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How did Ravens safeties stack up to rest of NFL in 2017?

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens failed to make the postseason for the fourth time in five years, but where exactly did their players stack up across the NFL in 2017?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl or picking postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few put in the necessary time and effort to watch every player on every team extensively enough to develop any kind of an authoritative opinion.

Truthfully, how many times did you closely watch the offensive line of the Los Angeles Chargers this season? What about the Detroit Lions linebackers or the Miami Dolphins cornerbacks?

That’s why I can appreciate projects such as Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 and the grading efforts of Pro Football Focus. Of course, neither should be viewed as the gospel of evaluation and each is subjective, but I respect the exhaustive effort to grade players across the league when so many of us watch only one team or one division on any kind of a consistent basis. It’s important to note that the following PFF rankings are where the player stood at the conclusion of the regular season.

Below is a look at where Ravens safeties ranked across the league, according to those outlets:

Running backs
Defensive linemen
Tight ends
Wide receivers
Inside linebackers
Offensive linemen

Eric Weddle
2017 defensive snap count: 1,085
NFL1000 ranking: 12th among free safeties
PFF ranking: tied for 26th among safeties
Skinny: The 33-year-old went to the Pro Bowl and was tied for third in the NFL in interceptions, but he wasn’t quite as consistent as he was in 2016 and had issues playing the run. Weddle has stabilized a secondary that had sorely lacked leadership, but his salary cap number rises to $8.25 million in 2018.

Tony Jefferson
2017 defensive snap count: 1,085
NFL1000 ranking: 15th among strong safeties
PFF ranking: tied for 26th among safeties
Skinny: Jefferson received $19 million guaranteed to be a difference-making force at safety, but he was too ordinary, struggling in coverage and rarely making splash plays. The Ravens wisely began deploying him closer to the line of scrimmage as the season progressed, but they still need much more from him.

Anthony Levine
2017 defensive snap count: 262
NFL1000 ranking: n/a
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The veteran special-teams standout was one of the defense’s unsung heroes, blitzing effectively and playing good coverage from the dime position. With the Ravens having no clear long-term solution at inside linebacker next to C.J. Mosley, the dime package should be used as much as possible.

Chuck Clark
2017 defensive snap count: 59
NFL1000 ranking: n/a
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The sixth-round rookie played sparingly, but he showed some promise at the dime spot and looks like a solid backup option for the 2018 season. Clark was a strong contributor on special teams and looks like a good find as a late-round draft pick from Virginia Tech.


2018 positional outlook

This position appears to be in solid shape for now, but Weddle and Jefferson are scheduled to combine for a $17.24 million cap number for 2018, making it fair to question whether the Ravens are getting enough bang for the buck. There’s reason for Jefferson to improve since he’s only 26, but that isn’t exactly what the Ravens had in mind when they gave him big money that would have been better spent on the offensive side of the ball last offseason. Weddle brings needed intangibles to the secondary, but you hope his range holds up for another year and his tackling bounces back to 2016 levels. The safety position really epitomizes the frustration of the post-Super Bowl XLVII Ravens as the organization unsuccessfully used early draft picks (Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks) and wasted too many free-agent dollars (Michael Huff, Darian Stewart, and Kendrick Lewis) before getting to this expensive point.

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Maclin listed as doubtful to play against Indianapolis

Posted on 21 December 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are expected to be without one of their starting receivers against Indianapolis on Saturday as Jeremy Maclin has been designated as doubtful to play.

The veteran missed practices all week after suffering a left knee injury in the first quarter of last Sunday’s win at Cleveland. Maclin underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam earlier this week, but there have been few details about the injury or his progress beyond head coach John Harbaugh saying Monday that he hadn’t sustained a season-ending injury.

“I think he’s doing OK. I don’t know,” said Harbaugh hours before the final injury report was released. “We’ll just have to talk to him and talk to [head athletic trainer Mark Smith]. That’s kind of day to day at this point in time right up until the game, really. It could be even a game-time decision.

“I’ll know more probably by the end of this afternoon through his rehab today — whether he’s been able to run and things like that.”

Harbaugh left open the possibility of the Ravens promoting a wide receiver from the practice squad with rookie Quincy Adeboyejo being the most logical candidate. Baltimore would need to make a roster decision by 4 p.m. on Friday, however.

