Tag Archive | "Arthur Brown"

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Two former Ravens draft picks find new homes

Posted on 04 September 2016 by Luke Jones

A day after being waived by the Ravens, a pair of former high-profile draft picks found new homes.

On Sunday, third-year safety Terrence Brooks and fourth-year linebacker Arthur Brown were claimed by Philadelphia and Jacksonville, respectively.

A 2014 third-round pick, Brooks was among Baltimore’s more surprising cuts considering the current lack of safety depth behind starters Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb. A good athlete who flashed potential from time to time, the Florida State product battled injuries and struggled with the defensive schemes from a mental standpoint, hindering his ability to see the field on defense.

Meanwhile, Brown was a major disappointment as a second-round selection the Ravens traded up to make in the 2013 draft. Unfair comparisons were initially made between Brown and the recently-retired Ray Lewis, but the Kansas State product saw a total of only 10 defensive snaps in the last two seasons after playing in the nickel package as a rookie.

The writing appeared to be on the wall for Brown last year when the Ravens elected not to give him any defensive snaps in the final weeks of an already-lost season.

Two other waived players found new homes on Sunday as wide receiver Jeremy Butler joined Tampa Bay’s practice squad while outside linebacker Victor Ochi joined the New York Jets practice squad.

According to Pro Football Talk, Butler declined an invitation to be part of Baltimore’s practice squad after he caught 16 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason and did not make the team. His inability to make meaningful contributions on special teams ultimately harmed his roster chances, and the possession receiver was stuck behind both Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken on the depth chart, making him expendable in the Ravens’ eyes.

Despite fan uproar over the decisions to cut Butler and Ochi, both players went through waivers unclaimed.

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Predicting the Ravens’ 53-man roster at the end of 2016 preseason

Posted on 02 September 2016 by Luke Jones

With the 2016 preseason now history, the Ravens can turn their full attention toward the season opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 11.

But first, it’s time to go on the record with the final projection of the Ravens’ 53-man roster to begin the regular season as head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome will make their final decisions by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Of course, this will only be the first regular-season roster as the Ravens can explore the possibility of adding other players who will be made available over the next few days.

Though the coaching staff and the front office are aware of the number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their offensive or defensive positions.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players they are projected to keep at that given position.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
IN: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
OUT:  Josh Johnson
Skinny: Johnson has played well enough this preseason to earn a job somewhere, but the Ravens appear content with Mallett backing up Flacco this season.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (5)
IN: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Terrance West, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Lorenzo Taliaferro
OUT: Stephen Houston
Skinny: It would have been interesting to see whether Allen’s job was truly in danger before the knee injury suffered by Dixon, but the Ravens appeared to be protecting the former’s health on Thursday.

WIDE RECEIVERS (7)
IN: Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler
OUT: Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
Skinny: Keeping seven receivers isn’t ideal from a roster construction standpoint, but the number of injury risks in this group makes it easier to justify carrying Butler for the present and future.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta
SUSPENDED: Nick Boyle, Darren Waller
OUT: Daniel Brown
Skinny: If Williams and Pitta are bigger question marks for the opener than Harbaugh indicated this week, Brown could find his way onto the 53-man roster temporarily.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Rick Wagner, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Alex Lewis, Ryan Jensen, De’Ondre Wesley
OUT: Vlad Ducasse, James Hurst, Matt Skura, Blaine Clausell
Skinny: Lewis’ ability to play left tackle and left guard will push Hurst off the roster while Ducasse is an unfortunate victim of the numbers game despite a good summer.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)
IN: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Brent Urban, Willie Henry, Michael Pierce
OUT: Kapron Lewis-Moore
Skinny: Pierce was already in the roster discussion before his exceptional performance on Thursday and is an interesting talent to retain since Williams is scheduled to become a free agent next offseason.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (3)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Kamalei Correa
OUT: Arthur Brown, Patrick Onwuasor
Skinny: Brown’s status as a former second-round pick will no longer save his roster spot, and Albert McClellan or Anthony Levine can play inside linebacker if game-day injuries were to pile up.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Albert McClellan, Matt Judon
OUT: Chris Carter, Victor Ochi, Brennen Beyer
Skinny: The veteran Carter should find a job elsewhere with ease while Ochi is a raw and talented prospect the Ravens will hope to sneak onto the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (5)
IN: Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young, Will Davis
OUT: Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady, Julian Wilson, Carrington Byndom
Skinny: The Ravens will gamble that Price or Canady — or both — will make it to the practice squad, but depth is a clear concern at this position with the play of Wright and Powers in the preseason.

