Tag Archive | "a.q. shipley"

Harbaugh expects competition, changes along offensive line

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Harbaugh expects competition, changes along offensive line

Posted on 31 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens coach John Harbaugh wasted no time in spelling out the biggest reasons why he thought his team fell short of the postseason for the first time in his six-year tenure in Baltimore.

The biggest downfall started up front with the offensive line, a unit that was so instrumental to the team’s Super Bowl XLVII run but one that also underwent several changes this season.

“We’re going to need to run the ball better, we’re going to need to protect Joe [Flacco] better,” Harbaugh said. “Offensively, those things will make us better.”

Finishing the season with three new starters from the line that protected Flacco so effectively in last year’s postseason, the Ravens averaged a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry and rushed for 1,328 yards, two marks that shattered previous single-season lows in franchise history. Baltimore also allowed 48 sacks, the second-highest total in team history and the most given up since the 1999 Ravens were sacked 56 times.

Media and fans have pointed fingers most often at run-game coordinator Juan Castillo, who implemented a new zone-blocking scheme in his first year with the Ravens that didn’t fit an offensive line featuring a new center responsible for making calls at the line of scrimmage. Harbaugh said Tuesday that no changes to the coaching staff were in the works for now, but the coach alluded to the possibility of staff members potentially moving on to take other jobs as the Ravens’ brass will meet next week to make further evaluations within the organization.

Even if Castillo isn’t retained, Harbaugh was quick to point out that the former Philadelphia offensive line coach has a strong track record and was just one of many responsible for the shortcomings of the Ravens’ failures in the trenches.

“Being in those meetings every single day and being a part of that thing every single day, I know better, and every one of our players knows better, and every one of our coaches knows that there are a lot of things that go into that,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve got complete confidence and belief in all of our coaches. I believe in our coaches. That goes for Juan Castillo; it goes for all of our guys. I think he’s a great coach, but I think all of our guys are great coaches. But, we’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to find a way to use our personnel better. We’ve got to get better.”

The Ravens are all but guaranteed to feature a new-look offensive line in 2014 with starting tackles Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher both unrestricted free agents. Harbaugh complimented Monroe’s play and expressed hope that he would re-sign with Baltimore after he was acquired from Jacksonville for fourth- and fifth-round picks in early October, but the Ravens will not have a great amount of cap space and can’t overspend for an above-average tackle who has yet to make a Pro Bowl in his five-year career.

Meanwhile, Oher is expected to depart via free agency after a disappointing season at right tackle and failing to pan out as the left tackle of the future when he was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft. The Ravens will evaluate 2013 fifth-round pick Rick Wagner for the right tackle spot and likely turn to the draft in early May to add more offensive line help.

Beyond the obvious holes at both tackle positions, Harbaugh made it clear that only Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda — coming off an underwhelming season by his high standards — is a sure bet to line up at the same position next year. The Ravens are encouraged with the progress made by second-year lineman Kelechi Osemele from his November back surgery to repair a herniated disc, but where he’ll fit in the 2014 puzzle remains to be seen. Osemele played right tackle during the regular season of his rookie year before being shifted to left guard for the 2012 playoffs and started 2013 at that spot before landing on injured reserve.

His versatility will provide general manager Ozzie Newsome with more options when trying to address two open tackle positions at the start of the offseason.

“I think there will be a competitive situation pretty much at every spot on the offensive line except right guard,” Harbaugh said. “We will be looking forward to getting [Osemele] back. Whether he plays left guard or right tackle, we will have to make a determination on that. He can play either one of those spots. I would assume that he will be in that lineup somewhere, because he’s that kind of a player, but he’s got to come back and do it.”

Adding new bodies to the mix at tackle will be a top priority, but the competition at center might be more intriguing as 2012 fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski struggled in his first season as a starter. Replacing 15-year pro Matt Birk, Gradkowski struggled to make the right protection calls for most of the season but improved as the year went on, according to Harbaugh.

Reserve lineman A.Q. Shipley competed for the starting center job in training camp before ultimately being needed to replace Osemele at left guard and rookie Ryan Jensen is considered an intriguing prospect with a 6-foot-4, 318-pound frame that would figure to physically hold up better than the smaller Gradkowski. However, the Ravens could elect to search free agency and the draft for more competition and a better option at center.

