Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

jensen

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on quiet start to offseason

Posted on 19 January 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens still not having set a date for their season review press conference, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The brass never reveals every detail of its offseason game plan, but perhaps we can anticipate more candor than usual at the annual “State of the Ravens” since the summit at Steve Bisciotti’s Florida home will have already taken place. Fighting fan apathy has to be a major concern.

2. There’s little to take away from an introductory press conference, but Wink Martindale passed the test by citing his aggressive personality when calling a game. It’s unfair to judge him too harshly for his poor 2010 results in Denver, but the proof will be in the results this coming fall.

3. I’m sure no one in Cleveland will be shedding any tears, but only six NFL teams now have a longer playoff appearance drought than the Ravens. That really speaks to the parity of the league and should also tick some people off in Owings Mills.

4. John Harbaugh acknowledged the possibility of drafting a quarterback, but taking one any earlier than the third or fourth round would clash with the goal of getting back to the postseason in 2018. Aim to upgrade from Ryan Mallett and if you discover the successor to Joe Flacco, that’s perfect.

5. Marlon Humphrey looked the part of a budding No. 1 cornerback down the stretch. If he continues blossoming and Smith struggles in his return from a torn Achilles tendon next season, you’d have to think the latter could be a cap casualty in 2019 with a $16.175 million number scheduled.

6. Ryan Jensen won’t be easy to re-sign, but you’d hate losing someone who stabilized an important position that had been an issue since Matt Birk’s retirement. Just handing the job to Matt Skura and assuming everything will be OK is a risk. Jensen graded as PFF’s ninth-best center this season.

7. There’s no guarantee Smith will be ready for the start of 2018, but I’m inclined to move on from Brandon Carr to save $4 million in cap space if Tavon Young is cleared for spring workouts. There are too many holes on the opposite side of the ball to address.

8. Breshad Perriman finished 119th out of 119 qualified wide receivers in PFF’s grading system and regressed dramatically from a 2016 season in which he was at least a functional contributor with 499 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Doesn’t someone have to be accountable for this besides the player?

9. The thought of a healthy Kenneth Dixon teaming with starter Alex Collins next season is intriguing, but Dixon has a lot to prove after a major knee injury and two suspensions. Much like tight end Darren Waller, the Ravens shouldn’t count on him until he proves otherwise.

10. Much has been made of the offense’s post-bye improvement, but the Ravens scored only three offensive touchdowns in the first quarter all season and had none after Week 8. In the same way the defense must learn how to finish, this offense has to start faster.

11. I’m not ready to compare Jacksonville to the 2000 Ravens, but the swagger of its defense reminds me of old teams here. The Jaguars benefited from early draft picks and much cap space, but they’re a better version of what Baltimore tried to build this year.

12. I have interest and work responsibilities in other sports, but I’m still amazed how quickly many dive into draft discussion. I prefer waiting for at least the Senior Bowl and the combine for more context before discussing the same names for the next three months, but to each his own.

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martindale

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Can Martindale take Ravens defense to another level?

Posted on 18 January 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — New Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale is no stranger to feeling pressure.

Try having one of the best defensive minds in NFL history looking over your shoulder while coaching in an NCAA Division-IAA playoff game. Having worked with both Rex and Rob Ryan, Martindale called their father, the late Buddy Ryan, a “big influence” on his coaching career on Thursday. The two-time Super Bowl champion assistant and former NFL head coach spent his later years in the state of Kentucky where Martindale made his final collegiate coaching stop.

“I called a game at Western Kentucky, and he was standing next to me on the sideline at a playoff game,” said Martindale, who worked for former Hilltoppers head coach Jack Harbaugh from 2001-02 and finished his stint there a year later. “You want to talk about pressure? That was a little bit of pressure — not blitzing when he wanted to blitz.”

With the Ravens coming off a second straight season in which the defense’s failure to get a late stop left them short of the playoffs, the former linebackers coach steps into a role surrounded by high expectations. And with most of the offseason focus expected to be on the other side of the ball — though we’ve made that incorrect assumption in the past — Martindale will be asked to reach another level with a defense that’s received a plethora of resources in recent years.

Upon being promoted last week, the 54-year-old received congratulatory messages from many of the greatest defensive players in franchise history, ranging from Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to Haloti Ngata and current 16th-year outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. Martindale also received strong endorsements from other current players such as Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, showing he has plenty of support in the locker room despite not being a sexy choice for fans who were intrigued by the possibility of Chuck Pagano returning to Baltimore.

