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Ravens-Falcons preseason primer: Five players to watch

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Ravens-Falcons preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 14 August 2013 by Luke Jones

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Looking to build on an uneven performance from their starting units in the preseason opener, the Ravens return to M&T Bank Stadium for their first live-game action at home since last season in hosting the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.

Though starters won’t see their most extensive action until next week against Carolina, the first-team units will likely play deep into the second quarter before giving way to backups.

“It will be somewhere in that neighborhood,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Usually the second preseason game is a half, but again, like we say every time we play a preseason game, it will depend on different guys. Different guys will be on different plans, so it’s hard to say exactly.”

The second preseason game is often the best opportunity for younger players to make their biggest impression with the coaching staff since starters often play into the third quarter in the third preseason game. As a result, many rookies and backups won’t receive as many live-game reps again until the fourth preseason game after most 53-man roster decisions have already been made internally.

With veteran additions being made at wide receiver and tight end over the last week, fringe players at those positions find themselves in a precarious position trying to stand out despite the reality of there now being one or two fewer roster spots available to win.

“If you play well enough, you’re going to make it,” Harbaugh said. “And if you play well enough and you don’t make it here, you’ll make it somewhere else. It’s really more of a competition against yourself and how well you can play and how good you can get and then see what happens. That other stuff is pretty much out of their control, and I think they understand that.”

The Ravens and Falcons will meet in the preseason for the 10th time as Baltimore holds a 6-3 record. The two teams are tied 2-2 in the all-time regular-season series as Atlanta won the most recent meeting in 2010.

After last week’s 44-16 win over the Buccaneers, the Ravens are now 41-27 all-time in the preseason and 14-7 in the Harbaugh era. Baltimore has now won 13 of its last 17 preseason games and has produced seven wins in the last eight preseason contests played at M&T Bank Stadium.

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.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is not expected to play as he continues to increase his level of activity in 11-on-11 sessions during practices. Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda just returned to the practice field on Monday on a limited basis but could take part in the third preseason game of the summer.

Newly-signed tight end Dallas Clark is not expected to play against the Falcons while veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley could see some very limited action as each player tries to learn offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s system. Both are good bets to receive extensive action in next week’s nationally-televised game against the Panthers.

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

OUT: TE Ed Dickson (hamstring), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder), LB Jameel McClain (neck), OL Ryan Jensen (foot), DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (hip)
DOUBTFUL: DT Marcus Spears (hamstring), CB Lardarius Webb (knee), CB Chris Johnson (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Ramon Harewood (knee), LB Bryan Hall (hamstring), WR Marlon Brown (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: WR David Reed (groin), S James Ihedigbo (neck), CB Chykie Brown (undisclosed)

Five players to watch Thursday night

1. WR Tandon Doss

With Stokley still in the process of picking up the offensive system, Doss must show the coaching staff that he can be a viable option working out of the slot after a disappointing performance in the preseason opener. It’s largely been a quiet summer for the third-year receiver who has a reputation for good hands and running crisp routes in practice.

Next week, you would expect the Ravens to take long looks at both Stokley and Clark working the middle of the field in the passing game, meaning Doss has a critical opportunity against the Falcons to show he can be more than just an afterthought offensively. It’s time for Doss to show why the Ravens thought highly enough of him to draft him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.

2. DT Terrence Cody

The fourth-year defensive lineman has been maligned for much of his run in Baltimore, but Cody has received positive reviews from the coaching staff this summer as he’s finally healthy after offseason hip and elbow surgeries. His roster standing appears to be safer now than it was at the start of camp, but he’s fighting for playing time in what’s shaping up to be a crowded defensive line rotation.

Cody may never live up to his original second-round billing, but the Ravens need a strong option to back up Haloti Ngata at nose tackle, which will allow defensive coordinator Dean Pees to be more creative in moving the Pro Bowl defensive tackle around when warranted. There’s no reason why Cody can’t feast against the Falcons’ second-team offense and further impress the coaching staff as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

3. LB Courtney Upshaw

Many have been surprised to see Upshaw work so extensively with the starting defense — and ahead of pass-rush standout Elvis Dumervil — but all you have to do is focus on his ability against the run to see why the Ravens are high on him. He has shed the excess weight he was carrying in the spring and looks to be carving out his spot as the starting strongside outside linebacker who will play against offensively-balanced teams in early-down situations.

Upshaw’s ability against the run allows Pees to be more judicious in how he uses both Dumervil and starting rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, which will hopefully keep both veterans fresher over the course of games and the entire season. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, but Upshaw will factor heavily in what the Ravens expect to be a stout run defense.