Defensive end Carl Davis (shoulder), cornerback Maurice Canady (knee), and defensive back Anthony Levine (thigh) are all listed as questionable, but each practiced all week on at least a limited basis, leaving little doubt about their availability against the Colts. Davis and Canady were upgraded to full participation for Friday’s practice while Levine remained limited.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is officially listed as questionable for Week 16 after missing Friday’s practice with an illness, a day after outside linebacker Matthew Judon was limited due to being under the weather. The 2016 first-round pick’s status is not expected to be in any jeopardy, however.

Harbaugh said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was also sick Friday, but he was still on the practice field. The head coach was asked if the quirky assistant would be listed as a limited participant on the injury report.

“He is normally limited in different ways,” said Harbaugh, drawing laughter from reporters. “I’ll mention that to Ronnie though. Marty sucked it up and got out there.”

The Colts officially ruled out four players for Saturday’s game, a list that includes starting wide receiver Donte Moncrief (ankle), starting right tackle Denzelle Good (knee), and former Ravens cornerback Rashaan Melvin (hand).

According to Weather.com, the Saturday forecast calls for light rain and temperatures in the high 50s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and a 70-percent chance of precipitation.

On Friday, tight end Benjamin Watson was named the Ravens’ recipient of the 2017 Ed Block Courage Award. The 37-year-old leads the team with 49 receptions and is third in receiving yards after missing the entire 2016 season with a torn Achilles tendon sustained in the preseason.

“It’s one of the top awards in the National Football League,” Harbaugh said. “Overcoming adversity, dealing with the injury part of it and those kinds of things. He’s obviously done a tremendous job with the Achilles [recovery]. The way he’s playing right now, I think it speaks volumes. The fact that your peers — the players — vote for that award is quite a telling thing. Congratulations to Ben on that.”

Below is the final injury report of the week:

DOUBTFUL: WR Jeremy Maclin (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Maurice Canady (knee), DT Carl Davis (shoulder), DB Anthony Levine (thigh), OT Ronnie Stanley (illness)

OUT: RT Denzelle Good (knee), CB Rashaan Melvin (hand), WR Donte Moncrief (ankle), TE Jason Vander Laan (concussion), TE Brandon Williams (concussion)

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Maclin remains only Ravens player absent from practice

Posted on 20 December 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Jeremy Maclin’s status remains in doubt as the Ravens move closer to their Week 16 meeting with Indianapolis.

The veteran wide receiver missed his second straight practice as Baltimore worked outside without pads on Wednesday afternoon. Maclin injured his left knee in the first quarter of last Sunday’s win in Cleveland and underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam earlier this week. On Monday, head coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal about Maclin’s status against the Colts, saying only that his injury was not of the season-ending variety.

His potential absence would likely mean second-year wideout Chris Moore would start opposite Mike Wallace in the base offense. The Ravens could also give more opportunities to Michael Campanaro and Breshad Perriman and could even go a step further by promoting rookie wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo from the practice squad if they so choose.

“I’m hoping with Jeremy, [it’s] day-to-day,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “Chris Moore has done a fine job, and we have talked about him before. He did a good job the other day, and we can do even more. We left stuff out there, too. We can do even better. It is the same with some of the young players, and [Campanaro] has done a good job all season long as well. We feel comfortable that they can do the job at a high level.”

Defensive end Carl Davis (shoulder), cornerback Maurice Canady (knee), and defensive back Anthony Levine (thigh) were limited participants for the second straight day. There was uncertainty regarding Davis’ status after he underwent an MRI earlier in the week, but his participation is an encouraging sign for his availability for Saturday’s game.

Outside linebacker Matthew Judon (illness) was added to Wednesday’s injury report as limited.

The Colts sat out five players during their workout.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Jeremy Maclin (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Maurice Canady (knee), DT Carl Davis (shoulder), LB Matt Judon (illness), DB Anthony Levine (thigh)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OL Denzelle Good (knee), RB Frank Gore (rest), DT Johnathan Hankins (shoulder), WR Donte Moncrief (ankle), TE Brandon Williams (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Darrell Daniels (hamstring), CB Nate Hairston (concussion), LB Jeremiah George (neck)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 39-38 loss to Pittsburgh

Posted on 12 December 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens falling in heartbreaking fashion in a 39-38 loss at Pittsburgh, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The final outcome hurt, but the highest-scoring Ravens-Steelers game we’ve ever seen was as entertaining as it gets and again cemented this rivalry as the best in the NFL. There’s no reason for John Harbaugh’s team to fear a third meeting if that’s how it plays out.

