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Ravens rookies getting feet wet in Owings Mills this weekend

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Ravens rookies getting feet wet in Owings Mills this weekend

Posted on 03 May 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Chosen by the Ravens to begin working toward a third championship in franchise history, a collection of rookie draft picks and free agents took the practice field in Owings Mills for the first time on Friday.

But before any of these first-year players can entertain thoughts of how big their respective roles will be during the 2013 season and beyond, simple tasks such as lining up in the huddle correctly or even finding the locker room must be mastered in their first mandatory minicamp. Adjusting to the speed of an NFL practice is challenging enough, but diving headfirst into a playbook more complex than any encountered in college will be a chore players won’t master for quite some time.

It’s all about baby steps, starting with first-round safety Matt Elam and finishing with the undrafted rookies trying to gain favor with head coach John Harbaugh and the rest of the staff in their first weekend together.

“You just take a couple of minutes at a time. I know we have lunch, so that’s what I’m looking forward to right now,” said fourth-round linebacker John Simon as he laughed. “Then, we have meetings, so [I'm] not getting too ahead of yourself and just slowly getting through the day – putting your focus into everything.”

Following an offseason filled with free-agent departures, retirements, and difficult releases, the Ravens view this draft as a pivotal step in replenishing a championship team with young talent ready to play immediately, whether it be as a starter or a key reserve. This is especially true on the defensive side of the football where the Ravens lost six key contributors and already view Elam as well as second-round inside linebacker Arthur Brown as projected starters against the Denver Broncos in Week 1.

Unlike other organizations plagued with prolonged spells of losing or lukewarm success, the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII title brings instant credibility in getting rookies to buy into their message with no questions asked. Of course, general manager Ozzie Newsome and his scouts have made a point to identify high-character players with team-centric goals that take precedent over personal accolades.

Understanding the organization’s way of doing things can’t be learned overnight, but the message is clearly expressed from the moment rookies walk into the building.

“I walked into the locker room and the first thing I saw was, ‘Team. Team. Team,’” Brown said. “That was definitely comforting to me, just recognizing that it is all about the team. I come from a school that definitely focuses on a team effort, so really just seeing that from the coaching staff and the other players is definitely what I am all about.”

Competing with Cody

Third-round pick Brandon Williams admits to having a chip on his shoulder after hearing the doubts about his NFL potential coming from Division II program Missouri Southern State, but the 335-pound defensive lineman couldn’t help but smile when asked about the opportunity he’s received in Baltimore.

Newsome made no secret about his team’s need to get stronger at the nose tackle position after Terrence Cody and Ma’ake Kemoeatu struggle at the spot throughout the 2012 season. The Ravens invested free-agent money in veteran defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to strengthen the defensive line but waited until the second day of the draft to identify Williams as a viable option at nose tackle.

And with Cody entering the final year of his rookie contract and failing to live up to expecations, Williams sees a golden opportunity to etch out a key role in the defensive line rotation.

“I love it. It’s great being here competing,” Williams said. “[Cody will] make me better; I’ll make him better. It’s just a team thing and a [defensive] line thing. We both can feed off of each other’s energy and play.”

Of course, with the Ravens’ extensive depth at defensive end, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata could see more time playing inside, but there’s no disputing the opportunity that Williams has to make his mark in his first professional season.

No replacing Ray

Brown has heard the comparisons to the incomparable Ray Lewis since before the Kansas State linebacker was even drafted by the Ravens as his possible replacement, but the second-round pick is taking it all in stride.

Understanding there’s no way he can put himself in the conversation with one of the greatest defensive players in league history, Brown is looking forward to learning from the many remaining veterans influenced by the future Hall of Fame linebacker as well as crossing paths with Lewis himself. Expectations will be high after the Ravens moved up six spots in the second round to take him after suffering the losses of both Lewis and free-agent departure Dannell Ellerbe this offseason.

“The way I look at it is [there's] no replacing Ray Lewis,” Brown said. “He is still a part of this team. He has had a major impact on so many of guys that are already here. Really, I am just an addition looking to fulfill my role and be an impact player.”

