Posted on 16 August 2013 by WNST Audio
Posted on 16 August 2013 by WNST Staff
Posted on 13 August 2013 by Brett Dickinson
Now Ozzie Newsome is one of (and probably the best) General Manager in the NFL, for his entire career in Baltimore. But that does not make him impervious to mistakes. His “Achilles Heel” has always been the pass-catcher situation; namely Wide Receiver.
He has made smart moves in the past to find targets for Joe Flacco, Trent Dilfer and Steve McNair, such as Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Shannon Sharpe. But none of them had the monster careers that Baltimore fans hoped for. Add in his track record in the draft with receiving threats (i.e. Travis Taylor, Mark Clayton, Patrick Robinson, Demetrius Williams, etc.) and you could say Ozzie has been somewhat unsuccessful filling that spot.
Most recently, Anquan Boldin was due $6 million for the 2013-14 season. After a failed attempt to renegotiate Boldin’s contract, the Ravens sent him Super Bowl foe, San Francisco 49ers, for a 6th round pick. The move was made thinking that the young core, namely Torrey Smith, Tandon Doss and Dennis Pitta, would take their games to the next level. The team has already lost Pitta for the season, and seem to be underwhelmed by the rest of pass-catchers.
Since Training Camp began, Baltimore has signed a trio of aging veterans, who made a living across the middle of the field (Brandon Stokley, Visanthe Shiancoe and Dallas Clark). The argument would be that those signings were to supplant what was lost in Pitta’s tragic hip injury. But the team had already brought in Shiancoe, before their up-and-coming star TE went down.
Ozzie found the need to bring three guys, on the wrong side of 30, to fill the void left by the key losses of their TE and top WR in 2012. Though the organization did not want to pay Anquan Boldin, they sure have spent a lot of time and effort trying to find a replacement. Unless one of the young players, like Aaron Mellete, Deonte Thompson or Tommy Streeter, begins to wow the Ravens’ brain-trust, those vets will see a lot of time in 2013.
Anyone is hoping to see the 2007 version of any of those signings walk through the doors in Owings Mills, will be highly disappointed. Stokley had a somewhat of a rebound season, but had the luxury of playing with Peyton Manning (again), Shiancoe caught zero passes for the Patriots in five games and Clark played his first full season in three years for Tampa Bay in 2012.
The fact that Ozzie started digging at the bottom of barrel, for players no other team wanted, shows a lack of confidence in the players currently on the roster. Hindsight is always “20/20,” but moving on from a trusted big-game target, like Anquan Boldin, looks like a bigger mistake several months later. His production is clearly already missed and Ozzie has realized that. Let’s just hope it has not been “too little, too late.”
Posted on 29 July 2013 by timjones60
Training Camp hasn’t even been in session for a week with most teams and already several players have been bit by the injury bug. The Ravens own Dennis Pitta is out for the season with a fractured and dislocated hip. Right up I-95 the Eagles lost Receiver and Return Specialist Jeremy Maclin to a torn ACL. And finally out in the mountains the Broncos are trying to talk retired center and former Colt Jeff Saturday to make a return due to the loss of their starting center Dan Koppen. The bug has bitten hard so far this season with SEVEN confirmed season ending injuries in less than a week.
Another interesting take is that we haven’t even reached the first preseason game which will take place this Sunday. Players seem to go down more often in the first couple of days of camp, but when players are going full speed in game type situations, injuries could be abundant.
The NFL has confirmed over 80 players have started the season with an injury, and multiple Ravens are on that list. Now these injuries aren’t likely going to change the outcome of this seasons teams. But the teams will be forced to adjust and how they adjust is how teams could lose out on playoff hopes.
Posted on 29 July 2013 by timjones60
Yesterday the Ravens announced the addition of local standout and former Minnesota Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe to help minimize the damage that was suffered with the loss of star tight end Dennis Pitta. To many this move was obvious because of the fact that Shiancoe had appeared at the Ravens practices as an observer. Many took this as a sign that the free agent tight end was on the verge on returning to Baltimore after playing his college ball at Morgan State.
In my opinion the writing is on the wall that Shiancoe’s stint with the Ravens will not go past this season. With Dickson and Pitta both in contract years, Dickson may well play his way out of the Ravens if he performs like most are now expecting him to so he can replace the production lost by Pitta. However the Ravens have already looked into developing players like former Maryland tight end Matt Furstenburg. We can not forget about special teamer Billy Bajema as well. So I look at Shiancoe as an inexpensive band-aid who can hopefully come across the middle with out hearing footsteps (see Ed Dickson).
So with losing Pitta, we lose Flacco’ security blanket and almost a third of his passing touchdowns. The fact that the Ravens lose that much production, we can look for the Ravens to add another slot receiver, or even change the offense with the soon to be addition of Vonta Leach. No matter what Jim Caldwell will have to change some aspect of his offense and time will tell if Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense will be able to flourish.
Posted on 29 July 2013 by mattcostantini
The defending champs are not even into August and devastation has struck at the Castle in Owings Mills. Reports broke Saturday that Joe Flacco’s most trusted target, Dennis Pitta, had gone down with a hip injury. Shortly there-after it was announced that Pitta would be going under the knife for season ending hip surgery.