This will be Martindale’s second stint as an NFL defensive coordinator after serving in that capacity with Denver in 2010. Having lost All-Pro defensive end Elvis Dumervil to a season-ending pectoral injury that summer, Martindale didn’t have much talent with which to work as the Broncos finished last in the league in total yards and points allowed and head coach Josh McDaniels was fired in December.

“I know it didn’t work out the way we wanted it to work out,” said Martindale, who was dismissed at season’s end and hired as Ravens inside linebackers coach a year later. “Not at the time, but eight years later, I’m glad I went through that process because I think that makes me a better coach today. It’s like I tell my guys — you either win or you learn.”

Martindale now inherits a talented defense that impressively pitched three shutouts and led the NFL in takeaways this season, but the unit finished sixth in points allowed, 10th in passing yards allowed, 15th in rushing yards allowed, and 12th in total yards surrendered and saw its performance slip over the final month when Baltimore blew late leads against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The stunning home loss to the Bengals on New Year’s Eve resulted in John Harbaugh’s team missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

The Ravens are already devoting more cap space to their defense than the other side of the ball and have used 13 of their last 17 Day 1 and Day 2 draft picks on defensive players. In other words, Martindale needs to find more consistency than retired defensive coordinator Dean Pees did with the current group and probably shouldn’t be expecting major additions this offseason.

“We’re close. Obviously, the last two years it has been the last play that’s knocked us out of it,” Martindale said. “We are going to work diligently — all of us — with our package and situational football. That’s going to be the next step I think that’ll skyrocket us. That is the big thing that I see.

“We are going to take our ‘good’ and make it great. We were really good. Let’s make it great.”

With numerous holes on offense and a limited amount of projected salary-cap space for 2018, Martindale could be the X factor for the defense. Of course, some recent draft picks will need to step up in a way similar to how Matthew Judon progressed this past season with Pro Bowl veterans such as Suggs and safety Eric Weddle not getting any younger and high-priced cornerback Jimmy Smith returning from a torn Achilles tendon.

But many will be eager to see how Martindale’s fingerprints compare to Pees, who was criticized for too many late-game collapses and not being more aggressive in certain situations. The new defensive coordinator emphasized that success is ultimately about the players and putting them in the right positions to succeed.

Without being disrespectful when asked how he’d compare to his predecessor, Martindale made his intentions clear.

“I think personality-wise and just calls, there’s going to be some things that are the same,” Martindale said. “And then there’s going to be some times where I’m going to pressure more. I think I have a more aggressive personality in calling a game. Sometimes, too aggressive. That’s some of the things I’ve learned from the past, so there’s that fine line — what quarterback you’re playing and things of that nature.”

Finding that fine line could be the difference for a good defense striving to be great.

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Butterworth_NFL_Hall_of_Fame

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Join our 25th Anniversary Legendary Roadtrip to Canton for Ray Lewis induction ceremony in August

Posted on 17 January 2018 by WNST Trips

WNST proudly presents our 25th Anniversary Legendary Purple Roadtrip to Canton, Ohio and the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the Ray Lewis Induction.

We’ve known this trip was coming for No. 52 for a long time and we’re heartened that so many folks have reached to us to go along for the ride.

One of our favorite WNST trips was a unique long weekend trip back in 1998 to Cleveland and Detroit for baseball games and museum tours. So, in the spirit of that and knowing that many folks want to experience more than just the Saturday night Ray Lewis speech under the Ohio stars – but that will certainly be the highlight and the destination – we’re arranging a few packages in the hopes that one catches your eye and you’ll support WNST and join us this summer for a memorable sojourn with friends!

We will be offering a few upgrades on the pricing of the seating for the Saturday night event but all of our packages currently include an “upper admission” to the stadium for the Ray Lewis and Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Saturday night. All of our packages also include a Sunday trip through Pittsburgh to see the Pirates-Cardinals game at PNC Park. It’s a lovely stadium and it’ll break up the trip home.

There is a serious expectation that the Baltimore Ravens will be playing in the Thursday Night Kickoff Game in Canton once Ray Lewis gets the nod on Saturday, February 3rd. So, the first (and pricier) package includes a longer trip and a ticket to that game. Clearly, we can refund folks the difference in the shorter packages if the Ravens aren’t in the Thursday game or add you for Thursday if you decide you want to see the game.

