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Redskins get former Eagles corner Ronald Darby

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Cornerback Ronald Darby has agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal with the Washington Redskins, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

The Redskins had a vacancy at cornerback after trading Quinton Dunbar to the Seattle Seahawks. Darby is the second notable addition at cornerback for the Redskins, who also signed Kendall Fuller in free agency.

Darby, who turned 26 in January, was arguably the Eagles’ most gifted cornerback during his three years in Philadelphia, which included a Super Bowl run in 2017, but injuries kept him from being a consistent force.

He missed 28 of a possible 48 games over the last three seasons, including eight games in 2018 after tearing his ACL. He returned for the start of this past season but was in and out of the lineup and finished with two interceptions and 11 passes defensed over 11 games.

A second-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2015, the 26-year-old Darby started 29 of 32 games during his two years with the Bills. With 21 passes defensed and a pair of interceptions, he finished second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting behind Marcus Peters.

Darby was traded to Philadelphia before the start of the 2017 season for receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick.

He has eight interceptions and 65 passes defensed in his five seasons.

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Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan donating $500,000 to help Atlanta’s black community

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In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is donating $500,000 toward a GoFundMe fundraiser he established, aimed at advancing lives in the black community of Atlanta.

Ryan, who wears jersey No. 2, has set a goal of raising $2 million.

Floyd, who was black, died last week in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder.

Racial injustice has now moved to the forefront of national conversation and has sparked protests across the country. Floyd’s death was the tipping point after a number of fatal encounters involving black people, including the killing of Breonna Taylor at the hands of Louisville police officers and the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, which led to murder charges against three white males in Georgia.

Ryan explained why he decided to take such action.

“Last week I made a commitment to listening and learning, and one of the messages that hit home for me was the difference between reacting to a situation and responding to a situation,” Ryan said in a statement. “For far too long, I have reacted to social injustice with empathy and silent support but failed to follow through with active support. I feel the time has come to RESPOND. For ALL of us to respond.

“I see my city hurting, which is why I’m starting a fundraiser to help improve conditions for people of color in the city of Atlanta. … Over the next few weeks, months I’m going to listen to the needs of the black community and get guidance on how I can be most impactful. I’m going to get input from local grassroots organizations as well as community leaders who are committed to making change.”

Ryan already made an impression on his teammates when he spoke out on Instagram after Floyd was killed.

“My heart goes out to all of those who loved George Floyd, and all those who have been impacted by similar tragedies. I know that I cannot fully understand the depth and complexity of these issues because of the color of my skin, which is a sad testament to all of the work we have left to do. I know I am only one man, but I also know I am committed to doing what I can. That commitment includes listening and learning with all humility and compassion. It is the least I can do. IT is the least WE all can do.”

Fellow Falcons captain Ricardo Allen applauded Ryan’s post.

“For Ice to show the support and that he’s got love, it’s really just an acknowledgement that he understands,” Allen said. “For Ice to come from probably a totally different background and place in life then I come from — and I can’t expect him to fully feel what it feels like to grow up in the hood or what it truly feels like to be a black man in America — but for him to actually take that stance and say that and let us know that he feels us, I appreciate that.”



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Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham leads throwing sessions with teammates

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It might not receive the same fanfare as the throwing sessions that Tom Brady organized with his new Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates, but Brady’s potential successor with the New England Patriots, Jarrett Stidham, has quietly done something similar in recent weeks.

On a recent day in Massachusetts, Stidham and a group of six teammates gathered at a private football field for their work, which focused intently on following social distancing guidelines.

Stidham has been a catalyst for the throwing sessions, sources said, which reflects a show of leadership as the Patriots transition from 19 seasons with Brady as the starting quarterback. Stidham, a 2019 fourth-round draft pick from Auburn, also has been visible in the New England community, as he and wife Kennedy donated 1,000 meals to children and families at a local YMCA in May.

Veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer has been present at the throwing sessions, along with wide receivers Julian Edelman and Gunner Olszewski, among a few others who have been in town during the coronavirus pandemic.

Stidham referenced his specific work with Edelman on his Instagram account this week.

With non-rehabbing players not yet allowed at NFL facilities, players across the league have had to get creative with their workouts, with many organizing their own while adhering to social distancing guidelines.



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Can young defenders step up for Patriots? Success of unit depends on it – New England Patriots Blog

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The majority of attention surrounding the New England Patriots‘ offseason has centered around the free-agent departure of quarterback Tom Brady, which has overshadowed the question of whether coach Bill Belichick has adequately addressed the defense.

The Patriots took some big free-agent hits, with three of their best defenders — linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins Sr., and nose tackle Danny Shelton — landing with new teams. At the same time, the team’s top three draft picks were all on defense, and a few second-year players are primed to contribute more.