4. LB Arthur Brown

Brown’s athleticism and ability in pass coverage have been impressive, but he just doesn’t look the part of a three-down linebacker right now with his 235-pound frame, which is probably a generous listing. That said, Brown will serve an important role as a nickel linebacker spelling Josh Bynes in passing situations.

The second-round pick may not become a full-time starter until he can benefit from a full offseason to put on 10 pounds of muscle, but the Ravens struggled to cover tight ends over the short-to-intermediate middle portion of the field over the last few years and Brown can be a major boost in that department. Brown has a bright future, but he has a lot of work to do in order to close the gap between him and Bynes for the starting weakside inside linebacker spot next to veteran Daryl Smith.

5. TE Matt Furstenburg

Furstenburg is just one of several young players who are feeling the effects of the recent veteran signings as he now trails Ed Dickson, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Clark and is battling veteran Billy Bajema for the fourth spot on the depth chart. The Maryland product’s most realistic destination is the practice squad at this rate, but he will have an opportunity to distinguish himself Thursday like Doss and the other young wide receivers fighting for playing time and roster spots.

A factor that many will overlook in the tight end battle is blocking and neither Shiancoe nor Clark are particularly strong in that department. Of course, much will depend on the status of Dickson’s injured hamstring in a couple weeks, but there could be a potential spot available to Bajema or Furstenburg if their blocking ability proves to be a necessary asset.

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Ravens 2013 Draft Class Needed For Road To Repeat

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Ravens 2013 Draft Class Needed For Road To Repeat

Posted on 24 July 2013 by brianbower

The Baltimore Ravens kicked off their 2013 training camp on Tuesday as quarterbacks, rookies and injured veterans took the field at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owing Mills, Maryland.

The reigning Super Bowl champs took a hit this offseason with the loss of some key players including the retirement of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. For the Ravens to have a chance at repeating this upcoming season the team will need their rookie class to step up.

Here is a look at the 2013 Ravens draft class and what to keep an eye on throughout training camp with this group.

 

FS. Matt Elam, Florida

Elam was considered the top safety prospect entering 2012 however was not as solid as in 2011. Elam is an outstanding run defender and a in-the box defender. Frequently assigned to cover the slot receiver. There are times when he flashes tremendous disruption when the play is developing in front of him. Has catch-up speed to chase down when he wants to. Gets hand up to disrupt at the catch point even if head is not turned to locate the football.  Elam tries to make big hit far too often, lunges, leads with shoulder, or leaves his feet rather than just wrapping up.

ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State

The 56th overall draft pick transferred from Miami to the Wildcats where he became a stay and a leader. His 2011 campaign was among the nations best. Brown exhibits strong legs, gets into the ball-carriers and drives them to the ground. Excels when playing against the run but does well in short pass coverage. The knock on Brown from some is that he needs to tone down his pursuit at times so he doesn’t overrun plays. Some will question his size, but Brown plays much bigger than his frame suggests due to strong hands and a physical attitude on contact.

DT. Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern

Williams was a  three-time All-Americans which are rare at any level of football. Williams was one to accomplish that feat. The massive kid presents a low center of gravity and strong upper body to push consistently push man-up blockers into the backfield. Gets hands on his man fast, extends his arm to get leverage and can hold his ground. Uses his hands to swim or rip past blockers into the backfield. Also wins gaps by attacking a shoulder or out-quicking his man with a first step. Moves down the line adeptly while engaged to flow with plays. Must prove himself against stronger linemen, also that he has the stamina to be more than a rotational player. Recovered well from offseason surgery for a sports hernia.

OLB John Simon, Ohio State

Simon a two-time team captain at Ohio State, presenting just about everything an NFL team wants in a prospect in terms of strength and leadership.  Strong, high-motor defender. Can break down to tackle ball carriers in the backfield. Combines agility with excellent upper-body strength to be a secure and explosive tackler. Simon will need to work on quickness of the snap. Simon will struggle to get off blocks from better tackles and will lose sight of the ball at times.

FB/TE  Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard

Juszczyk impressed many at the 2012 Senior Bowl with his play. Has big time skills at the H-back position and possesses experience at tight end as well. The Harvard product displays the ability to catch the ball and understands pass patterns. Could start season as the Ravens full back unless former full back Vonta Leach decides to return to the team.

G/T  Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin

After protecting the blindside for Russell Wilson in 2011, Wagner was forced to block for less athletic (and talented) passers in 2012. Wagner strong suit is in the run game. Gets off the snap well and uses his body and strong hands to move defensive ends off the ball and hold the line against bigger tackles. Quick enough feet to reach-block or carry a man down the line on zone runs. Flashes quickness off the snap as a pass protector.  Relies on hustle and strength rather than great recovery speed in pass protection. Has to flip his hips to pick up outside blitzers and is beaten on inside lane too easily by quicker ends. Could provide the Ravens with quality depth which they lack at the position.