2. Yes, you must vary coverage looks, but leaving Brandon Carr on an island against arguably the league’s MVP with the game on the line while deep safety Tony Jefferson was more concerned with Martavis Bryant down the seam is indefensible. It was bad play-calling, bad execution, or both.

3. Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass 69 times and was sacked only three times and not picked once despite a couple of interceptable throws. The failure to generate pressure with a four-man rush and shortcomings in man coverage make for a deadly combination against an elite passing game.

4. Alex Collins gained 95 of his 120 rushing yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s been a godsend and won’t even become a restricted free agent until after next season, which is great news for an offense needing more skill-position talent. Keep feeding him the ball.

5. The interception that likely took three points off the board on the opening drive was brutal, but Joe Flacco followed his best performance of the season last week with another solid outing. I’ll take my chances if he can play more like this the rest of the way.

6. C.J. Mosley has had challenges in coverage in the past, but he was eaten alive and showed no explosiveness as Pittsburgh’s pedestrian tight ends feasted in the middle of the field. Injuries are taking their toll on him, and that has to be a concern the rest of the way.

7. On the flip side, Baltimore tight ends combined for one catch for one yard despite Benjamin Watson, Nick Boyle, and Maxx Williams playing a combined 107 snaps. The Ravens desperately need to find some speed at this position in the offseason.

8. The absence of Za’Darius Smith hasn’t been discussed much, but he’s normally part of the interior-rush rotation in sub packages and Chris Wormley was trusted to play just two snaps, leaving Brandon Williams and Willie Henry to play over 60 each. No wonder there wasn’t any inside pressure.

9. Jeremy Maclin has eight catches on 24 targets over the last three games as his rapport with Flacco has gone the wrong way since the bye. Harbaugh’s lack of an answer when asked about this was telling. Maclin has been much more T.J. Houshmandzadeh than Steve Smith, a clear disappointment.

10. The emergence of Chris Moore has been encouraging as the special-teams standout had his best game as a pro with an impressive concentration catch for a 30-yard touchdown. You hope a hip injury doesn’t halt that momentum since the Ravens need all the help they can get at wide receiver.

11. Anthony Levine being able to tackle Bryant in the end zone on a third-quarter kickoff sure would have been an interesting variable to throw into the mix of a classic one-point game. It was just one of several plays after which the Ravens had to be asking, “What if?”

12. We know rules are catered toward offense, but some of the pass interference flags on both sides couldn’t have been more ticky-tack calls. That offers some context to these teams combining for 77 points and 747 net passing yards.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 30-17 win over Oakland

Posted on 10 October 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens snapping their two-game losing streak with a 30-17 win over Oakland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It was encouraging seeing an aggressive offense effective in pass protection from the beginning of the game, but these aren’t exactly novel concepts outsiders have only recently been clamoring for. The Ravens need to continue that to prove it wasn’t simply an aberration.

2. Mike Wallace made up for his drop on a deep throw last week with two receptions of over 50 yards, one on the game’s first play. It’s criminal when the Ravens don’t throw at least a couple deep balls his way trying to draw pass interference at the very least.

3. After being inactive the first two weeks and not playing a single snap as a rookie, Willie Henry may have been Baltimore’s best defensive player on Sunday. He’s batted down four passes at the line of scrimmage over the last two weeks and is playing strong inside.

4. It’s apparent that Patrick Onwuasor has seized control of the weak-side inside linebacker job after Kamalei Correa played only one defensive snap. Onwuasor’s aggressiveness and physicality were apparent from his very first training camp, and he forced the fumble that Jimmy Smith returned for a touchdown.

5. In Terrance West’s absence, Buck Allen and Alex Collins combined for 140 total yards and a touchdown. Allen is becoming a trustworthy contributor while Collins averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 12 attempts without a fumble and effectively used Tiki Barber’s old high-and-tight grip on the football.

6. The run defense tightened up in the second half, but the Ravens still surrendered 4.3 yards per carry against an underwhelming Oakland ground game. Baltimore ranks 23rd in rushing yards per game allowed and 20th at 4.3 yards per carry. Brandon Williams or not, that needs to get better.