So is this defense better, worse or the same as the unit that was the strength of the 2019 team? After answering a similar question about the offense on Tuesday, here’s a position-by-position breakdown for the defense and special teams:

Defensive tackle

Additions: Beau Allen, Bill Murray, Courtney Wallace

Losses: Danny Shelton

Returners: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, Nick Thurman

Better, same or worse? Worse

Shelton was one of the unit’s best players last season, finishing tied for third with 61 tackles (along with Guy) and adding three sacks while playing 48% of the defensive snaps. That earned him a two-year, $8 million contract from the Detroit Lions, and led the Patriots to sign Allen — who most recently was a backup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — to take his place. It looks like a net loss on paper, but then again, at this point last year few would have projected Shelton to play as well as he did in 2019.

The development of Cowart, the 2019 fifth-round pick from Maryland, might ultimately hold the key after he was essentially given a redshirt season as a rookie.

Defensive end/outside linebacker

Additions: Anfernee Jennings, Brandon Copeland, Nick Coe

Losses: Kyle Van Noy

Returners: Deatrich Wise Jr., John Simon, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers, Shilique Calhoun, Tashawn Bower

Better, same or worse? Same

Winovich played 29% of the defensive snaps last season, and the forecast at this spot is mostly tied to how he projects into a full-time role. He’s been one of the small handful of rehabbing players who has been allowed to show up at Gillette Stadium each day this offseason. If he can fill the void left by Van Noy’s departure — which is significant (56 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles in 2019) — that would mean he elevates from sub-package player to full-time option.

The 6-foot-2, 256-pound Jennings, a third-round pick from Alabama, was described this way by an NFL assistant: “Good fit for the Patriots — tough, good hands, not afraid to mix it up. Good body type for them — thick lower, but still moves decent.” That sounds similar to Simon, who started 12 games last season.

Inside linebacker/sub linebacker

Additions: Josh Uche, Cassh Maluia, De’Jon Harris, Kyahva Tezino

Losses: Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts

Returners: Dont’a Hightower Ja’Whaun Bentley, Terez Hall

Better, same or worse? Worse

Collins was a great bargain last season, playing on a modest one-year deal and leading the team with 80 tackles and seven sacks, while adding three interceptions. It was a rare situation to be able to bring him back in 2019 on those financial terms.

Potentially, the Patriots’ top two draft picks — box safety Kyle Dugger (second round, No. 37) and Uche (second round, No. 60) — could initially combine to fill Collins’ role as a versatile chess piece playing both on and off the line of scrimmage. When the Patriots drafted Collins in the 2013 second round, his uncommon athleticism and testing numbers stood out, and Dugger and Uche fall in a similar category.

Keeping Hightower, 30, healthy, as a captain and signal-caller, takes on added importance given the transition to more youth at the position. He played 71% of the snaps last season, totaling 71 tackles (second on the team) and 5.5 sacks.

One other lingering question: Does Bentley (2018 fifth round, 27% of the defensive snaps last season) grow into an every-down option, or will he be a run-based player similar to Roberts (Dolphins)?

Cornerback

Additions: Lenzy Pipkins, D’Angelo Ross (IR), Myles Bryant

Losses: None

Returners: Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams

Better, same or worse? Better

When the NFL’s 2019 Defensive Player of the Year (Gilmore) returns alongside everyone else — and the projected development of Jackson (third year) and Williams (second year) are factored in — that’s a positive outlook. The ability to match up with a variety of passing attacks across the NFL is as challenging as ever, and the Patriots are well-stocked to do so.

Safety

Additions: Cody Davis, Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Malik Gant (IR)

Losses: Nate Ebner, Duron Harmon

Returners: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Terrence Brooks, Adarius Pickett

Better, same or worse? Better

McCourty and Chung both turn 33 in August, which is older in NFL years, but McCourty is like the Brady of this defense, playing a quarterback-type role and still playing at a high level late in his career. That should continue in 2020, which is a solid place to start.

The Patriots have layered the depth chart with youth after drafting Dugger and adding safety duties to Williams’ offseason plan as a way to increase his value.

And then the free-agent signing of Phillips could almost be viewed as a two-for-one exchange: He projects to provide double value as a core special-teamer and sub-package defender, whereas the Patriots used two players — Ebner (Giants) and Harmon (Lions) — to fill those roles in 2019.

Specialists

Additions: Justin Rohrwasser (K), Brandon King (coverage/IR)

Losses: Stephen Gostkowski, Nick Folk

Returners: Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (coverage), Justin Bethel (coverage)

Better, same or worse? Same

The Patriots nailed their transition from Adam Vinatieri in 2006 by getting their top-rated kicker in the draft (Gostkowski, fourth round), and hope they have done the same this year as they landed their top choice (Rohrwasser, fifth round) after releasing Gostkowski. That’s the big change, but not to be overlooked is how valuable King, who missed last season with a torn quad, was viewed by former special teams coach Joe Judge — a core player who filled critical, often-overlooked roles on fourth down.

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