DE  Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame

Lewis-Moore will be a project for the Ravens. Left January’s BCS Title Game after tearing the ACL in his right knee. Baltimore placed him on the non-football injury list. Plays the three and five-technique positions well, thick build. Possesses a nice combination of strength (he can push single blocks backwards and stand up to double teams) and looks like a 270-pound end with the short-area agility to play head-up or shading the left tackle. Not an elite pass rusher because of a lack of explosiveness off the snap and closing speed.

C   Ryan Jenson, Colorado State-Pueblo

Big and powerful kid was a tackle at small school level. His first goal will be to make the team and prove to them he is versatile enough to play multiple positions if needed. Played 46-consecutive games (including 44-consecutive starts) for the Thunderwolves in four seasons.

WR  Aaron Mellette, Elon

Perhaps the biggest question of the Ravens offseason was how they will cope with the loss of Anquan Boldin. Mellette could take over that spot however is unlikely with the likes of Doss, Reed and Tommy Streeter vying for the spot. Mellette has good height to be a solid possession receiver at the next level, has enough size to shield defenders on slants. Reliable hands, wins jump balls in traffic and snatches the ball away from his frame whether tracking it over his shoulder or facing the quarterback. Not afraid to go over the middle, and can turn and run if hit in the soft spot of a zone. Long speed will be a concern for Ravens, inconsistent strength as a ballcarrier, shows balance to keep his feet after contact at times but will fail to run through arm tackles.

 

As the Ravens will get into their first full team workout on Thursday the rookies should get their first taste of NFL training camp.

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Jameel McClain, John Harbaugh, Arthur Brown, Nigel Carr

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Baltimore Ravens: Bold Predictions for 2013 Season

Posted on 22 July 2013 by benheck

Baltimore’s rookies have officially reported to training camp at the team’s facility in Owings Mills, Maryland, and the veterans are just a couple of days away from joining them on a quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Winning the Super Bowl is a tough task to complete, which makes repeating as Super Bowl champs twice as tough as Baltimore will have a huge target on their back heading into the 2013 regular season. Here are a couple of bold predictions and things to expect from Baltimore this season:

*Joe Flacco Records Career-highs in Passing Yards and Touchdowns

After signing his then-record-setting contract extension this past off-season, just about a month after winning Super Bowl MVP, Flacco has finally gotten the monkey off his back. Now that he’s financially set, you’d think he’d have less pressure to perform and can just sit back and throw touchdown passes. He’s a proven winner and at 28 years of age it appears he’s still got several more seasons of solid play for Baltimore. If a few of his receivers step their games up, there’s no doubt 2013 has the potential to be his most successful season stat-wise.

*Bernard Pierce Becomes Biggest Piece to Baltimore’s 3rd Down Offense

Though the carries will not be split 50/50 between Pro Bowler Ray Rice and second-year Temple alum Bernard Pierce as was originally stated earlier this off-season, Pierce is still poised to become a vital part in John Harbaugh’s offense. Pierce, in his limited role as a rookie, was incredibly effective with the ball in his hands and has the potential to see a lot of playing time in order to keep Rice’s legs fresh. In 2011 veteran running back Ricky Williams saw 108 carries behind Rice, but you can expect Pierce to see much closer to 150 carries and a couple of touchdowns as the team’s primary third down back.

*Dennis Pitta Emerges as Top 5 AFC Tight End

In his third professional season for the Ravens last season, Pitta’s career-highs improved drastically. His 61 receptions, 669 yards and 7 touchdowns were good enough for 2nd (tied with Ray Rice), 3rd and 2nd among his teammates, respectively. The loss of veteran wideout Anquan Boldin will allow for the 6’4″/245 pound tight end to see more targets from his quarterback. Not to mention the fact that Flacco will likely see even more control over the offense, and will be able to air it out more than he ever has after last postseason’s performance. No more Boldin and more confidence from Flacco equals a career season from Pitta.

*Rookie Arthur Brown Leads Team in Tackles

Obviously replacing future Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis is not an easy task, and second round selection Arthur Brown will have a lot of pressure on him to perform right from the get-go. But the drafting of Brown with the No. 56 overall pick was a very smart choice and he will be able to make an immediate impact on Harbaugh’s revamped defense. Brown was a tackling machine in his K-State days, posting two consecutive seasons with 100+ total tackles in his junior and senior seasons. The losses of linebackers Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe up the middle opens the door for the rookie to start from Day 1 in Baltimore, and he’ll be a key piece on defense.

