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Willie Snead on what it's like playing with Lamar Jackson

Willie Snead on what it's like playing with Lamar Jackson

Willie Snead puts it best when thinking about how bright Lamar Jackson’s future is: “I can’t even imagine.”

Jackson’s meteoric rise from the fifth quarterback taken in the 2018 draft to prohibitive MVP favorite is the biggest storyline in the NFL this season. Every game he seemingly tops himself with dazzling highlight runs and pinpoint throws.

And his veteran receiver as a front row seat for it all.

“He’s just playing the game right now,” Snead told NBC Sports Washington when comparing Jackson to his he previous quarterback, future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. “He’s so fun to watch.”

“Fun” is putting it mildly.

Snead has played in all 28 games with the Ravens since coming to Baltimore prior to the 2018 season. He’s provided valuable leadership and made big catches, while also embracing the blocking necessary from Ravens receivers in this offense.

He’s played with Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, and now, Lamar Jackson. Not only is Jackson playing at a high level, but his unique style also makes for new obstacles for Snead and the receivers.

“It’s definitely different, keeps you on your toes,” he explained. “With Lamar, you always gotta be ready, because the play’s never dead. He can make things happen.”

Perhaps the most memorable example of this, for Snead in particular, came in a road game against the Chiefs. Jackson threw up a number of prayers during the game, including one to Snead.

“Probably the Kansas City one he threw up to me,” he answered when asked about any plays that stick out. “He’s going to the right, and throws it left, all the way across the field, and trusts me to make a play. So that was probably the craziest one.”

Trust is a key word when it comes to Jackson and his receivers.

“It’s been growing,” he describes when asked about it. “After the season last year [we] talked for a little bit, and he told me what he wanted to do and how he felt about this year. I just told him ‘Bro, I’m here to help you.’ We just have to put in the time, put in the work. As you can see, it’s starting to pay off.”

You can watch Snead’s full interview with NBC Sports Washington here.

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What lessons the rest of the NFL should, and shouldn’t, take from the league’s top rushing teams

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What lessons the rest of the NFL should, and shouldn’t, take from the league’s top rushing teams

A glance at the NFL over the final two months of the season gave an interesting glimpse where the league was headed. 

The Ravens, the NFL’s best offense, were a predominantly rushing team. They rushed for a league record 3,296 yards in the regular season and were the league’s top regular season team. 

The Titans rode running back Derrick Henry all season, which led to him finishing as the league’s leading rusher. Over the final nine games he rushed for an average of 24.6 carries per game, including 30 or more carries in three of the team’s final four games. 

And most recently, the 49ers won the NFC in dominating fashion over the Packers with just eight passing attempts and 42 rushing attempts. 

With a handful of the league’s best rushing teams advancing in the playoffs, there appeared to be a change in the way teams attacked defenses in the NFL.

But those stats have been a bit misleading for the crowd that wants to establish the run for the sake of establishing a ground attack. What the Ravens and Titans did was make rushing the football more efficient than any other team in the league. 

Baltimore rushed for 5.5 yards per carry in the regular season, half-a-yard more than any other team in the league. They were only one of three teams to surpass the five yard-mark — one other team was the Titans. 

When compared to passing stats across the league, however, none of the qualified quarterbacks had worse than a six-yard average when passing the ball. Speaking strictly from the numbers, passing is still more advantageous than rushing the ball, no matter what teams that advanced far in the playoffs accomplished. 

What the Ravens and Titans do have, however, are two athletes that are unique in the NFL. Lamar Jackson was the league’s best rushing quarterback of all time and Henry led the league in total rushing yards. 

So the Ravens and Titans didn’t reinvent the wheel and show the NFL the ground game was more effective, but instead showed the league to lean into the special talents that both teams had. 

While the Titans were clearly better when Henry had his best days on the ground, there’s not a direct relationship to more Henry touches equaling a better day for the Titans. 

When the Ravens fell behind 14-0 to the Titans, Henry had just seven rushes for 28 yards on the ground. Down the stretch, he rushed 23 more times for 167 yards — a 7.26 yard average. Essentially, the Titans used Henry most effectively when they had already scored the winning points. 

The same can be said for the 49ers in the NFC Championship, who barely used Jimmy Garoppolo's arm. But when Raheem Mostert averages more than seven yards per carry, it’s difficult to get away from the run. 

So while it might seem that simply running the ball got teams to the playoffs, and championship games, it was the fact that they were able to run the ball more efficiently than other teams across the league. Rushing attempts weren’t the reason those teams won, but how they used those rushing attempts instead.

And when Jackson and Henry are leading the charge, it’s hard not to give them the ball.

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Former Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees announces retirement

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Former Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees announces retirement

Former Ravens and Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees announced his retirement from coaching Monday afternoon, just a day after Tennessee lost in the AFC Championship Game to Kansas City.

Pees, at age 70, had just finished his 47th year of coaching. He had previously been a coordinator for the Titans, Ravens and Patriots at the NFL level. He began coaching at the University of Findlay (OH) in 1979 as a defensive coordinator where he rose through the college ranks. 

Pees was in Baltimore from 2010-2017, where he started as a linebackers coach and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2012. He won Super Bowl XLVII with the Ravens.

During his time as a coordinator, the Ravens ranked in the top 10 of scoring defenses three times, where he saw franchise greats like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed end their careers.

Pees’ defense in Tennessee this season stiffened down the stretch, as it allowed just 25 total points in the first two playoff games against New England and Baltimore. The Titans lost 35-24 to the Chiefs on Sunday.

In 10 of his 12 seasons as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, Pees led his defenses to a top 12 finish in points allowed.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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