How Cam Newton Mentored Lamar Jackson
Ozzie Newsome was the first African-American general manager in the NFL. But even he was surprised by the outpouring of people in the black community who wanted to reach out to Jackson after the Ravens drafted him.
As The Undefeated's William C. Rhoden told, Newsome was at a function with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton last offseason.
"The first thing [Newton] did was say, 'Here's my number, give it to Lamar and tell Lamar to give me a call,'" Newsome said.
Newton said Jackson reminded him of himself: talented and unique.
"I just wanted to be a vessel or an outlet for him," Newton said. "I just know being an African-American quarterback in this league, you're facing different things than another quarterback might be facing and a lot of it is, your gift may be your curse. Your running ability may be something that people look down upon."
Newton was the first-overall pick in 2011, and he brought a new way of playing quarterback to the NFL. He's a tank at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, and he's topped 700 rushing yards three times in his career. He's also put up some gaudy passing numbers.
But Newton has faced plenty of criticism and questions along the way. It's not too dissimilar from what Jackson has faced so far in his young career.
"[Newton] also knew that a young black quarterback with Jackson's athletic ability would face plenty of obstacles in a league that still sees athletic talent and championship quarterbacking as not compatible, qualities that at the very least are looked at with skepticism," Rhoden wrote.
Newton said he didn't have a lot of role models to look to considering Michael Vick was re-establishing himself in the league after nearly two years in prison, Donovan McNabb was at the end of his career in Washington and Vince Young was on his way out of the league.
"Now I look up and I see – here's another quarterback, a young gunner who reminds me somewhat of myself," Newton said of Jackson. "He may be doing it faster, he may be more elusive, but at the end of the day, I still want to make the road as easy as possible."
Newton watched the Ravens' playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, in which Jackson struggled for much of the game before rebounding to throw two fourth-quarter touchdowns. It was a performance that has already led to more questions about Jackson this offseason.
"That happens to everybody. Pocket passers, scrambling quarterbacks," Newton said. "What Lamar went through is a symptom of playing football in general. I respect the Ravens for not pulling him, because it's a learning process. He's a rookie. Hell, I didn't have my best games sometimes this year, and I'm going into my eighth year.
"You have to sit back and say, 'This happens to everybody.'"
Better Backup: Robert Griffin III or Tyrod Taylor?
For the first time in a decade, there's a lot of intrigue about who the Ravens will add to be their backup quarterback.
Durable Joe Flacco made that essentially a non-story for years, but with Jackson being perhaps a little more susceptible to injury because he runs so much, the need for a high-quality backup is very important. Jackson had to leave two of his eight starts to be evaluated for injuries.
Many pundits have already talked about how re-signing Robert Griffin III would make a lot of sense. It would put him closer to seeing the field and he's already developed a rapport with Jackson and comfort level in the Ravens offense.
But what about bringing back former Raven Tyrod Taylor, who is set to become a free agent?
"I'm not the first one to suggest this, but if the Ravens can't get Robert Griffin III to re-sign as a backup, Tyrod Taylor would be a sensible Plan B," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote.
"He's a phenomenal teammate, has a history in Baltimore and he played briefly in a [Greg] Roman offense [in Buffalo]. He'd be a very good mentor for Jackson. I don't think it's out of the question that the Ravens draft a developmental quarterback in a later round, but they'd still need to add a reliable veteran backup either way."
Taylor was a sixth-round pick of the Ravens in 2011. He saw very little action in Baltimore from 2011-2014 before heading to Buffalo for a chance to start.
In his first two years as a Bill, he topped 3,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards. Taylor also did a good job of protecting the football, throwing 37 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. He had a Pro Bowl season in 2015 when Roman was his play-caller.
"During his time in Buffalo, Roman once described Taylor as 'elite,'" wrote ESPN. "The Ravens have never hidden their affection for Taylor's ability and professionalism."
Taylor was traded to Cleveland last offseason, but lost the starting job to rookie first-overall pick Baker Mayfield early in the year. A big question is whether some team will give Taylor another shot to be a starter, because he wouldn't get that in Baltimore.
If Taylor were open to accepting a backup role, however, his ability to run, and likely to handle a read-pass option offense, would, like Griffin, give the Ravens a smooth transition if Jackson were to go down.
"Where Griffin separates himself from Taylor is the mentorship aspect. Griffin was constantly talking to Jackson on the sidelines during game, and he can provide a voice of experience having been a first-round quarterback as well," ESPN wrote.
"What works in Taylor's favor is his history with the Ravens and Roman, who was promoted to offensive coordinator last week."
Mel Kiper's First Mock Draft Has Ravens Taking a WR
We released our first Mock Draft Monitor of the offseason on Wednesday, but one of the biggest draftniks in the game released his first mock draft yesterday.
ESPN's Mel Kiper has Baltimore selecting Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown.
"Let's get a playmaker for Lamar Jackson. He's going to improve in Year 2, but he needs a better (and younger) supporting cast. And yes, the Ravens have a terrible track record in taking receivers, but they have to hit some time, right?" Kiper wrote.
"Brown is explosive after the catch. Reminder: New general manager Eric DeCosta doesn't have a second-round pick as a result of the move up for Jackson last year, so this is an important pick."
The Ravens have drafted a wide receiver in the first round three times in franchise history: Travis Taylor (2000), Mark Clayton (2005) and Breshad Perriman (2015).
Brown posted 85 catches for 1,320 yards and six touchdowns last season as a junior. Now let's all drool over his highlights.
Marlon Humphrey (And Fans) Shouldn't Get Their Hopes up on Antonio Brown
With the Steelers open to trading the disgruntled Antonio Brown, every fan base around the NFL (and even players themselves) are clamoring for the star wideout.
Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who shadowed Brown throughout much of the Ravens' Week 4 win in Pittsburgh, seemingly would welcome Brown to Baltimore.
Don't get your hopes up, Marlon (and the rest of you).
"The Steelers aren't trading Antonio Brown to the Ravens, so you can forget that," Zrebiec wrote.
"Some things really would be too good to be true," wrote NBC Sports' Ryan Wormeli. "It's still fun to speculate, though, and Lamar Jackson throwing up long touchdowns to Brown would be a sight to behold."