7. After an underwhelming start to the season, Matt Judon played well against Oakland, effectively defending two passes and finishing with four tackles. The Ravens need more consistency from their outside linebackers, and that was a step in the right direction.

8. You had to feel good for the rarely-used Vince Mayle scoring a touchdown to finish off the opening drive. John Harbaugh describes Mayle as “a serious dude” who was all smiles getting his moment in the spotlight after playing only three offensive snaps over the first four games.

9. With the Ravens struggling to generate pressure from a standard four-man rush, Dean Pees used the dime package to unleash Tony Jefferson and Anthony Levine for drive-killing sacks. I’ll continue to believe Jefferon’s skill set is best used playing close to the line of scrimmage as often as possible.

10. Kudos to Las Vegas native Ronnie Stanley for donating $26,000 to shooting victims and their families based on his strong performance against Oakland. He’s really starting to come on after a slow start to the season.

11. Remember how seemingly every Ravens game the last few years was decided by a single possession? All five of their contests in 2017 have been decided by double digits after 26 of their previous 32 games were single-score affairs.

12. As mercurial as their performances have been from week to week, the Ravens now face four straight opponents currently sporting murky quarterback situations. If they want to be taken seriously as a playoff contender, a 6-3 record entering the bye is a very reasonable expectation.

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Ravens officially rule out Brandon Williams, three others for Sunday

Posted on 22 September 2017 by Luke Jones

LONDON — Already facing the challenge of replacing six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda for the remainder of the season, the Ravens will also be without their best defensive lineman in London.

After missing practices in Owings Mills this week with a foot injury, defensive tackle Brandon Williams did not make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean and was officially ruled out for Sunday’s contest against Jacksonville. The absence of Williams presents a bigger challenge against a Jaguars offense committed to running the ball with first-round rookie Leonard Fournette and veteran Chris Ivory.

Third-year defensive tackle Carl Davis is expected to start in Williams’ place at Wembley Stadium. In 13 snaps against Cleveland in Week 2, the 2015 third-round pick from Iowa finished with two tackles.

“Carl is going to have to step up,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Thursday. “We played him a little bit last week, and we thought he did a pretty good job against the run. He had a nice tackle for loss down there in the backed-up area.”

The Ravens also ruled out tight end Maxx Williams (ankle), cornerback Jaylen Hill (thigh), and recently-signed offensive tackle Dieugot Joseph (non-injury related) for Sunday’s game, leaving them with just three other players to deactivate for Week 3. Maxx Williams injured his left ankle late in last Sunday’s win over the Browns and exited the post-game locker room wearing a walking boot.

In more encouraging news, running back Terrance West (calf) returned to practice as a full participant Friday after missing the first two practices of the week. The starter received only two carries in the second half of the Browns game and is officially listed as questionable to play on Sunday, but his participation level in the final workout of the week would appear to bode well for his status.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (knee/ankle) was also listed as questionable, but he is poised to return to action after practicing fully all week. He did not play in Week 2 after injuring his leg early in the second quarter of the season opener on Sept. 10.

The Jaguars officially ruled out recently-acquired wide receiver Jaelen Strong with a hamstring injury while 2016 first-round cornerback Jalen Ramsey (ankle) was designated as questionable. The latter is expected to play, however.

Sunday’s forecast at Wembley Stadium calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures reaching the low 70s and only a 10 percent chance of precipitation, according to Weather.com.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

OUT: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), OT Dieugot Joseph (non-injury), DT Brandon Williams (foot), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Michael Campanaro (ankle), DB Anthony Levine (chest), WR Chris Matthews (ankle), LB Za’Darius Smith (knee/ankle), RB Terrance West (calf)

OUT: WR Jaelen Strong (hamstring), LB Lerentee McCray (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: QB Chad Henne (illness), CB Jalen Ramsey (ankle), OL Cam Robinson (shoulder)

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Za’Darius Smith returns to practice as Ravens set sights on London

Posted on 21 September 2017 by Luke Jones

LONDON — On the eve of their departure for London, the Ravens welcomed back a member of their pass rush as Za’Darius Smith was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.

