Nothing like suspension to remind NFL who’s indispensable

Ezekiel Elliott (AP)
Updated 07 December 2017
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Nothing like suspension to remind NFL who’s indispensable

NASHVILLE, Tennessee: Anyone can see just how much the Dallas Cowboys desperately miss Ezekiel Elliott.
Now the New England Patriots will get a reminder of life without Tom Brady’s favorite target when Rob Gronkowski sits out his own suspension Monday night in Miami.
“He’s a big focal point in our offense,” Brady said of Gronk. “I mean, I think when he gets going, it’s great for everybody, so it’s been great having him in there this year. He’s worked really hard and he’s a great player. I love playing with him. We’ve got a great rapport.”
Yes, even Brady has a teammate who makes him better.
And every NFL team has that one player that makes everything click, someone with so much ability and leadership who makes everyone else better, too. Or, in the case of tail-ending teams, a player who stands above the mess.
Sure, the quarterback is the most important, touching the ball every snap on offense. But take Mr. Indispensable off the field, and nothing works quite the same.
Nobody knows that better than Dallas, 1-3 since Elliott started serving his suspension and putting a serious crimp in the Cowboys’ postseason plans. Dallas finally ended the skid last week, beating Washington. Surviving and staying in the playoff hunt until Dec. 24 when Elliott returns against Seattle may not be possible without what he brings to the field.
Washington linebacker Zach Brown says it’s easy to see on film just how different the Cowboys are without Elliott’s speed and ability to score on any carry.
“Now everybody’s forcing them to pass the ball,” Brown said.
Gronkowski leads the Patriots with 55 catches and seven touchdowns , and he just turned in his best game this season with nine catches for 147 yards. But his late hit on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White means Gronk will miss his first game this season with the Pats chasing the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
“He’s obviously a guy that’s super consistent when he’s been out there for us, and he’s really playing that same role this year,” Brady said.
A quarterback’s best friend can be a left tackle like Joe Thomas in Cleveland or David Bakhtiari in Green Bay. The Falcons didn’t click on the offensive line until signing center Alex Mack last year, and then they went straight to the Super Bowl.
A talented wide receiver also can carry an entire team. Just look at Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown , or conversely what it’s been like for the Giants without Odell Beckham Jr.
Defenders can be indispensable, too.
In Carolina, Cam Newton may do the Superman poses, but the Panthers’ real MVP is middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. The Panthers aren’t the same without the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and he’s missed time with three concussions over the past three seasons. When healthy, Kuechly rarely misses a tackle. He also usually knows what play is being called .
“When you watch his film against other teams, he’s pointing where the run is going,” Miami coach Adam Gase said. “It’s really amazing to watch him play, because he’s a tough guy to play chess with. For me, I’m on the sideline and he’s on the field, so it makes it really tough.”
Jacksonville had been spending millions on its defense that seemed wasted until end Calais Campbell arrived as easily the league’s best free-agent acquisition of 2017. He’s helped put the Jaguars (8-4) in the mix for their first playoff berth since 2007. Campbell leads the AFC in sacks and is a calming influence in the locker room.
“He’s everything that’s been advertised,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “Just from the way to prepare, the leadership in the locker room, on the field, leads by example and, obviously, has been playing extremely well for us. A lot of times in free agency, maybe you don’t get, sometimes, the value of what you would like, but that’s not the case with Calais. We’ve gotten that, and I believe more, out of him.”
Oakland may have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, but defensive end Khalil Mack — last year’s Defensive Player of the Year — helped the Raiders contend again in the struggling AFC West despite being the defender each opposing offense focuses on most.
“Some of the stuff he was doing just can’t be done,” Denver linebacker Von Miller said earlier this season. “Just pick up offensive linemen and run straight through them — that stuff, it can be done, but not the way Khalil does it.”
Then there are players that teammates know mean everything to a franchise such as two-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker in Tennessee . Such players may not get the attention from fans their play deserves, but opposing teams build their game plans around them.
“I know that the teams we’re playing are trying to stop him,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.
That’s the ultimate sign of how indispensable a player really is.


Australia captain Tim Paine worried about brittle batting after Pakistan win in Abu Dhabi

Updated 19 October 2018
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Australia captain Tim Paine worried about brittle batting after Pakistan win in Abu Dhabi

  • Aussie skipper admits side has to sort out batting ahead of Test series against India.
  • Abbas destroys Australia with a haul of 17 wickets in the series.

LONDON: Tim Paine admitted Australia need to sort out their batting and fast with a Test series against India to prepare for.
The Baggy Greens skipper was speaking after his side had been beaten by 373-runs by Pakistan in the second Test in Abu Dhabi on Friday. That victory gifted the hosts a 1-0 win in the two-Test series and left the Aussies scratching their heads as to what they need to do before they come up against the No. 1 ranked India side on home soil.
Pakistan’s medium pacer Mohammad Abbas did the damage once again as he took his maiden 10-wicket haul in a match to fire his side to victory. Abbas followed his five for 33 in the first innings with figures of five for 62 to bowl out the tourists for 164 after they were set a daunting 538-run target.
It was Australia’s heaviest defeat against Pakistan, beating the 356-run hammering at this same venue four years ago. And Paine admitted the defeat had given his food for thought, especially regarding the side’s brittle batting line-up.
“It is obviously really disappointing to have them five for 57 on day one and we let that opportunity slip,” the captain said.
“When you do that against really good teams in Test cricket you pay the price and I thought they batted really well after that in the first innings, put us under pressure and we weren’t up to the challenge with the bat.
“I thought our bowlers toiled pretty well on that wicket. To bowl them out twice was not a bad effort.
“It’s just our batting. Mohammad Abbas challenged our defense time and time again and as we’ve seen a number of times over the last couple of years we’ve come up short. There’s certainly no sugar coating that we’ve got some real issues with our batting and we need to address it really quickly.”
Paine’s opposite number Sarfraz Ahmed was left to praise Abbas, who in 10 Tests has already taken 59 wickets at an average of 15.64.
“The way Abbas has bowled all series is one of the biggest positives for us,” the Pakistan captain said.
“All the youngsters who have come through in recent times have done well. We have to groom them all. There was pressure, when the team loses there is pressure, the most important is that the team wins. Thankfully my batting performance in this Test contributed to the win.”
It was Abbas who destroyed Australia with a haul of 17 wickets in the series — becoming the first Pakistani fast bowler to take ten wickets in a Test since Mohammad Asif’s feat against Sri Lanka at Kandy in 2006.
Abbas had jolted Australia with four wickets off just 23 balls while Yasir Shah finished with three for 45 to give Pakistan their tenth series win on the neutral venues of UAE.
They have only lost one series — 2-0 to Sri Lanka last year — since being forced to play their home matches in UAE since 2009.