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NFL Notes: Hall of Fame QB explains how Mac Jones can reach the next level

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NFL Notes: Hall of Fame QB explains how Mac Jones can reach the next level

In Kurt Warner’s mind, Mac Jones needs to develop a “superpower” in order to get to the next level and make the proverbial Year 2 leap.

The Hall of Fame quarterback and NFL Network analyst isn’t talking about Jones morphing into a Marvel character and joining Captain America and Spider-Man at a theater near you.

Specifically, along with putting some muscle on his frame and building up arm strength, Jones needs to further develop a trait that separates him from many NFL quarterbacks; conceivably his ability to process.

Speaking with Warner Thursday, he says all of the great quarterbacks in the game have special abilities, or traits that allow them to be different and reach another level. They have something that separates them from the rest.

Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers?

“They have these great arms that can make these crazy throws that everybody else can’t make,” said Warner.

Tom Brady?

“What makes Tom different is his ability to process, and then, he also has that big-game gene. In those big moments, nobody’s better than Tom Brady.”

Jones doesn’t have an all-world arm or elite athleticism. It’s hard to say at this stage if he has the big-game gene, constantly delivering in the clutch.

But his intelligence and ability to process quickly is what may ultimately allow him to advance from being good, to great.

It might help Jones further progress, and ultimately, define how good he’s going to be in the future. So he needs to continue to hone those special skills.

“That’s what it’s going to come down to, what is Mac’s superpower?” said Warner. “Mac’s going to be a good quarterback. He’s going to be a good quarterback in this league for a long time. But is he an Andy Dalton, who’s a good quarterback, gets you to the playoffs, wins games, and does what he did this year? Or does he have a superpower that elevates him from good to great?

“For me, watching him, one thing he does really well is he processes, and he sees things and he anticipates really well,” Warner went on. “Maybe that’s the superpower that elevates him to the next level.”

It’s a good place to start, but there’s more when it comes to the progression of Jones, and putting him in the best position to advance in Year 2. There doesn’t seem much question about his desire to work and further enhance his skills.

Jones vowed during his final press session following the Buffalo playoff loss that he would be working hard in the offseason to improve on his rookie year, which was pretty darn good.

Including the playoffs, the Alabama product finished with an 80.4 rating by Pro Football Focus, 11th best in the league. His 24 touchdown passes was 12th most, while his 67.3 completion percentage was ninth.

No doubt, he’ll work on toning his 6-foot-3, 214-pound frame. He should be able to improve physically, as well as mentally in terms of how well he grasps the playbook along with understanding defenses.

Former Patriot Julian Edelman, on “Inside the NFL” last week pointed to the need for Jones to get stronger.

“I think this second year is going to be huge for Mac Jones,” said Edelman. “He needs to get some of his arm strength up. He needs to get a little stronger, you saw him get weaker throughout the year, and that’s natural.”

Strength is one thing. But there are also subtle, more nuanced things for Jones to improve on.

Warner actually thought Jones processed a little too quickly at times, and shouldn’t always settle on the easy read.

“I thought there were times when he got through things too quickly. It’s kind of a weird thing,” said Warner. “As quarterbacks, it’s how quickly can you get through your progressions, and work through it, and get from this guy to that guy. But, there’s also a patience to go with it.

“A number of times this year, I thought he was trying too much to just get a completion, and just get it to somebody to make a positive play, because of the way they’re team was built, or the game was going a little too fast for him, and he was getting through his progressions a little too quickly, instead of letting them play out.

“But, a big piece of that, if you don’t let the deep routes develop, you’re not going to make as many bigger plays down the field, and you’re going to miss opportunities to make the game easier on yourself.”

Warner thought down the stretch, the Patriots simply didn’t create enough big plays. Jones wasn’t able to consistently hit on the few chances they took during the year. The long ball to Nelson Agholor that was picked off by Micah Hyde during the Wild Card loss to Buffalo was one of the most recent examples.

“Some of that is on Mac,” said Warner, “some of that is on the playmakers they don’t have around him that didn’t always create, and didn’t always win in a timely fashion.”

Warner agrees with many that for Jones to reach his potential, he needs a better cast around him, specifically guys who can get open quickly, against man coverage.