*Houston Safety Ed Reed Records a Pick-Six Against Baltimore

Okay, so maybe this isn’t a positive prediction for the Ravens, but the home match-up between Houston and Baltimore on September 23 will obviously be a big deal. Not only is that the day that Ray Lewis will be inducted into Baltimore’s Ring of Honor, but it’s also when the franchise’s best free safety of all-time will make his return to M&T Bank Stadium after winning the Super Bowl with the team last year. It’ll be a highly-anticipated game for both sides, and in honor of his Baltimore playing days it’s only fair for Reed to record a pick-six against his former team. And I’m sure it would be tough for Baltimore fans to be mad at him for doing so, right?

*Baltimore Returns to Postseason, but Not as AFC North Champions

Like I stated before, it’s tough to repeat and Baltimore will be seeing the best of every team they play. And with a very young and talented team on the rise within their division––the Cincinnati Bengals––I can’t say that the Ravens will even be able to repeat as champions of the North. Expect a solid season both offensively and defensively, but Cincinnati is a very talented and overlooked squad that will need to be taken seriously in 2013. Baltimore will be in the postseason for the sixth consecutive season in 2013, but not as division champions.

The Baltimore Ravens will not be able to pull off the rare Super Bowl repeat, but that will not take away from the success that coach Harbaugh and Flacco will see in their sixth season together. The 2013 season will end with Baltimore posting its 11th winning season in its 18-year history.

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Ravens positional stock report entering training camp

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Ravens positional stock report entering training camp

Posted on 19 July 2013 by Luke Jones

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With players beginning to report to Owings Mills by the end of the weekend and the first full-squad workout less than a week away, training camp signifies the official start of the Ravens’ marathon journey to defend their Super Bowl championship from a year ago.

Coach John Harbaugh will undoubtedly be eager to learn which players report in better shape — Courtney Upshaw, anyone? — and which ones with preexisting injury concerns — Lardarius Webb and Jameel McClain among others — are ready to return to the practice field.

With that in mind, the time for pondering the upcoming season is nearly over as I predict whose stock will rise and which players will fall during camp and the preseason. I’ve made two selections from each position group, with some units obviously being more intriguing than others to watch this summer.

On Friday’s edition of The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction, I provided a more extensive breakdown of the offensive units and defensive units and Drew Forrester offered his own choices. You can listen to those segments HERE and HERE.

QUARTERBACKS
Rising: Joe Flacco
Falling: Caleb Hanie
Tip: The Ravens will rely on their franchise quarterback more heavily than ever in terms of both play on the field and leadership off it as Flacco will be working with the least-experienced group of wideouts he’s seen over his six seasons. Meanwhile, Hanie is the latest contestant in fans’ annual game of “Who Will Unseat Tyrod Taylor as Backup Quarterback?” with which I haven’t been impressed.

RUNNING BACKS
Rising: Bernard Pierce
Falling: Ray Rice
Tip: These choices seem too obvious, but they are simply a product of the Ravens wanting to get Pierce more involved in the offense while keeping Rice fresh for the latter portion of the season. The veteran will remain the feature back and Pierce the change of pace, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rice receives fewer carries than in past years while posting a career high in receptions this season.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Rising: Torrey Smith
Falling: Jacoby Jones
Tip: We’ve discussed the merits of such names as Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson ad nauseam, but Smith becoming a receiver capable of making 70 or more receptions would be far more significant than predicting which other young receiver might make more than a token contribution on the field. Much has been made by Jones’ improved footwork from his time spent dancing this offseason, but I just don’t see him showing enough versatility to be an every-down receiver in the Baltimore offense.

TIGHT ENDS
Rising: Dennis Pitta
Falling: Billy Bajema
Tip: It will be fascinating to see how much offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell elects to use Pitta out of the slot and how that might impact his production as well as Ed Dickson as they approach unrestricted free agency next winter. Meanwhile, Bajema will have a tough time beating out Maryland product Matt Furstenburg and 2012 practice-squad member Alex Silvestro for the third tight end spot.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Rising: Kelechi Osemele
Falling: Bryant McKinnie
Tip: Entering his second year and finally able to focus on the left guard position, Osemele has made the free-agent departure of Ben Grubbs a distant memory, hasn’t he? I don’t anticipate McKinnie having any real issues in terms of his work ethic or keeping his starting job, but many have glossed over the reality that he’ll turn 34 early in September and has never been a very strong run blocker, two realities that are likely to be exposed over a 16-game schedule.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
Rising: Chris Canty
Falling: Terrence Cody
Tip: One of the most overlooked aspects of the Ravens’ defensive struggles last season was the inability to find a suitable replacement for Cory Redding, which Canty will bring as an effective 5-technique player this season. Cody appears to be the easy choice in this unit after he was sidelined this spring while recovering from hip surgery and will be pushed by rookie nose tackle Brandon Williams in the defensive line rotation.

