Two weeks into the Miami Dolphins‘ offseason practice regimen Kolton Miller Youth Jersey , first-round draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick’s running tally of interceptions is underway.
”Have I been counting them? Every DB counts them,” Fitzpatrick said with a laugh after Tuesday’s workout. ”I’ve got two picks and a couple of pass breakups. Just doing my job.”
Contact drills won’t begin until training camp, but early indications are the Dolphins used the 11th overall pick wisely when they selected Fitzpatrick.
The safety from Alabama said he’s not fazed by reports Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wanted to trade down on draft night rather than pick Fitzpatrick.
”I heard about it,” Fitzpatrick said. ”He’s a businessman. He’s going to see the business side of everything. This is extra motivation to prove I’m a worthy pick and deserve to be here.”
The front office wanted a playmaker to upgrade a defense that ranked fourth-worst in points allowed last season, and so far Fitzpatrick looks as if he’ll make Miami better.
”He has done a good job,” coach Adam Gase said. ”He has gotten his hands on a lot of balls. He seems to be all over the place. He has a great motor and a great work ethic. You can tell he takes this very seriously and puts everything he has into this.”
The Dolphins’ investment goes beyond a first-round choice. Fitzpatrick signed a $16.44 million, four-year deal last week.
But he said he didn’t celebrate the contract, and doesn’t have any plans for the money besides buying a place to live.
”Anytime you see your hard work paying off, it’s a good feeling,” he said. ”But you’ve got to keep telling yourself it’s not the end goal. I didn’t come here just to be a first-round pick. I wanted to be a great player here and establish a great legacy.”
Fitzpatrick said the Dolphins are dividing his practice time evenly among the strong safety, free safety and nickel back positions. He said he doesn’t have a preference and is happy to move around.
”They trust me to do that Austin Corbett Jersey ,” Fitzpatrick said. ”They’re not putting too much on me, but they know they can put a lot on me.”
Pro Bowler Reshad Jones is certain to start at one safety spot, and veteran safety T.J. McDonald also returns after starting the final eight games last season. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke may decide to play both along with Fitzpatrick at times, and June is a time for experimenting.
General manager Chris Grier has compared Fitzpatrick to a Swiss army knife because of his versatility. And wherever Fitzpatrick lines up, he’s making his presence felt.
”He is flying around at practice,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. ”He plays aggressive and plays fast, and that’s what you want to see out of a DB.”
Fitzpatrick played for Nick Saban at Alabama, which may be why he hasn’t found the demands of the NFL too daunting so far. In fact, the coaching styles of Saban and Gase are similar, he said.
”They’re both very passionate coaches,” Fitzpatrick said. ”They’re both real hands-on. The only difference is coach Saban yells a bit more.”
At Alabama Hayden Hurst Ravens Jersey , Fitzpatrick had a school-record four interception returns for touchdowns. He’s confident about quickly improving his professional pick total.
”That’s going to keep going up,” Fitzpatrick said. ”As I get more and more comfortable, I’ll make more and more plays.”
Yes, Predators forward Filip Forsberg has watched the video of his jaw-dropping goal against Colorado a couple times, and even he agrees putting the puck through not only his legs but a defender’s with a dangle ranks as his most creative yet.
”I had some opportunities, but I haven’t finished any of them off,” Forsberg said. ”But it was good.”
The Colorado Avalanche showed that they can give Nashville fits with their speed and too-young-to-know-better attitude with the youngest roster this postseason. Having a chance in this first-round Western Conference series against the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy winners will mean figuring out a way to slow down the Predators’ top scorer.
Forsberg’s two goals in the third period not only rallied Nashville to a 5-2 win in Game 1 , the forward is averaging more than a point per game for his career against Colorado. Forsberg now has 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) and five game-winning goals in 21 games.
He also outscored Colorado’s top line as Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each had assists setting up the Avs’ opening goal.
