Categories
News

Frank Ocean To Write & Direct His Own Film | Billboard News

Frank Ocean has his hands full with a potentially new movie and new music on the way…
Read More

Categories
News

Lamar Jackson denies ‘I Need $’ picture is a message to Ravens amid contract negotiations

While Lamar Jackson set the internet ablaze with speculation by changing his social media photos on Saturday, the Ravens quarterback said its meaning isn’t all that deep.

Jackson changed his Instagram profile photo and Twitter header to a picture of a gold grill engraved with the phrase “I Need $”, which many thought could be a message to the Ravens amid his ongoing contract negotiations with the team. But with the theories of what this might mean running rampant, the 25-year-old spoke to Safid Deen of USA Today to clear the air, claiming that the pictures had nothing to do with his contract discussions.

Jackson explained that the photo was a reference to the movie “How High”, from which a character wears a the grill. He simply watched the movie and though it was funny, so he added it to his social media profiles. There was no ulterior motive to the photos, Jackson said, and he didn’t understand why people read so much into it.

“I don’t know why people are blowing it up,” Jackson told Deen during his fourth annual ‘Funday with LJ’ event. “I just saw Bleacher Report post it. They just take anything that’s posted on social media and just blow it up, and try to think for you. I don’t take it too seriously.

“They’re making it seem like I’m talking to the Ravens when I’m not. Our contract discussion is going on already. But it ain’t about that though.”

Jackson’s desire for a contract extension and its so-far unresolved status has been a dominant storyline in Baltimore this offseason. Jackson is entering the final season of his rookie deal and is set to earn $23.1 million this year, but both sides have expressed interest in extending his tenure in Baltimore. But a new deal has yet to materialized, just reports of Jackson skipping voluntary OTAs (but not mandatory minicamps) and supposedly a lack of serious discussion on an extension so far. While the relationship between the QB and his team seems to still be good, the lack of information about whether he’ll be with the Ravens past 2022 makes it understandable why people believed the picture meant more than Jackson intended.

Both sides have not said much about the ongoing negotiation, with Jackson saying last month that he wanted to keep his contract talks private. The former MVP reiterated Saturday that he would not be commenting on the negotiations publicly.

“I’m not putting my business life on social media,” Jackson said. “I won’t ever do that. I won’t put my personal life on social media. I’ll show stuff, but I won’t throw subliminal [messages] out. That’s not me.”

Jackson also said he’s not sure whether the deal could be made before training camp starts later this month, but he remains hopeful.

“Hopefully,” he said. “I’m not going to say ‘yeah’ right now. Hopefully. But it’s God’s timing.”

Read More

Categories
News

Micah Parsons thinks he, Trevon Diggs can be ‘even better’ than Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey

For a while there during the 2021 season, it looked like the Dallas Cowboys would end up with both the Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.

Micah Parsons, Dallas’ do-everything first-year linebacker, was a shoo-in for the rookie honor, even staking a claim for the all-around prize, while cornerback Trevon Diggs, in his second season, was the league’s preeminent ball-hawking defender. Alas, Diggs didn’t receive a single vote for DPOY at the end of the year. Parsons, meanwhile, saw five of 50 votes, losing to Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt, but beating out the Rams’ Aaron Donald.

Entering his second season, Parsons has high hopes for both himself and Diggs, a pair he thinks can rival that of Donald and his Los Angeles associate, Jalen Ramsey, in the near future.

“It’s hard to say we’re the best because I know we’re young and we still make mistakes,” Parsons told Jori Epstein of USA TODAY Sports. “It’s hard to put us over Aaron Donald, the greatest defensive player in history, with Jalen Ramsey. So I won’t do it yet.

“But I think we can become them or even better if we learn together and stick together.”

Donald and Ramsey, reigning champions with the Rams, haven’t played together for the entirety of their careers like Parsons and Diggs have in their short time together — Ramsey spent his first three-plus seasons in Jacksonville — but the two are inarguably one of the league’s top defensive duos. Donald is a seven-time All-Pro, three-time Defensive Player of the Year and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2010s team, and Ramsey, no scrub himself, is a three-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler. Both have signed market-setting contracts in the past two years.