Whether it’s landing a legitimate big-play threat, or chain-mover, Jones could use more help, which would in turn, maximize his assets, namely his quick decision-making and accuracy.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a deep threat, or an underneath guy, just somebody, or more than one, who can separate quickly from man-to-man coverage, to give you a sense of confidence you’re going to be successful in those situations,” said Warner. “In man coverage, if your guys aren’t able to separate quickly, or win quickly, or run their routes with speed and get there to help the timing of things, it can bog you down as a quarterback.”

In terms of arm strength, Warner doesn’t believe that’s a huge issue for Jones, although it wouldn’t hurt to build up his arm. In fact, Warner was pleasantly surprised at how good Jones was in terms of making the necessary throws.

And by that, it’s not the ones where a quarterback drops back and can securely set his feet and deliver. It’s the off-platform type of throws Warner was curious about.

“I worry about guys who have lesser arm strength. Not because they can’t throw it far enough, or they can’t make every throw you have designed in your playbook, but it’s can they make those throws when things aren’t perfect, can they still make those difference-making throws down the field when that happens?” said Warner.

“All I would say in watching Mac, I thought he made a number of those throws this year that I didn’t know if he could make, putting them into tight windows. I went in wondering if that would be a thing that would hold Mac back, and I didn’t see it.”

The bigger challenge for Jones, in Warner’s mind, is improving what he does best, which is difficult during the offseason unless Jones gets the team together to simulate 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 situations.

“The challenge for Mac, how do you get better at processing and building that timing and all of those things that have been your strength. How do you do that in the offseason?,” said Warner. “You can watch film, go through the playbook. But at the end of the day, it’s what you do in those four seconds, how you process, how you work through it, and how you make decisions in that timing. There’s very few things that can simulate that.”

Before long, though, Jones and his teammates will be back for organized team activities, including a passing camp. He’ll go through his progressions, but ultimately, the more game experience he has in the NFL, that’s where he’ll truly hone his burgeoning superpower.

“The good news is I think you’ve got that good player. You’ve got that Andy Dalton-type starter that you know he’s going to give me this every time out,” said Warner. “It’s now finding what you can do that’s different than everybody else. Does he have that superpower? To me, it’s the real question, and the only question I have about Mac.”

Edelman chimes in

On the recent edition of “Inside the NFL” Edelman didn’t hold back when assessing the Patriots loss to the Bills.

“Lack of urgency, lack of energy… They got out-coached. They got outplayed. They got out-efforted,” said Edelman. “That was a disappointing and an embarrassing type of loss for a football team. I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t care if it’s a young team. That’s not a young team anymore.”

Edelman also provided his take on the upcoming divisional round showdown between the Bills and Chiefs at Arrowhead.

“No one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills. I like the Buffalo Bills,” he said. “Last week was an absolute message to the National Football League: ‘Hey, we’re out here to play. Nothing less than the Super Bowl is good.’ Seven consecutive touchdowns against a Bill Belichick team – that’s tough.”

Brady claims no Rams revenge

During his weekly presser, Brady was asked about his team’s desire to “avenge” their early-season loss to LA in their upcoming divisional round matchup. Naturally, the seven-time Super Bowl champion wouldn’t bite on that notion publicly.

“I think all of these games are little bit independent from one another,” Brady told reporters. “Yeah, we played them earlier in the year, but it’s a very different team we had, and I think a little bit of a different team they had, too, so they are each their own individual type of game. They’re going to require their own individual performance and stuff.

“I think the point is it doesn’t really matter what happened in (September) when we played them last. It’s really about this game and what we learned from the last game.”

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, however, knows he’s going to have to deal with a super-motivated 44-year old legend, who threw for 432 yards in the 34-24 Week 3 loss.

“I’ve watched enough of ‘Man in the Arena’ to know this guy’s coming.”

Polian critiques Wentz

Former Colts GM Bill Polian believes the team has the right people in place, including the quarterback, but wasn’t exactly glowing in his assessment of Carson Wentz this season.

“His future with the team is up to (owner) Jim (Irsay)  and (GM) Chris (Ballard). That’s not my ground to plow anymore,” Polian told the IndyStar. “His play was up and down. There were great moments, like the Arizona game, where he made a phenomenal throw, and there were bad moments like the Tennessee game, the Jacksonville game. You could call it inconsistent. If you’re going to win a championship, you have to have consistent quarterbacking. That’s the bottom line. It’s as simple as that. Phillip Rivers provided consistent quarterbacking, and you saw the results.”