Brown’s biggest competition for a starting job alongside Jameel McClain appears to be fourth-year linebacker Rolando McClain, who carries severe baggage from his days in Oakland as well as an arrest earlier this month that took place less than two weeks after he was signed to a one-year contract. His troubles coupled with Brown’s selection have led many to wonder whether the 2010 first-round pick will even make it to training camp as a member of the Ravens.

Taking the Harvard baton

In addition to answering questions about a potential competition with Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, fourth-round selection Kyle Juszczyk of Harvard has been asked about his connection with retired Ravens center Matt Birk, who attended the same Ivy League school.

Juszczyk and Birk are both represented by agent Joe Linta and kept in touch over the last month as the former learned his draft fate. In addition to clarifying the pronunciation of his name — saying it’s like “you ‘use’ a ‘check’” — the rookie fullback shared Birk’s advice in preparing him for what to expect in the locker room as a Harvard product.

“On draft day he texted me, congratulated me [and] told me he thought I’d do well,” Juszczyk said. “He apologized and said, ‘Guys in Baltimore don’t think Harvard guys are too smart anymore –- sorry about that.’”

Even in retirement, Birk’s sense of humor can still be felt in Owings Mills.

Simon on Meyer

Simon received arguably the best compliment of any of the Ravens’ 10 draft picks when Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said he would name his son after the Buckeyes defensive end after he served as a two-time captain in Columbus.

Projected to play outside linebacker in Baltimore’s 3-4 system, Simon was appreciative of his college coach’s words — even if they were uncharacteristic based on his perception of Meyer.

“He never really said it to my face, so I’ve never actually heard it, but I’ve heard other people talk about it,” Simon said. “He’s a blunt person. He tells it like it is. For him to say something like that about myself, it’s special to me and I respect the hell out of the guy. It means a lot.”

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Ravens assigning numbers, handing out contracts to rookies

Posted on 02 May 2013 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens welcoming their new batch of rookies to Owings Mills for their mandatory minicamp this weekend, they got down to business with signing some of their 10 draft picks from the Class of 2013.

The drama of rookie contracts has largely been eliminated since the introduction of a new system with the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011, so signings have become mere formalities with holdouts and delayed negotiating now things of the past. The contracts of drafted rookie players are set at four years — first-round contracts contain an option for a fifth season — with rookie free agents receiving three-year contracts. While contract figures aren’t slotted with a fixed amount, each team is given a rookie cap figure by which to abide.

According to The Sun, the Ravens have reached four-year agreements with fourth-round fullback Kyle Juszczyk, fifth-round offensive lineman Ricky Wagner, sixth-round defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, sixth-round center Ryan Jensen, seventh-round wide receiver Aaron Mellette, and seventh-round cornerback Marc Anthony.

In addition to handing out contracts to six of their 10 draft choices, the Ravens officially assigned jersey numbers to each player and can be seen below:

S Matt Elam – No. 31
LB Arthur Brown – No. 59
NT Brandon Williams – No. 98
LB John Simon – No. 47
FB Kyle Juszczyk – No. 40
OL Ricky Wagner – No. 71
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore – No. 67
C Ryan Jensen – No. 77
WR Aaron Mellette – No. 80
CB Marc Anthony – No. 36

The Ravens have also issued No. 51 to troubled linebacker Rolando McClain, which will lead many to wonder whether we’ll actually see the 23-year-old linebacker suit up in Baltimore. The second-round selection of Brown certainly clouded McClain’s future even more than it already was following an arrest two weekends ago.

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Interesting post-draft roster decisions with early look at 2013 Ravens depth chart

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Interesting post-draft roster decisions with early look at 2013 Ravens depth chart

Posted on 29 April 2013 by Luke Jones

With the 2013 NFL Draft in the rear-view mirror, general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens can now begin looking at the offseason roster with a clearer picture of what they’ll have when they travel to Denver for the Sept. 5 season opener.

Of course, there will be a few more additions or subtractions of some consequence between now and the start of training camp in late July, but any drastic changes are unlikely with the Ravens holding just under $4 million in salary cap space.