Gradkowski received the worst cumulative grade of any center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Early in the season, Gino would probably be the first to tell you that we had a lot of problems,” Harbaugh said. “You go from Matt Birk that does everything, that makes every call, and in some ways tells every lineman what to do in the heat of battle because he is so good — because you’ve got an offensive line coach basically in there playing center for you — to a guy that is doing it for the first time. That was part of the reason that we didn’t have a hat on a hat a lot of times early on, and that was a tough transition for us.

“And yet, Gino fights through it, and by the end of the year, he is making all those calls and doing a good job with that. [He is] a really smart guy, huge student of the game.”

A variety of other issues must be addressed on both sides of the ball as the Ravens try to regroup after their commendable run of five consecutive playoff appearances comes to an end, but the 2013 struggles of Flacco, Ray Rice, and the passing game were all impacted by the inconsistency along the offensive line.

It’s just one area that needs to be fixed, but it’s a critical one in which the Ravens must explore every avenue in hopes of improving by the time training camp rolls around in late July. Decisions in terms of coaching and personnel must be made carefully in arguably the most important offseason of the Harbaugh era.

And losing the battle up front was one major flaw the Ravens simply couldn’t overcome in 2013.

“Everything is going to be on the table that way [to improve],” Harbaugh said. “Every one of our guys, all of us understand in this league that it is a production business — coaches and players. We all have to be accountable for producing and winning.”

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Ravens OL Shipley believes he is still best suited to play Center

Posted on 31 December 2013 by WNST Audio

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Osemele going to IR, Asa Jackson suspension comes to end

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Osemele going to IR, Asa Jackson suspension comes to end

Posted on 04 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As expected, the Ravens will place left guard Kelechi Osemele on season-ending injured reserve this week as he prepares to undergo back surgery to correct a bad disc that’s affected him in each of his first two seasons in the NFL.

Coach John Harbaugh confirmed the news on Monday as the Ravens regrouped from a disappointing 24-18 loss to the Cleveland Browns. After Osemele missed practices last Thursday and Friday, Harbaugh announced the second-year guard would be out for Sunday’s game and indicated his hopes of playing again in 2013 were very slim.

“He’s headed to IR,” Harbaugh said Monday. “He’s working right now with the doctors and his representative to find what type of surgery he wants to do and who’s the best person to do it.”

Backup center A.Q. Shipley made his first career start at left guard against the Browns and appears likely to remain as the starter at the position for now. The former Indianapolis Colt took over at left guard after the opening series against the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 5 with Osemele unable to play with back spasms.

Third-year lineman Jah Reid and rookie Ryan Jensen will also be evaluated during practices, but Harbaugh indicated Shipley would remain the starter for at least the time being.

“A.Q.’s a pit bull. He’s a fighter in there,” Harbaugh said. “He’s smart. He knows what to do, and he plays with good technique. We’re pleased with the way he played.”

With Osemele expected to be placed on IR at some point this week, the Ravens could use the open roster spot to activate cornerback Asa Jackson from the reserve-suspended list. The 2012 fifth-round pick was suspended for eight games after testing positive for Adderall, his second violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

The groin injury suffered by starting cornerback Jimmy Smith against the Browns isn’t considered serious, but his uncertain status improves Jackson’s chances to return to the roster. The Ravens only have four cornerbacks on their 53-man roster, and Jackson would likely be a useful player to have on the kick coverage units.

“Asa says he’s been working hard [and] that he’s in great shape,” Harbaugh said. “He was working with trainers in Arizona and Los Angeles — some football trainers working on football-related stuff. Hopefully he’s in the kind of shape where he can slide right in there and help us.”

The Ravens would likely be granted a roster exemption if they wanted to take a few extra days to evaluate his level of conditioning since he hasn’t been able to practice with the team since early September.

The decision to remove Smith from the game on Sunday was more of a precautionary measure, but it’s a disappointing development for the 2011 first-round pick, who has struggled to stay healthy in his brief NFL career. However, Harbaugh said the cornerback was “feeling better” when he arrived at the team’s Owings Mills facility on Monday morning.

