May 19, 2023
2023 NFC West Report Card: Race Is on for Division Title, No. 1 Draft Pick
The NFC West appears to be a top-heavy division that might split into two races by October. After delivering another impressive draft class, the Seahawks will likely push the mighty 49ers for the division title, and they might be two of the best teams in the NFC.As for the Cardinals and Rams, they might be battling for the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft after saying goodbye to many key players this offseason. Perhaps the 49ers and Seahawks will clash in the NFC championship game, while the Cardinals and Rams split the first two picks in the draft, which might feature USC quarterback Caleb Williams and North Carolina signal-caller Drake Maye.But that’s getting too far ahead. First, let’s take a closer look at the NFC West by grading the offseason moves made by the four teams. Seattle Seahawks Smith had a big 2022 replacing Russell Wilson as the starting quarterback in Seattle, throw for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns.Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports Key additions: C Evan Brown, LB Devin Bush, RB Zach Charbonnet, OLB Derick Hall, DL Dre’Mont Jones, S Julian Love, DT Jarran Reed, WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, LB Bobby Wagner, CB Devon WitherspoonKey subtractions: DT Poona Ford, S Ryan Neal, RB Rashaad Penny, DT Al WoodsWhere they stand: After surprising many with a productive Geno Smith–led offense, the Seahawks prioritized the defense this offseason by adding playmakers in all three phases. Seattle started by splurging in free agency with the addition of Jones, who’s coming off a breakout season in Denver with 6.5 sacks. They also returned familiar faces in Reed and Wagner to help improve a run defense that allowed 150.2 rushing yards per game in 2022. Wagner, who will turn 33 on June 27, was named a second-team All-Pro during his lone season with the Rams. But what truly made the Seahawks winners this offseason was spending first-round picks on Witherspoon and Smith-Njigba, possibly the two best prospects in the draft at their respective positions. Seattle followed by drafting Charbonnet to give the team a strong backfield with Kenneth Walker III, who rushed for 1,050 yards in his rookie season. The Seahawks also added pass-rushing depth with the selection of Hall, who will likely compete with Darrell Taylor for the No. 2 edge-rusher role behind Uchenna Nwosu.Projected win total: 8.5Odds to win the NFC West: +247Final grade: B+If Smith delivers again, the Seahawks could have one of the best offenses in the NFL with the additions of Smith-Njigba and Charbonnet. Some might argue that Seattle didn’t need another running back, but coach Pete Carroll prefers a run-heavy approach, and this might pay off in December and January when time of possession is critical to seal victories. Smith-Njigba, a smooth route runner, could be a friendly target in the intermediate game to complement downfield threats DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. But the Seahawks probably needed to do more to improve their poor run game. Jones will help as a pass rusher but struggled against the run last year.San Francisco 49ersKey additions: S Ji’Ayir Brown, QB Sam Darnold, DE Clelin Ferrell, OL Jon Feliciano, DT Javon Hargrave, TE Cameron Latu, K Jake MoodyKey subtractions: DE Samson Ebukam, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RT Mike McGlinchey, CB Emmanuel Moseley, DE Charles Omenihu, DB Jimmie WardWhere they stand: The 49ers lost a handful of starters who contributed to their impressive four-year run of advancing to three NFC championship games and a Super Bowl. But with plenty of depth across the roster and the splash signing of Hargrave, San Francisco should once again be one of the top teams in the NFL despite the key departures. The defensive front of Hargrave, Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead will likely give opposing offenses plenty of fits throughout the 2023 season. Hargrave had 11 sacks and 16 quarterback hits for the Eagles last season. Darnold is in the mix to compete with Trey Lance for the starting quarterback Job while Brock Purdy recovers from the arm injury that hindered him against the Eagles in the conference title game. San Francisco also made some noise in the draft by selecting Moody in the third round to potentially replace veteran kicker Robbie Gould. The 49ers lost a few key pass rushers in free agency, but perhaps they can jump-start the career of Ferrell, the No. 4 pick of the Raiders in the ’19 draft.Projected win total: 11.5Odds to win the NFC West: -169Final grade: BThe 49ers are stacked