If replacing 921 yards, 65 receptions, and 4 touchdowns from Anquan Boldin already didn’t seem like it would be tough enough, it just got worse. The Anquan trade was hard to swallow because of his toughness, leadership, and his sticky hands but you could accept it understanding that his contract exceeded his statistics.
Replacing Joe’s safety blanket on the other hand is something that Coach Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were not ready to deal with. 61 catches for 669 yards and 7 touchdowns isn’t Jimmy Graham or Gronk-like but if you watched this team throughout the regular season you knew that Joe found a certain amount of comfort in knowing that he could find Pitta over the middle for a quick 10-15 yards. Not to mention the 73% completion rate between the two during the playoffs.
Part of the reason this seems so big is because we all remember Dennis Pitta getting annihilated by Jerrod Mayo over the middle in New England, only to get up and pick his head up off the field to connect with Joe for the 5 yard touchdown pass that gave the Ravens the 3rd quarter lead. Showing that Baltimore toughness that we all have a soft spot for.
Visanthe Shiancoe is the immediate answer from Ozzie, but that brings the obvious question, how much does the 33 year old from Morgan State have left in the tank? He had some solid years in Minnesota, nothing spectacular for sure. He is credited with 4 games in New England last year where he caught 0 passes for 0 yards which doesn’t exactly scream safety-net. His career year was 556 yards with 11 touchdowns in 2009 but that was 3 years ago.
The easy answer is Ed Dickson will step up. I don’t think this is too far from the realm of possibilities with his 2011 season, 50+ receptions for 528 yards and 5 touchdowns. Granted he fell off in 2012, he was also struggling with consistency which is the last thing that our 100 Million Dollar Man needs while trying to prove his contract worth.
The free agent market for tight ends is absolutely abysmal. Dallas Clark and Todd Heap are the only names worth mentioning but they don’t exactly match the youth movement that Ravens are going for. Wide receiver is pretty weak as well, considering the time of year, that’s a given.
The chance for a repeat just undoubtedly took a huge hit, then again we thought the same thing last year when Webby hit the ground with a torn ACL.
We all saw how that played out.
The only positive that comes out of this injury is the fact that it happened this early in training camp so that the Jim’s have time to game plan for the loss of Dennis Pitta.
Posted on 27 July 2013 by brianbower
The trade of Anquan Boldin left a gap in the teams receiving group and how the Ravens will replace him remains to be seen.
It is obvious that Torrey Smith will take over the number one receiver role for the defending Super Bowl champions. As the Ravens’ resident deep threat, his 17.4-yard average catch and eight touchdowns led all Baltimore pass-catchers, and his 855 yards ranked second behind only Boldin in that department. Smith’s 49 receptions were just fourth on the 2012 Ravens, and his greatest improvement can come in the consistency with which he and quarterback Joe Flacco connect.
Last season, Smith caught just 49 of the 110 passes he was targeted on, and that 45 percent success rate was the league’s worst among receivers with more than 30 catches and at least 16 yards per reception. Smith, the former Maryland Terp will see a lot more looks this season and the true speedster will see a lot more double coverage in 2013 and must be better on short and intermediate pass routes. No doubt Torrey can handle this role and I am excited to see his progression this season.
Moving into the second receiver role is likely the electrifying Jacoby Jones. As the Ravens reported to training camp earlier this week the headlines shouted that Jones was unable to pass his conditioning test however passed the next day. Jones who is entering his seventh NFL season dazzled opponents in his kick return game in 2012, however could see his role on special teams diminish now that his receiving role will increase.
Jones recorded 30 catches as the Ravens third wide out in 2012 along with 406 receiving yards and one touchdown in just 54 attempts. The knock on Jacoby has always been his hands and his ability to catch the ball. We all remember the “Mile High Miracle” and his catch in the Super Bowl however he has never caught more than 51 passes (2010) in a season.
Baltimore seems pretty confident that the departure of Boldin will not affect the passing game at all. With the likes of a talented pair of tight ends, Dennis Pitta (61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012) and Ed Dickson (21 for 225) will all see increased targets. The number three and four receiver positions is where it gets interesting. A training camp battle is already under way with 2011 fourth-round pick Tandon Doss, 2012 collegiate free agent Deonte Thompson, 2010 fifth-round selection David Reed, and perhaps 2011 collegiate free agent LaQuan Williams.
Baltimore can still add a receiver during training camp if any of the above mentioned players does not step up into that role. I myself cringe at the thought of bringing in another Lee Evans however it may just happen. A lot will take place between now and the Ravens first preseason game against Tampa Bay next week and could make the receiver picture very clear.
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Posted on 26 July 2013 by Brett Dickinson
Day 2 of Ravens Training Camp held some big storylines, especially concerning the Offensive Line. The team’s Super Bowl run in 2012 was predicated on the blocking emergence of a unit that was shuffled all season long. With Bryant McKinnie reinserted into that core, Baltimore seemed to find the best fit for its five lineman; as Kelechi Osemele moved to Guard and Michael Oher transitioned back to RT.