The third-year outside linebacker missed the Week 2 victory over Cleveland after injuring his knee and ankle in the first half of the season opener. It now appears he’ll return for Sunday’s game against rookie running back Leonard Fournette and the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium.

Smith’s return was overshadowed by the absences of five other players, a list headlined by star defensive tackle Brandon Williams as he continues to recover from a foot injury. Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Williams is not dealing with a “long-term” injury, but it remains unclear when he will return to action.

Baltimore’s depth in the trenches does ease concerns over Williams’ absence as three defensive linemen — Bronson Kaufusi, Willie Henry, and Chris Wormley — have been healthy scratches for the first two games of the 2017 season. With Williams missing the second half of the Browns game, third-year defensive tackle Carl Davis saw 13 snaps in the 24-10 win.

“Those guys want to play, and they are fighting like crazy in practice,” Harbaugh said. “It makes our practices better. We have young players that need to get better, and when they get their chance, they need to play well. Carl stepped up and played well last game. We’ll see what happens.”

Running back Terrance West (calf), wide receiver Michael Campanaro (ankle), tight end Maxx Williams (ankle), and cornerback Jaylen Hill (thigh) were also listed as non-participants in Wednesday’s practice. West received only two carries in the second half of the Cleveland game, leading to more opportunities for backup Buck Allen and the recently-promoted Alex Collins.

Offensive linemen Matt Skura and Dieugot Joseph both took part in practice after being added to the 53-man roster Tuesday to take the places of six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda (ankle) and rookie linebacker Bam Bradley (knee), who were both placed on injured reserve. Skura started all four preseason games for the Ravens before being waived at the end of the summer and signed to the practice squad while Joseph had been a member of Chicago’s developmental squad.

The Ravens were scheduled to fly to London following Thursday afternoon’s practice. Harbaugh said the organization is basically following what other teams have done in their trips across the Atlantic Ocean in recent years. The biggest challenge will be adjusting to the five-hour time change just two days ahead of their meeting with the Jaguars, a team the Ravens are facing for the fourth consecutive season.

Jacksonville is also playing a game at Wembley Stadium for the fifth consecutive season.

“I do not know if any teams lately have gone over the whole week [based on] our research that [team president] Dick Cass did,” Harbaugh said. “Dick really spearheaded this for us. He was out in front of this and did the homework on it and came up with the basic format for what we are doing and did a great job with it.”

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (ankle), CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), RB Terrance West (calf), DT Brandon Williams (foot), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Anthony Levine (chest)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Za’Darius Smith (knee/ankle)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Tashaun Gipson (ankle), LB Lerentee McCray (knee), C Brandon Linder (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Jaelen Strong (hamstring), CB Jalen Ramsey (ankle), DT Malik Jackson (groin)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Blake Bortles (right wrist), WR Allen Hurns (shoulder)

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Breaking down the 2017 Ravens’ initial 53-man roster

Posted on 02 September 2017 by Luke Jones

A year after the Ravens surprisingly released veteran running back Justin Forsett on final cut-down day, there were no real surprises in the formulation of the first 53-man roster for the 2017 season.

The acquisitions of reserve offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko likely pushed veteran Jeremy Zuttah and former practice-squad member Matt Skura off the roster, but cornerback Robertson Daniel and linebacker Brennen Beyer were the only other players from last year’s team not to survive Saturday’s final cuts and neither saw meaningful action in 2016.

More roster changes are inevitable in the coming days as Baltimore has already made two trades to augment its offensive line depth and could look for another running back or a veteran inside linebacker. General manager Ozzie Newsome should have another roster spot to play with once cornerback Maurice Canady is placed on injured reserve as expected. Still recovering from knee surgery, Canady needed to be on the initial 53-man roster to remain eligible for a designation to return later in the season.

The Ravens will certainly scan the open market for potential additions to enhance the roster that’s already been assembled as hundreds of players hit the waiver wire on Saturday. Beginning Sunday, they will also put together a 10-man practice squad with a number of Baltimore players who were cut over the weekend potentially returning to the organization.

Below are some early impressions of the 53-man roster as it stood on Saturday evening:

QUARTERBACKS (2) — Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
Analysis: The Ravens and their fans will continue to hold their breath until Flacco stays on the field and shows his back is no longer a concern after he was sidelined for the entire summer. However, the fact that there are only two quarterbacks on the roster leads you to believe the organization is confident that Flacco is truly healthy and ready to go. At the very least, you’d expect the Ravens to re-sign Josh Woodrum or another quarterback to the practice squad for some extra depth.