at various positions, but there’s uncertainty on the offensive line with a new right tackle in Colton McKivitz, who has started five total games in the past three seasons. Also, the offense might struggle early in the season with Darnold, who was inconsistent with the Jets and Panthers, or Lance, the unproven 2021 No. 3 pick with four career starts. For most teams, these two areas of concern would derail a season. But the 49ers tend to make it work with what they have offensively, judging from what they have done the past four seasons under coach Kyle Shanahan. It also helps to have a talented group of skill players, such as Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. Arizona CardinalsKey additions: OL Hjalte Froholdt, OL Paris Johnson Jr., OLB BJ Ojulari, LB Kyzir White, CB Garrett Williams, WR Michael WilsonKey subtractions: DL Zach Allen, WR Chosen Anderson, OL Cody Ford, WR A.J. Green, CB Byron Murphy Jr.Where they stand: The Cardinals were in bad shape to begin the offseason and might have gotten worse as the league calendar gets closer to training camp in late July. Arizona allowed two of its best players, Allen and Murphy, to find new homes and didn’t appear interested in adding outside help, possibly to maintain cap-space flexibility for next offseason. The Cardinals, however, added an outside free agent in Froholdt, who might be in the mix for the starting center job. Arizona’s best offseason acquisition was selecting Johnson with the No. 6 pick in the draft, but now the team has a logjam at tackle with D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum. The Cardinals are also crowded at wide receiver after drafting Wilson in the third round and deciding to keep DeAndre Hopkins—at least for now. Ojulari, a second-round pick, should help on the defensive front, but this might be the team’s biggest area of concern. Also, this roster might take another hit if the Cardinals honor Budda Baker’s request to be traded.Projected win total: 4.5Odds to win the NFC West: +2425Final grade: D+The Cardinals avoided a failing grade by acquiring a 2024 first-round pick from the Texans in the draft-day trade that sent them from No. 3 to No. 12. (They later traded up with the Lions to draft Johnson at No. 6.) It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Cardinals have two top-five picks in a loaded draft class for quarterbacks next year. The potential move could net them a bounty of picks if they decide to trade and stay committed to quarterback Kyler Murray, who won’t be available for the start of this season because of a torn ACL he sustained in December. With the way first-year GM Monti Ossenfort operated this offseason, the Cardinals might have already turned the page to next season.Los Angeles RamsKey additions: OL Steve Avila, QB Stetson Bennett, TE Hunter Long, DT Kobie Turner, OLB Byron YoungKey subtractions: OG David Edwards, OLB Leonard Floyd, DT Greg Gaines, K Matt Gay, CB Troy Hill, QB Baker Mayfield, CB Jalen Ramsey, S Taylor Rapp, WR Allen Robinson, DT A’Shawn Robinson, S Nick Scott, ILB Bobby WagnerWhere they stand: After glancing at the Rams’ current depth chart, it’s hard to believe this team was a Super Bowl champion 15 months ago. The Rams said goodbye to nearly every notable defensive player from last year’s roster, giving Aaron Donald possibly the worst supporting cast in the NFL. Donald will be surrounded by inexperienced players, but the Rams addressed the defensive line during Day 2 of the NFL draft, adding Young and Turner. Avila, who can play guard and center, should help an offensive line that mightily struggled and was decimated by injuries last season. Quarterback Matthew Stafford might have better protection this season, but he’ll likely be looking in Cooper Kupp’s direction often after the team traded Robinson to the Steelers. The Rams seem headed toward another losing season, but they will at least have Sean McVay on the sidelines. He contemplated a coaching hiatus days after the 2022 season.Projected win total: 6.5Odds to win the NFC West: +639Final grade: D-Outside of creating cap space for next season, the Rams didn’t do much for this year’s team. McVay will likely use the underdog role to motivate his inexperienced roster, and they’ll probably win a few games with Stafford, Kupp and Donald still there. Perhaps the rookie class will show enough flashes throughout the season to become building blocks for the future. But expect the Rams to endure back-to-back losing seasons after winning the Super Bowl, as they might find themselves in the race for Williams and Maye by Halloween
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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