LINEBACKERS
Rising: Arthur Brown
Falling: Jameel McClain
Tip: With Brown expected to be 100 percent after undergoing sports hernia surgery this spring, he will have every chance to win one of the starting inside linebacker jobs. The Ravens and McClain have said all the right things in being optimistic that he’ll be cleared to play, but I remain skeptical until that day actually arrives and others such as veteran Daryl Smith and the emerging Josh Bynes will have the opportunity to close the gap in the meantime.

CORNERBACKS
Rising: Jimmy Smith
Falling: Chykie Brown
Tip: After two disappointing campaigns to begin his NFL career, Smith will finally start to show more consistency at the cornerback position and he’ll need it to unseat Corey Graham as a starter opposite Lardarius Webb. Brown will remain a strong special-teams player, but his opportunities in the nickel package will dwindle with Webb and Smith both healthy this year.

SAFETIES
Rising: Matt Elam
Falling: Christian Thompson
Tip: The first-round pick Elam may not be a Pro Bowl player, but his skills in pass coverage to go along with his physicality will be an upgrade over Bernard Pollard in the Baltimore secondary. It didn’t speak well for Thompson, a 2012 fourth-round pick, that the Ravens drafted a safety in the first round, re-signed James Ihedigbo, and signed veteran Michael Huff in the offseason and that’s not even taking into account his four-game suspension to start the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

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Which Ravens Rookie Will Have the Biggest Impact in 2013?

Posted on 11 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

The Ravens aced the 2013 NFL Draft. They added many talented, hard working players to the team. Many of these talented rookies are competing for jobs and all of them may get a chance to see the field in 2013.

But let me start off by clarifying the usage of impact in the title. Impact, to me, does not mean projecting or looking at the stat sheet. One’s impact can reach far greater than the stat sheet. Doesn’t that sound like the job description of a nose tackle?

Enter Brandon Williams. Williams was drafted 94th overall in the 2013 draft and was brought to Baltimore to help improve the interior of the Ravens defense. The former Missouri Southern State Lion is a small school prospect who will compete with Terrence Cody for the starting nose tackle spot.

Cody had a rough 2012 season. He was consistently thrown around at the line of scrimmage and showed little power in the upper or lower body. As a result, the Ravens defense suffered immensely. The unit finished 17th in total defense but it seemed worse than that.

Ma’ake Kemoeatu was signed by the Ravens in the offseason and played well in stretches but was also pushed around on a routine basis. For a three-four defense to function properly, the nose tackle must eat up blockers at the line of scrimmage. Neither Cody or Kemoeatu were able to keep blockers off linebackers which in turn impacted the entire defense.

Brandon Williams may be a rookie but he is a better option than Cody at this point. There was been talk about using Haloti Ngata at nose tackle but Ngata’s real strength lies in his versatility to lineup anywhere along the line of scrimmage.

The thought of Brandon Williams and Haloti Ngata playing together is awesome. Together, they block out the sun and will be able to keep blockers off the Ravens young linebackers.

Sure, there are other rookies like Matt Elam and Arthur Brown who have the opportunity to start but the nose tackle position is what makes a three-four defense work. If the nose tackle struggles, the entire defense struggles.

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Baltimore Ravens 2013 Season Preview Part Three: Predicting the Biggest Positional Battles

Posted on 06 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

It’s no secret the Ravens are a different team. Starters that must be replaced include Carry Williams, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, Vonta Leach, and Anquan Boldin. Paul Kruger is also gone but he was more of a role player that rotated starts with rookie Courtney UpShaw.

The following are my projections for the most heated roster battles.

Receiver:

Torrey Smith is the only receiver guaranteed a starting spot. Jacoby Jones is a veteran but struggled in Houston when given a larger workload. Therefore, Jones will be competing with Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, Tommy Streeter, David Reed, and LaQuan Williams. So far, Thompson has made the most of offseason workouts. According to reports, he displays great hands and improved route running ability to go along with his blazing speed.

When the Ravens face the Broncos on Sept. 5, Jacoby Jones will start across from Torrey Smith. He is experienced and made plays when given the opportunity last season. The third receiver will be Danton Doss with Deonte Thompson winning the fourth receiver spot on the depth chart. Doss’s skill set translates well to the slot receiver position. His hands, physicality, and ability to get upfield after the catch will make him a nice weapon for Flacco.