The team already had concerns at Center, with the retirement of Matt Birk, but it was expected Gino Gradkowski would be handed the starting job. Though, with the acquisition of former Colt, A.Q. Shipley, the competition seems to be in full swing. Both split time throughout drills on Friday, yet Shipley was in place with the first team for most of the 11-on-11 portion of practice. Shipley also saw some time next to Gradkowski, filling in at Guard. You can hear Gradkowski’s thoughts on the competition here, in a interview with Glenn Clark, on the Reality Check, after Friday’s practice.
The key concern for the next couple weeks will be the health of both starting Guards, Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele. Yanda was placed on the PUP list, but passed his physical on Friday, making a return in the upcoming days likely. On the other side, Osemele was held out of Thursday’s 2nd practice and was a no-show on Friday, with concerns of a hamstring injury.
In the place of the those two standouts, were several combinations of players varying in experience. Jah Reid took the most snaps at LG (Osemele’s position) with the first team, while RG was a mixed bag of former practice squad players and rookies. Ryan Jensen, a 6th round pick out of Colorado State-Pueblo, initially spent time with the first team, until he was shook up with a leg “tweak,” during running game drills. As mentioned before, A.Q. Shipley filled in at one point, but Ramon Harewood covered the position, while Shipley played Center. Jack Cornell and Antoine McClain also rotated in that spot at points during practice.
It may not be an actual injury, but there still has to be concern at the LT position as well. Though Bryant McKinnie was cleared to practice on Friday, after being sat down Thursday for “conditioning issues,” he did not see much time on the field. He was involved in all position drills, but was held out in most the team exercises (7-on-7, 11-on-11, Two Minute). Rookie fifth round pick, Ricky Wagner (from Wisconsin), settled in with the first team, while McKinnie was on the sidelines. He performed admirably against Elvis Dumervil, but did struggle against the former Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs.
The key acquisition for the line may be having Offensive Assistant, Juan Castillo, around for an entire season. He not only brought an intensity to practice, but was pulling players aside between plays. Castillo was recognized as one of the best Offensive Line coaches in the league, while in Philadelphia (before his failed experiment calling defensive plays), where he utilized big men in the trenches to control the defensive front 7. He has plenty of size on this roster to play with and can be a real asset in developing some of the younger players on the team.
By the end of practice, the first team Offensive Line looked as follows: LT-Wagner, LG-Reid, C-Shipley, RG-Harewood, RT-Oher. That is vastly different than last season’s Super Bowl winners and the expectation for the starters, come Week 1.
The defensive rookie class of Matt Elam, Arthur Brown and Brandon Williams all worked with the second team, even though there is high expectations for that trio.
Chykie Brown worked in with the first team, essentially holding down Lardarius Webb’s spot until he is ready to participate in practice.
Torrey Smith had to leave the field at one point, during 7-on-7 drills, with an apparent lower leg/ankle/foot injury. He did have a noticeable limp for the rest of practice, but continued to participate, until the end.
The defensive line showed some versatility, during Two-Minute drills, where OLB Courtney Upshaw and DE Pernell McPhee lined up inside at the DT spots; Dumervil and Suggs held down the DE positions, in that alignment.
Posted on 24 July 2013 by brianbower
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.
Posted on 23 July 2013 by Geoff Crawley
Here we go again.
The Ravens, right out of the box, get no respect.
The Ravens are 9-point underdogs to the Denver Broncos for the opening game of the NFL season. Defending champs? So what. Reigning Super Bowl MVP at quarterback? Who cares. It’s Peyton Manning!
Well, excuse me for not genuflecting at the altar of Peyton. Look, I understand that Peyton is a great regular season QB. He is, in fact, one of the best to ever play the game. But let’s be real, what he is not, is a clutch QB. (I know he won a Super Bowl. He beat Rex Grossman. That doesn’t count.) Be honest, if your life was on the line and you had to pick a QB to win a game for you, would you pick Peyton?
I know that’s a ridiculous hypothetical. I’m trying to make a point here. The point is that Peyton Manning is not some unbeatable, mythical beast who should always get the benefit of the doubt. At some point, people need to take a look beyond the stats and realize that the guy consistently comes up small in big games. This brings me to my real point: the continued lack of respect for Joe Flacco.
I’m not saying that Joe Flacco is better than Peyton Manning. But he just keeps getting better in the post season, which is what matters in my book. Who cares how many 13-3, 4500 passing yard seasons you have if you keep losing your first or second playoff game? Flacco’s post season for the ages last year should earn him some respect. Instead, his team, again, coming off of a Super Bowl win, is installed as 9-point underdogs in the season opener?
I guess he still has something to prove. I realize that the opening game doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of the season. I understand that everybody loves Peyton, and that he is, in fact, still playing at a very high level, and that this is a regular season game, which is where he is especially great. And I also realize that a lot can happen in the six weeks between now and opening night. But come on, nine points? That is insulting and ridiculous.
Let’s see how the Ravens respond to this disrespect