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  • 02 Jul
    导出博客文章NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Marcus Mariota sees a noticeable upgrade in the talent
    around him when he looks around the Tennessee Titans locker room.We have a lot
    of guys in here now that are just studs, and thats exciting, Mariota said. At
    the same time, now the expectations are higher, the standards higher, and thats
    what youve got to live by. We cant just come out here and be satisfied with
    enough. Weve got to be coming out here trying to get better.Well, at an
    NFL-worst 5-27 the past two seasons, the Titans certainly have lots of room for
    improvement.Amy Adams Strunk, who took charge as controlling owner in March
    2015, fired Ken Whisenhunt after a 1-6 start and chose to keep Mike Mularkey as
    head coach after he went 2-7. When she also hired a new general manager in
    Tennessee native Jon Robinson, who got his NFL start with the Patriots, it
    marked the first time since 1981 this franchise changed both coach and GM in the
    same offseason.Robinson started revamping the roster, bringing in a handful of
    free agents and trading for DeMarco Murray. He also traded away the No. 1
    overall draft choice and brought in 10 draft picks for Mularkeys exotic
    smashmouth offense designed to help out Mariota, the quarterback taken No. 2
    overall in 2015.Last season was tough, said Mariota, who lost only five games in
    his career at Oregon. At the same time, now we have an opportunity to build from
    that and get better. Im totally excited about it.Here are some things to watch
    for when the Titans report for training camp July 29:TENNESSEE BORDER: Mariota
    missed a combined four games as a rookie because he hurt each knee when hit in
    the pocket. Robinson signed center Ben Jones away from Houston and drafted Jack
    Conklin out of Michigan State eighth overall to bolster an offensive line that
    gave up an NFL-worst 54 sacks. An offseason injury to veteran Byron Bell erased
    the opportunity to move right guard Chance Warmack to left guard, and the Titans
    hope someone pushes undrafted free agent Quinton Spain, who started the last
    seven games in 2015 at left guard.IMPROVED BACKFIELD: Mularkey wants to run the
    ball much better to help Mariota and improve an offense that ranked 30th,
    averaging 311.8 yards per game. Robinson picked up Murray for the price of a
    revised contract and swapping 13 spots with Philadelphia in March, hoping the
    running back looks much more like the NFLs 2014 Offensive Player of the Year.
    For insurance, Robinson also drafted Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry out of
    Alabama with his third selection in the second round.The new running backs could
    help Tennessee end an ugly drought. Only Mariota has run for 100 yards or more
    over the past two seasons, and the quarterback needed the longest run in the
    league last December to reach 100 yards.CATCHING ON: Mularkey challenged the
    Tennessee wide receivers this offseason to step up and play better. Injuries
    ended the season for both Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, and Dorial
    Green-Beckham showed tantalizing flashes without consistency. Mularkey has made
    it very clear to Hunter he expects the fourth-year player to be a receiver
    defenses cant stop. Robinson also signed Rishard Matthews from Miami and drafted
    Tajae Sharpe of Massachusetts in the fifth round; the rookie was working with
    the first team as the offseason program ended.LEBEAU IN CHARGE: Ray Horton left
    for Cleveland after losing the head job to Mularkey, and Dick LeBeau stuck
    around to be defensive coordinator. Hes made it clear the Titans will go after
    the quarterback much more this season, trying to improve from 12th in total
    yards allowed but 27th in points given up. Robinson brought in veteran
    cornerbacks Brice McCain and Antwon Blake, and Arizona safety Rashad Johnson.
    Linebacker Kevin Dodd of Clemson was the No. 33 draft pick overall.INJURY
    UPDATE: Linebacker Derrick Morgan, who had season-ending shoulder surgery in
    2015, is expected to be fully available at the start of camp. He was limited at
    times during the offseason. Dodd also is expected to be available after having
    preventative surgery on his right foot in late May.---Online:AP NFL website:
    www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP-NFL---Follow
    Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker
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    . -- The proud fathers huddled near the Dallas Stars
    dressing room, smiling, laughing and telling stories while wearing replica green
    sweaters of their sons team.
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    . The 29-year-old from Port Colborne, Ont., has nothing but
    good things to say about former U.S. marine Liz (Girlrilla) Carmouche ahead of
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    in Fort Campbell, Ky.
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    . Despite the cost, effort and an improved steroid test, its possible that very
    few -- if any -- positives will be detected, Dr. Richard Budgett told The
    Associated Press in an interview. "We just dont know what the results from
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    . James, who turned 29 on Monday, injured his groin Friday
    during the Heats overtime loss at Sacramento. He sat out the following game, a
    108-107 win Saturday in Portland, before coming back to help send the Nuggets to
    their seventh consecutive loss.
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    . Schenn scored the game-winning goal and added two assists
    to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames at the
    Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday. CHICAGO -- Even in the midst of his own strong
    season left-handed starter Jon Lester is quick to stand up and cheer for fellow
    members of the Chicago Cubs rotation.After Kyle Hendricks tossed seven shutout
    innings in the Cubs 3-0 victory over the Pirates on Tuesday, Lester took to
    social media to praise the Cubs righty.Another gem turned in by Kyle Hendricks
    last night. Hoping the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) takes
    notice, Lester proclaimed on his Twitter feed.Hendricks (13-7, 2.09 ERA) is
    increasingly part of conversations for NL Cy Young Award consideration by
    baseball writers while reigning award winner Jake Arrieta of the Cubs (16-5,
    2.84 ERA) is also having another impressive year.So why not Lester, too?The
    32-year-old left-hander brings a 14-4 record and 2.70 ERA to his Friday start
    against the San Francisco Giants. Hell face right-hander Albert Suarez (3-2,
    4.35 ERA) in a 1:20 p.m. match at Wrigley Field.Lester has a team-leading 21
    quality starts in 26 appearances. He finished August with a 3-0 record and a
    1.71 ERA for the month and is 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in four career starts against
    San Francisco.Hes even contributed with the bat. As a pinch hitter in a July 31
    walk off win over the Seattle Mariners, Lester delivered a squeeze bunt in the
    12th inning that scored Javier Baez with the winning run.I was trying not to
    screw anything up and just get (the bunt) down and see what happened from there,
    Lester said.Lesterr, who has World Series wins with the Red Sox in 2007 and
    2013, says hed rather pull for the entire staff rather than concentrate on
    individual accolades.ddddddddddddI dont compete with my other pitchers, Lester
    said recently. I want them to do way better than me. I think the biggest thing,
    and the way Ive always felt, is you dont want to be kind of the loose link in
    the chain. You want to keep going, keep pressing along.The four-game series
    between the Giants and Cubs could serve as a preview to next months National
    League playoffs.While Chicago appears to be a virtual playoff lock, each one of
    the next three games in the series is critical for a Giants team that now has 11
    losses in its last 17 games following Thursdays 5-4 loss to the Cubs.Its a case
    of us putting it all together, said Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Theres no
    easy answer, but weve got to pitch well and get these bats going.The Giants,
    winners of World Series championships between 2010 and 2014, are just two games
    in back of the NL West-leading Dodgers and narrowly lead the NL wild card
    chase.San Francisco is scheduled to send left-hander Madison Bumgarner (13-8,
    2.49 ERA) against Arrieta on Saturday. Johnny Cueto (14.5, 2.98 ERA) is
    scheduled for Sunday against a Cubs pitcher to be named, but could be John
    Lackey coming off the disabled list.
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