But those two were joined this season as first-team All-Pros by Parsons and Diggs, neither of whom is over the age of 23. Parsons was top-six in sacks and tackles for loss and boasted the highest QB pressure percentage (21.1) of the Next Gen Stats era. The linebacker tallied 13 sacks despite rushing the passer on just 52.9 percent of defensive snaps (260th in the NFL).

On the back end, Diggs led the pros with 11 picks, the most by an NFLer since Lester Hayes in 1980 (13). The corner was dinged all season, though, for being a boom-or-bust ball hawk; he led the league in receiving yards allowed in coverage (1,016).

“That’s what makes the player he is: his confidence, his willingness to go after the ball,” Parsons said of Diggs. “I’ve seen a lot of corners not give up yards, but their teams aren’t winning games. This league is about how many times you can get the ball back, and you get the ball back with turnovers. I’d take that any day of the week.”

The linebacker went as far to say Diggs should’ve beaten out Watt (and himself) for the top defensive prize in 2021.

“Without a doubt I thought (Diggs) was the best defensive player in the league last year,” Parsons told Epstein. “We’ve seen 20 sacks before. But in this era, we’ve never seen anyone reach 10-plus interceptions. So it’s disrespectful to me, because I think he deserves all the credit in the world and deserves to be named a top-five corner if not the best corner in the league.”

Parsons has not lacked for confidence this offseason; the Swiss Army ‘backer has sought out the single-season sack record (23) as a goal in 2022 and said he wants at the very least 15 in his second season. So it’s no surprise his belief in himself extends to his teammates.

For Parsons and Diggs to jump off the stat sheet and into Donald and Ramsey’s star stratosphere, though, the two will need more than individual success. As the latter two have achieved with the Rams, Dallas’ dynamic duo will have to elevate the Cowboys to a championship level before being considered the premier pairing of their era.

Read More

Categories
News

Carl Nassib announces partnership with The Trevor Project, will match donations up to $100,000

Free-agent pass rusher Carl Nassib has announced another partnership with The Trevor Project as a part of Pride Month and will match all donations made to the organization up to $100,000.

“I want to wish everyone a happy Pride Month,” Nassib said Sunday on his Instagram video. “I also want to remind people why Pride is important to me. Out there right now, there’s a kid saying, ‘I would rather be dead than be gay.’ And that’s why I’m partnering again with the Trevor Project and matching all donations up to $100,000. I really hope you guys join me in supporting this awesome organization and supporting these young kids. I hope you guys have a great rest of your Pride Month, and thank you very much.”

Nassib made NFL history in June 2021 as the first active player in the league to come out as gay. During that announcement, he also stated he would be donating $100,000 to The Trevor Project. Both the NFL and the Las Vegas Raiders followed suit, matching Nassib’s contribution.

As part of Nassib’s second round of giving to the organization a year later, he will match donations made at trvr.org/CarlMatch.

The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization that focuses on suicide prevention and mental health awareness among LGBTQ youth. It provides a number of resources, such as call and text lines for at-risk youth to speak to counselors confidentially, as well as access to inclusive online communities.

Nassib, a six-year veteran, is currently without a team heading into 2022. He joined the league as a third-round pick in the 2016 draft and played two seasons apiece with the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Raiders.

Las Vegas released Nassib this March after a season in which he appeared in 13 games, forced one fumble and made 21 tackles — including 1.5 sacks.

Nassib has started in 37 of his 86 games played. His career sack total currently sits at 22.

Read More

Categories
News

State of the 2022 New Orleans Saints: Can Dennis Allen keep the good times rolling?

Where does your franchise stand heading into 2022? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the key figures to watch and setting the stakes for the season to come.