SAFETIES (5)
IN: Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine, Kendrick Lewis
OUT: Matt Elam
Skinny: Kendrick Lewis missed the final three preseason games, but his veteran experience should count for something as a backup to Weddle and Webb.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
OUT: None
Skinny: This trio stays together for the fifth consecutive season, a rarity in this day and age in the NFL.

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five bubble players to watch

Posted on 01 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have reached the light at the end of the preseason tunnel and conclude the summer with a trip to New Orleans on Thursday night.

Most starters — and possibly even a few key reserves — won’t play against the Saints as head coach John Harbaugh has annually shied away from using his most important players in the final preseason game, but a handful of jobs could still be on the line for those individuals on the roster bubble. After cutting their roster to 75 players earlier this week, the Ravens will make their final cuts to the 53-man limit by Saturday afternoon.

“It will be about the things that fit us and that we need,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a fine line, and in a lot of ways, it’s fine slicing for sure. We have some good choices and some tough choices, and that’s a good problem to have. That’s what we’re facing.”

While we will wait to see the 2016 debuts of veterans Steve Smith and Elvis Dumervil until the season opener on Sept. 11, wide receiver Breshad Perriman could make his preseason debut on Thursday, which would mark the first time he’s played in a game since he was in college and Central Florida played North Carolina State in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26, 2014.

The 2015 first-round pick said Tuesday that he has been fully cleared to play, but it will be up to the coaching staff to determine whether he sees action. Harbaugh said at the beginning of the week that he would like to see Perriman get some live-game reps if the training staff allowed it.

“It’s very exciting,” said Perriman, who made it clear that he wants to play against New Orleans. “I’ve been waiting for a long time. It’s finally coming.”

Thursday marks the fourth time these teams have met in the preseason — including each of the last three years — with the Ravens holding a 3-0 edge to go with their 5-1 advantage in all-time regular-season games against the Saints. Baltimore has built a 23-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Thursday night’s game against New Orleans.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider the many veteran players and starters who will likely be held out of the preseason finale due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (finger/hip), TE Maxx Williams (undisclosed), S Matt Elam (knee)
DOUBTFUL: LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle), S Kendrick Lewis (undisclosed), G John Urschel (contusion), DT Brandon Williams (undisclosed), CB Jerraud Powers (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), WR Steve Smith (Achilles), CB Shareece Wright (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: CB Maurice Canady (hamstring), RB Buck Allen (undisclosed), CB Lardarius Webb (back)

Five bubble players to watch Thursday night

LB Arthur Brown

The writing appeared to be on the wall late last year when he still couldn’t get on the field as the Ravens were playing out the string in a lost season, but the 2013 second-round pick will have a final chance to make an impression on Thursday night. In three preseason games, Brown has collected two tackles and a pass breakup, but he’s done little to distinguish himself this summer, a common theme for what was once thought to be a promising talent. With second-round rookie Kamalei Correa ahead of him on the depth chart, Brown’s time could finally be up as he doesn’t offer as much versatility as other options.

OT James Hurst

The third-year offensive lineman made 13 starts in his first two years with the Ravens, but he owns the dubious distinction of being pushed back into the left knee of Joe Flacco last November, causing the season-ending injury. Even putting that moment aside, the former rookie free agent from North Carolina has frequently looked overmatched whenever he’s been on the field. With fellow rookie Alex Lewis capable of backing up new left tackle Ronnie Stanley, Hurst has also worked at guard this summer, but it doesn’t appear like there’s a roster spot for him unless an injury or two occurs.

LB Chris Carter

Carter is an interesting case as a veteran linebacker with the ability to play inside and outside and to excel on special teams. With both Albert McClellan and Zach Orr — two special-teams standouts — expected to receive more playing time on defense, Carter might be an attractive choice to help pick up the special-teams slack and ease their workloads. At the same time, the Ravens only have so much room on the roster with younger linebackers such as Correa and Matt Judon now in the picture. Carter may not find his way onto Baltimore’s 53-man roster, but he’s likely to catch on elsewhere if he doesn’t.

WR Keenan Reynolds

It’s easy to root for the former Navy quarterback and college football legend, but there just hasn’t been enough progress to like his chances to make the 53-man roster. Reynolds hasn’t shown sure hands as a returner and has struggled to gain separation when working as a receiver. Because of his status as a sixth-round pick and his immense popularity, Reynolds could still be stashed on injured reserve or signed to the practice quad to continue developing. Maybe he can still be the next Antwaan Randle El or Julian Edelman one day, but it just doesn’t look like it will happen this year.

CB Maurice Canady

A nagging hamstring injury has cost the sixth-round rookie extensive practice time this summer, but the 6-foot-1, 193-pound Canady has flashed promise as an outside corner, a spot where the Ravens are light behind starters Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright. Canady played extensively at the University of Virginia and does show more polish than the typical late-round cornerback, but Thursday will be a big opportunity to prove he’s deserving of one of the final spots on the 53-man roster. It could come down to one roster spot for either Canady or Sheldon Price, but both have had health issues this summer.