Coach Jared Bednar said he thought his Avalanche, playing without top defenseman Erik Johnson (knee injury), did a nice job on Forsberg most of the game. Sam Girard played 22 minutes Vita Vea Youth Jersey , 7 seconds in his postseason debut against the team that drafted him.
”He uses his skill and beats a guy one-on-one,” Bednar said of Forsberg. ”The go-ahead goal at 3-2 was a lucky bounce. They shot it wide, and he got to the right spot on the ice and hit maybe his stick and a shin pad. He just goes to the hard areas.”
The Avalanche are catching Forsberg at a bad time. The 23-year-old forward from Ostervala, Sweden, now has 32 points in his last 31 games after leading the balanced Predators with 64 points in the regular season.
The Predators have a chance Saturday in Game 2 at something they haven’t managed yet as a franchise: Taking a 2-0 series lead in their own building.
”We’ve got to be better to get this done,” Forsberg said.
Some things to watch Saturday:
Devils at Lightning, Tampa Bay leads 1-0 (3 p.m EDT, NBC/CBNBC)
The Lightning look and sound like a team rejuvenated by playing meaningful games again.
The Atlantic Division champions spent the final three weeks of the regular season essentially biding time while awaiting the start of the playoffs. Captain Steven Stamkos said it was important to re-establish an edge in the series opener, and now the top seed in the Eastern Conference can take a commanding lead on the underdog Devils.
”There’s a wealth of experience in this room, with guys that have been in this situation,” Stamkos said. ”I think you could tell Uchenna Nwosu Chargers Jersey , once the puck dropped, that we were very determined to set the tone and play the right way.”
About half of New Jersey’s roster entered this series with no playoff experience. Coach John Hynes expects that to be less of a factor in Game 2.
”I don’t really want to get into what the exact message with our team was, but it (basically) was don’t get too high, don’t get too low,” Hynes said. ”We have to make sure we understand the areas we’ve got to be better at, and I think mentally make sure that we’re ready to play a certain way.”
Maple Leafs at Bruins, Boston leads 1-0 (8 p.m. EDT, NBC)
The Bruins may be without forward Tommy Wingels, who did not skate Friday after taking a hit from Toronto forward Nazem Kadri. Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said Wingels was being evaluated by doctors and lists him as questionable as the Bruins try to take a 2-0 lead.
If Wingels can’t play, a possible replacement could be rookie forward Ryan Donato. Cassidy said the former Harvard star could make his postseason debut Saturday. Donato skated with Noel Acciari and David Backes in practice. Cassidy said they have options with Brian Gionta as a right wing and Danton Heinen, who can slide over.
”I think Ryan played really well when he was here for his 12 games Rashaad Penny Jersey ,” said Cassidy. ”We plan on using Ryan, just want to pick the right time.”
The Maple Leafs know they have to play better on special teams after giving up three power-play goals. They also spent Friday waiting to learn what punishment the NHL would give Kadri.
”I don’t know what they’re going to do so might as well get prepared,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.
Sharks at Ducks, San Jose leads 1-0 (10:30 p.m. EDT, NBCSN)
The Ducks looked largely lifeless as they gave away their home-ice advantage by failing to maintain the momentum from their impressive finish to the regular season. This is a familiar pattern for the veteran Ducks, who have lost Game 1 at home in four of their last five playoff series over the past three seasons. They won two of those series.
Perhaps Evander Kane’s gritty two-goal performance in his playoff debut will get the Ducks’ attention, reminding them that they can’t play into the Sharks’ hands by skating on the perimeter of the ice and failing to generate consistent traffic in front of Martin Jones.
Or maybe the Sharks are hitting their stride after losing five of their final six games in the regular season. San Jose was better on both ends to win the opener 3-0 .
”They played how you’re supposed to play in the playoffs,” Anaheim forward Andrew Cogliano said of the Sharks. ”They played patient and played the right way. When you get chances, you have to score on them. You just execute the game plan. They did that. I.
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