Friday, December 14, 2018

3 Rams among PFF's top 25 offensive linemen in NFL this season

By Cameron DaSilva
December 13, 2018

Aside from the struggles the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive line has had in the past few weeks, the unit has been phenomenal this season. Guys like Andrew Whitworth, Austin Blythe and Rob Havenstein have provided outstanding protection for Jared Goff, while also opening up huge running lanes for Todd Gurley.

The offensive line is part of the reason the Rams’ offense has been so explosive this year, ranking third in points and yardage. Pro Football Focus has recognized the Rams’ line throughout the season, most recently ranking three players among the 25 best linemen in the NFL for 2018.

Havenstein was the top-ranked Ram on the list, checking in at No. 10 with an overall grade of 81.1.

Havenstein isn’t going to overpower a lot of people, but he’s as consistent and technically sound as any tackle in the league. The former second-rounder has only allowed three combined sacks and hits all season.

Just behind him at No. 11 is Whitworth, who has an overall grade of 81.1. He continues to be one of the best left tackles in the NFL, despite being 37 years old.

Closing in on his 37th birthday, Whitworth is doing things that offensive tackles aren’t supposed to do. As fellow 36-year old left tackle Jason Peters has seen his body break down and play slip in recent years, Whitworth continues to churn out dominance. He hasn’t had a single game with a below average pass-blocking grade all season.

A bit further down the list is Blythe, who’s in his first season as a starter for the Rams. He took over for Jamon Brown after he was suspended for the first two games of the season. Needless to say, Blythe has been a pleasant surprise and a true standout for the Rams this year.

He has an overall grade of 74.2, fifth-best among all guards in the NFL.

Anyone could have had one of the top-25 offensive linemen in the NFL after he was waived by the Colts a year and a half ago. The former seventh-round pick wasn’t even supposed to start for the Rams until Jamon Brown got suspended. Blythe never relinquished control of the job and has been reliable ever since.

John Sullivan has struggled a bit this season after a tremendous 2017 campaign with the Rams, but if he’s the weakest link on the offensive line, L.A. is in good shape. Rodger Saffold just missed out on PFF’s list, but even he’s the 10th-ranked guard by the site’s measures.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Lingerfeldt students learn financial responsibility

By Eric Wildstein
December 13, 2018

Twenty-four volunteers spent their day teaching young students about financial literacy.

Lingerfeldt Elementary School in Gastonia hosted its third annual Junior Achievement Day on last week. Kids from kindergarten through fifth grade learned everything from how to save money to how debit and credit cards work, and how interest is compounded.

Lessons were tailored to the unique grade levels, and instruction was led by volunteers largely from Tabernacle Baptist Church and the Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services.

Karen Creech is a congregation member of the church, who also works for the health department’s day care center for adults. She’s been an instructor at the school’s Junior Achievement Day program for the past three years.

“It’s so beneficial to the community to help the children to know about how their cities work, about entrepreneurship and things of that nature,” she said. “They may not even hear from other people about things, and what a need is and what a want is, and those differences there.”

Her husband, Corey Creech, a Wells Fargo employee, also volunteered as an instructor. He said teaching children about finances at a young age gives them an advantage to face the challenges ahead.

“When I was that young I didn’t know about those things,” he said.” When you know the different forms of money and the consequences or benefits from using those types of money, it helps you make better decisions when you get older.”

The program is organized by Junior Achievement, a nonprofit organization that provides programming to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in today’s global economy by focusing its programs on the three key pillars of entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy.

Local community leaders, such as Gastonia Mayor Walker Reid and the Rev. Benjamin Hinton of Tabernacle Baptist Church, also stopped by classrooms to share their experiences and financial advice with students.

Reid said his parents taught him at an early age that “you have to work for what you want in life.” It’s a lesson he also imparted on the impressionable students.

Retired professional football player Nate Salley also lent his advice to students. Salley, who played for the Ohio State Buckeyes in college and then the Carolina Panthers until 2009, spoke about living a fiscally responsible life no matter one’s profession.

A third-grade student told Salley “I want to grow up to be like you” during the program.

“To see individuals who have lived that way and seen success at different levels, in different areas of their life, I think that’s big for them to see the different options that are out there,” said Salley. “I have this jersey on, I played ball, but I’m in corporate America now. We have a pastor, we have individuals that have done different things in their lives but have impacted others.”

A Junior Achievement Day was also held last spring at Sadler Elementary School in Gastonia.

Junior Achievement will provide training for new volunteers as well as all program materials. To get involved with future programs, visit

Friday, December 07, 2018

Marshal Yanda is Ravens’ Ed Block Courage Award Winner

By Clifton Brown
December 7, 2018

Right guard Marshal Yanda is the Ravens’ 2018 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award. It is presented to the player who exemplifies a commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage, while also recognizing a player’s efforts on the field and his ability to overcome adversity.

The award was selected by a vote of Yanda’s teammates and was presented to him following Friday’s practice.
He has returned to being one of the NFL’s best offensive linemen after playing just two games in 2017 due to a season-ending ankle injury. A shoulder injury also required Yanda to have surgery last winter and he did not play at all during the preseason.

A six-time Pro Bowler, Yanda is one of the locker room’s most respected players, who has spent his entire 12-year career with the Ravens.

“You fight your tail off to come back healthy and play, and I’m very grateful to be back this year,” Yanda said. “We’re all fighting together as a team. The more years you’re in the NFL, you want guys to look up to you. You want to do things the right way every single day. You want to be a role model for those young guys. When I was a younger player, there were role models for me, guys who did it the right way every single day. I never forgot that. As I matured as a player, I wanted to be one of those guys you could look up, ask questions to, lean on.”

The award is named for Ed Block, the longtime head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts who was a respected humanitarian. In 1989, the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation formulated the Courage House National Support System for Kids.

Every team votes for one player to win the award. Quarterback Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants and defensive end Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers are among other recipients of the award this season.

A year ago, Yanda was rehabbing his ankle. Now he is playing meaningful games in December and calls this season one of his most enjoyable at age 34.

“I’m definitely living in the moment, one day at a time, one game at a time,” Yanda said. “It’s in the back of my mind that this game can be taken away from you in one play. I’m happy to be a part of it again. I’m relishing this time. I understand it’s a young man’s game and I’m an old man. But I still love competing, love the camaraderie, just love this game.”

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