The Ravens will likely use some of that remaining cap room to address offensive tackle after only coming away with Wisconsin tackle Ricky Wagner in the fifth round of the draft. The Badgers left tackle will likely be moved inside to guard as it’s not believed that his feet are quick enough to handle the position at the next level, meaning Kelechi Osemele is still in line to be the team’s starting left tackle if the season were to begin now.

The obvious veteran still on the free-agent market is left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who has remained in touch with the Ravens this offseason but visited with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The 33-year-old McKinnie told WNST.net in a text message that the only post-draft contact he’s had from the Ravens came with run-game coordinator Juan Castillo and right tackle Michael Oher.

A CBSSports.com report said McKinnie is also scheduled to visit with the San Diego Chargers, but the 11-year veteran provided his own update on the visit with the Dolphins on Monday afternoon.

“Just finished a good day of meetings & workouts!” McKinnie wrote on his official Twitter account. “This was the gear of choice 4 2day! Nothing final…”

Even if McKinnie signs elsewhere and Osemele ultimately receives the nod to protect quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside, you’d expect the Ravens to at least add another veteran tackle since Jah Reid and Ramon Harewood would then factor heavily into the competition for the starting left guard spot. With no other additions, Oher would clearly be the replacement for Osemele in the event of an injury, but that would open a huge hole on the right side of the line.

Fullback is another interesting position to watch after the Ravens drafted Harvard fullback Kyle Juszczyk with their second fourth-round pick on Saturday. All things being equal, you wouldn’t expect the rookie to supplant three-time Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, but the veteran’s hefty cap figure puts him at the top of the list of potential cuts should an opportunity to add a pricier veteran arise between now and the start of the season.

Newsome was asked following the conclusion of the draft what Jusczcyk’s selection meant for Leach’s future, but the Ravens executive didn’t exactly provide a guarantee that Leach would be opening running lanes for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce in 2013. Baltimore won’t cut Leach for the sake of simply saving $3 million in cap space, but if they need more cap space to address another need such tackle or wide receiver, the Ravens won’t hesitate to give Jusczcyk the starting job.

“We want to make decisions based on how guys perform out on the football field,” Newsome said. “We’re going to get Kyle in here, and the thing we like about Kyle other than his ability to play on the offensive side is we expect him to be a very good special-teams contributor. Could there be a place for both of them? Yes, there could be, because as John and I try to put our 53-man squad together, we want to keep the best 53 players.”

Troubled inside linebacker Rolando McClain remains with the Ravens as of Monday afternoon, but you have to wonder how much shorter his leash became after the selection of Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown. Considering the Ravens traded up in the second round to select Brown in fear of another team taking him before their scheduled pick at 62nd overall, you’d expect that coach John Harbaugh envisions him to be a starter from Day 1.

To this point, the Ravens have said all the polite things about McClain’s latest arrest on April 21 and his right to due process, but the need to keep an average player with such baggage diminished greatly after adding one of the top inside linebackers in this year’s draft class. You have to wonder if McClain will even make it to training camp at this point, or whether he’ll be able to keep himself out of trouble between now and then.

“He is one of the 90,” Newsome said on the final day of the draft. “We’re going to make the determination, starting Sunday, who we think is going to be on our top 53. We’ll start making those decisions. It’s going to be some tough decisions, but as of right now, Rolando is still a part of our football team.”

Below is an all-too-early look at the 2013 depth chart, which doesn’t include undrafted rookie free agents until the full list is officially announced by the Ravens. High draft picks such as Matt Elam and Brown are viewed more favorably than lower-round selections like Ryan Jensen and Aaron Mellette in terms of where they rank on the current depth chart. In many cases, roster holdovers from previous seasons have been given the nod over rookies with the full understanding that some — if not many — will be supplanted.

Teams are allowed to have a maximum of 90 players on their offseason roster.

