-the-point, Porter did not waste any time in putting his own stamp on the team. Asked about Scottish striker Kris Boyd, who made $1.5 million last season with the Timbers but scored just seven goals, the new coach was blunt.

``Kris Boyd is a player that I think will have a hard time playing in the way that we want to play,'' Porter said. ``And that's no knock on Kris. He would fit in a lot of different systems but, with what I want out of my strikers, it's going to be difficult for him to offer what I'm looking for in that position.''

In what he needs from a striker, Porter said: ``I like to score goals. Simple.''

Porter is already familiar with Portland midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who played at Akron and won the MAC Hermann Trophy before he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft by the Timbers.

Nagbe scored just two goals his first season with the Timbers, but one of those was named the MLS goal of the year. Last season he had six, second on the team to Boyd.

Porter won't be giving the rising star a pass.

``He's a special talent,'' Porter said. ``He still has a lot to learn, I hope to bring that out in him.''

While Porter is known somewhat for using the 4-3-3 formation, he said he only used it for two seasons at Akron, and he favored a 4-4-2. The Timbers' talent will dictate what system he'll use at the MLS level.

He said part of Portland's problem has been a lack of a clear identity, which he hopes to bring to the team. He prefers an attack-oriented style with an emphasis on possession.

``I'm excited about the challenges ahead,'' he said.

The Timbers on Tuesday also signed Portland native Steven Evans as the team's second homegrown player. The 21-year-old midfielder had a career-best 14 goals in 19 matches as a junior at the University of Portland last season. He has been with the Timbers' development team since 2009.

Wilkinson also hinted about ``additions that will be happening this week.''

The Timbers open training camp on Jan. 21 and they open the season on March 3 against the New York Red Bulls at Jeld-Wen Field.

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Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews help lead AFC to victory in Pro Bowl skills competition

Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews help lead AFC to victory in Pro Bowl skills competition

Lamar Jackson was excellent this season finding his receivers across the field en route to an MVP caliber season. 

As it turns out, he’s not so good at hitting targets that aren’t human. 

Jackson struggled in the precision passing event, an event with moving targets labeled from one to five points and scored just two total points on 17 throws. 

But Jackson’s poor performance in the first event didn’t hurt the AFC, as it won the 2020 Pro Bowl skills competition over the NFC.

“A lot of bad throws,” Jackson said of his performance in the first event. “A little wind with me. It’s all good.” 

As soon as the event aired, Jackson immediately took to Twitter.

The events that followed were: The Gauntlet, Best Hands, Thread The Needle and Dodgeball. 

Jackson and teammate Mark Andrews competed in the Best Hands and Thread The Needle competitions. 

The duo’s obvious chemistry resulted in the second-best time, 49.4 seconds, out of four total pairings. 

The next drill was another passing drill called ‘Thread The Needle,’ which Jackson fared better in. He scored 12 total points, tied for the second-best of four passers. The concept of the drill was to throw the ball past a defender guarding a wall with nine targets, each with a corresponding point total.

In the final event of the night, the AFC beat the NFC two games to zero in dodgeball — led by Jackson and Andrews’ division rival, Browns wideout Jarvis Landry.

Jackson didn’t start the night well, but thankfully for him, the next targets with numbers he’ll see will be actual receivers at the Pro Bowl on Sunday afternoon.

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Dolphins GM wants a leader at QB and has 'more than enough' to move up in the draft

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Dolphins GM wants a leader at QB and has 'more than enough' to move up in the draft

The Dolphins hold the fifth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and if things break perfectly, they might be able to select Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with that pick. 

Unfortunately for Miami, things rarely go perfectly for any team in the NFL Draft.

The reality is if the Dolphins want a quarterback, they have very little chance of getting LSU passer Joe Burrow. He will go No. 1 overall to Cincinnatti unless the Bengals are certifiably crazy.

After that come the Washington Redskins. Ron Rivera's new team drafted a rookie QB last year in Dwayne Haskins, and he showed significant growth late in the 2019 season. It seems that the Redskins will take Ohio State defensive end Chase Young with the second pick. It seems like an easy decision.

But if Miami is desperate for a QB, the only way to guarantee they get their guy is to get to number two. Detroit has the third pick, New York has the fourth pick, then the Dolphins. 

The Redskins, Lions and Giants don't look to be in the quarterback market, but that doesn't mean other teams won't call them for a trade.

Even the most casual fan knows there aren't enough good passers in the NFL, and while Burrow is the most coveted prospect, don't count out Tagovailoa. He is going to gain immense steam as a draft prospect by late April. Scouts and personnel guys swear by the former Alabama passer as a person and as a quarterback. He's coming off a major hip injury, but the Dolphins have Ryan Fitzpatrick under contract for the 2020 season. 

It's all hypothetical right now, and maybe even a long shot, but the Dolphins GM knows he has the ammunition to move up from the fifth pick if needed. 

Dolphins general manager Chris Grier spoke at the Senior Bowl this week and said his team has "more than enough" options in the draft to get their quarterback. Miami has three first-round picks this year - Nos. 5, 18 and 26 - along with two second-round picks. That's plenty of capital if Grier decides his team needs to move up. 

And it sure sounds like Grier wants Tagovailoa.

"He’s been a winner. The fact that he won the Elite 11 and he goes to Alabama and has the storybook, coming off the bench in the national championship. Everyone always talks about his accuracy," Grier said via The Miami Herald. "Talk about the person, as well. The intangibles that we talk about. Looking forward to getting to meet him."

The only way for Miami to guarantee they get Tua is to trade into the second spot. Nobody knows what QB-needy team could trade into the third spot. And Grier knows that. 

It's also important to point out that Grier added what most around the NFL know: In the time before the draft there is "a lot of misinformation" out there. 

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