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Sizing up the 2016 Ravens roster before the third preseason game

Posted on 26 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the “dress rehearsal” of the preseason now upon us, it’s time for our newest look at the Ravens’ 53-man roster with the last projection taking place after the first preseason game.

My current look at the roster suggests 46 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the preseason roster lists 19 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying extensive talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of keeping a balanced number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers or safeties isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens will look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their respective offensive or defensive positions.

The Ravens must trim the roster from 90 players to 75 on Aug. 30 and will go down to the regular-season number of 53 on Sept. 3.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are part of the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 26.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco
BUBBLE: Ryan Mallett, Josh Johnson
LONG SHOT: Jerrod Johnson
Skinny: If the backup competition were based solely on summer performance, Josh Johnson would likely be in the lead despite Mallett’s skill set more closely resembling Flacco’s. Harbaugh said Mallett hasn’t yet locked up the job, but I’m still not convinced that his roster spot is in real jeopardy, either.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Stephen Houston
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Lorenzo Taliaferro
Skinny: Keeping four tailbacks is unusual, but Forsett’s experience is too valuable and the upside of the three young backs is too enticing to pass up. It remains to be seen how the carries will be distributed, but the rookie Dixon flashes the look of a potential home-run hitter out of the backfield.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro
BUBBLE: Jeremy Butler, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Chuck Jacobs, Dobson Collins, Darius White
Skinny: Trying to find roster room for Butler is likely one of Baltimore’s biggest headaches now, but what does the preseason standout offer that’s truly unique from the other six on the projected roster? Reynolds is improving, but it still looks like too tall of an order to keep him on the 53-man roster.

TIGHT ENDS (7)
LOCK: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Daniel Brown
SUSPENDED: Nick Boyle, Darren Waller
Skinny: Health is a concern here as only the 35-year-old Watson has avoided missing extensive practice time this summer. Pitta is more of an unknown than you’d like, but Harbaugh did not indicate that his roster spot was in danger while bemoaning his long-term absence due to a broken finger.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (15)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Rick Wagner, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Alex Lewis
BUBBLE: Ryan Jensen, Vlad Ducasse, De’Ondre Wesley, James Hurst
LONG SHOT: Anthony Fabiano, Matt Skura, Jarell Broxton, Blaine Clausell, Stephane Nembot
Skinny: This eight-man group would leave the Ravens light at offensive tackle, but Lewis can play there and Yanda can certainly move out to right tackle in a game-day pinch. Wesley would appear to be a good candidate to land on the practice squad if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Brent Urban
BUBBLE: Willie Henry, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Michael Pierce
LONG SHOT: Trevon Coley
INJURED RESERVE: Bronson Kaufusi
Skinny: It’s been an underwhelming summer for Henry, but it’s difficult envisioning the Ravens cutting a fourth-round pick in his rookie season. Lewis-Moore has improved from last season, but keeping more than six defensive linemen is difficult with so many needs elsewhere.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Kamalei Correa
BUBBLE: Arthur Brown
LONG SHOT: Kavell Conner, Patrick Onwuasor
Skinny: Brown hasn’t done much to distinguish himself as worthy of making the team this summer, making it the potential end of the road for the disappointing 2013 second-round pick. The versatility of this overall linebacker group is a strength with a few players like Correa able to play inside or outside.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (9)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Albert McClellan, Matt Judon
BUBBLE: Chris Carter
LONG SHOT: Victor Ochi, Brennen Beyer, Mario Ojemudia
Skinny: With McClellan and Orr now playing bigger defensive roles, Carter might be a good fit as a veteran easing some of their workload on special teams. Ochi is an intriguing prospect who has barely played in the preseason, making you think the Ravens are trying to sneak him onto the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young
BUBBLE: Will Davis, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady, Kyle Arrington
LONG SHOT: Julian Wilson, Carrington Byndom
Skinny: The Ravens would probably like to find room for Price or Canady, but they have safeties who can play the nickel and dime spots. Arrington’s extended absence due to a concussion has really hurt his chances of making the team after his salary was already cut this offseason.

SAFETIES (6)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Kendrick Lewis
LONG SHOT: None
INJURED RESERVE: Matt Elam
Skinny: Elam seems like a logical candidate to land on injured reserve where the Ravens could potentially activate him after Week 6 if there’s a need at safety. Coaches like Lewis, but he has missed a lot of time this summer, making you wonder if he’s losing his grip on a roster spot.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Wil Lutz
Skinny: There’s still nothing to see here with Lutz occasionally easing the workload of Tucker and Koch during practices.