Cornerback:

I am a huge Jimmy Smith fan. Smith has too much potential to be the Ravens nickel corner. If he can put everything together, he will be starting opposite Lardarius Webb. Corey Graham would then be the team’s nickel corner. Successfully defending two passes to Michael Crabtree towards the end of the Super Bowl will be positive plays for Smith to build upon.

Chykie Brown could be a sleeper to receive playing time this season. He showed promise last season and played frequently towards the end of the season.

Inside linebacker:

John Harbaugh and the Ravens have a lot of options at inside linebacker. Jameel McClain will likely start. Therefore, the competition really comes down to Arthur Brown and Darryl Smith. Brown was a second round selection in the 2013 draft and is projected to be a defensive rookie of the year candidate. But Smith brings experience and proven ability at inside linebacker. In the beginning of the season, I think Smith will start on running downs and Brown will play on passing downs. Brown has excellent coverage ability and when paired with McClain, they could make up a great duo in pass coverage.

Bryan Hall could also receive playing time pending the training camp competition. Hall played along the defensive line last season but is making the switch to inside linebacker. Hall could play in certain blitz packages but for the most part, will be a special teams player.

Nose tackle

After a solid 2011 season, many thought Mount Cody would break out in 2012. But Cody struggled. He was consistently pushed around and made little impact against teams with great running games. Ozzie Newsome has made an effort to improve the middle of the defense through the draft and free agency. Brandon Williams was drafted in the third round and Marcus Spears and Chris Canty were signed in free agency. Spears and Canty won’t play nose tackle but they will improve the middle of the defense.

I think Brandon Williams will win the starting job. Cody had hip surgery which could explain his poor play in 2012. If Cody can get healthy and play like he did in 2011, the Ravens will have a great rotation at nose tackle.

Center

Replacing Matt Birk will be difficult. Birk was a great leader and will be replaced by either Gino Gradkowski or AQ Shipley. Gradkowski was drafted out of Delaware in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. Gradkowski was projected to be the starter once Birk retired but Shipley played very well for the Colts last season. He played so well that he earned a plus 6.9 rating from Pro Football Focus.

Gradkowski is the early favorite but Shipley is a solid veteran that could start should Gradkowski struggle.

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Ngata back on field for first time since Super Bowl knee injury

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Ngata back on field for first time since Super Bowl knee injury

Posted on 06 June 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. — Wednesday’s trip to the White House brought two key Ravens players back to the practice field as defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and fullback Vonta Leach were present and working during Thursday’s organized team activity in Owings Mills.

Neither player had been present during the first two weeks of voluntary workouts, but Leach confirmed via his official Twitter account that he had participated in workouts all week as the Ravens concluded their final OTA sessions. Ngata wasn’t in his best physical shape and was a very limited participant but appeared lighter than he did at this point last year when he was criticized for weighing dramatically more than he did during the 2011 season.

Ngata told the team’s official site that he only recently began running again after rehabbing the sprained MCL suffered during the Super Bowl. That’s impacted his conditioning, but the seventh-year defensive tackle expressed confidence that he’ll be ready to go by the start of training camp.

Many have speculated that Leach’s absence during the first two weeks of OTAs was a protest over the Ravens drafting rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk in the fourth round of April’s draft.

“It’s good to have as many guys here as we can possibly have here every single day,” said Harbaugh when asked specifically about Leach’s return. “The more guys we have here, the better we are going to be. We aren’t going to be better if guys aren’t here.

A few significant players remained absent from the field during Thursday’s workout, including linebacker Terrell Suggs, guard Marshal Yanda and defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears. The latter two were both away due to “personal family issues,” according to coach John Harbaugh.

Suggs and Yanda both attended the White House ceremony on Wednesday but weren’t present on the field for any of the Ravens’ OTA sessions open to media.

Others missing from the practice field included linebackers Jameel McClain and Albert McClellan, and center Antoine McClain. A report from The Sun revealed McClellan underwent shoulder surgery earlier this offseason, which explains his limited participation during workouts for which he’s been present.

Rookie linebacker Arthur Brown returned to the practice field on a limited basis despite all signs previously pointing to him being sidelined for the remainder of the spring after undergoing sports hernia surgery. The second-round pick said he’s still on the same four-to-six week recovery track but was pleased to be able to do individual drills as well as a limited amount of team work.

Defensive tackle Terrence Cody (hip surgery), rookie defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (ACL surgery), and rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown were all present for practice but did not participate.

