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08.10.2018 08:24
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Blake Bortles remembers the first time Jalen Ramsey got under his skin.

Bortles was trying to get through a two-minute drill during the 2016 season. It was a weekly walkthrough routine in which players were supposed to go half-speed while practicing plays. Normally Brandon Scherff Jersey , there’s no contact and every pass is complete.

At least that had been the case until Ramsey arrived.

Bortles threw several passes in Ramsey’s direction. The rookie intercepted or knocked down each one.

It happened week after week until Bortles finally stopped throwing Ramsey’s way.

”It was so annoying,” Bortles recalled Thursday.

It also set the tone for Ramsey’s career. The trash-talking cornerback has a flair for frustrating quarterbacks and receivers and the ability to essentially shut down one side of the field. After 33 games, Ramsey’s already considered among the best players in franchise history – a 23-year-old rising star who openly aspires to be as good as Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and often looks the part.

”The best I’ve ever seen in person,” Bortles said. ”He’s freakish.”

Ramsey is a major piece of Jacksonville’s defensive turnaround, and he’ll take center stage Sunday when the Jaguars (11-6) play in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs at Pittsburgh (13-3).

Ramsey will shadow Antonio Brown , widely considered the best receiver in the NFL.

All-Pro vs. All-Pro, undoubtedly the most intriguing matchup of the postseason game.

”It’s not many receivers I’m going to come in here in front of y’all and say they’re one of the best in the league,” Ramsey said. ”He is, though. That’s the truth about him.”

Brown caught 10 passes for 157 yards in the first meeting against Jacksonville, which won 30-9 in early October. Ben Roethlisberger targeted Brown a staggering 19 times, with three of those ending up as interceptions.

”He’s an elite player,” Ramsey said. ”Highly regarded by everybody Michael Grabner Jersey , honestly, around the nation or maybe internationally. So, yeah, it’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to be on our Ps and Qs and try to execute the game plan as best we can.”

Jacksonville’s game plan has changed slightly since the first meeting.

Ramsey and fellow Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye played sides to start the season, covering whatever receiver lined up in front of them. But Ramsey has since started following the top wideout for every opponent all over the field, and he’s had rousing success against Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins, Indianapolis’ T.Y. Hilton, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, Los Angeles Chargers’ Keenan Allen and San Francisco’s Marquise Goodwin.

Ramsey angered Green so much with his constant verbal jabs that the mild-mannered receiver grabbed the cocky cornerback in a headlock and tossed him to the ground. Both players were ejected.

”He’ll get in a guy’s head now,” linebacker Telvin Smith said.

Added Bouye: ”Everything he’s accomplished, he’s worked for it. He’s capitalized. He’s learned from his mistakes and he keeps getting better week in and week out.”

According to Pro Football Focus Shayne Gostisbehere Jersey , Ramsey has allowed 47 receptions for 586 yards and three touchdowns this season. He has five interceptions, including one to seal a 10-3 victory against Buffalo in a wild-card game.

It was about what the Jaguars have come to expect from the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft. He has a rare combination of size, speed, instincts, ball skills and body control. And he’s no longer a rookie.

”You see the maturity in the meetings and you see the maturity on the grass,” defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. ”We always knew he was a freak athlete and we always knew he could play. But that maturity level is getting better and better each day.”

His matchup against Brown will be his next – and maybe his best – challenge.

”It’s going to be an unbelievable thing,” Jaguars safety Barry Church said. ”I’m just glad I’m on the field for it. Those guys, they both like to talk a bit of trash and they’re going to be matched up with each other the whole game. It’s going to be a great one. We’ll see who gets the better of the two, but my money’s on Jalen.”




ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves are glad that their four-game series with the San Diego Padres beginning Thursday night is at home rather than in San Diego.

The Braves swept four games from the Padres in the opening series for new SunTrust Park in April 2017 and have almost nothing but success against the team in Atlanta.

It has been exactly the opposite in San Diego, though.

The Padres took two of three from Atlanta in San Diego last week, and the Braves have dropped 16 of their last 19 games in the Padres’ home stadium while being outscored 98-59 over the stretch of futility.

The Braves have lost eight straight series at San Diego dating to 2011, but own an all-time record of 186-122 against the Padres in Atlanta.

The Braves (39-28) went 2-4 on their road trip against the Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers Lorenzo Alexander Jersey , but returned home to sweep a two-game series from the New York Mets and regain sole possession of first place in the National League East.

The Padres (33-37) have won five straight series after taking two of three at St. Louis and own 11 wins in their past 15 games.

Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 2.37 ERA) will start the series opener for the Braves, with fellow right-hander Tyson Ross (5-3, 3.43) going for San Diego.

Sanchez has made three starts since spending six weeks on the disabled list because of a hamstring strain and is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in the past two, allowing just five hits in 12 1/3 innings.

Atlanta has won Sanchez’s last four starts, with the 34-year-old getting a no-decision in his best outing since signing a minor league contract in spring training after being released by Minnesota.

In that game, Sanchez worked seven innings against Washington on June 3 and allowed just two hits and two unearned runs while walking one and striking out five.

“He’s got a great feel for pitching and knows what he’s doing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I think his stuff is better than what I was led to believe when we signed him. He’s sneaky. He knows what he’s doing. He can change speeds and he locates the fastball well.”

Sanchez has made five career starts against San Diego, losing his only two decisions but posting a 2.76 ERA.

The Padres have won the last six games started by Ross and are 10-3 in his outings this season.

“When it’s your turn to take the ball, you have to believe that you’re the ace,” Ross said. “It’s a rotation of five, but when it’s your turn to go http://www.indianapoliscoltsteamonline.com/al-woods-jersey , you have to give the team a chance to win.”

Ross won a combined 23 games for San Diego in 2014 and 2015, and was the Padres’ Opening Day starter in 2016. That was his only outing of the season, though, as thoracic outlet surgery forced him to miss the rest of the year as well as the first part of 2017 after he signed as a free agent with Texas.

The 31-year-old California native made 10 starts and two relief appearances for the Rangers last year, going 3-3 with a 7.71 ERA.

Ross has faced the Braves four times, with one appearance in relief, and is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA.

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