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18.10.2018 06:03
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Minkah Fitzpatrick understands the value of his skill set.

At 6-foot-1 Brayden Schenn Jersey , 201 pounds, he hits like a safety. His speed, hip movement and feet might make him more tailored to cornerback.

So the Alabama star is spending this weekend explaining to NFL scouts he can excel at either, both or some combination of the positions.

”It’s a different kind of position, kind of like a combination between safety and corner,” said Fitzpatrick, describing the slot corner spot he played in college. ”I like to play both safety and corner, so I think slot corner is optimal for my abilities.”

If true, Fitzpatrick would be one of the rarest commodities in football – a tweener with an actual fit.

Traditionally when players at the NFL’s annual scouting combine are explaining what position suits them best, it’s because team executives aren’t sure where they should play and the player’s draft stock sinks.

But Fitzpatrick’s physical gifts could make him a trend-setter in a league that has become increasingly more pass-happy and places a premium on versatility.

He was recruited as a true cornerback, moved to slot corner before the 2015 season, won the starting job and never relinquished it. Coach Nick Saban was so impressed he usually paired Fitzpatrick on the opponent’s top receiver, one-on-one.

It didn’t take long for Fitzpatrick to make an impact.

After being selected to the SEC’s all-freshman team in 2015, he earned first-team All-American honors in 2016 and 2017.

Now he’s off to the NFL, where teams are trying to figure out what Saban once did – the best place for Fitzpatrick to play.

”I think he could play all six defensive back positions. Both corners, both safeties, nickel and dime linebacker,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said Saturday. ”He’s the only guy I can say that about. Now, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I’ve had a couple of coaches say to me, `Hey, is he a difference-maker? Is he a nickel? Where’s his ball production?’ He had six picks two years ago, but only had one this year. But I look at (his versatility) as a positive.”

Mayock’s sentiment may explain why Fitzpatrick appears to have a slight edge on his competition right now. He’s projected to be a top-five pick.

Some expect Ohio State’s Denzel Ward, a true cornerback, to be selected in the top 10 with Florida State safety Derwin James the only other defensive back tabbed for the top 20.

The workouts in Indianapolis, which conclude Monday, will help determined the actual pecking order in April.

But one thing working in Fitzpatrick’s favor: work ethic.

While growing up in New Jersey, he sometimes helped his father fix trucks.

After the family’s home collapsed during Hurricane Irene in 2011 Andrew Luck Jersey , Fitzpatrick helped his parents rebuild.

And when the Catholic high school he attended provided peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to students who couldn’t afford school lunches, Fitzpatrick ate them up.

So when he arrived at the combine, less than two months away from possibly hitting a multimillion-dollar jackpot, the reality finally hit.

”It’s really crazy,” Fitzpatrick said. ”I remember the second I got here, I was laying in bed, looked up at the ceiling and just started smiling.”

Yes, it’s been a long trek here for Fitzpatrick and his family.

Yet he hasn’t forgotten his blue-collar roots, his humble perspective on life or his passion for football. It’s served him well, so far.

”I think he’s going to go out there and run like a corner, have the size of a safety, and if you’re a defensive coordinator and take him in the top 10, you’ve got to have a plan,” Mayock said. ”What is he? Is he my safety, is he my corner, is he my nickel? Or is he a piece that I can match up week to week against a big wideout or a tight end? How you use him is ultimately going to determine the value of him.”



Max Scherzer had gone more than two months without a defeat. Now the Washington Nationals ace has lost consecutive starts for the first time in nearly three years.

Marco Estrada took a shutout into the seventh inning, Devon Travis homered and the Toronto Blue Jays beat Scherzer and the Nationals 2-0 on Saturday.

Scherzer (10-3) gave up four hits, including the two-run homer by Travis, in six innings. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner struck out 10, increasing his major league-leading total to 152.

Scherzer has 10 double-digit strikeout games this season, four more than any other pitcher.

Beaten by a two-run home run from San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford in his previous outing, Scherzer saw this start turn on another two-run homer, with Travis jumping on a hanging slider in the fifth.

”This is Major League Baseball,” Scherzer said. ”One pitch can cost you a game. Now I’ve had it happen twice in back-to-back starts. You can get beat like that. I’ve got to keep executing every single pitch I throw.”

Scherzer last lost two straight starts in a three-game skid in August 2015.

”He pitched really well,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. ”One mistake.”

Travis homered for the second game in a row, going deep to right after Scherzer hit Luke Maile with a pitch.

”He doesn’t make many mistakes so when he does, you’d better hope you take advantage of it Youth Justin Reid Jersey ,” Travis said. ”If not, it’s probably the only one you’re going to get for the day.”

Estrada (4-6) allowed three hits, one a bunt single, over 6 2/3 innings to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season.

”He’s a big-game pitcher and that’s a really tough lineup over there,” Travis said of Estrada. ”He did a fantastic job today.”

The Blue Jays posted their first shutout since Aug. 10, 2017 against the Yankees, snapping a franchise-long 117-game span between shutouts.

Trea Turner hit a two-out double in the sixth, but Estrada struck out Bryce Harper looking. An exasperated Harper was caught looking again to end the eighth, stranding a runner at first. Harper went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, dropping his average to .221.

”What I think I’d like for him to do is maybe not swing so much,” Martinez said. ”He’s been swinging a lot, and I really think now is the time to take less swings and just go play.”

Washington has been blanked three times in five games, including Scherzer’s 2-0 loss to San Francisco on June 10 and a 3-0 road loss to the Yankees on June 12.

”It’s surprising but it happens,” Martinez said. ”Sometimes you run into good pitchers.”

Estrada left after Michael A. Taylor’s two-out single put runners at first and second in the seventh. Danny Barnes came on and needed two pitches to retire Wilmer Difo on a groundout.

Barnes and Aaron Loup each got two outs and former Nationals closer Tyler Clippard finished the three-hitter for his third save in six opportunities.

SWEET DREAMS

Travis said it can be tough to get a good night’s rest when Scherzer is scheduled to pitch the following day.

”He’s a guy when you go to sleep at night, you know you’re facing Max Scherzer the next day and your heart starts to beat a little bit already,” Travis said. ”You know you’re up for a big challenge. He’s the best in the game.”

SEEN YOU BEFORE

Travis was drafted by Detroit, where Scherzer played from 2010 to 2014. During his first spring training with the Tigers, Travis faced Scherzer multiple times during intrasquad games.

RARE FEAT

Scherzer hadn’t given up a homer to a right-handed batter since Giancarlo Stanton connected for Miami on Aug. 7, 2017.

HOME COOKING

Toronto has won six straight at home after losing 10 of its previous 11 at Rogers Centre.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: 1B Matt Adams was out of the lineup one day after taking a pitch off his left hand while attempting to bunt. X-rays Friday were inconclusive because of swelling, so Adams will have another X-ray when the Nationals return home Monday. With Adams unavailable, Daniel Murphy started at first, his first defensive action since returning from knee surgery Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (3-7, 3.63) faces Blue Jays RHP Sam Gaviglio (2-2, 3.66) in Sunday’s series finale. Roark has won just once in his past seven starts. Gaviglio allowed a season-worst five earned runs in Monday’s loss at Tampa Bay, his second straight losing decision.

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