The Ravens will hold their mandatory three-day minicamp next week, which means we should get our first look at players such as Suggs, Yanda, and Canty. However, Harbaugh said there won’t be any heightened sense of urgency for the mandatory workouts.

“We have a sense of urgency every single day,” Harbaugh said. “That’s our mindset here. Our guys have a 100-percent, full-throttle sense of urgency every day. You need to.”

Honest Harbaugh

The Ravens coach didn’t mince any words when asked to share his thoughts regarding recent comments made by second-year outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw about being overweight.

The 2012 second-round pick cited “personal reasons” that have hindered his ability to condition the way he’d like this offseason, but Harbaugh offered a different explanation for why the Alabama product’s weight has ballooned from 271 pounds last year to 285 in Upshaw’s estimation last weekend.

“Courtney’s weight issue — which he does need to lose some pounds — is that he doesn’t eat right,” Harbaugh said. “Courtney eats too much and he doesn’t eat all the right foods. He knows that and that’s something he’s going to have to get a handle on or he’s not going to be the best he can be. He’s aware of it. Everybody in the building is involved with it. He’ll be in fighting shape, I promise you that. ”

With Suggs and newcomer Elvis Dumervil expected to start at the outside linebacker positions, Upshaw finds himself already in a difficult position and doesn’t want to make his way into Harbaugh’s doghouse as others can attest. However, Harbaugh did go out of his way to praise the 23-year-old for his efforts during OTA sessions.

Upshaw collected five tackles and forced a fumble in the Super Bowl while playing 42 of the Ravens’ 62 defensive snaps to conclude a respectable rookie year in which he collected 60 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, and a forced fumble during the regular season.

“He’s playing very well. That’s the first thing,” Harbaugh said. “He understands the defense exceptionally well, and he’s working very hard.”

Daryl Smith not on field yet

Veteran linebacker Daryl Smith wasn’t on the field less than 24 hours after signing a one-year deal, but Harbaugh acknowledged the Ravens have had their eye on the former Jacksonville linebacker for quite a while.

With Jameel McClain still not cleared from a spinal cord contusion despite the Ravens’ optimism, Smith could find a very real opportunity to earn a starting position in the Baltimore defense.

“He’s always been a superb player,” Harbaugh said. “He’s probably a little bit under the radar as far as the national media goes. He’s just been a tremendous player. Everyone in football knows who he is. I think he’s a great fit for our team for who we are, what we are all about. He’s going to do well for us.”

After wearing No. 52 in Jacksonville — which will clearly be off limits in Baltimore — Smith will wear No. 51, the jersey number formerly worn by Brendon Ayanbadejo and issued to Rolando McClain before the troubled linebacker retired from the NFL last month.

Ring ceremony Friday night

The organization has expressed plenty of excitement over the unveiling of the Super Bowl XLVII championship rings on Friday, but wide receiver Torrey Smith offered the quote of the day explaining how he might react upon seeing the extravagant piece of jewelry.

“When it comes to meeting the President and actually seeing the rings, for somebody like me who’s never won a thing, I might act like a woman when she sees her engagement ring. I can’t wait. I can’t wait.”

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Ravens ink second-round pick Brown to four-year deal

Posted on 23 May 2013 by Luke Jones

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The Ravens announced Thursday the signing of second-round linebacker Arthur Brown to a four-year deal.

The Kansas State product becomes the eighth of the Ravens’ 10 draft picks to agree to terms as first-round safety Matt Elam and third-round defensive tackle Brandon Williams. He is expected to compete for one of the starting inside linebacker jobs in Baltimore’s 3-4 base defense after an offseason in which Ray Lewis retired after 17 years and Dannell Ellerbe departed as a free agent to sign with the Miami Dolphins.

Brown is currently sidelined after undergoing sports hernia surgery earlier this month, but he is expect to be 100 percent by the start of training camp.

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Ravens LB Arthur Brown sidelined after sports hernia surgery

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Ravens LB Arthur Brown sidelined after sports hernia surgery

Posted on 22 May 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. — Instead of mixing it up with veterans in the Ravens’ first week of organized team activities, rookie linebacker Arthur Brown is instead sidelined after undergoing sports hernia surgery two weeks ago.

The second-round draft pick had the procedure shortly after the team’s mandatory rookie minicamp earlier this month and will likely be sidelined for the remainder of the spring schedule. Though the news is far from crippling, it does take valuable reps away from the Kansas State product who is projected by most to be a starting inside linebacker in the Ravens’ 3-4 base defense.

“He’s recovering from that,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s a four-to-six week deal and he should be fine soon enough.”