RUNNING BACKS (3) — Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
Analysis: This group lost much of its upside after Kenneth Dixon suffered a season-ending knee injury right before training camp, but the unrest on the offensive line this summer made it difficult to evaluate the backs. Woodhead figures to be a major part of the passing game if healthy, but how well West fares as the No. 1 back will depend on how effectively the line gels. This is a position the Ravens should explore upgrading, especially if they can find a back possessing some return skills.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5) — Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore
Analysis: The competition among a batch of young receivers on the preseason roster never really materialized as Moore, a 2016 fourth-round pick, did little to distinguish himself and still landed on the roster. The major question will be how quickly Flacco can build a rapport with Maclin, who didn’t sign with the Ravens until the week of mandatory minicamp in mid-June. It’s difficult to identify a trustworthy red-zone threat in this group, but that’s been a problem for this offense for years. 

TIGHT ENDS (4) — Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle
Analysis: Few would have guessed Mayle would be one of four tight ends on the roster when there were questions months ago about how the Ravens would pick among six viable options. The losses of Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, and Darren Waller subtracted production, physicality, and upside from the equation, but Boyle has been solid and Watson and Williams are healthy. It remains to be seen whether the Ravens will get enough production from these tight ends as blockers or receivers.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8) — Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor, Tony Bergstrom, Luke Bowanko
Analysis: The Ravens finally have their projected starting offensive line on the practice field, but there are plenty of questions beyond Yanda and Stanley. Newsome attempted to address the depth by making two trades, but neither Bergstrom nor Bowanko are established commodities. Beyond taking a leap of faith that Greg Roman’s blocking schemes will work their magic, there isn’t a ton to love about this group on paper, which is unsettling when your quarterback is just returning from a back injury.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8) — Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
Analysis: Eight defensive linemen in a 3-4 base system are too many, but the Ravens are smart not wanting to lose a talented defensive lineman just to keep an inferior player elsewhere. You would think the organization will attempt to use its defensive line depth to potentially acquire talent at another position of need or will eventually try to stash one with a injury. Of course, don’t dismiss the possibility of Ricard being used more as a fullback and blocking tight end to help justify the high number here.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4) — C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
Analysis: Correa hasn’t seized control of the starting job next to Mosley, leaving the door open for Onwuasor or even Bradley to potentially push him for playing time further into the season. The loss of special-teams standout Albert McClellan really hurts their depth as he could play any of the four linebacker positions, a valuable asset on Sundays with only 46 players active. Bradley earned his job with a strong summer, but a veteran addition to compete with Correa would ease some concerns.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5) — Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
Analysis: Entering his 15th year, Suggs remains the soul of the defense and is still an above-average three-down outside linebacker, but you have to be intrigued with the young talent and depth here. Judon and Bowser have battled for the starting “Sam” linebacker spot with both looking like viable options while Za’Darius Smith solidified his roster standing as a situational rusher. Williams is raw, but he has shown impressive potential as a pure rush specialist, something this defense needs.

CORNERBACKS (6) — Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
Analysis: The Ravens haven’t had this kind of outside corner depth in a long time with Humphrey likely to push the veteran Carr for his starting spot at some point in 2017. Tavon Young’s spring knee injury was a blow to the nickel spot, but the undrafted Hill may have been the best story of the summer after only receiving a tryout during rookie camp weekend. With safeties Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine expected to play the nickel and dime spots, respectively, five cornerbacks are likely enough.

SAFETIES (5) — Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark
Analysis: The depth here is strong after Jefferson was signed to a lucrative deal to be a major factor against the run and in covering tight ends. There is plenty of room for defensive coordinator Dean Pees to be creative in the secondary with Webb and Levine having so much versatility. The rookie Clark will likely be more of a special-teams contributor than anything else, but the Ravens needed another safety with their primary backups projected to be so involved in sub packages.

SPECIALISTS (3) — Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
Analysis: This trio enters its sixth consecutive season together. That continuity is just one reason why these three are so tremendous at what they do.