“He had a little groin in there, and we felt like it was better for Chykie [Brown] to play during the game — the trainers did,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll keep working on that through the course of the week, and we’ll see how that develops and see how he practices Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.”

Jackson is the second Ravens player to come off suspension this year as former fourth-round safety Christian Thompson served a four-game ban to start the season, but the organization elected to waive the 2012 draft pick after he had done very little to impress during the preseason.

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 03 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Hoping to get the post-bye portion of their schedule off on a positive note, the Ravens travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns for the 30th time in franchise history.

Baltimore hopes to improve upon a disappointing 3-4 start while debuting a new look on the offensive line following Friday’s news that left guard Kelechi Osemele is expected to miss the rest of the season with a back injury. Backup center A.Q. Shipley will start in his place and receive the first opportunity to hold down the job with the likes of Jah Reid and Ryan Jensen potentially in the mix moving forward.

Reid is active for only his second game this season and for the first time since Week 3 and will serve as the primary backup guard while the rookie Jensen is inactive for Sunday’s game.

Reserve defensive tackle Terrence Cody is also active for the first time since injuring his knee in Week 3 against the Houston Texans. His return along with the emergence of rookie Brandon Williams prompted the Ravens to part ways with veteran Marcus Spears earlier this week.

Linebacker Josh Bynes is active after he missed his first game of the season in Pittsburgh two weeks ago due to undergoing finger surgery, but he will mostly serve on special teams as veteran Jameel McClain regained his starting job at weakside inside linebacker in Week 7.

After being listed as questionable and practicing on a limited basis all week, veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley is inactive for the third straight game as he continues to manage a groin injury he’s dealt with since the end of September.

Newly-signed No.3 running back Bernard Scott is listed as inactive as he’s still in the process of getting acclimated to the Baltimore offensive system.

The Ravens will be meeting a Browns offense looking different from the group we saw in Baltimore in Week 2 as veteran Jason Campbell will receive his second straight start behind center and big-play wide receiver Josh Gordon is available after serving a two-game suspension to begin the 2013 season. The Browns also feature former Raven Willis McGahee at running back, but, much like the Ravens, Cleveland has been unable to get its running game going all season.

Campbell will be making his second career start against the Ravens and replaced Brandon Weeden in the fourth quarter of the Baltimore’s Week 2 win over Cleveland. That lone start came in 2008 when Campbell threw for 218 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions in a 24-10 win for Baltimore in a win over Washington.

Baltimore will be trying to extend its winning streak to 12 straight over the Cleveland Browns while also improving to 6-0 coming off the bye week in the John Harbaugh era. The Ravens are 10-4 all-time in Cleveland and lead the regular-season series by a 22-7 margin since 1999.

The Ravens will be wearing white jerseys with black pants while Cleveland dons brown jerseys with white pants on Sunday afternoon.

Scott Green will be the referee for Sunday’s game in Cleveland. Forecasts are calling for mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-40s and winds up to nine miles per hour.

Here are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
S Brynden Trawick
RB Bernard Scott
G Kelechi Osemele
C Ryan Jensen
WR Brandon Stokley
DE DeAngelo Tyson
LB John Simon

CLEVELAND
OL Patrick Lewis
OL Martin Wallace
OL Garrett Gilkey
OL Reid Fragel
DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen
TE Keavon Milton
LB Paul Hazel

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the afternoon for updates and analysis as Nestor Aparicio brings live coverage from FirstEnergy Stadium throughout the day.

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Browns Taylor Presents BIG Issue for Ravens

Posted on 03 November 2013 by Brett Dickinson

As the Ravens are set to head to the “Dawg Pound,” major concerns should be set against a stout Browns defense.  Cleveland not only has bevy of pass-rushers at their disposal, but a lock down corner in Joe Haden, an enforcer on the back end, in Safety, T.J. Ward and a solid team leader in Linebacker, D’Qwell Jackson.  The Ravens had trouble moving the ball in the first matchup, during Week 2, in Baltimore; it is safe to expect more issues come 4:30 today.