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Defensive position battles to watch for Ravens at start of OTAs

Posted on 25 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are holding their first organized team activities this week and with them come plenty of questions as on-field preparations begin for the 2016 season.

Few conclusions can be drawn from the voluntary workouts that will be conducted without a number of veterans, but the practices will provide an early look at some players returning from injuries as well as rookies competing with established NFL talent for the first time. Thursday’s workout will be open to media to conclude the first week.

Coming off their worst season in nearly a decade, the Ravens have plenty of jobs up for grabs on both sides of the ball.

After examining the offensive battles on Tuesday, below is a look at the top defensive competitions:

1. Inside linebacker

The candidates: Zach Orr, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan

The reality: It remains to be seen whether Ozzie Newsome will add a veteran after cutting Daryl Smith, but Orr saw 142 defensive snaps and replaced Smith on passing downs late in the 2015 season. Brown is a 2013 second-round pick, but he’s been a non-factor in three seasons and has a ton to prove this summer. A special-teams ace, McClellan provides depth but probably isn’t a serious contender to start.

2. Cornerback

The candidates: Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Will Davis, Kyle Arrington, Tavon Young

The reality: We know Jimmy Smith will start at one cornerback spot, but how the Ravens will line up at the other outside spot and in the nickel remains to be seen. Wright is the early favorite to start in the base defense after receiving $4.76 million guaranteed, but Powers brings extensive starting experience to Baltimore and can play outside and inside. Davis and Young are interesting names to watch this summer.

3. Defensive end

The candidates: Lawrence Guy, Bronson Kaufusi, Brent Urban

The reality: The Ravens don’t appear too concerned over replacing veteran Chris Canty as Guy has been solid when asked to fill in over the last two seasons. However, Kaufusi brings potential as this year’s third-round pick out of Brigham Young. This could be a make-or-break year for Urban, who finally got on the field in the second half of last season but has battled too many injuries going back to college.

4. Outside linebacker

The candidates: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Kamalei Correa, Matt Judon

The reality: We know Suggs and Dumervil own pedigrees as Pro Bowl talents, but how will that ultimately translate in 2016? It’s tough to say whether Suggs can still be an every-down rush linebacker coming off his second Achilles injury in four years, and we know Dumervil’s rush ability was optimized sharing snaps with Courtney Upshaw in 2013 and 2014. Smith is the favorite to take Upshaw’s early-down Sam linebacker role, but Correa and Judon offer intriguing upside as rookie pass rushers.

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Thirteen Ravens thoughts counting down to OTAs

Posted on 20 May 2016 by Luke Jones

With organized team activities set to begin next week, I’ve offered 13 Ravens-related thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Ozzie Newsome was pleased with last month’s draft, but a key to 2016 will be the number of rookies making an immediate impact instead of merely serving as inventory for the future. That answer could be the difference in getting back to the playoffs or not after a down season.

2. The free-agent signing of Jerraud Powers last week brought a much-needed veteran to the cornerback mix, but I still can’t help but look at that group with concern — particularly on the outside — unless the pass rush is dramatically better, especially with Jimmy Smith coming off another foot procedure.

3. Inside linebacker reminds me of right tackle in 2014 and tight end last season before Rick Wagner and Crockett Gillmore emerged. My early money is on Zach Orr starting. I can’t buy Arthur Brown being the guy after he didn’t even play down the stretch of a lost 2015 season.

4. I’m curious to know how Lardarius Webb is preparing physically to move to safety after seven seasons a cornerback. It’s no secret that Eric Weddle isn’t the biggest guy, but Webb was listed at just 182 pounds last year. Who is going to cover the big, athletic tight ends?

5. Like anyone, I have questions about Steve Smith returning from a torn Achilles tendon at age 37, but I’m intrigued to see what he has in store for us. The Ravens can’t just assume greatness, but I won’t be surprised if he still provides plenty in his final season.

6. There’s merit to the medical marijuana cause Eugene Monroe is championing, but his scheduled appearance on a panel in Las Vegas in the middle of the first week of OTAs isn’t the best look for a player at a position where a 2016 first-round pick is breathing down his neck.

7. We probably won’t see him until next month’s mandatory minicamp, but I’m very curious to hear from Terrell Suggs. Where is he physically after tearing his Achilles tendon in the 2015 opener? Perhaps more importantly, where is he mentally entering his 14th season?

8. It wasn’t surprising to hear Kenneth Dixon say he tries to emulate Marshall Faulk as a running back. Watching his college highlights reminds you of Faulk or Ricky Watters as a receiver. The Ravens would love for him to be even a respectable fraction of either of those former greats.