Jerry Jones not happy with his ‘Boys

Jerry Jones frustration with his team boiled over during a Friday radio interview, where he basically ripped Amari Cooper.

The Cowboys owner and GM first criticized himself and the Dallas coaching staff for their failure this season, then laid into Cooper, who posted the second lowest yards per game (57.7) in his career.

“Amari Cooper should take half the field with him when he runs a route. A whole bunch of that defense ought to have to honor Cooper,” Jones said via the Athletic. “He ought to be able to catch it in the middle when they’re going with him. Others do,” Jones said. “You throw to people that are covered all the time.”

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Tim Anderson’s 3-run homer punctuates the Chicago White Sox’s doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees

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Tim Anderson’s 3-run homer punctuates the Chicago White Sox’s doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees

Johnny Cueto was terrific in Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader against the New York Yankees.

Michael Kopech was even better in Game 2 as the Chicago White Sox swept the twinbill, beating the Yankees 3-1 and 5-0.

“What a day,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said.

Cueto allowed six hits in six-plus scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium but did not factor in the decision. The Sox gave up a late lead only to respond with two in the ninth for the Game 1 win.

Kopech retired the first 17 batters in Game 2. Rob Brantly broke up the perfect game with a two-out double in the sixth.

“I felt like everything was working today,” said Kopech, who lowered his ERA to 1.29. “The first time this season that’s been the case. It was nice to go out there and feel confident with every pitch I threw.

“I try to be perfect every time and I know that’s never going to be the case, but I feel like if I can hold on to that little bit as deep as I can into the game, then I’ll be in a good position. And I was able to do that for a lot of the day.”

Kopech — who returned from the paternity leave list after the birth Friday of his second son, Vander — allowed one hit with six strikeouts and two walks in seven scoreless innings.

“Kopech made so many great pitches and mixed them up great,” La Russa said. “He had so much command. When you see that, I don’t care how good the hitters are, they’re going to have a tough time.”

The Sox scored five with two outs in the eighth on RBI hits by Andrew Vaughn and Reese McGuire and a three-run home run by shortstop Tim Anderson — his third hit of the game.

“This guy is as good as anybody playing at that position and one of the best players in baseball,” La Russa said of Anderson.

Vaughn came through with two outs, singling to center against Jonathan Loáisiga to bring home José Abreu. McGuire followed with another single, bringing in Adam Engel.

Anderson — who was booed throughout the night by Yankees fans after Saturday’s words with Josh Donaldson and a bench-clearing incident — then homered against Miguel Castro.

“Tim’s going to show up every day ready to play and lead this team,” Kopech said. “And he did that again tonight.”

In the first game, AJ Pollock put the Sox ahead in the ninth with a leadoff homer to left on a 1-0 fastball from Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman.

“You’ve got to stay short to him,” Pollock said. “He’s got some good velocity, good cut on his fastball, so just trying to hit a line drive and it worked out.”

Vaughn drew a one-out walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a passed ball before scoring on a double by Engel, making it 3-1. Liam Hendriks struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 13th save.

It was a nice bounce-back performance by the Sox after the Yankees tied the score at 1 in the eighth when Aaron Judge homered to left on an 0-2 sinker against reliever Kendall Graveman.

The Yankees put two on with one out in the inning, but Graveman rebounded to get Donaldson to fly out to center and Aaron Hicks to pop out to third.

“Most times when you do that, (you) lose your concentration and there is another run on the board,” La Russa said of Graveman. “He got the zero afterward, gave us a chance to win.”

Cueto put the Sox in an excellent position early.

“I had good command of all my pitches today and they had very good movement and I was able to locate them up and down the zone,” Cueto, who was receiving fluids in the aftermath of Game 1, said in a statement. “That was the key to keep the Yankees off-balanced today.”

The Sox went ahead 1-0 on an RBI single by Yasmani Grandal in the fourth.

And Cueto kept “dealing,” as Pollock said. He struck out five and walked two in the 95-pitch outing.

“He’s been awesome for us,” Pollock said. “Works fast and has all sorts of pitches to get them off-balanced. Shimmy shake (delivery). It’s awesome to play behind him. It’s great having him out there for the first game of a doubleheader because of the tone he just set for us.”

