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  • Marquel Lee wasn't quite ready to end the revolving door at middle linebacker for the Oakland Raiders when he was thrown into the starting lineup to start his rookie season last year.

     

    With a year of experience and a defensive scheme that better suits his game http://www.indianapoliscoltsteamonline.com/erik-swoope-jersey , Lee is doing his best to seize that role this season even after the Raiders brought in veteran Derrick Johnson to be the likely starter.

    Lee has spent most of training camp as Oakland's middle linebacker in the base defense and was one of the team's best defensive players in the exhibition opener last week against Detroit when he had three solo tackles and two assists in just 15 snaps.

    "There is a guy that really stepped up," coach Jon Gruden said. "He had a great game. He's physical. I think he's more and more of a complete linebacker. He's getting more comfortable in pass coverage. I think he's a presence in the middle of our defense right now. It's something that is not going unnoticed with his teammates and coaches."

    Lee showed signs of being stout against the run when he started the first five games last year as a fifth-round draft pick. But he struggled in coverage and the Raiders brought in veteran NaVorro Bowman to take over as starter in Week 6 and Lee played only sparingly the rest of the way.

    But Lee looks like a different player in year two and Gruden said he sees the potential for him to become a three-down linebacker. Lee said he feels much more confident in coach Paul Guenther's defense than he did last year when Ken Norton Jr. was coordinator.

    "I'm playing faster," Lee said. "I'm seeing things faster and diagnosing things and playing with more instinct. I'm more comfortable in the defense. I know where I need to be, which allows me to fit the run well and just make plays."

    The Raiders signed veteran Derrick Johnson in May with the thought of making him the starter but Lee has gotten more time so far in camp with Johnson playing a limited role in sub packages.

    Finding a middle linebacker has been difficult for Oakland in recent years.

    The Raiders drafted Rolando McClain in the first round in 2010 with hopes he would solidify that spot for years to come. But McClain lost his starting job midway through the 2012 season and the Raiders have been searching for a long-term answer ever since.

    Nick Roach filled that role in 2013 but then suffered a career-ending concussion the following preseason. Miles Burris took over in 2014 but wasn't up to the task and the Raiders signed Curtis Lofton the following season.

    Lofton struggled in the passing game and wasn't brought back the following season when Ben Heeney started the year as the starter before Perry Riley was brought in off the waiver wire midway through the year.

    The Raiders made a midseason switch again last year after Lee began the year as the starter. Bowman was signed after being released by San Francisco and finished the year as the starter.

    Oakland overhauled the position this offseason, signing Tahir Whitehead and Emmanuel Lamur, who have been starting on the outside, as well as adding Johnson.

    Lamur played for Guenther in Cincinnati and has helped his teammates make the transition to a new system.

    "I feel like we've had a chance to grow as a core together, going through offseason workouts, and then summer workouts Clayton Geathers Jersey , and then into training camp," Lee said. "Just being around each other all the time and stuff, grow as a core, we have each other's backs out there. Also having Emmanuel, he's been in the system for a long time, since he came out of college. He's a great help. He knows the ins and outs, and if we have a question we go to him 鈥?or any of the guys 鈥?but Emmanuel for sure knows the ins and outs of this defense."

    NOTES: CB Daryl Worley, WR Seth Roberts and WR Martavis Bryant all returned to practice. Bryant had missed two days with an illness. "We're calling Martavis the 'White Tiger,'" Gruden said. "Thirteen times I went to Busch Gardens. The white tiger was always in his cage. Well Le'Raven Clark Jersey , the white tiger came out today. Bryant came out. I don't know if you get that analogy, but sometimes he comes out to play and sometimes he doesn't. It's good to see because he's really special like the white tiger." ... The Raiders claimed DT Gabe Wright off waivers from Miami and placed DT Ahtyba Rubin on injured reserve.

    SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Getting a healthy Joe Thornton back on the ice was supposed to be the biggest change when the San Jose Sharks began training camp this season.

    That all changed when general manager Doug Wilson made a blockbuster trade to acquire two-time Norris Trophy winning defenseman Erik Karlsson, immediately turning the Sharks from a contender to one of the favorites in the Western Conference.

    “Clearly we want to win now and I think everybody is excited in this room,” Thornton said. “Our fans are very excited. I think it’s a real good time to be a Sharks fan. But we have to keep it day by day, keep the focus in on short periods of time and I think if we do that we have a good shot this year.”

    The Sharks opened training camp Friday with a healthy Thornton on the ice after having recovered from a second major knee surgery in the past two years. Karlsson has not yet arrived from Ottawa as he works out visa issues that could keep him from joining his new team until next week.

    But the trade is already providing an emotional boost to start the season.

    “It definitely ramps up when you make a trade like that,” forward Logan Couture said. “Obviously you’re excited when you come back to start the season. It’s the same type of energy every year. But things get shaken up when you make a big deal.”

    Karlsson joins a defensive group that includes another Norris Trophy winner in Brent Burns and shut-down defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sharks also have Justin Braun, Brenden Dillon and Joakim Ryan as well and coach Peter DeBoer is still figuring out pairings.

    Karlsson and Burns are the two highest-scoring defensemen in the NHL since the 2008-09 season and the first pair of Norris winners to play together since Chris Chelios and Nicklas Lidstrom did it in Detroit and Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger in Anaheim in 2008-09.

    “We were good to begin with and now we’re even better,” Vlasic said.

    Some of the success will depend on the play of Thornton at age 39. He signed a one-year Kevin Hayes Jersey , $5 million contract in July, taking a $3 million pay cut from the previous year to help make sure the Sharks have the room to add other top players. That happened Thursday with the deal for Karlsson from Ottawa.

    The Sharks didn’t have to give up any top-end NHL talent in the trade but did lose third-line center Chris Tierney. That leaves Logan Couture and Thornton as the only proven centers on the roster, putting perhaps an even bigger load on Thornton.

    Thornton went down with a season-ending right knee injury Jan. 23. Thornton had torn the ACL and MCL in his left knee late in the previous season but the earlier timing of this injury has him in better shape to start the season.

    “Night and day,” DeBoer said. “And that’s good. That’s just time. If you asked me where he is today compared to a year ago, his first day at camp, there’s no comparison to that. Again, we’ve got to be cautiously optimistic because he’s had two surgeries, but he looks real good.”

    Thornton started slowly last season as he worked his way back but was near his top form by the end of November. He had 11 goals and 15 assists in his final 28 games before the injury.

    Thornton has been the face of the franchise in San Jose since arriving in 2005, helping the team reach three Western Conference finals and one trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016.

    He ranks 12th in NHL history with 1 Randy Gregory Jersey ,030 assists and is 16th with 1,427 points. With seven more games, Thornton will become the 19th player to reach the 1,500-game mark for a career.

    Because of the injury, Thornton never got the chance to play with last year’s big acquisition in forward Evander Kane. Thornton began camp centering a line with Kane and captain Joe Pavelski in what likely will be a combination to start the season.

    “Joe’s obviously a legend who’s actively playing, which is rare in this league,” Kane said. “It’s great to see him back on the ice. Looking forward to continuing to kind of build throughout the course of the camp with our line and kind of gear and set a goal to be firing on all cylinders Oct. 3.”

     http://www.officialusafootballs.com/detroit-lions 

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