9. Much focus will be on second-round rookie Kamalei Correa, but the Ravens need Za’Darius Smith to be able to step into Courtney Upshaw’s old role to allow Elvis Dumervil to be a situational rusher. Their willingness to let Upshaw go for peanuts in free agency reflects their confidence in Smith.

10. The Ravens having competition at wide receiver is nothing new, but there is better talent at the top of the depth chart this year. Marlon Brown already being let go reflects that reality when he was competing for the No. 3 wideout job only a year ago.

11. We’re all rooting for Dennis Pitta to stay healthy, but it’s fair to ask if he’s even one of Baltimore’s best three tight ends now. He’s played a total of seven games in three seasons and will be 31. Is he still explosive enough after two major hip injuries?

12. The fourth-round selection of Michigan defensive tackle Willie Henry reiterated how forgotten Carl Davis was by the end of his rookie season. The 2015 third-rounder provided the biggest impact of any rookie early on before hitting the wall and seeing just 17 defensive snaps over the final six games.

13. John Harbaugh deserves the chance to tell his story regarding players illegally wearing pads during rookie camp, but the current collective bargaining agreement has been in place since 2011. Even if they sincerely didn’t know the rules, it’s hard to imagine the Ravens hadn’t thought of doing this before.

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Ravens-related thoughts from league meetings

Posted on 24 March 2016 by Luke Jones

Even with an active start to free agency in which they’ve addressed the safety, wide receiver, and tight end positions, the Ravens still have plenty of work to do if they want to bounce back from last year’s 5-11 campaign.

While pass rusher, cornerback, and left tackle have been discussed at great length, an inside linebacker spot is wide open next to C.J. Mosley with the recently-released Daryl Smith signing with Tampa Bay, ending any thought about his potential return. John Harbaugh mentioned the predictable candidates — Zach Orr, Arthur Brown, and Albert McClellan — to replace the veteran Smith, but the head coach discussed another interesting option when speaking to reporters at the league meetings earlier this week.

“We could move a safety down in there,” Harbaugh said. “A lot of teams are doing that now, and one of those guys might move in there. We have the draft still in front of us, so there’s going to be competition. That’s how we like it.”

Harbaugh didn’t mention any names when discussing the possibility of a safety shifting to linebacker, but other safeties such as Mark Barron of Los Angeles and Arizona’s Deone Bucannon have successfully made that transition at the NFL level. Identifying a candidate among Baltimore’s current group of safeties isn’t easy since there isn’t an incumbent weighing more than 205 pounds.

It’s a moot point now with last week’s release stemming from his 10-game suspension to begin the 2016 season, but the 228-pound Will Hill would have been an intriguing candidate for a hybrid role with his pass coverage and tackling ability. The Ravens want to get faster and more athletic at the inside linebacker position, and Hill certainly would have fit that description if not for off-field concerns once again costing him as it did with the New York Giants.

“It was too bad, because we had really made a commitment to Will and to his future and the fact that he would be able to do things in a way that he could be successful,” said Harbaugh of the safety’s release. “He was doing that for quite a while and playing good football for us. It was not a football decision other than the fact that it was just going to cost us too much to wait for him at this point in time with the suspension.”

New touchback rule

The NFL owners voted to move touchbacks from kickoffs up to the 25-yard line in an obvious attempt to address player safety and further limit one of the most exciting — and dangerous — plays in the game.

Returners may now be more discouraged to run kicks out of the end zone, but how might the kicking team alter its strategy with a touchback now giving the opposition the ball at the 25 instead of the 20? Over the last few years, the Ravens have relied on standout kicker Justin Tucker booming the ball into or through the end zone with the opposing offense then starting at its own 20.

“We may kick it off down to the goal line as high as we can and go down there and try to get the return team at the 12-, 15-yard line,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to be real hard for us to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to surrender the 25-yard line as a kickoff cover team every time.’ That’s really not in the spirit of competition and what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

It’s important to remember this rule change is only a one-year trial, but many speculate that it will have the opposite effect of what the league wants.

Upshaw still available

While no one expected Courtney Upshaw to fetch a record contract this month, it’s surprising to see him still unsigned more than two weeks after the start of free agency.

Though limited as a pass rusher, the 26-year-old is a solid edge-setting outside linebacker who is a nice fit in a timeshare with a situational rusher. Upshaw met with the New York Jets last week and has reportedly drawn interest from San Francisco and New England, but the underwhelming market for his services illustrates how increasingly important it’s becoming to have multiple players with the ability to get after the quarterback in any situation.

General manager Ozzie Newsome appeared content to allow Upshaw to depart this offseason, but the odds of him returning appear to improve as more time passes and teams continue to spend elsewhere.

“Ozzie’s still monitoring. I haven’t talked to Courtney at all,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not sure where he’s at, but he’s still on the radar.”