A lot of notoriety will be placed on the likes of All-Pro, Haden and former Ravens pass-rush specialist, Paul Kruger, but the biggest (literally and figuratively) concern for a struggling Baltimore attack should be massive Nose Tackle, Phil Taylor. Coming in at a ‘listed’ 6’ 3”, 335 lbs. (which may be selling his waist line a little short); he is a load for any offensive lineman to handle.  Facing Baltimore though, Taylor might eat up the middle of their protection.

With Kelechi Osemele officially going on the injured reserve list, with chronic back issues, the Ravens are force to play undersized A.Q. Shipley (a smaller center by trade) at the Left Guard spot, next to undersized, and mostly overwhelmed, Center, Gino Gradkowski. Though Taylor only has two sacks on the season, he could make a major impact in adding pressure from the middle of the trenches, pushing Flacco to move outside the pocket, and possibly into the hands of Krugar or impressive rookie, Linebacker, Barkevious Mingo or a finally healthy, Linebacker, Jabaal Sheard.

In order to limit Taylor’s impact, the Ravens will need to spread out the defense, keeping the least amount of the Browns stellar front seven in the box.  With that being said, Gradkowski and Shipley could double team the large Nose Tackle, hopefully, wearing him down by the fourth quarter. If the unlikely duo of Gradkowki and Shipley can control the middle of the field, the Ravens offense will be able to thrive against a very stout Cleveland Browns defense.

But that is literally a “BIG” if…

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 02 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The Ravens haven’t lost to the Cleveland Browns since the George W. Bush administration and will try to continue that trend at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday in the 30th all-time meeting between these teams.

In dumping veterans Bryant McKinnie, Marcus Spears, and Michael Huff, coach John Harbaugh hopes his team will respond positively after an underwhelming 3-4 start that’s put the Ravens below the .500 mark this late in a season for the first time since 2007. Baltimore is 5-0 coming off its bye week in the Harbaugh era and plays Cleveland following an off-week for the second straight season.

Losers of three straight, the Browns look much different offensively as veteran Jason Campbell is now the starting quarterback and former Raven Willis McGahee has replaced 2012 first-round pick Trent Richardson, who was traded to Indianapolis after Cleveland’s Week 2 loss to the Ravens. Unlike that game in Baltimore, explosive wide receiver Josh Gordon will be available to challenge the Ravens secondary and has caught 32 passes for 582 yards and three touchdowns in six games this season.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens lead the all-time series by an overwhelming 22-7 margin and are 10-4 in Cleveland. Despite Baltimore’s current 11-game winning streak over the Browns, three of the last four contests have been decided by eight points or less.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to climb back to the .500 mark and improve their all-time record coming off a bye week to 13-5 …

1. A new and undersized left guard isn’t going to help jump-start the Ravens running game after the bye. It’s true that Kelechi Osemele wasn’t playing at a high level, but news of him likely undergoing season-ending back surgery is bad for the rest of the season. A.Q. Shipley is giving up four inches and over 20 pounds compared to Osemele, leaving the Ravens undersized at both center and left guard. There have been whispers of Juan Castillo’s influence waning and Andy Moeller being given a bigger voice in coaching the offensive line, so it will be interesting to see how the unit looks against one of the league’s better defenses. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce appear to be healthy, but Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor will be a handful for the interior line and the front seven will keep the Ravens under 85 rushing yards for the sixth time in eight games this year.

2. With more responsibility on Joe Flacco’s shoulders, the quarterback will throw for two touchdowns and go over 275 yards. The increased use of the no-huddle offense and three wide receivers in Pittsburgh was likely a preview of what we’ll see more frequently in the second half of the year as the Ravens can’t count on the running game to suddenly make drastic improvements after averaging a league-worst 2.8 yards per carry. The bye week allowed offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to devise creative ways to get the ball to Torrey Smith while also utilizing the skills of Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, and Marlon Brown. Cleveland has struggled lately against the pass and the Ravens need Flacco to step up his performance in the second half despite several factors working against him. He’ll come through with solid but unspectacular pass protection in front of him.