Projected post-draft 2013 depth chart

Offense
QB: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, Caleb Hanie
RB: Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Anthony Allen, Bobby Rainey, Damien Berry, Lonyae Miller
FB: Vonta Leach, Kyle Juszczyk
WR: Torrey Smith, David Reed, LaQuan Williams, Aaron Mellette
WR: Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, Tommy Streeter, Tori Gurley
TE: Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Alex Silvestro
LT: Kelechi Osemele
LG: Jah Reid, Ramon Harewood, Antoine McClain
C: Gino Gradkowski, Ryan Jensen, Reggie Stephens
RG: Marshal Yanda, Ricky Wagner, Jack Cornell
RT: Michael Oher, David Mims

Defense
DE: Chris Canty, Pernell McPhee, DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore
NT: Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody, Brandon Williams
DT: Arthur Jones, Marcus Spears, Swanson Miller
Rush: Terrell Suggs, John Simon, Michael McAdoo
Will: Arthur Brown, Rolando McClain, Albert McClellan, D.J. Bryant
Mike: Jameel McClain, Josh Bynes, Bryan Hall, Nigel Carr
Sam: Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Adrian Hamilton, Spencer Adkins
LCB: Lardarius Webb, Chykie Brown, Chris Johnson, Marc Anthony
SS: Matt Elam, James Ihedigbo, Christian Thompson
FS: Michael Huff, Emanuel Cook, Omar Brown, Anthony Levine
RCB: Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, Asa Jackson

Special Teams
K: Justin Tucker
P: Sam Koch
LS: Morgan Cox
KR: Jacoby Jones, David Reed, Deonte Thompson
PR: Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, Lardarius Webb

 

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Ten thoughts on Ravens’ 2013 draft picks

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Ten thoughts on Ravens’ 2013 draft picks

Posted on 28 April 2013 by Luke Jones

Because I refuse to put a grade on a draft that needs a couple years in order to truly be evaluated, I instead offer a thought on each of the 10 selections the Ravens made in the 2013 NFL Draft this weekend.

Some are serious, others are not, and you can guarantee you won’t find a silly letter grade attached to any of them.

1. Round 1 – S Matt Elam, Florida
Thought: The Ravens are over the moon for Elam, but you do wonder if his propensity for the big hit will draw untimely penalties in the same way Bernard Pollard would.

2. Round 2 – LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
Thought: No one will ever be Ray Lewis, but Brown’s skill set provides the Ravens with a complete linebacker who’s strong in pass coverage, something they were severely lacking.

3. Round 3 – DT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State
Thought: It’s great that the 335-pounder can walk on his hands, but that act of athleticism is too reminiscent of Kyle Boller being able to throw a football through the uprights while on a knee at the 50 for me to really care.

4. Round 4 – DE John Simon, Ohio State
Thought: The Jarret Johnson comparisons have already been made, but did Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer mean “John” or “Simon” when he said he’d name his son after the new Ravens outside linebacker?

5. Round 4 – FB Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard
Thought: General manager Ozzie Newsome didn’t dismiss the idea that the Ravens could keep both Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach and Juszczyk on the 53-man roster this year, but it wasn’t a ringing endorsement of the idea either.

6. Round 5 – OL Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin
Thought: The Ravens technically drafted a left tackle on Saturday, but Wagner’s feet aren’t quick enough for the position at the next level, meaning he’ll likely find a home at guard or right tackle with the Ravens.

7. Round 6 – DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame
Thought: Still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the BCS title game, Lewis-Moore is one to watch for 2014 after being a co-captain and four-year starter for the Fighting Irish.

8. Round 6 – C Ryan Jensen, Colorado State-Pueblo
Thought: Raise your hand if you had never even heard of Colorado State-Pueblo — who brought back football in 2008 after a 24-year hiatus — let alone this offensive lineman prior to Saturday afternoon.

9. Round 7 – WR Aaron Mellette, Elon
Thought: You’ll continually be reminded he’s a seventh-round pick from an FCS school, but it’s difficult not to be intrigued with the 6-foot-2, 217-pound frame and eye-popping production (210 catches and 30 touchdowns in the last two seasons).