Members of the Saints’ organization, Saints fans around the world and those who think that black helmet the team will wear this season is actually kind of dope:

Sean Payton stepped away in January (honestly, once Kevin James plays you in a biopic, there is really nothing left to do anymore), meaning the Saints will have a new head coach for the first time since Payton arrived in 2006. Will it be business as usual? Let’s take a look.

One high from last season: Go ahead and pick either of the two wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nobody ever seems to give the Saints a chance to beat the Bucs, but the Saints always seem to beat the Bucs, at least in recent memory. New Orleans will likely sweep the series again this year.

One low from last season: November (and one week in December). After starting the season with a 5-2 record, the Saints lost five straight from Week 9 to Week 13, beginning with a loss to the Falcons(!). New Orleans gamely won four of its last five, but that was not enough to salvage a playoff spot.

Head coach: Dennis Allen. Considering the strong performances his defenses have put up over the past few years, Allen almost had to get the gig as Payton’s successor. He took over the Saints as interim defensive coordinator in 2015, and though New Orleans ranked last in points allowed per game in 2015-16, he quickly tightened things up; from 2017 through 2021, New Orleans ranks sixth in the NFL in points allowed per game (20.9) and first in rushing yards allowed per game (94.1). The Saints have also really gotten after the quarterback, registering nearly three sacks per game since 2017, the third-highest mark in the NFL.

It’s hard to put Allen’s ill-fated tenure as Raiders head coach out of our mind. He had back-to-back 4-12 seasons in 2012 and ’13, then was dumped after an 0-4 start in 2014. But, I mean, you can overcome that, I suppose — I was taunted for years after bombing in my fourth-grade play. And now, well, I’m bombing still, but it’s on NFL Network, and I’m getting paid for it. So I’m not going to dismiss Allen’s chances out of hand just because of poor past results.

Quarterback: Jameis Winston. People will make their jokes about Jameis. His workouts on Twitter are bizarre, to put it mildly. The statistic he is perhaps best known for at this point is becoming the first player to throw 30-plus touchdown passes and 30-plus picks in the same season, which he did in 2019, his final year as the Bucs’ starting QB. (It’s an actual accomplishment to throw 30 interceptions, which tied for the third-most in a single season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.) Since Tampa took him first overall in 2015, Winston has been picked off 91 times, allowing him to lead the NFL in that span despite appearing in just 11 games over the past two seasons.

But as the replacement for Drew Brees last season, Winston actually set career highs in touchdown-to-interception ratio (14:3) and passer rating (102.8) before suffering a torn ACL that ended his year in Week 8. This improvement was due in part to the fact that he was throwing less frequently than he had previously in his career, recording 23 attempts per game, down from 35 per game in 2015-19. I know that can sound like a slam. But it’s not, not directly. If you put Winston in a position to succeed and don’t have him throwing the ball around recklessly, you can be successful.

Projected 2022 MVP: Winston. Look, the Saints were 5-2 and averaged 25.1 points in games he started last year. They were 4-6 and averaged 18.8 points when he was gone. It’s safe to say that if New Orleans is going to win in 2022, Winston will be key.

New face to know: Tyrann Mathieu, safety. After losing Marcus Williams to the Ravens and Malcom Jenkins to retirement, the Saints inked the Honey Badger to a three-year deal, bringing the New Orleans native and LSU product home. Mathieu has 13 interceptions since 2019, which ranks fifth in the NFL during that stretch. With the three-time All-Pro joining free-agent signee Marcus Maye — who suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 9 last season but was an otherwise productive safety for the Jets — and underrated pass-rusher Cameron Jordan, the defense shouldn’t be a problem.

2022 breakout star: Marcus Davenport, defensive end. The Saints traded up to select Davenport 14th overall in 2018, and he’s been a solid, even high-quality NFL player since, notching a career-high nine sacks last season. But this is the final year of his rookie contract. And with Jordan set to turn 33, both Davenport and the Saints would surely welcome a breakout into stardom.