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Seven Ravens players needing more snaps in second half of 2015

Posted on 05 November 2015 by Luke Jones

It sounds encouraging to say the Ravens can make a second-half run for postseason contention.

After all, expectations were soaring going into the season and the AFC currently consists of three undefeated teams — New England, Denver, and Cincinnati — and just two other teams (New York and Oakland) above .500. Baltimore’s second-half schedule consists of five home games and just two contests against teams currently sporting winning records.

Anything could happen, right?

Then, you remember the Ravens have two wins in two months.

Two.

And they just lost Steve Smith — their best pass-catching target in an otherwise underwhelming group — for the rest of the season.

While still expecting the Ravens to win more games and to remain competitive in the second half of the season — all eight of their contests have been decided by one possession — it would be irresponsible not to have at least one eye toward the future. Finishing closer to .500 while continuing to rely more on veterans and street free agents with no long-term future would only give the Ravens an inferior draft pick for 2016 and not really assist in the goal of building the next championship-caliber roster.

The Ravens can continue trying to win while still taking a longer look at some younger players in the second half of the season. It makes more sense for 2016 and beyond to give a few more opportunities to younger options in hopes of seeing at least a couple real pieces emerge by season’s end. Needless to say, general manager Ozzie Newsome must improve talent on both sides of the ball, so wouldn’t you prefer seeing what some recent picks can do — good or bad — instead of those players remaining as unknowns?

It’s worth remembering that the Ravens are just 2-6, so how much drop-off could there really be evaluating some younger players at certain spots?

Only including players who’ve taken fewer than 100 snaps on offense or defense — rookies like Maxx Williams and Za’Darius Smith have played more — below are seven players who should receive more playing time in the second half of the 2015 season.

7. CB Tray Walker
2015 defensive snaps to date: 8
Rationale: The Ravens acknowledged Walker was more of a project when they selected him in the fourth round of this year’s draft, but it still hasn’t been encouraging that he remains behind Shareece Wright and Kyle Arrington — two veterans who haven’t played well — on the depth chart. Throwing the 6-foot-2 Texas Southern product into the starting lineup would be hasty, but you’d like to see him receive enough snaps to determine whether he can be a viable No. 3 or No. 4 cornerback in 2016. If he’s not up to that task by then, it’d be difficult to label his selection in the fourth round as anything but a major reach.

6. LB Arthur Brown
2015 defensive snaps to date: 0
Rationale: C.J. Mosley has struggled in coverage and Daryl Smith hasn’t played the run particularly well in 2015, making it fair to ask whether the Ravens should finally attempt to carve out a role for their 2013 second-round pick to determine whether he can even be a part-time player in Baltimore. Given Brown’s speed, defensive coordinator Dean Pees could even consider using the linebacker as an occasional blitzer off the edge in an effort to put more pressure on the quarterback. The Ravens have seen something in Brown to hold on to him even this long, so why not give him a real look, even in nickel situations?

5. WR Chris Givens
2015 offensive snaps to date (with Baltimore): 82
Rationale: The former St. Louis Ram has more experience than anyone else on this list, but the Ravens need to continue giving him more snaps, especially with Smith done for the season. Givens had been a sponge around Smith prior to the latter’s injury, so it will be interesting to see if the speedy receiver can apply any of the veteran’s lessons to his own play. No one should confuse him with a starting-caliber receiver, but you’d like to see if Givens can establish himself as a No. 3 or No. 4 guy for the future. In his four games with the Ravens, he’s outperformed Marlon Brown and deserves to play over him.

4. DE Brent Urban
2015 defensive snaps to date: 0
Rationale: It’d be nice to see the 2014 fourth-round pick finally get on the field after not even playing in a preseason game to this point in his career. John Harbaugh recently said Urban is close to returning to practice after suffering a torn biceps early in training camp. Though Lawrence Guy has emerged as a solid option at the 5-technique defensive end spot behind Chris Canty, Urban’s 6-foot-7, 295-pound frame makes him an intriguing option as an interior pass rusher. With Canty turning 33 next week, the Ravens would feel good about that position if Urban can stay healthy and contribute down the stretch.

3. S Terrence Brooks
2015 defensive snaps to date: 54
Rationale: The Ravens have had problems at the safety position dating back to Ed Reed’s final season in Baltimore, and veteran newcomer Kendrick Lewis hasn’t done much to quell those concerns in 2015. Brooks has had an up-and-down start to his NFL career, but he showed good athleticism and aggression against Cleveland in Week 5 before injuring his thumb. Whether Pees uses him at the nickel spot or at safety next to Will Hill, Brooks’ development would go a long way in improving a secondary in need of more athleticism and play-making ability than it’s had in recent years.

