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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Football

Ray Lewis warns Ravens to get in weight room to handle Derrick Henry

Derrick Henry Earl Thomas

The Baltimore Ravens entered their playoff game against the Tennessee Titans last year as a huge favorite, but Derrick Henry clearly was not intimidated. The star running back’s dominant performance was the primary reason the Titans pulled off an upset, and Ray Lewis is urging his former team to keep that in mind heading into 2020.

Lewis said on “The Lounge Podcast” recently that he would be dedicating his offseason to stopping Henry if he were still a linebacker with the Ravens.

“If I’m anybody that’s playing linebacker right now, I’m saying, ‘Listen here man, Derrick Henry got to deal with me,’” Lewis said, as transcribed by Mark Inabinett of AL.com. “That’s a personal thing for me. I don’t like the way it went down, and I got to see him, so I’m going to dedicate this whole offseason to the person that ended my dreams.”

Henry gutted Baltimore’s defense in the divisional round last year, rushing for 195 yards on 30 carries in the Titans’ 28-12 win. The Ravens had Super Bowl aspirations after Lamar Jackson’s MVP season, but their inability to stop the run killed them. Lewis said his Ravens teams dedicated some of their offseasons to stopping Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. He was also motivated by wanting to stop former Titans running back Eddie George.

“I paid attention to Eddie George so much that I realized that my physical side of life and my mental side of life needed to change,” Lewis said. “I had to physically become stronger, I had to mentally become way smarter than I would have ever imagined to deal with an animal like that. That man’s 6-4, 245 pounds.

“I’m telling you, I lived it. I know what’s going on, so somebody’s going to have to get in that weight room because Derrick Henry’s coming downhill again.”

Toughness was certainly an issue for the Ravens in the loss to Tennessee. Their players seemed to have no interest in trying to tackle Henry at certain points, and the running back subtly trolled them over it after the game.

Lewis is right that the Ravens need to physically prepare for a possible rematch against Henry, but changes to their mindset wouldn’t hurt, either.

H/T AllTitans

Cardinals star Chandler Jones completed his Syracuse degree

Chandler Jones chose to leave Syracuse a year early in 2011, and the decision paid off when the New England Patriots selected him with the 21st overall pick in the NFL Draft. Jones hadn’t completed his degree at the time, but he can now call himself a college graduate.

Jones earned his degree from Syracuse on May 9. He had been just one class shy of it when he left following his junior season in 2011, but he began examining the possibility of completing the degree two years ago. He enrolled in his final class, a family studies course, in January.

“Why not finish what you started?” Jones asked ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss when discussing the achievement.

The course was all online, and academic advisor Salatha Willis told Weinfuss that Jones did not receive any preferential treatment. Willis said Jones did “exceptionally well” in the course and never reached out for any additional help or support.

Jones said education is extremely important to his family, and the Arizona Cardinals star equated earning his degree with when he won a Super Bowl with the Patriots.

“To my family and personally, education is very important,” Jones said. “Even though I haven’t used my degree, as of yet, I’m pretty sure it would definitely come in handy when I’m done playing football. But that’s the reason why I went back after eight, nine years of being out of college. I think that’s very important. My kids could look back and say ‘My dad graduated.’ So, I’m happy. It’s a huge accomplishment for our family.”

Obviously, Jones doesn’t need a college degree for financial reasons. He has 96 sacks in eight NFL seasons and recorded a career-high 19 last season. That production has already earned him roughly $67 million on the field, which makes his commitment to education even more admirable.

5 best remaining NFL free agents

Cam Newton

June is here and NFL free agency was already a few months ago, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any good players available to NFL teams looking for late offseason upgrades. Multiple Pro Bowlers are still available as free agents, whether they were cut for cap reasons or simply haven’t found the right fit or contract for their liking. Plenty of other players remain unsigned as well.

Here are the five best players still available on the NFL free agent market.

(more…)

Ron Rivera: Terry McLaurin on the verge of stardom

Terry McLaurin

Terry McLaurin was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise poor year for the 3-13 Washington Redskins. He is an emerging player, and the team’s new head coach recognizes that.

Ron Rivera was a guest on FS1’s FOX Football Now with Jay Glazer Friday and talked about his team. He had extra praise for the wide receivers, namely McLaurin.

“I’ve got to say, I like the wide receivers,” Rivera said, via 247 Sports. “Terry McLaurin’s been a treat. He’s been a treat to get to know. I ran into him several times before the lockdown when he would come around and I’d have a conversation with him. And then listening in on his conversations with (wide receivers) coach (Jim) Hostler has been really, really good. I mean, he’s a young man I think that had a solid year last year as a rookie, a third-round pick — he’s a guy that could be on the verge (of stardom), he really is. He reminds me so much of a D.J. Moore that we had in Carolina. Just an outstanding young man.”