Three key dates:

Week 4 vs. Minnesota Vikings (at Tottenham). The Saints will play in London this season against a team that has famously given them fits in recent playoff clashes. Weirdly, the Saints don’t get the traditional post-London bye week.Week 6 vs. Cincinnati Bengals. This kicks off a stretch that includes eight games against teams that made the playoffs in 2021, including a Week 13 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football.Week 15 vs. Atlanta Falcons. Two of the Saints’ last four games are against the Falcons and Panthers. These could be huge if they survive Damnation Alley before their Week 14 bye.Will the Saints be able to …

… give Winston the help he needs? As we mentioned earlier, the Saints were pretty good when Winston was the quarterback. And he’s getting some extra pass-catching assistance in 2022. The team selected Chris Olave, whom I said before the draft would be the perfect Saints receiver, 11th overall. Olave set Ohio State’s school record with 35 career receiving touchdowns, including a Big Ten-leading 13 last season. Veteran Jarvis Landry will also join his former LSU teammate Mathieu this season. Landry had career lows in Cleveland last year, but he was banged up and often the only reliable target when he did play; this year, he should be healthier and will be working alongside Olave and (hopefully) Michael Thomas. Yes, Thomas, the NFL’s leading receiver from 2018 to ’19, has not yet played a game with Winston, thanks to ankle injuries that cost him all of last season and much of 2020. But his career numbers from passers not named Brees (89 catches, 1,081 yards, three TDs, 12.1 yards per catch) are encouraging.

… count on Alvin Kamara? Kamara accounted for 25.8 percent of the Saints’ total scrimmage yards in 2021, which was the sixth-highest share in the NFL and the third-highest among running backs. He’s also one of two players in NFL history with at least 4,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards in their first five seasons. The other is should-be-Hall of Famer Roger Craig. Kamara is one of the most productive players in the game — when he’s on the field. The question looming this season is whether he will be subject to discipline from the NFL stemming from his arrest and booking for battery in Las Vegas in February, with a hearing in the case set for August. If Kamara misses a substantial amount of time, the answer to the other query in this section becomes a lot fuzzier.

… people shouldn’t overthink: The state of the offensive line without Terron Armstead. Yes, Armstead will be missed after he signed with the Dolphins in free agency. But New Orleans already got a taste of life without the left tackle, who lost nine games in 2021 to knee and elbow issues. The Saints’ O-line still finished with a decent Pro Football Focus rank of 18th. With Ryan Ramczyk (right tackle), Cesar Ruiz (right guard), Erik McCoy (center) and Andrus Peat (left guard) returning, they are good at the rest of the spots up front. And as for the blind side, they selected Trevor Penning 19th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. Penning received a PFF grade of 99.9 in run-blocking last year at Northern Iowa, which was the highest grade of any player in FBS and FCS with at least 200 snaps.

… people shouldn’t overlook: Replacing Sean Payton. It might seem a bit odd to suggest anyone will overlook the absence of one of the most successful head coaches of this era. But with the team basically keeping the staff intact, it could be tempting to assume the Saints, who have won at least nine games in each of the past five seasons while compiling a better record (58-23) in that span than any team but the Chiefs, will continue with business as usual. The thing is, transitions like this aren’t as easy as just turning over the keys. I think back to Payton’s suspension in 2012 for his involvement in a bounty scandal. In 2011, the Saints went 13-3, then 7-9 without him in ’12, then improved to 11-5 in ’13 when he returned. I do love that the Saints did what they could, personnel-wise, to help Allen. I just hope their moves bear fruit.

For 2022 to be a success, the Saints MUST:

Make the playoffs. I don’t see any other way around this. As I pointed out above, the Saints have been great over the last five years, and a significant drop-off in 2022 is going to be a big warning sign of organizational trouble ahead. Going all-in is great, but it also raises expectations. The schedule is tough, with eight games against 2021 playoff teams. But this team is built to win. It’s just a matter of following through.
Read More

Categories
News

State of the 2022 Carolina Panthers: Time for Matt Rhule to make some real progress

Where does your franchise stand heading into 2022? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the key figures to watch and setting the stakes for the season to come.