2. RB Buck Allen
2015 offensive snaps to date: 81
Rationale: This isn’t a plea for the Ravens to bench veteran Justin Forsett in favor of the rookie fourth-rounder, but Allen has shown more burst recently and is more likely to impact the future than the 30-year-old starter. In general, Baltimore needs more from a running game currently tied for 21st in the NFL and Forsett won’t be able to carry that workload alone. In a perfect world, you’d like Allen to show enough to at least pencil him in as a strong No. 2 option in 2016 after the Ravens invested fourth-round picks at the position in each of the last two drafts. At least 10 touches per game seems reasonable.

1. WR Breshad Perriman
2015 offensive snaps to date: 0
Rationale: Many have called for the first-round pick to be placed on injured reserve considering he’s only practiced a couple times since spraining the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first day of training camp. But at 2-6, it’s worth waiting a little longer to see if Perriman can make it back for the final month of the season. His absence is even more frustrating with Smith out for the year as the Ravens had hoped they were drafting their No. 1 receiver of the future. They won’t be able to make that determination, but a healthy Perriman on the field for at least a few games in 2015 would be a good sign.

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Ravens-related thoughts on Week 7

Posted on 26 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Everything about the Ravens organization has come under scrutiny after a 1-5 start with recent draft history being among the biggest concerns.

Though their draft issues pale in comparison to teams like Cleveland who have failed miserably with multiple top choices, I couldn’t help but notice how few of the Ravens’ recent high picks would be contributing in Monday’s contest against Arizona. And much of the blame can be placed on injuries.

In total, the Ravens have selected nine players in the first three rounds over their last three drafts and just four of them — linebacker C.J. Mosley and defensive tackles Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, and Carl Davis — were expected to play meaningful snaps on Monday night. Four others — safeties Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks, wide receiver Breshad Perriman, and tight end Maxx Williams — are sidelined with injuries and 2013 second-round inside linebacker Arthur Brown has been nothing more than a special-teams player in his third season.

It’s interesting to note that the defensive line is one of the Ravens’ few strengths while they’ve lacked playmakers in the secondary and in the passing game, areas where these absent draft picks normally reside. While the blame doesn’t fall solely on these recent selections, it’s difficult to look at that breakdown without concluding it’s a substantial part of what ails the Ravens.

** Much has been made about the NFL still having five undefeated teams at the end of seven weeks, but taking a closer look at the AFC should have the Ravens kicking themselves over their horrendous start. After New England, Cincinnati, and Denver, the conference sports just two other teams — Pittsburgh and the New York Jets — with winning records as the calendar is ready to turn to November.

Anyone who looked at the Ravens’ early-season schedule needed to be realistic about the daunting task of playing five of their first seven on the road, but many opined that a 4-3 record — even 3-4 — would put John Harbaugh’s team in position to make a run in the second half with an easier schedule. That would have proven to be true if not for a 1-5 start, but the Ravens can’t really complain when holding an 0-2 record at M&T Bank Stadium this year.

** Baltimore appears to be getting San Diego at the right time as the Chargers have lost three straight and were handled at home by Oakland on Sunday, but coming off a Monday night road game is a difficult proposition. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens hold a 3-5 record in games immediately following a Monday road game and one of those wins — against Arizona in 2011 — was the largest comeback in team history.

The defense-challenged Chargers may only be 2-5, but preparing for Philip Rivers and the league’s top-ranked passing game on a short week could be a nightmare for the Ravens pass defense. For what it’s worth, the Ravens were coming off a Monday night road game last year when they lost to the Chargers in Baltimore.

** The Steelers did an admirable job surviving without Ben Roethlisberger, who is expected to return to action against the Bengals in Week 8.

Going 2-2 in games started by Mike Vick and Landry Jones is quite respectable, but those two losses came against teams that entered Week 7 with 1-5 records. That has to eat away at coach Mike Tomlin as Pittsburgh trails Cincinnati by three games in the loss column in the AFC North standings.

** Former University of Maryland standout Stefon Diggs had six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota’s 28-19 win over Detroit on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Ravens first-round pick Breshad Perriman still isn’t practicing and fourth-round cornerback Tray Walker — drafted 10 spots ahead of Diggs — hasn’t been trusted to play defensive snaps despite a slew of injuries in the secondary.

Carry on.

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Ravens-Falcons preseason primer: Five bubble players to watch

Posted on 02 September 2015 by Luke Jones

It’s all about the roster bubble on Thursday night as the Ravens conclude the 2015 preseason with a trip to the Georgia Dome to take on the Atlanta Falcons.

Head coach John Harbaugh has already confirmed that he does not intend to play his starters in the fourth preseason contest with the opener in Denver less than two weeks away. However, Thursday will mark a final opportunity for fringe players to leave a positive impression as they jockey for the final few roster spots that may still be up for grabs.