Also, it’s our expectation is that a lot of folks won’t want to take the extra day off of work and the expense of a preseason game but we want to make sure we offer all options. The expectation is that the Friday-Sunday PLAN B trip will be our most popular. But we expect to run buses on all three days because the demand has been very high and it’s hard to get rooms in Northern Ohio that weekend.

Our prices are – by FAR – the best in the marketplace for the trip. We’ve taken over 20,000 Baltimore sports fans on trips over the past 25 years. We’d love to have you with us this summer in Canton as Ray Lewis gives a speech for the ages and probably does one more Squirrel Dance.

 

ALL PACKAGES ARE CURRENTLY DISCOUNTED $50 PER PERSON!!!

PRICES WILL GO UP ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5TH!!!!

PLEASE BUY EARLY AND SAVE SO WE CAN PLAN!!!!

 

***

PACKAGE A

(This assumes the Ravens are playing in the Thursday Night Preseason Kickoff Game.)

Itinerary:

We will depart from White Marsh Park N Ride at 7am with a pickup at the I-70 Security West Park N Ride at 7:30am and arrive at the Cleveland Doubletree around 1pm. Bus will depart for Pro Football Hall of Fame at 4pm for Ravens game.

On Friday, bus will depart at 9am for Pro Football Hall of Fame visit and return to Cleveland Doubletree at 4pm. We will attend Cleveland Indians-Oakland Athletics game at Progressive Field on Friday night at 7pm.

On Saturday, we will have an optional bus to the Canton Hall of Fame parade at 6:30am that will return at 10am. Our group will tour the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (next door to our hotel) from 10am-1pm. Buses depart for Ray Lewis induction at 3pm. Induction ceremony at Canton stadium is 7pm. We expect Ray to be the last on the podium and speak sometime around 11pm. We will return to Cleveland Doubletree after the induction.

On Sunday, our buses will depart at 10am for Pittsburgh PNC Park where we’ll see the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals. Game is 1:35 p.m. and we’ll bus back to Baltimore after the game or 4:30pm and expect to arrive home by 9pm Sunday night.

What’s included:

Roundtrip Charter Bus transportation courtesy of Gunther Charters

Beer, soda, water and snacks on the bus with Ray Lewis/old Ravens videos for the ride

Three nights at downtown Cleveland Doubletree (chocolate chip cookies included!)

Upper game ticket for Ravens-TBD Preseason game

Pro Football Hall of Fame admission on Friday

Athletics-Indians baseball game on Friday

Rock And Roll Hall of Fame admission on Saturday

Ray Lewis induction ceremony upper deck seat Saturday night

Cardinals-Pirates baseball game on Sunday

Pricing (per person):

SINGLE: $1,000

DOUBLE (two in a room): $852

TRIPLE (three in a room): $752

QUAD (four in a room): $700

 

How many in your room?

 

***

PACKAGE B

(I’m assuming this will be our most popular package)

Itinerary:

We will depart from White Marsh Park N Ride on Friday, August 3rd at 6am with a pickup at the I-70 Security West Park N Ride at 6:30am and arrive at the Pro Football Hall of Fame around 11am where we’ll visit for a few hours and then depart for the downtown Cleveland Doubletree at 4pm. We will attend Cleveland Indians-Oakland Athletics game at Progressive Field on Friday night at 7pm.

On Saturday, we will have an optional bus to the Canton Hall of Fame parade at 6:30am that will return at 10am. Our group will tour the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (next door to our hotel) from 10am-1pm. Buses depart for Ray Lewis induction at 3pm. Induction ceremony at Canton stadium is 7pm. We expect Ray to be the last on the podium and speak sometime around 11pm. We will return to Cleveland Doubletree after the induction.

On Sunday, our buses will depart at 10am for Pittsburgh PNC Park where we’ll see the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals. Game is 1:35 p.m. and we’ll bus back to Baltimore after the game or 4:30pm and expect to arrive home by 9pm Sunday night.

What’s included:

Roundtrip Charter Bus transportation courtesy of Gunther Charters

Beer, soda, water and snacks on the bus with Ray Lewis and old Ravens videos for the ride

Two nights at Cleveland Doubletree (chocolate chip cookies included!)