Members of the Panthers’ organization, Panthers fans around the world and those who need to ice up, son!

It’s been a trying time for our friends down in Carolina. The Panthers have finished with five wins in each of the last three seasons. In their preceding 24 seasons of existence, they’d posted five wins or fewer just three times. Can Carolina maybe get to six wins in 2022? Heck, challenge for the playoffs? Let’s take a look.

One high from last season: Starting 3-0. Does anybody remember this? I mean, of course you do, if you’re a Panthers fan. But the casual observer might not remember 3-0 — or the fact that the team was 5-5 at one point.

One low from last season: Falling from 5-5 to 5-12. This is pretty much all that needs to be said about how 2021 ended.

Head coach: Matt Rhule. He came into the league with a lot of fanfare out of Baylor in 2020, and we’re rooting for him, because we’re not terrible human beings. But while there have been flashes, including that big start last season, the results mostly haven’t surfaced so far on a consistent basis. Rhule is clearly trying — I mean, the dude allowed his players to kick soccer balls at him, which was kind of cool. (Although I’m kind of worried about Sam Darnold’s kick here. Yes, throwing is the more relevant skill, but you’re from Orange County, dude. Be a bit better.)

All of that said, we need to finally see success on the field. Joe Brady was fired as offensive coordinator in the midst of last season, and Ben McAdoo was brought in to run the offense this offseason. On one hand, the last time McAdoo served in this role, with the Giants in 2014 and ’15, his offense ranked 10th and eighth in yards and 13th and sixth in points, respectively. But on the other hand, he’s bringing a new system for the quarterbacks to learn, and he’ll be the third voice in two seasons, counting Brady and interim OC Jeff Nixon. Rhule’s long-term job security would figure to improve if an offensive approach — and quarterback — were to finally stick. Speaking of …

Quarterback: Sam Darnold. Sam is my guy. I’m really rooting for him. But McAdoo will be Darnold’s fifth offensive coordinator of his NFL career (counting Nixon and Brady last season and Dowell Loggains and Jeremy Bates during his time with the Jets). It’s hard to be truly successful when bouncing between coordinators like that. Last season, after he was traded by the Jets (who began an organizational restart) to Carolina, he posted a career-low 71.9 passer rating (29th in the NFL). Though Darnold lost several games to a scapula injury, he was intercepted enough times (13) to keep him among the leaders in the NFL over the past four seasons — with 52 picks, he’s second in the league in that span.

Rhule has not been shy about trying different faces under center, between 2020 starter Teddy Bridgewater, Cam Newton (whose triumphant return to the franchise as Darnold’s injury replacement last season ultimately fizzled), P.J. Walker and Darnold. During the draft this year, Carolina went out and added Matt Corral in the third round. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, meanwhile, looms as a potential trade option. (UPDATE: The Browns agreed to trade Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a 2024 fifth-round pick that can convert to a fourth-rounder based on playing time, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on July 6.)

Rhule said recently that Darnold would be the starter if the season started today. It doesn’t, though. And it’s fair to wonder how much room Darnold has at this point. The Panthers picked up his fifth-year option last year, pushing his rookie deal through 2022, but it would be a miracle if he was able to garner a contract extension beyond that. With Rhule presumably under pressure to up that win total, and with Corral on the roster, Sam has to come out of the gate swinging. He did that last year, showing some of the ability that made him a top pick. He’s very athletic — his soccer kick notwithstanding — and he can make some plays. He just has to put it all together.

Projected 2022 MVP: Christian McCaffrey, running back. From 2017 to ’19, in his first three NFL seasons, CMC did not miss a single game, and he led the NFL with 5,443 scrimmage yards in that span. The problem has been the 23 games he’s missed over the past two years. As Carolina’s record with him in the lineup (4-3) last season and without him (1-9) illustrates, if this team is to succeed in 2022, McCaffrey is going to be the driver.