3. Browns tight end Jordan Cameron will catch a touchdown pass to follow up a strong performance against the Ravens in Week 2. Baltimore didn’t have to face Gordon in Week 2 and will need to watch him closely as a deep threat, but Cameron is the more dangerous target in the red zone and had 95 receiving yards against the Ravens earlier this season. The 6-foot-5 receiver will be a difficult matchup regardless of whether a linebacker or a safety attempts to cover him, and I expect defensive coordinator Dean Pees to throw as many different coverage looks as he can at Campbell. The Browns haven’t been able to run the football all season and that won’t change on Sunday, putting the ball in Campbell’s hands and the veteran will lean on his stud tight end for much of the afternoon.

4. With Terrell Suggs locked up with Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas all day, Elvis Dumervil will star for the Ravens’ pass rush with two sacks. In Week 2, Suggs had a strong performance against Thomas, but he won’t have as much success this time around. However, Dumervil will draw frequent matchups against right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who isn’t nearly as accomplished and struggled throughout the Week 2 game. The Browns have given up 28 sacks this season while the Ravens have collected 25 in seven games. The Baltimore defense hasn’t been very dynamic in terms of creating turnovers and setting the offense up on a short field, but it has pressured quarterbacks throughout the season. Campbell was impressive in throwing for 293 yards and two touchdowns against a very tough Kansas City defense in a losing effort last week, but lighting won’t strike twice.

5. Superior efficiency in the red zone will be the difference as the Ravens find a way to win their 12th straight over Cleveland in a 20-16 final. Much like the last handful of games between these teams, scoring opportunities will be at a premium as both offenses have faced their challenges all season. The defenses are the main strengths of each team, but the Ravens rank first in red-zone defense (allowing touchdowns on 26.3 percent of red-zone trips) while the Browns rank only 30th (65.2 percent). In a close, low-scoring game that could come down to the final possession or two, the Ravens will make the big play they need while Cleveland will come up short as they have so many times in the Harbaugh era despite Baltimore appearing as vulnerable as ever for a loss to the AFC North foe on Sunday.

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Osemele likely to undergo season-ending back surgery

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Osemele likely to undergo season-ending back surgery

Posted on 01 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens left guard Kelechi Osemele discussed his chronic back problem at length prior to the bye week and it appears his 2013 season is now over.

Coach John Harbaugh announced after Friday’s practice that the second-year offensive linemen would not play against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and will likely undergo season-ending back surgery to have a disc problem corrected. Osemele’s back appeared to have worsened earlier in the week and his chances of playing the rest of the year are remote, according to the head coach.

Before officially being ruled out on Friday afternoon, Osemele had made 23 straight starts and hadn’t missed a game in his young career.

“There are some changes in his back that we discovered this week,” Harbaugh said. “He’s not going to play in this game. Going forward, I think the chances of him playing the rest of the year probably are pretty slim. There’s a good chance he’s going to get surgery here real soon. The back was just getting a little worse and a little worse as we went. We went back in and looked at it, and there’s some things that need to get taken care of there.”

Osemele practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday before being sidelined on Thursday, raising red flags regarding the status of his back. The 2012 second-round pick told reporters during the bye week that he’s dealt with the back injury since his rookie year and it had gotten worse this season, acknowledging that he would need to have surgery.

Backup center A.Q. Shipley will start at left guard against the Browns and replaced Osemele when back spasms sidelined him against the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 6. Harbaugh said 2011 third-round pick Jah Reid and rookie Rick Wagner will also be in the mix at the position.

“He’s played very well when he’s been in there,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a football player. He’s always played well whenever he plays. And there are other guys that will be in the mix. The offensive line is developing very well, and I’m excited to see how they play going forward. We’ll actually be better, I think, with a healthier player.”

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 309 pounds, Shipley is four inches shorter and 21 pounds lighter than Osemele, giving the Ravens undersized players at both the center and left guard positions. Shipley began practicing more extensively at left guard following Osemele’s spasms in Miami and expressed confidence that he will be able to handle a new position.

Shipley has never started an NFL game at left guard and he made five starts at center for the Indianapolis Colts last season before he was dealt to the Ravens this offseason for a conditional seventh-round pick.

“I’ve been ready. I’ve been preparing as a starter for something like this,” Shipley said. “That’s the nature of this business, so it’s ‘next man up.’ [Guard] is a little easier in terms of the mental aspect. I just have to listen to the center now. It’s very similar to center; I’ve just got a little more space to deal with now.”

