Redskins

Michigan OT Taylor Lewan putting NFL draft on hold

Michigan OT Taylor Lewan putting NFL draft on hold

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan is putting millions of dollars on hold to chase a Big Ten championship.

The first-team All-American and the league's offensive lineman of the year is staying for his senior season, turning down a chance to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft and become wealthy as soon as this spring.

``People don't really understand why I wouldn't leave for the NFL,'' Lewan said Wednesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press before making his announcement. ``But when I came to the University of Michigan, I didn't understand the tradition of this place, either. Now, I do. In the NFL, you just come and go. But here at Michigan, it's not like that. I love these guys - my teammates are my best friends - and I want to stay to win Big Ten championships.''

Lewan said his teammates were very surprised he decided to stay.

``The (NFL) advisory board came back and said that I'd be a high first-round pick,'' Lewan told the AP. ``At first, it was difficult to turn that down. But the most important thing to me is the University of Michigan and winning a Big Ten championship before I leave.''

The Wolverines finished 8-5 last season and 6-2 in the Big Ten, extending a conference championship drought that dates to 2004.

Lewan helped the 24th-ranked Wolverines give up a conference-low 15 sacks.

The 6-foot-8, 309-pound Lewan ended his junior season by preventing South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney from making a sack. But Clowney, lined up near Lewan, was left unblocked on a pivotal play in the fourth quarter that helped the Gamecocks beat Michigan 33-28 in the Outback Bowl.

Former Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez recruited Lewan out of Scottsdale, Ariz., and redshirted him as a freshman in 2009. Lewan became a starter the next season and has made 28 straight starts at left tackle.

Lewan's decision to stay gives Michigan two returning starters on the offensive line to protect Devin Gardner in his first full season as the starting quarterback.

``I have no doubt in my mind this offensive line will be successful,'' Lewan said. ``That's one of my biggest reasons to come back, to help these guys.''

The Wolverines will be without departing seniors Denard Robinson and Roy Roundtree on offense. They might also begin next season without running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who broke his left leg in a mid-November game against Iowa.

College football's winningest program will also have to replace five seniors on defense in 2013, but will get a boost by Lewan's return.

``We're excited as a program and a team to have Taylor's leadership and have him come back to finish his career at Michigan,'' coach Brady Hoke said. ``We have expectations and that will never change and high expectations that he understands and will help us keep achieving.''

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Follow Larry Lage on Twitter:http://twitter.com/larrylage

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Dwayne Haskins has room to grow in a few areas, but this one might be the most crucial

Dwayne Haskins has room to grow in a few areas, but this one might be the most crucial

Dwayne Haskins is completing just 55-percent of his attempts as a pro quarterback so far, has thrown three touchdowns against seven interceptions and is averaging only 166 yards per start.

All of those numbers hint at how Haskins must grow as a passer in the NFL. However, those aspects are secondary to the area he needs to improve the most as he continues to see action for the Redskins.

The facet of his game that requires the most work is avoiding sacks. Yes, his accuracy and decision-making and choices in the red zone are all important, but none of those things will get better or reveal themselves if No. 7 is lying on his back and looking at the sky as much as he's doing so far.

The rookie has been dropped 22 times in his five appearances as starter, and 26 times overall. According to The Athletic, if you take the rate which Haskins is being sacked at as the team's primary signal caller and extrapolate it over a full schedule, it'd add up to the third-worst total in league history.  

So, yeah, that's extremely troublesome. 

On Wednesday, Haskins explained how his desire to be aggressive is partly causing this issue to be such an issue.

"Sometimes when I'm back there, I'm trying to find things deep or down the field instead of just finding the checkdown in the flat," he said.

As for how to remedy that, the 22-year-old told the media it's about being more aware of his immediate options.

"Just knowing where all my quick elements are when things happen fast and when things get on me," Haskins said.

Of course, each sack is its own entity, and not all of them fall on the guy with the ball. There have been instances this year where Haskins will go down and a replay will show an offensive lineman immediately getting beaten, the kind of sequence that will make any QB vulnerable. Not all of the negative plays are happening because of where Haskins is in his development.

However, to compare, Case Keenum was sacked just 12 times in his eight starts behind the same O-line. That's a significantly lower number.

Just like every other part of Haskins' skill set, this is something that should get sharper with experience. Every Sunday, assuming he gets a lot more, will lead to him becoming more adept at reading defenses, more proficient at adjusting protection calls and more prepared to find his outlet options.  

Keenum has seen all that there is to see in the NFL, while Haskins is just beginning that arduous process.

And, while Bill Callahan admitted he hates seeing the offense plagued by the sacks, the interim coach also detailed something beyond experience that could help Haskins limit them in the future.

"He's not a repetitive guy, a repetitive-mistake player, where you see continually the small mistakes over and over again," Callahan said. "He makes a mistake, he recognizes it, he moves on and you don't see a repetitive error come back into his game. There's been a lot of growth in that respect."

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Ravens special teams lacking across the board, lone sore spot in dominating win

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Ravens special teams lacking across the board, lone sore spot in dominating win

BALTIMORE — If there was a lone dark spot on the Ravens’ 42-21 win over the Jets, it was the special teams. 

From kickoff coverage to even Justin Tucker, each particular unit had its fair share of struggles. The Jets blocked a punt — and scored, had long returns on both kickoff and punt returns and Tucker missed an extra-point. 

“We played really well on special teams last week,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We played not well at all this week. So, that’s an area of concern right now. I give them credit. They played really well, but we didn’t.”

The trouble started from the get-go when the Jets had a good return on the opening kick. They carried that throughout the game, as Ty Montgomery and Vyncint Smith averaged kickoff returns of 23.3 and 28.7 yards, respectively. Smith had a long of 37 yards and Montgomery had a long of 34 yards.

Then on the Ravens second touchdown of the night, Tucker missed an extra point — a rarity for the league’s most consistent kicker. Before Thursday’s game, he’d missed just one extra point all season and one field goal. 

While it’s nothing to be concerned about, any miss for Tucker is certainly surprising. 

And finally, in the fourth quarter, the Jets bull-rushed up the middle through the Ravens’ punt team and blocked the kick for a score.

Baltimore’s special teams units have been stellar all season, so Thursday’s game isn’t something to fret over long-term. But it’s certainly something to monitor as the games tighten, leaving little room for error on the margins.  

“We just have to get better,” Harbaugh said of the returns. “They were basically blocking us. They blocked our guys on the kickoff return. They did a great job with it. They ran a little pick-stunt on the blocked punt that we should have picked up with no problem, and we didn’t. That’s an issue for us.”

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