Cueto has pitched 12 scoreless innings, the third-longest streak for a Sox starter at the beginning of his tenure with the team since 1974, according to STATS. Ken Brett pitched 17 scoreless innings in 1976 and Jack McDowell went 13 innings in 1987.

Cueto allowed two hits and struck out seven in six scoreless innings against the Royals.

“He’s an artist,” La Russa said. “It’s fun to watch him pitch a game. And that’s what he’s been, an outstanding starting pitcher, because he gives you a different look four times in a game.”

Cueto exited after allowing two singles to begin the seventh. Joe Kelly struck out Marwin Gonzalez, picked off Hicks at second and struck out Jose Trevino to maintain the one-run lead.

“Kelly was just perfect,” La Russa said.

The Yankees got the run in the eighth, but Pollock came though with the big hit in the ninth to give the Sox what La Russa called a “hard-earned” victory.

The Sox made it two-for-two Sunday with more stellar pitching and clutch hitting.

“It just shows we have that in us,” Vaughn said, “and we’ve just got to keep going and keep building off of it.”

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With St. Paul community center ailing, Keith Ellison’s office demands reforms at Cameroon Community organization

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With St. Paul community center ailing, Keith Ellison’s office demands reforms at Cameroon Community organization

With high hopes and no small amount of fanfare, leaders of the Twin Cities’ Cameroonian community pooled their resources in late 2013 and purchased a 57,000-square-foot, two-level office building in St. Paul’s Bandana Square for the bargain price of $200,000.

It was a deal by any stretch of the imagination. The future MinCam Community Center off Energy Park Drive carried an assessed market value of $3 million, at least on paper, though it came with a requirement that the association pay off some $100,000 in outstanding property taxes.

But the community center has been rife with infighting and dysfunction, involving legal action and public accusations of mismanagement.

Last week officials with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office announced they had stepped into the fray as the state’s charity regulator.

The attorney general’s new 16-page “assurance of discontinuance” agreement, signed by a representative of the Minnesota Cameroon Community and filed in Ramsey County District Court, seeks to hold the association accountable for “inattentiveness and governance violations” that have “allowed this important community asset to fall into disrepair,” according to a statement from Ellison’s office.

According to documents from the attorney general’s office, the property tax debt ballooned to $172,000. A broken boiler went unattended for months, causing what some fear is irreparable building damage over the course of a winter. Water mains burst in February 2021. The building’s property insurance lapsed in 2017, and energy bills mounted.

Community center leaders can’t account for all of the funds collected for property tax payments and building repair, according to the attorney general’s office. Questions over who truly leads MinCam — its board of directors, its president, the representative assembly, the general assembly or the community center management team — flared into a legal dispute over who had the right to call elections in the summer of 2020.

Among the requirements imposed under the agreement with the attorney general’s office, MinCam cannot solicit further donations without first registering as a charity with the attorney general’s office, which leaders had failed to do.

MinCam must restructure its leadership so that a singular board controls the business and affairs of the organization. It must also maintain and comply with internal financial management practices developed in consultation with professionals, and adopt a conflict-of-interest, whistleblower and document-retention policy.

“MCC’s directors and officers are further required to properly maintain all books and records of the organization and adopt policies to ensure that funds are properly spent on the purposes for which they were given,” reads a statement from Ellison’s office.

A request for comment was not returned Friday by an attorney for MinCam. The listed phone number for the community center’s was out of service Friday.

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Yankees drop pair of games in doubleheader with White Sox

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Yankees drop pair of games in doubleheader with White Sox

On an uncomfortably hot and sticky day for the Yankees’ and White Sox’s Sunday doubleheader in the Bronx, the home team played two fittingly lethargic games. The Yankees dropped both of them, losing back-to-back games for the first time since April 10 and 11, their third and fourth games of the year.

The second game of the doubleheader saw Tim Anderson get revenge on a fan base that had puzzlingly booed him all game. On Saturday, Anderson was mockingly called “Jackie” by Yankees’ third baseman Josh Donaldson. On Sunday, he hit an opposite field home run to bring the White Sox a 5-0 victory.

Anderson’s three-run silencer left no doubt that the Yankees would go to bed winless, and many of their fans would hit their pillows with a palpable rage over their number one enemy of the day having the nerve to play well amid their hatred.