Pro Football Hall of Fame admission on Friday

Athletics-Indians baseball game on Friday

Rock And Roll Hall of Fame admission on Saturday

Ray Lewis induction ceremony upper deck seat Saturday night

Cardinals-Pirates baseball game in Pittsburgh on Sunday

 

Pricing (per person):

SINGLE: $752

DOUBLE (two in a room): $652

TRIPLE (three in a room): $600

QUAD (four in a room): $552

 

How many in your room?

 

***

PACKAGE C

(You don’t want to take a day off of work or break the bank but you want to see Ray Lewis in Canton and have some fun with our group)

Itinerary:

We will depart Saturday, August 4 from White Marsh Park N Ride at 7am with a pickup at the I-70 Security West Park N Ride at 7:30am and arrive at our Youngstown hotel to freshen up before the Induction ceremony at Canton stadium is 7pm. We expect Ray to be the last on the podium and speak sometime around 11pm. We will return to Youngstown after the induction.

On Sunday, our buses will depart from Youngstown at 10am for Pittsburgh PNC Park where we’ll see the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals. Game is 1:35 p.m. and we’ll bus back to Baltimore after the game or 4:30pm and expect to arrive home by 9pm Sunday night.

What’s included:

Roundtrip Charter Bus transportation courtesy of Gunther Charters

Beer, soda, water and snacks on the bus with Ray Lewis and old Ravens videos for the ride

One night in Youngstown, Ohio hotel after the ceremony

Ray Lewis induction ceremony upper deck seat Saturday night

Cardinals-Pirates baseball game on Sunday

 

Pricing (per person):

SINGLE: $425

DOUBLE (two in a room): $375

TRIPLE (three in a room): $350

QUAD (four in a room): $325

 

How many in your room?

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eluemunor

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Ravens offensive lineman Eluemunor named to PFWA All-Rookie team

Posted on 16 January 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens had one entry on the 2017 Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie team, but the individual will surprise you.

Despite appearing in only eight games and making just two starts overall, guard Jermaine Eluemunor received the honor, which was much more of a reflection on the shortage of rookies playing the position this season rather than his play. The fifth-round pick from Texas A&M started at right guard in Weeks 6 and 7 while Matt Skura was out with a knee injury and finished with the 12th-worst grade among all guards playing at least 198 offensive snaps this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Eluemunor dealt with a shoulder injury for most of the second half of the season and was inactive for the final six games, but head coach John Harbaugh provided an honest assessment of where the rookie lineman stood during the bye week.

“We knew he was a project. In all honesty, he didn’t play much football,” Harbaugh said. “He was in a spread offense in college. You have to give him a lot of credit for how well he’s done so far just as a really inexperienced player. He’s done pretty OK. Is it good enough to win? No. He knows that, but he’s not there yet.

“But he practices out here really hard every single day. He listens, he’s coachable, has talent, [and is a] big, strong guy. I think he’s going to be a good player.”

Los Angeles Chargers lineman Dan Feeney and Seattle’s Ethan Pocic were the other guards on the All-Rookie team. Both played substantially more than Eluemunor this season, but Pocic actually finished with a lower PFF grade than the Baltimore lineman.

First-round pick Marlon Humphrey was the only other Ravens player who would have garnered any real consideration to make the All-Rookie team, but the Alabama product predictably lost out to Marshon Lattimore of New Orleans and Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White at the cornerback position. Lattimore was voted the PFWA’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt was named the PFWA’s 2017 Rookie of the Year and shared Offensive Rookie of the Year honors with New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara.

Below is the full All-Rookie team:

2017 PFWA ALL-ROOKIE TEAM

Offense

QB – Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

RB – Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs; Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

WR – Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams; Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

TE – Evan Engram, New York Giants

C – Pat Elflein, Minnesota Vikings

G – Dan Feeney, Los Angeles Chargers; Jermaine Eluemunor, Baltimore Ravens, and Ethan Pocic, Seattle Seahawks (tie)

T – Garett Bolles, Denver Broncos; Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints

Defense

DL – Derek Barnett, Philadelphia Eagles; Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; Carl Lawson, Cincinnati Bengals; Dalvin Tomlinson, New York Giants

LB – Jarrad Davis, Detroit Lions; Reuben Foster, San Francisco 49ers; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

CB – Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints; Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Bills

S – Jamal Adams, New York Jets; Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints

Special Teams

PK – Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs

P – Rigoberto Sanchez, Indianapolis Colts

KR – Ryan Switzer, Dallas Cowboys

PR – Jamal Agnew, Detroit Lions

ST – Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals

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ramsey

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Some draft criticism unfair, but sum of parts still not adding up for Ravens

Posted on 16 January 2018 by Luke Jones

Some of the commentary from Ravens fans watching the divisional round of the playoffs was predictable.