Meanwhile, Reid has been inactive for all but one game this season, but the third-year lineman has more experience at the position. After former Ravens Ramon Harewood and Bobbie Williams were given opportunities at left guard, Reid started seven games before a toe injury ended his 2012 season and paved the way for Osemele to move from right tackle to left guard for the postseason.

Other than Osemele, the Ravens appear to be in good shape from a health standpoint as all other members of the 53-man roster were present and working during Friday’s practice.

Veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game and practiced on a limited basis all week. Five others were listed as probable, including right tackle Michael Oher (ankle) and linebacker Josh Bynes (finger).

For the Browns, starting running back Willis McGahee (knee) was a full participant on Friday and is listed as probable to play against his former team.

Scott Green will be the referee for Sunday’s game in Cleveland. Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the mid-40s with a 30 percent chance of rain but most of the precipitation coming in the morning.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Kelechi Osemele (back/knee)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)
PROBABLE: LB Josh Bynes (finger/thigh), DT Terrence Cody (knee), C Ryan Jensen (foot), T Michael Oher (ankle), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)

CLEVELAND
QUESTIONABLE: LB Quentin Groves (ankle), DL Billy Winn (Quad)
PROBABLE: DL Desmond Bryant (thumb), RB Willis McGahee (knee), RB Chris Ogbonnaya (ribs), DB Chris Owens (finger), LB Jabaal Sheard (wrist)

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Assessing the Ravens’ offseason veteran additions

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Assessing the Ravens’ offseason veteran additions

Posted on 24 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

At 3-4 and below the .500 mark this late in a season for the first time in the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens face an uphill battle in advancing to the postseason for the sixth straight season.

Clearly at a crossroads as the first defending Super Bowl champion since the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers to hold a losing record after seven games, the Ravens made a number of offseason additions to reload a roster that dealt with free-agent departures, salary-cap casualties, and retirees. It’s time to revisit those moves to see how they’ve worked — or haven’t worked — as the Ravens try to regroup during their bye week.

Grades are included for free-agent signings and trade additions made prior to the start of training camp with the players listed in the order in which they were acquired. Contract terms are listed in parentheses for free-agent additions.

DE Chris Canty (three years, $8 million)
Grade: C+
Skinny: The Ravens needed a 5-technique defensive end and Canty has been solid, but he hasn’t offered as much as a pass rusher as the team would have hoped. Canty is fourth on the team with two sacks, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees has often replaced him with Arthur Jones in the nickel package for improved run support. 

DT Marcus Spears (two years, $2.75 million)
Grade: C-
Skinny: Hamstring and knee injuries have hampered the veteran defensive lineman, but Spears has offered very little when he’s been part of the defensive line rotation and has little pass-rush ability. It would be easy to envision rookie Brandon Williams wrestling away some of Spears’ snaps  in the second half of the season. 

LB Elvis Dumervil (five years, $26 million)
Grade: B+
Skinny: The three-time Pro Bowl selection has been more of a situational player with the run-stopping presence of Courtney Upshaw, but Dumervil has 27 quarterback pressures and is the league’s sixth-most efficient pass rusher, according to Pro Football Focus. He had a miserable day in Pittsburgh, but Dumervil has been the bookend pass rusher Terrell Suggs needed and an upgrade over former Raven Paul Kruger for a cheaper price.

S Michael Huff (three years, $6 million)
Grade: F
Skinny: Huff was benched after a disastrous performance in the season opener against Denver, forcing the Ravens to essentially go with two strong safeties in the secondary with James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam. The former Raider hasn’t taken a defensive snap since Week 4 and has brought very little to special teams, making it possible that he doesn’t even make it through the rest of the season before being cut. 

OT Bryant McKinnie (two years, $6.3 million)
Grade: D
Skinny: Though McKinnie was technically re-signed, he spent almost two months on the open market as general manager Ozzie Newsome explored other options at left tackle before inking him in early May. McKinnie wasn’t the biggest problem along the offensive line before the Ravens acquired Eugene Monroe, but the 34-year-old wasn’t motivated to play at a high level after winning a Super Bowl and receiving a $2 million signing bonus, making his signing a clear mistake as he was dealt to Miami for a conditional late-round pick earlier this week.