Aaron Judge stepped to the plate in the eighth inning of game one and with one wave of his mighty bat, briefly gave the Yankees some hope. Judge’s solo home run tied the game, incited M-V-P chants at Yankee Stadium, and helped his team get off the mat, but AJ Pollock matched him with a solo shot of his own in the next inning. Pollock’s jack gave the White Sox a late lead that blossomed into a 3-1 Chicago win and, with the game-clinching shot coming off Aroldis Chapman, invited more questions about who the Yankees’ closer should be moving forward.

In addition to giving up a poorly timed home run, Chapman also threw a pitch to the backstop, had to be visited by the training staff after throwing a pitch, and failed to get a single swing and miss on his once untouchable fastball. When he left the game after Adam Engel put an RBI insurance run double into the left field corner, Chapman was serenaded by boos on his way to the dugout, where Judge was waiting for him at the top step with an encouraging pat on the butt.

“He’s not been as fine with his command,” Boone said of the struggling southpaw. “He’s just not quite as sharp as we’ve seen him. He was getting some treatment on his Achilles. When he was moving around, he wasn’t moving around great. But he wanted the ball. Today, to me he didn’t look great on his legs, so I think that was probably an issue today.”

The Yankees started their double dip by getting blanked by Johnny Cueto, a wonderful pitcher who’s also years removed from his prime. Cueto twisted and turned his way through six innings, five strikeouts and roughly one million different wind ups. The Yankees mustered six hits against him — all of which were singles — and got zero runs.

The final two of those singles did knock Cueto out of the game with no outs in the seventh inning. Trailing by one run at the time, the Yankees were very much still in the game. Cueto’s replacement, the fiery Joe Kelly, shut that down fairly quickly.

Kelly struck out his first hitter, Marwin Gonzalez, on four pitches. During the next at-bat, he picked Aaron Hicks off of second base. Hicks tried to make a break for third while Kelly wasn’t looking, likely anticipating that the reliever would start his delivery during the mad dash. Instead, Kelly simply stepped off the mound, realized that Hicks was in no man’s land, and tossed the ball to second base for an easy out. Hicks was the second Yankee to get picked off, joining Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who Cueto picked off of first in the second inning.

“Almost had him timed up,” Boone lamented after the game.

The squandered opportunity in the seventh looked like it would be the Yankees’ best scoring chance of the day, but Judge’s ability to transform things in a single swing changed that pretty emphatically before the White Sox landed their counter punches.

Hicks’ rally-killing pickoff brings more ammunition to the people calling for him to be benched. Entering Sunday’s action, Hicks was hitting .200 with an on-base percentage much higher than his slugging percentage. His 20 hits included just one double and one home run, and in his previous 15 games coming into Sunday, he was in a vicious 3-for-40 (.075) slump. In the first game of the doubleheader, he did go 2-for-4, but also popped up on the infield with the game tied in the eighth inning.

While he’s still taking a lot of walks, and is tied for the team-lead in stolen bases, Hicks is a tough sell for many fans, especially the ones advocating for the Joey Gallo-Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton outfield to be a more regular occurrence.

White Sox’s closer Liam Hendriks, who was very critical of Donaldson in some pregame comments, had no trouble at all during his Sunday outing.

The Yankees cannot relate.

In the second game, White Sox’s starter Michael Kopech skated comfortably through the first five innings. He maintained perfection until Rob Brantly — the catcher who was added to the active roster on Sunday morning and arrived at the stadium during the first game — doubled with two outs in the sixth to become the Yankees’ first base runner of the game. Kopech finished his night with seven eye-popping innings, one hit, and no runs on his ledger.

Luis Severino displayed admirable problem solving skills all night. He allowed hitters to reach base in every inning from the second to seventh, but kept any of them from reaching home plate. His final line showed eight hits in seven innings of work but zero runs. It wasn’t until Jonathan Loaisiga entered in the eighth that the dam finally broke. Andrew Vaughn and Reese McGuire’s two-out singles gave Chicago their first two runs, and Anderson provided the final three off of Miguel Castro.

At the end of the unbearably hot day, the Yankees had two losses, a smarting wound from Anderson and multiple questions about their bullpen, as both Chapman and Loaisiga have been less than stellar all year and did nothing to rectify that on Sunday.

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