All these years later, some still squawk about general manager Ozzie Newsome selecting Morehouse offensive lineman Ramon Harewood a pick before Pittsburgh took Central Michigan wide receiver Antonio Brown with the 195th overall selection of the 2010 draft. At this point, ESPN might as well make a “30 for 30” special on the two individuals just to torment Ravens fans.

Yes, the Steelers were so much smarter than Baltimore that they passed on the eventual best wide receiver in the NFL eight different times in that draft and took such studs as Crezdon Butler and Stevenson Sylvester before finally grabbing Brown in the sixth round.

It’s no secret that the Ravens could have traded with Dallas in 2016 to move up from the sixth spot to take future Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey fourth overall, but Newsome didn’t want to part with his third-round pick that was used on defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, who’s played all of three games in two years. In a vacuum, it’s easy to call that a bad decision, but let’s remember quarterback Joe Flacco was rehabbing a torn ACL at the time and the Ravens didn’t have a trustworthy left tackle on the roster after the big contract awarded to Eugene Monroe two years earlier had turned out to be such a failure. Even if Ramsey becomes a Hall of Famer and Ronnie Stanley is never anything more than a reliable left tackle, it’s tough to be outraged by such a move if you’re someone who’s also blasted the organization for repeatedly neglecting its offense since Super Bowl XLVII.

Jacksonville linebacker Myles Jack intercepting a Ben Roethlisberger pass Sunday prompted some to point out that the Ravens passed on him, electing to trade back two different times to eventually take the disappointing Kamalei Correa in the second round of that same 2016 draft. However, the Ravens were far from the only team to pass on Jack, who was projected by some to be a top 5 pick if not for major concerns about the health of his knee. They also came away with starting outside linebacker Matthew Judon and strong special-teams contributor Chris Moore with those trades while Jack hasn’t been anything more than a solid starter for the Jaguars to this point.

If you really want to be mad about that second round, instead point to the Ravens taking Correa five picks before New Orleans drafted Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas, who’s caught a whopping 197 passes in his first two years.

And then there’s Minnesota wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the former University of Maryland standout who caught the miracle 61-yard touchdown from Case Keenum to send the Vikings to the NFC championship game. Even before Sunday’s heroics, this one had been reignited by the recent Sports Illustrated article citing Diggs’ mother telling Newsome that he should have been fired for not taking her son.

There’s no question that the Ravens should have had an advantage on intel about a prospect playing 40 miles down the road, but there were fair concerns about Diggs, ranging from his injury history in College Park to questions about his maturity. As a result, this was a player passed over multiple times by every team in the league, so the Ravens weren’t alone and Washington didn’t take the local kid either.

In the same way that I have a difficult time heaping too much praise on the Ravens for “discovering” Alex Collins when they were one of 31 teams who didn’t claim him on waivers at the end of the preseason and initially promoted Jeremy Langford from the practice squad over him, I struggle to criticize the organization too sharply for passing on Diggs — even if you wish they would have taken a chance on him rather than the little-known Tray Walker at the end of that fourth round.

The truth is you can go back in time to any draft and nitpick why Player A was taken over Player B over and over and over. Even after selecting two future Hall of Famers with his first two picks of the 1996 draft, Newsome took underwhelming cornerback DeRon Jenkins six spots before future nine-time Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins went to Philadelphia in the second round.

See how easy that was?

These arguments are easy to make with hindsight and lack context unless you’re talking about a clear-cut example such as two quarterbacks being taken with the first two picks of the draft. Even then, do you ever notice how you struggle to find anyone who would have drafted Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning in 1998 despite that being a major debate at the time? Most critics aren’t so eager to point out the ones they were wrong about years later.

(For the record, I leaned toward Leaf as a know-it-all 14-year-old.)

As much as teams try to make the draft a science, much of it remains art with too many variables to possibly control. Even at their best, the Ravens never batted 1.000 in the draft, so there will always be picks to critique as many are doing now.

The real problem isn’t passing on these aforementioned players, but it’s that the Ravens haven’t been making enough great picks of their own in recent years to make these second-guessing exercises a moot point. At the macro level, it’s more than fair to argue that the Ravens have too frequently played it safe, relied on quantity over quality, and possibly even conformed with too much groupthink in recent drafts.