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Safeties

Posted on 25 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning this week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Defensive line
Running backs
Wide receivers
Tight ends


Projected depth chart:
FS – Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Otha Foster
SS – Tony Jefferson, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark

Why to be impressed: Weddle was the NFL’s highest-graded safety in the Pro Football Focus rankings while veteran newcomer Jefferson ranked fifth, giving the Ravens one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. The depth is also strong at this position as Webb was re-signed to a team-friendly deal and Levine, a special-teams standout, has the ability to play safety or cornerback in a pinch on game days.

Why to be concerned: The Ravens have invested a significant long-term contract in a safety in each of the last two offseasons, but neither Weddle nor Jefferson fits the mold of a ball-hawking safety. And though Weddle has shown good durability throughout his career, two of Baltimore’s top three safeties — Webb being the other — are over the age of 30.

2017 outlook: The Ravens will be looking for Jefferson to make a major impact, and much of that will depend on how he’s used as he’s particularly skilled playing the run and covering tight ends. Weddle’s cerebral presence last year immediately cleaned up the communication issues that had plagued the secondary in previous seasons, and his value stretches beyond his strong on-field production.

Prediction: The Ravens will send a safety to the Pro Bowl for the second straight season as Jefferson will receive the nod playing in a town where the defense receives much of the attention.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts after first wave of free agency

Posted on 14 March 2017 by Luke Jones

With the first wave of NFL free agency in the rear-view mirror, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts on the Ravens, each in 50 words or less:

1. Some may scoff at the emotion shown by Brandon Williams after signing a five-year, $52.5 million contract, but his right to maximize his earnings doesn’t mean staying in Baltimore wasn’t important to him. You could also see how happy general manager Ozzie Newsome was during Monday’s press conference.

2. Kudos to Williams for paying tribute to the late Clarence Brooks for his impact on the nose tackle’s career. The 28-year-old said the longtime defensive line coach saw everything that he could be and envisioned this happening for him one day. Brooks is definitely missed.

3. The addition of Tony Jefferson could really help in trying to replace linebacker Zach Orr. If the Ravens add a complementary third safety, defensive coordinator Dean Pees could use Jefferson as a dime in passing situations and minimize the need for a three-down linebacker, which is more difficult to find.

4. Major investments have been made in the defense, but you hope Newsome has more than couch change to address a Ravens offense that was summarily broken in 2016 and has lost key pieces. The hiring of Greg Roman will help the running game, but that only goes so far.

5. I’ll give the Ravens the benefit of the doubt at right tackle, but color me skeptical about wide receiver with free-agent options dwindling and prices having not been all that outrageous. Being underprepared at the position doomed Baltimore in 2013 and 2015, and you hope that odd-year trend doesn’t continue.

6. The Anthony Levine re-signing didn’t receive much attention, but losing the likes of Orr and fullback Kyle Juszczyk hurt the special teams and Levine has been a core contributor to Jerry Rosburg’s units.

7. I’m intrigued by the addition of the diminutive Danny Woodhead, who can do some of the things Juszczyk provided despite the obvious difference in size. The Ravens view Woodhead as a potential playmaker, but he’s also 32 and coming off major knee surgery, leaving some substantial unknown.

8. The fascination with free-agent cornerback Morris Claiborne is baffling with the former Dallas Cowboy missing 41 percent of games over his five-year career and having underperformed until 2016. Barring a cheap price tag — multiple teams are interested — this feels like a fool’s gold signing.

9. The Ravens loudly reconfirmed their longtime philosophy of being strong up the middle defensively with the financial commitments made to Williams and Jefferson, but I still wonder if that thinking needs to be adjusted in today’s NFL. Fortunately, this year’s draft is rich with edge rushers and cornerbacks.

10. He’s not a No. 1 receiver, but teams are sleeping on Kamar Aiken compared to some other receivers who’ve already signed. He wasn’t keen on returning to Baltimore at the end of 2016 after being underutilized, but the Ravens could do worse than bringing back their leading receiver from 2015.

11. The Ravens have had some players recruit free agents in the past, but you have to be impressed with the efforts of Eric Weddle after just one year with the organization. He’s one of those rare veterans whom you wish could have been a Raven for his entire career.

12. Lardarius Webb is a prime example of some of the tough luck the Ravens have experienced in recent years. He was Baltimore’s best defensive player in 2012 before suffering the second ACL injury of his career six months after signing a six-year, $50 million contract. He was never the same.

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