“I think there’s a pretty clear picture of who’s going to be here and who’s not,” Harbaugh said on Tuesday. “Of course, the last couple spots are still up in the air, and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. The other thing is guys are battling for practice-squad spots, and they’re not just battling with each other. They’re battling all around the league for some of those spots. It’s a very competitive thing to make an NFL team or an NFL practice squad.”

Harbaugh said the Ravens are prepared to play 43 of the 75 players remaining on the active roster against the Falcons.

Thursday marks the 11th time that Baltimore will play Atlanta in the preseason. The teams are playing each other for the sixth time in the preseason in the Harbaugh era.

The Ravens are 7-3 against the Falcons in the all-time preseason series and are 3-2 against them in their regular-season history. They will not meet again in the regular season until 2018, a game that will take place in Atlanta.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Thursday night’s game in Atlanta.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will come into question. This list, of course, does not take into account the many veterans who will be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (knee), DE Brent Urban (biceps)
DOUBTFUL: OL Ryan Jensen (concussion), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), DE DeAngelo Tyson (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Rashaan Melvin (undisclosed), CB Lardarius Webb (hamstring), G Kelechi Osemele (Achilles), OT Eugene Monroe (forearm), WR Michael Campanaro (soft tissue injury), TE Maxx Williams (upper body)
PROBABLE: DE Lawrence Guy (knee), OT James Hurst (concussion)

Five bubble players to watch Thursday night

LB Arthur Brown

Considered a player on the bubble by most pundits, the 2013 second-round pick appeared to receive an endorsement from Harbaugh this week when the Baltimore coach said he anticipated Brown playing even faster in the regular season after coming on strong this summer. However, you never want to make too much out of a coach’s comments about players who are presently on the roster and Harbaugh would not specify when asked if Brown’s roster spot was safe. The fact is that the 240-pound inside linebacker is stuck behind starters Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley on defense and reserves Albert McClellan and Zach Orr on special teams. That sounds like a player needing to cross his fingers with the numbers game and to hope there aren’t too many other positional needs elsewhere that could push him off the roster.

G Robert Myers

A concussion early in camp cost the rookie quite a bit of practice time and Myers has struggled to catch up, receiving negative grades from Pro Football Focus for his performances in the Philadelphia and Washington games. The Ravens like the 6-foot-5, 335-pound lineman’s upside, but they knew he would be a raw prospect to develop out of Tennessee State. There are more experienced reserves such as John Urschel and Ryan Jensen already in the mix on the interior line and rookie free agents Kaleb Johnson and Nick Easton have also played well this summer, so Myers would help his cause with a good showing against the Falcons. Recent history says the Ravens wouldn’t part with a fifth-round pick in his rookie year, but there are some other decent linemen in this mix with only so many spots to go around.

DL Kapron Lewis-Moore

A recent run of injuries on the defensive line have improved the former Notre Dame product’s chances and the 2013 sixth-rounder turned in his best performance of the preseason against the Redskins on Saturday. Lewis-Moore missed two whole years due to injuries, but the Ravens were attracted to the 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman for his strong play as a collegiate player. If injuries to Timmy Jernigan and DeAngelo Tyson linger into the start of the regular season, it would be challenging for the Ravens to not carry an extra defensive lineman. It’s also fair to wonder if the Ravens want to give up on a player in which they invested two years of rehabilitation as he’s finally starting to show some of the promise they envisioned when drafting him.

RB Fitz Toussaint

The MCL injury suffered by Lorenzo Taliaferro has left the Ravens vulnerable at the running back position behind starter Justin Forsett as rookie Buck Allen hasn’t been overly impressive between the tackles this preseason. Baltimore is likely to keep an additional running back until Taliaferro is able to return, so it will come down to Toussaint or rookie free agent Terrence Magee unless general manager Ozzie Newsome goes outside the organization. Magee has received nearly twice as many carries in the preseason, but don’t forget that the Ravens trusted Toussaint enough to give him two carries in the playoff loss in Foxborough last January. Even if it’s not in Baltimore, Toussaint would like to put some good tape out there for other teams to see after Thursday’s game.

S Brynden Trawick

The third-year safety has been a special-teams mainstay, but the Ravens may desire to keep an extra cornerback with Lardarius Webb and Rashaan Melvin ailing in recent weeks, which could hurt Trawick’s standing as the fifth safety behind starters Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis and top reserves Terrence Brooks and Anthony Levine. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound safety has the kind of size that makes him an attractive option in the dime package, but Trawick struggled a great deal when receiving extensive time on defense in the preseason opener. Considering he received just 55 defensive snaps a year ago for a team that had major concerns at safety, Trawick better hope that the Ravens haven’t found others to match what he can do on special teams.

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