Sometimes you have to take a risk to come away with a truly great playmaker or two, which is something the Ravens desperately need on the offensive side of the ball and have for a long time now. You also can’t allow a failed pick like Breshad Perriman deter you from being bold when appropriate.

It’s not a secret that the organization has slanted much more toward defense with 13 of their 17 Day 1 and 2 picks since Super Bowl XLVII being on that side of the ball. That’s enough of a lopsided ratio to make you question whether the Ravens are valuing defensive players too much in favor of truly picking “the best player available” when on the clock.

Their recent drafts haven’t been as disastrous as some want to claim — the Ravens have still found plenty of good value in the latter half of drafts despite recent Day 1 and 2 problems — but they’ve merely been much more ordinary after years of the draft being considered a major advantage for Newsome and the Ravens over other teams.

Even if many of the decisions appeared sound at the time, the sum of the parts has still added up to too much mediocrity, the same place the Ravens are trying to escape.

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campanaro

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Three Ravens named to PFWA’s All-AFC team

Posted on 15 January 2018 by Luke Jones

Three Ravens players were named to the 2017 All-AFC team voted on by the Pro Football Writers of America, but it’s not the same trio going to the Pro Bowl later this month.

Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle also received All-AFC honors after finishing tied for second in the conference with six interceptions, returning one for a touchdown in Week 13 to earn AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. The 33-year-old finished with 63 tackles, one sack, and two forced fumbles in his second season with the Ravens.

Those miffed about Justin Tucker not making it to the Pro Bowl can take some satisfaction in him being named to the All-AFC team over Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell. The two-time Pro Bowl kicker went 34-for-37 on field goals and did not miss an extra point this season, continuing his run as arguably the best kicker in the NFL over the last five years. He was also named to the PFWA’s 2016 All-AFC team.

The third Baltimore player named to the All-AFC team was punt returner Michael Campanaro, who led the conference in punt return average at 10.8 yards per attempt. He returned a fourth-quarter punt 77 yards for a touchdown to force overtime in the Week 6 loss to Chicago and was a positive contributor for one of the best special-teams units in the NFL.

Despite being named to this year’s Pro Bowl, linebackers C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs were not voted to the All-AFC team. Pittsburgh’s Ryan Shazier was voted the middle linebacker while Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney and Denver’s Von Miller were the outside linebackers for the conference.

No Ravens players were named to the 2017 PFWA All-NFL team.

Below are the full All-NFL, All-AFC, and All-NFC teams:

2017 PFWA ALL-NFL TEAM

Offense

QB – Tom Brady, New England Patriots

RB – Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers; Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

WR – Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers&; DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

TE – Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

C – Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles

G – David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers; Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys#

T – Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles; Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams

Defense

DE – Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars; Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints

DT – Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams#; Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

OLB – Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals; Von Miller, Denver Broncos&

MLB – Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks*

CB – Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars; Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota Vikings

S – Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans; Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings

Special Teams

PK – Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams

P – Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams#

KR – Pharoh Cooper, Los Angeles Rams

PR – Jamal Agnew, Detroit Lions

ST – Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals

 

* – repeat selection from 2016

# – consecutive selections from 2015-17

& – consecutive selections from 2014-17

 

2017 PFWA ALL-AFC TEAM

Offense

QB – Tom Brady, New England Patriots&

RB – Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers*; Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs

WR – Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers+; DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

TE – Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

C – Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers

G – David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Kelechi Osemele, Oakland Raiders*

T – Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans; Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City Chiefs and Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers (tie)

Defense

DE – Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers; Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars

DT – Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals#; Malik Jackson, Jacksonville Jaguars

OLB – Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans; Von Miller, Denver Broncos+

MLB – Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh Steelers

CB – A.J. Bouye, Jacksonville Jaguars; Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars

S – Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans; Eric Weddle, Baltimore Ravens

Special Teams

PK – Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens*

P – Brett Kern, Tennessee Titans

KR – Dion Lewis, New England Patriots

PR – Michael Campanaro, Baltimore Ravens

ST – Matthew Slater, New England Patriots@

 

* – repeat selection from 2016

# – consecutive selections from 2015-17

& – consecutive selections from 2014-17

+ – consecutive selections from 2013-17

@ – consecutive selections from 2011-17

 