The praise is well-deserved. McLaurin had 58 catches for 919 yards and seven touchdowns for an offense that was last in the NFL in points scored and last in passing yards. The numbers are impressive for a rookie no matter what, but they’re even more impressive in context.

Washington will have Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen competing at quarterback this year, will Alex Smith potentially figuring into the mix. McLaurin will be ready to shine regardless of who’s throwing the passes.

Packers, Aaron Jones have had contract extension talks

Aaron Jones

The Green Bay Packers and Aaron Jones seem to have mutual interest in reaching a deal.

Jones is set to be a free agent after the 2020 season, and Green Bay selected a running back in the second round of April’s draft. That seems to be an ominous combination regarding Jones’ future with the team, but that might not be the case.

In an article published during the week, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reported that Jones’ agent has had contract talks with Green Bay. The agent said they would continue to talk.

Jones also spoke with reporters via a Zoom call and said he wants to be a Packer for life.

“Whether it’s my first year or my last year on a deal, I’m going to be just as motivated,” Jones told reporters Wednesday in a Zoom call, per ESPN. “It doesn’t change just because a contract is on the line for me. I mean, I’m going to continue to work and do everything in my power. I trust my agency and the Packers. With that, I would love to be a lifelong Packer. That’s my take on that.”

Jones was a fifth-round pick by the Packers out of UTEP in 2017. In 2019, he had 1,084 rushing yards, 474 receiving yards, and 19 total touchdowns, which tied for the league lead. The Packers still took Boston College product A.J. Dillon in the second round to work in the mix.

Giants great critical of team’s ‘lacking’ wide receivers

New York Giants logo

The New York Giants have faltered in recent seasons, and one team great thinks that their underwhelming receiving corps is part of the problem.

Amani Toomer, the Giants’ all-time leading receiver, was critical of the team’s wideouts in a recent interview with Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.

“I think it’s lacking,” said Toomer of the Giants’ receiving talent. “I’m a little disappointed with [Sterling] Shepard, I don’t know. My dad always used to tell me, ‘He’s hell when he’s well, he’s just sick all the time.’ That’s what I think when I think of him. He’s just always, there’s always something hurt, or something. I think Golden Tate is just a tougher version of him. Basically they’re the same receiver, but Golden Tate is a tougher version of him.

“I’m still confused on why they got rid of Odell [Beckham Jr],” Toomer added. “Really confused. And every time I ask somebody in the office, it’s like, ‘Well, it was a fit thing’ and all this nebulous, circumstantial stuff. Or, ‘Oh he wasn’t a good fit in the locker room.’ But everybody I talked to loved him. Even the trainers all loved him. So I don’t know. They went from having a strength to now it’s a position where they need something else.”

Toomer did also say though that he thinks 23-year-old Darius Slayton is “the guy that has the most upside” of the team’s receivers.

Receiving talent was indeed a strong point for the Giants back when Toomer played for them, especially when he was alongside the likes of Plaxico Burress and Steve Smith. Eli Manning also enjoyed a number of other quality weapons to throw to over the course of his career including Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and, more recently, Beckham.

Now that the team has moved into the Daniel Jones era though, the same can no longer be said. As for the Beckham trade, Toomer is not the only former Giant who was unpleased about the team making that move.

Browns DC: Myles Garrett has ‘right mindset’ after suspension

Myles Garrett

Myles Garrett’s 2019 season ended after he shocking attacked Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with a helmet. Garrett has since been reinstated, and one of his coaches thinks the pass-rusher is in a good place mentally.

Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods believes Garrett is where he needs to be as the defensive lineman preps for a big fourth season in the NFL.

“I think as a young player in this league, you go through a lot of different things so I definitely think he is going to learn and grow from the situation that happened last year,” Woods said, via Grant Gordon of NFL.com. “We really have not talked about it after he got back and after he was reinstated. He is focused on getting better. He is focused on being a good teammate. He has been in the meetings. He is trying to step up and take more of a leadership role. I definitely think he is moving in the right direction and has the right mindset.”

There’s no question that the Browns are standing by Garrett, and a big new contract may be in his future. After 10 sacks in 10 games in 2019, the sky seems to be the limit for him. The key is ensuring that the incident that spoiled his 2019 season remains an out-of-character moment for him and not some sort of new normal.