C A.Q. Shipley (acquired for 2014 conditional draft pick)
Grade: D+
Skinny: Expectations weren’t very high for the former Indianapolis Colt, but it’s telling that Shipley hasn’t been able to unseat the struggling Gino Gradkowski at the center position. Shipley is undersized and is not a great option as a backup interior lineman, so it will be interesting to see if rookie Ryan Jensen leapfrogs him on the depth chart in the second half since he’s recovered from a broken foot suffered in the first week of training camp.

LB Daryl Smith (one year, $1.125 million)
Grade: A
Skinny: Not only did Smith make most people forget the embarrassing decision to sign troubled linebacker Rolando McClain, but he’s easily been the best bargain of the offseason as his signing was an afterthought that came on the same day the Super Bowl champions visited the White House. His two interceptions lead the team and he’s made everyone forget about the serious concerns that existed at inside linebacker during the offseason. Smith isn’t Ray Lewis, but he’s been as solid as a rock in the middle of the defense.

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Osemele sidelined with back spasms early in first half

Posted on 07 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

A Ravens offensive line already struggling through the first quarter of the season played a man down for much of their 26-23 win over the Dolphins on Sunday as left guard Kelechi Osemele was sidelined with back spasms.

Osemele played in the Ravens’ opening offensive series before being removed for the remainder of the game. The team did not announce an injury for Osemele during the contest, but coach John Harbaugh offered clarity on his status following the win at Sun Life Stadium.

“He was tightened up in pre-game and we tried to get him in the game,” Harbaugh said. “We had already set the 46-man roster. He went the first series. He couldn’t go, and that’s why we made the change to A.Q. Shipley.”

The injury left the Ravens with just one healthy reserve lineman — rookie tackle Rick Wagner — as newly-acquired left tackle Eugene Monroe and third-year lineman Jah Reid were among the inactives in Week 5.

The Ravens were also shorthanded at the wide receiver position as both Jacoby Jones (knee) and Marlon Brown (hamstring) were out with injuries. This meant there were only three healthy wide receivers available: Torrey Smith, Tandon Doss, and Deonte Thompson.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb played on Sunday without experiencing a setback with the hamstring strain suffered in last week’s loss at Buffalo.

Beyond Osemele, there were no other new injuries reported by the Ravens following Sunday’s win.

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Mixed bag to be expected in Ravens’ preseason opener

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Mixed bag to be expected in Ravens’ preseason opener

Posted on 08 August 2013 by Luke Jones

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The Ravens’ preseason-opening 44-16 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers provided much of what you’d you expect to see in the first exhibition game of the summer.

Some good, some bad, and much unanswered from the starting units with almost a month of preparation remaining until the start of the regular season. We did learn that the Baltimore backups were far superior to the Buccaneers’ reserves, but that’s not the type of information that will offer much for the Ravens’ aspirations to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

A revamped defense showed versatility and strong play from veteran newcomers such as inside linebacker Daryl Smith (five tackles) and defensive end Chris Canty (a sack on the opening series) but also featured communication breakdowns in the secondary that led to a few big plays surrendered in the passing game, including a 61-yard completion to tight end Tom Crabtree to end the first quarter. With so many new pieces in place, it will take time to for Dean Pees’ unit to get on the same page, but the front seven looks quite formidable on paper, especially with healthier versions of Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata in the mix.

The addition of Smith has eased concerns over the status of Jameel McClain as the former Jacksonville Jaguar carried over a strong start in training camp to Thursday night, showing a good nose for the ball and solid ability in pass coverage. He cemented his status as the overwhelming favorite to call the signals for the Baltimore defense in Denver on Sept. 5.

Canty played exactly how the Ravens hope he will this season as a 5-technique defensive end, holding his ground against the running game and showing a good burst as a pass rusher on the opening series of the game when he sacked Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman on third down.

Offensively, the pass protection held up well enough aside from blitzing linebacker Lavonte David coming untouched to sack quarterback Joe Flacco on the Ravens’ first offensive series. Two plays later, Flacco forced a pass attempt to wide receiver Jacoby Jones that was picked off by former Baltimore defensive back Danny Gorrer.