New face to know: D’Onta Foreman, running back. The Panthers inked him to a team-friendly deal worth $2 million this offseason. And I know the fantasy heads will be concerned about drafting him as a handcuff to CMC, but honestly, Foreman should simply have a role on this team, even if McCaffrey stays healthy. Foreman is a different style of running back, someone who could pick up some of the dirty work between the tackles and help keep McCaffrey fresh.

2022 breakout star: Yetur Gross-Matos, defensive end. This is a pivotal season for the former second-round pick. He’s played well in spurts for the Panthers, but he has yet to have that breakout moment, compiling just six sacks and 21 hurries in two seasons with the team. But last year’s sack leader, Haason Reddick, signed in Philly, meaning Reddick will be counted on to join the steadily producing Brian Burns (25.5 sacks in three seasons) in the pass rush.

Will the Panthers be able to …

… clean up their defensive red-zone struggles? The Panthers ranked second in total defense in 2021. They allowed just over 300 yards per game. Which is great. But they couldn’t stop anybody in the red zone, where opponents scored touchdowns on 67.3 percent of chances (29th in the NFL), leading Carolina to give up 23.8 points per game (21st). So maybe the defense wasn’t exactly as good as that second overall ranking suggests. Maybe the reason they didn’t give up a lot of yards was because the Panthers’ offense was so generous with giveaways (Carolina logged 29, second-most in the NFL), which resulted in shorter fields for opposing offenses. I’m not trying to knock the defense. The Panthers were 5-0 in games where they allowed fewer than 15 points. But the unit was under a lot of pressure to be perfect, given the team’s record when allowing 15 points or more (0-12 — the Panthers were the only winless team in such games last season).

… get more out of D.J. Moore? Another benefactor from the money being thrown around to wide receivers this season, Moore signed a three-year extension worth $61.9 million in March. I mean, receivers cashed in this offseason like standup comics in the 1990s who got sitcoms thanks to Jerry Seinfeld. Although that would make Christian Kirk the Jerry Seinfeld of receivers, and I don’t know how to feel about that comparison. Regardless, D.J. got paid. And he’s kind of worth it. Only Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs and Travis Kelce have had more receiving yards than Moore since 2019. He is also one of three players with 1,100 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons, joining Kelce and Diggs.

… people shouldn’t overthink: Robbie Anderson’s apparent angst. At different points this offseason, Anderson posted “Ain’t gonna lie Thinking about Retiring …” and shared his opposition to the idea of the team trading for Mayfield. The veteran receiver recently told reporters during mandatory minicamp that he was just “thinking out loud.” If Anderson has a preference for Darnold, that would not be outlandish, given the fact that 14 of Anderson’s 28 career touchdown receptions were thrown to him by Darnold, his former Jets teammate. But dude, you’re not exactly tearing it up, you know? Anderson had a career-low 519 receiving yards last season, even if he did lead the team with five touchdown receptions. He’s funny — his reaction to the Panthers’ mascot was hilarious. But how about some more yards?

… people shouldn’t overlook: The overall health of the team. McCaffrey and Darnold weren’t the only ones to lose time to injuries last season. Corner Donte Jackson missed the final five games with a groin injury. Zane Gonzalez — the kicker — missed the final four games. And then there was first-round pick Jaycee Horn, who looked great to start the year at cornerback, then missed the final 14 games with a broken foot. You keep some of these guys healthy, and that could be pretty huge for the Panthers.

For 2022 to be a success, the Panthers MUST:

I don’t know, man. Are the playoffs the measure of success for this team? Again, winning six games would clear the bar set over the past three years. The Panthers were the only team with a top-three total defense and a bottom-three total offense in 2021. That’s the first time that has happened since — checks notes — the Washington Football team in 2020. Fine, so it wasn’t that long ago. Whether the Panthers are in the postseason mix or Rhule ends up buying some more time as he develops a quarterback, they must show some improvement.
Read More