That leaves the Ravens with both projected starters at inside linebacker less than 100 percent as veteran Jameel McClain continues to improve in his recovery from a spinal cord contusion suffered last December. The sixth-year linebacker dressed out to practice and did some limited work during Wednesday’s practice but did not participate in team drills. He has yet to be cleared for full contact, but the expectation continues to be that McClain will be in plenty of time to play this season.

Joining McClain on the practice field in a limited capacity was cornerback Lardarius Webb, who showed impressive quickness in his backpedal despite wearing a brace on his surgically-repaired left knee. The Ravens expect Webb to be 100 percent by the start of training camp in July and his showing on Wednesday suggested that should be a very accurate projection.

The Ravens have offered a positive prognosis on each player throughout the offseason and Webb began running at the beginning of the voluntary offseason workout program in mid-April.

“We’ve been encouraged with Lardarius and Jameel, really throughout,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve both done a great job with their rehab. They’ve had no setbacks, so they’re on schedule.”

Baltimore had two players who underwent groin surgery this offseason in rush end Pernell McPhee and nose tackle Terrence Cody. McPhee was participating fully in Wednesday’s practice while Cody was present but not working. Sixth-round defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore wasn’t practicing as he continues to rehab a surgically-reconstructed ACL.

Linebacker Albert McClellan appeared to be practicing on a limited basis.

There were several key veterans absent from the field for the voluntary workout, including linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive end Chris Canty, fullback Vonta Leach, right guard Marshal Yanda, and wide receiver Jacoby Jones. Harbaugh provided a predictable answer when asked for comment on those players not being present.

“Every guy that comes or isn’t here has their reason, and they are in communication with us,” said Harbaugh, who mentioned that Canty was present on Tuesday. “It’s a voluntary workout. We coach the guys who are here, though.”

Asked to comment on Jones’ third-place finish in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, Harbaugh offered congratulations to his No. 2 wide receiver and return specialist for the way in which he represented the organization, but you could also tell the Ravens head coach is eager to see Jones get back to football.

Jones has told the organization he’s remained in great condition while taking part in the competition and will report to Owing Mills for work on Thursday.

“I was proud of Jacoby through the whole thing. I am looking for him on the next flight back here to Baltimore, Jacoby,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “He should be getting off the plane any second here at BWI. Should be expecting him tomorrow — will be looking for him. He should be in great shape. I thought he did great.”

Tight end Ed Dickson took part in Wednesday’s practice despite having not yet signed his restricted original-round tender. According to a team official, Dickson along with the Ravens’ four exclusive-rights players — running back Bobby Rainey, safety Omar Brown, safety Anthony Levine, and linebacker Adrian Hamilton — were all practicing after signing offseason workout program and minicamp participation agreements.

A similar agreement is used for unsigned rookie draft picks that allows for participation in OTAs and minicamp practices.

 

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Ravens Dodge Bullet with McClain Retirement

Posted on 15 May 2013 by jeffreygilley

That makes two inside linebackers that have retired from the NFL this offseason in Baltimore. Ray Lewis is a future Hall of Fame player and beloved icon in the sports world. Rolando McClain, an immensely talented but troubled individual with off the field issues that prevented him from becoming the star many projected him to become.

When the Ravens signed Rolando McClain, I told myself there could only be two possible outcomes. McClain could resurrect his career under the leadership the Ravens possess. Or, McClain could continue his troubled ways and fail. There could be no in-between.

With McClain’s retirement today, it seems the latter is true. At just 23 years old, Rolando McClain has retired from the NFL.

So where do the Ravens go from here? First of all, the team did not invest much in McClain’s long-term future. Not only was his contract for merely one year, the team also drafted Arthur Brown in the second round of the NFL draft.

Brown will have to step in and start right away. There is still uncertainty surrounding Jameel McClain’s injury and Josh Bynes is largely unproven. But Brown will be able to handle the pressure of starting right away. He is incredibly fast and is a good tackler in space. Brown should be in contention for defensive rookie of the year.

Largely, the Ravens dodged a huge bullet with McClain’s retirement. They have brought in some veteran leaders this offseason and McClain’s terrible attitude could have impacted locker room chemistry. While I love the potential McClain has, I am ultimately happy he has been decided to retire and will never suit up in a Baltimore Ravens uniform.

Another player who could make an impact at inside linebacker could be Bryan Hall. Hall is a former defensive tackle who has changed positions to inside linebacker. Jarret Johnson made a similar change for the Ravens and became a beloved member of the team for a long time.

If the Ravens were to play a game tomorrow, the starters at inside linebacker would most likely be Arthur Brown and Jameel McClain. Brown and McClain are not household names but they have the potential to be a great duo for a long time.

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