10. Round 7 – CB Marc Anthony, California
Thought: You have to feel good for Anthony making it to the NFL after putting up with years of jokes about Cleopatra, Jennifer Lopez, and being a Grammy award-winning singer.

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Taking a look at new Ravens LB Arthur Brown and DL Brandon Williams

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Taking a look at new Ravens LB Arthur Brown and DL Brandon Williams

Posted on 26 April 2013 by WNST Staff

The Baltimore Ravens selected Kansas State LB Arthur Brown in the 2nd round (56th pick) and Missouri Southern State DL Brandon Williams in the 3rd round (94th pick) of the NFL Draft. Here’s a look at some of the video on Brown and Williams…

Here is an overall highlight package on Brown…

Brown against Oregon in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl…

Brown in Kansas State’s 2012 win over Oklahoma…

Perhaps the quintessential video of Brown, from the Wildcats’ 2011 upset win over Heisman Trophy winner and Washington Redskins Pro Bowl QB Robert Griffin III…

We decided to make a GIF of the former K-State star running down the Skins’ QB…

Our own Luke Jones and Glenn Clark thought Brown reminded them of someone they had seen before…

Moving to Williams, he didn’t have a ton on film before the Senior Bowl…

Here is an overall highlight package on the former Lions DT…

Ravens coach John Harbaugh referenced this incredible video of Williams walking on his hands during the press conference…

If you want that in GIF form…

Courtesy of Bleacher Report, here’s this look at Williams’ arms…

A few of Williams’ friends shared this video of how the former MSSU D-Lineman was blowing off steam before the Draft Friday. It’s quite athletic.

You can hear from both players, as well as Harbaugh, GM Ozzie Newsome, Assistant GM Eric DeCosta and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net.  

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Players the Ravens could draft in the first round

Posted on 10 February 2013 by jeffreygilley

While the draft is 70 plus days away it’s never too early to predict what player the Ravens could draft in the first round. The Ravens have many needs so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ozzie Newsome trade out of the first round like he has done so many times before.

Here are several players that I think the Ravens will have the opportunity to draft in the first round.

Manti Te’o: linebacker, Notre Dame.
What a season for Te’o. He had a career year and was a Heisman finalist. But as we all know, his draft stock has collapsed because of the fake girlfriend hoax and his poor performance in the national championship.

It would be difficult to see Te’o falling all the way to pick 32. Pittsburgh has the 17th pick in the draft and the Steelers have a need at inside linebacker. Other teams in the 20’s that have a need at inside linebacker include the Chicago Bears at 20, the Bengals at 21, and the Packers at 26.

If none of these teams select Te’o, the possibility of Te’o suiting up for the Ravens in 2013 is a real possibility.

Like all draft prospects with character issues, Te’o could be a good fit with the Ravens because of the leadership within the locker room.

Arthur Brown: linebacker, Kansas State.
Brown is one of the more versatile defenders in this draft. Despite his size – 6’1” 228 pounds – Brown is a complete linebacker with exceptional speed. Obviously, that speed translates to his pass coverage ability, which is above average.

Brown would be a good fit because his speed allows him to run sideline-to-sideline and make plays. If the Ravens lose their best coverage linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe to free agency, Brown’s pass coverage ability would become that much more valuable.

Tavon Austin: wide receiver, West Virginia.
If you are going to pay Joe Flacco, why not give him toys to play with? Austin is the ultimate weapon because he can play multiple roles in an offense.

Austin is a poor man’s Percy Harvin. He did a little bit of everything at West Virginia, including contributions on special teams. Austin would make the Ravens offense much more versatile, and would be a much more attractive option to the Ravens if Anquan Boldin is cut.

Kevin Minter: linebacker, LSU
Minter is one of my favorite players in the draft. While he lacks elite athleticism, he is adequate in pass coverage and excels against the run.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson is what pushed Minter into a first round projection. Minter finished with 19 total tackles and when he wasn’t making a tackle, he was somewhere around the ball.

Minter would be a great fit for the Ravens but with so many teams having a need at inside linebacker, Minter might not make it to pick 32 in the first round.

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