2017 PFWA ALL-NFC TEAM

Offense

QB – Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

RB – Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams; Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

WR –Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons#; Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

TE – Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

C – Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles

G – Brandon Brooks, Philadelphia Eagles; Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys&

T – Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles; Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams

Defense

DE – Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints; DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys

DT – Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles; Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams#

OLB – Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals; Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins

MLB – Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

CB – Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints; Darius Slay, Detroit Lions

S – Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings; Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks

Special Teams

PK – Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams

P – Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams+

KR – Pharoh Cooper, Los Angeles Rams

PR – Jamal Agnew, Detroit Lions

ST – Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals

 

* – repeat selection from 2016

# – consecutive selections from 2015-17

& – consecutive selections from 2014-17

+ – consecutive selections from 2013-17

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torrey

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Philadelphia offering rooting interest for Ravens fans

Posted on 14 January 2018 by Luke Jones

Ravens fans unable to stomach watching AFC rivals New England and Pittsburgh in the playoffs may find a rooting interest on the other side of the bracket.

Despite losing Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Wentz to a season-ending knee injury last month, Philadelphia is now a win away from the Super Bowl after edging Atlanta 15-10 in Saturday’s divisional-round meeting. Several former Ravens are helping the Eagles’ cause both on and off the field.

The most popular among them is wide receiver Torrey Smith, whose wacky 20-yard catch off a deflection helped set up a 53-yard field goal to end the first half. It wasn’t an impressive season for Baltimore’s 2011 second-round pick with just 36 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns, but Smith finished with three catches for 39 yards in his first playoff game since 2014, the last time the Ravens qualified for the postseason.

Smith isn’t alone as defensive tackle and 2014 second-round pick Timmy Jernigan has found a home in Philadelphia, evident by the four-year, $48 million extension he signed earlier this season. Traded to the Eagles in a swap of 2017 third-round picks in April, Jernigan registered only one tackle Saturday and had only 2 1/2 sacks this season, but he’s considered an important member of one of the NFL’s best defensive fronts.

Two other Super Bowl XLVII champions are helping the Eagles in complementary roles as defensive back Corey Graham has played in sub packages and on special teams this season and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe even started and finished with two tackles in Saturday’s playoff game. Ellerbe has dealt with a slew of injuries since leaving the Ravens in 2013, but the 32-year-old signed with Philadelphia in mid-November and has helped fill the void of starting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, who sustained a torn Achilles tendon in October.

Edge rusher Steven Means was inactive for Philadelphia on Saturday, but he also spent parts of two seasons with the Ravens.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is a former Baltimore assistant and Mount Saint Joseph alum, and the ties run deeper in the front office as former Ravens scouts Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl are integral parts of Philadelphia’s draft process. Douglas spent more than 15 years in Baltimore and served as the organization’s national scout before departing for Chicago in 2015 and being hired to serve as the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel a year later. He’s already beginning to earn consideration as a general manager as Philadelphia will likely have a tough time keeping him for long.

Weidl spent more than a decade with the Ravens in various scouting roles and is now Philadelphia’s assistant director of player personnel.

The Eagles will still be viewed as the underdog with backup quarterback Nick Foles under center in the NFC championship game, but there are a number of reasons for Ravens fans to pull for them next Sunday.

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Orioles continue leaving their fans twisting in wind

Posted on 11 January 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles should probably be thanking the Ravens.

The latter’s embarrassing loss to Cincinnati to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years has kept most fan disenchantment in Baltimore squarely on Steve Bisciotti’s franchise over the last two weeks. Perhaps the Orioles should even take a page out of Buffalo’s book and ship 20 cases of crab cakes to the Bengals to show their gratitude.

Anything to keep the spotlight away from an organization showing no evidence of a plan or a direction despite spring training only being a month away. We’re also two weeks from FanFest, that event designed to spark enthusiasm for the upcoming season and — more importantly — drive ticket sales.

Good luck with that.

Yes, it’s very fair to note the frigid temperature of the “hot stove” this offseason, which hasn’t helped an Orioles club that’s never moved swiftly in the Dan Duquette era and has rarely shown the necessary urgency during most of Peter Angelos’ reign as owner. At the same time, the Orioles are also coming off their first losing season and last-place finish since 2011 and still have three-fifths of their starting rotation to fill. Unlike some recent winters, they don’t have the luxury of pointing to the previous year being competitive as an excuse for not needing to move all that quickly or to do all that much to try to be in contention.