Center Gino Gradkowski made the start over former Indianapolis Colt A.Q. Shipley and appeared to play solidly with a starting offensive line sans Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, who continues to work his way back from offseason shoulder surgery.

It wasn’t an impressive debut for the wide receivers as Flacco turned to running backs Ray Rice, Vonta Leach, and Bernard Pierce more frequently in his two series of work. Torrey Smith was the only wide receiver to register a catch — making two receptions for 16 yards — with the starting quarterback in the game. Jones, Tandon Doss, and Deonte Thompson were targeted five times Thursday night and recorded just one combined reception with a couple drops mixed in there as well.

While those three have received the most attention in the much-discussed battle for the second and third receiver spots, the standout receiver of the night was LaQuan Williams, who made a tough 21-yard touchdown catch early in the second half after recovering two fumbles as a special-teams performer in the second quarter, one of them in the end zone for a touchdown late in the first half. A forgotten man after finishing last season on injured reserve, Williams may have earned himself a few more reps with the starting offense after Thursday’s outing and was in the mix as a wide receiver as a rookie in 2011.

Needless to say, the voids left behind by Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin were apparent, but the Ravens are fully aware that Flacco will need time to develop chemistry with a new batch of targets. And that doesn’t mean a veteran addition won’t become a reality at some point between now and September.

Above all, the special teams shined as Justin Tucker connected on all three of his field goal tries, Brynden Trawick blocked the punt recovered by Williams in the end zone, and Bobby Rainey had a 58-yard kickoff return. With only a handful of spots on the 53-man roster realistically up for grabs, this is where coach John Harbaugh wants to see younger players excel and Jerry Rosburg’s units did not disappoint.

Truthfully, the final score doesn’t offer an accurate picture of how the starters performed as the Ravens trailed 6-0 early in the second quarter when most key starters had already begun exiting the game. Flacco finished his night 7-for-9 for 57 yards and an interception as he couldn’t find open receivers down the field and the defense did plenty of bending without breaking after giving up some big plays in the first half.

It’s important not to overreact to any one player’s performance in one practice game, but backups such as Williams, outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton (a sack and an additional quarterback hit), and cornerback Asa Jackson (an interception) made strong statements for roster consideration with their performances Thursday night. Often criticized by portions of the fan base for not being good enough to be the backup quarterback, Tyrod Taylor threw two touchdown passes and showed an increased willingness to stay in the pocket, attempting 23 passes and just five runs in his extended period of work.

A preseason win is better than a preseason loss, of course, but we knew no questions would be resolved following Thursday’s tilt with the Buccaneers.

The wide receiver position remains a mystery, which would have been the case regardless of how Jones, Doss, and Thompson performed.

Gradkowski appears to be the current favorite to be the starting center, but Shipley will still receive his opportunities.

The inside linebacker position appears to be looking clearer with the strong play of the veteran Smith, but Josh Bynes and Arthur Brown will continue to fight it out for the starting weakside inside linebacker spot next to Smith.

Rookie Matt Elam is still chasing veteran James Ihedigbo for the starting strong safety spot but showed the same physicality that impressed scouts and coaches after watching his tape from his days at the University of Florida.

But perhaps the biggest takeaway from Thursday’s game was the aftermath of Moe Lee’s fourth-quarter interception in which the rookie foolishly tried to lateral the ball as he was going to the ground. Though former Ravens safety Ed Reed may have been smiling somewhere if he caught a glimpse of that play, the coaching staff certainly wasn’t amused.

However, it wasn’t Harbaugh or his assistants who ran to correct the rookie defensive back as the veteran Suggs calmly walked onto the field and explained to Lee why that wasn’t a smart play. It was the kind of defensive leadership the Ravens need following the retirement of Ray Lewis and the free-agent departure of Reed.

Yes, it was only one example of what you’re hoping to see from the 30-year-old linebacker and longest-tenured Raven, but a snapshot is all a preseason game is really worth in the scope of the entire summer.

And looking into the photo that was Thursday night, there was good and bad to take back to the practice field over the next week and beyond.

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