Suggesting bullpen arms or Rule 5 picks could be real candidates to start isn’t a solution; it insults your fans’ intelligence if you’re claiming to want to be competitive.

What is the direction?

Where is the urgency?

Are the Orioles making a final run with the current group, rebuilding, or just doing nothing?

Amidst recent reports of the club being interested in veteran starting pitcher Andrew Cashner — a sign you’d interpret as at least trying to be somewhat competitive, right? — former Oriole Miguel Gonzalez agreed to a one-year, $4.75 million deal to rejoin the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. It’s the latest development making fans shake their heads and ask questions.

To be very clear, neither Gonzalez nor Cashner is anything more than a mediocre piece to help fill out the back of a starting rotation, and these guys aren’t moving the meter in any meaningful way. However, a cheap one-year deal for Gonzalez sounds like a better investment for a team trying to make at least a halfhearted attempt to be competitive for one more season than potentially giving Cashner more money and additional years as some project he’ll command. Despite Cashner’s shiny 3.40 ERA in 2017, his peripheral numbers — a career-low 4.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a .267 opposing batting average on balls in play — suggest some real regression is ahead. He could be Yovani Gallardo all over again.

If Dan Duquette’s claims earlier in the offseason about the club still wanting to be competitive in 2018 are true, what exactly is the organization waiting for?

If the Orioles aren’t trying to win in 2018, that’s fine. Short of a massive bump in payroll to go sign a couple of high-impact starting pitchers, I’ve already stated my belief that they’re drawing dead in a loaded American League East anyway. Even with a major increase in spending, it’s extremely difficult seeing a realistic path to a division title for this club.

If the plan is to rebuild, then get to it. And, oh yeah, it might be to the organization’s benefit to communicate some semblance of that vision to the many fans doubting there is one. Just use “youth movement” in place of “rebuild” and start pulling the trigger on some deals to inject some talent for the future. That’s better than continuing to do nothing and talking in circles at FanFest two weeks from now. That strategy isn’t selling tickets and creates even more frustration for a fan base already disappointed about the prospects of Manny Machado departing at some point in the next 10 months.

Perhaps the Orioles haven’t truly found a reasonable package in exchange for one year of Machado — notice I said reasonable and not miraculous — but that shouldn’t stop them from pursuing trades for other expiring commodities in the meantime such as Brad Brach. If they’ve thrown in the towel on 2018, keeping Brach to be the closer simply because Zach Britton is hurt is nothing short of foolish.

It’s all one big shoulder shrug.

The 33-year-old Gonzalez signing on the cheap elsewhere is hardly a real issue, but it’s the latest bullet point that makes you ask what the heck the Orioles are trying to do this offseason.

I’m not sure even they know.

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Ravens’ playoff absence officially hits three years

Posted on 10 January 2018 by Luke Jones

Much has changed since the Ravens squandered two 14-point leads in a playoff loss to New England three years ago Wednesday.

They would soon say goodbye to five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata as well as one of the franchise’s most accomplished wide receivers in Torrey Smith. That was also the final game of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s lone season with the Ravens and with his departure went any semblance of consistent offensive production since then.

More painful than anything else, however, has been the deterioration of the standard. Losing in the divisional round was once the minimum of expectations under John Harbaugh — illustrating how spoiled Baltimore was during the first five years of his tenure — but the Ravens haven’t been back to the postseason since that night in Foxborough when Tom Brady picked apart helpless cornerback Rashaan Melvin and an overwhelmed secondary.

Sure, the Ravens have been close to making the playoffs in each of the last two years, but that’s sometimes the worst place for an organization to be. “Close” doesn’t always mean you’re moving in the right direction, and it can prevent you from making necessary changes when you believe you’re “one play away” from getting over the hump.

The underwhelming performances in the AFC wild-card round this past weekend prompted predictable commentary from some that Joe Flacco and the Ravens would have been a more dangerous team and a bigger threat to New England and Pittsburgh. That old narrative needs to be buried when they don’t even manage to make the tournament anymore. Perhaps Brian Billick’s once-famous ban on using the “playoff” word needs to be reinstated until further notice.

The Ravens haven’t beaten the Patriots since the 2012 AFC Championship, and you can count the relevant players remaining from that Super Bowl team on two hands and have fingers left over. They still play the Steelers tough, but their only win at Heinz Field since the 2014 postseason was a game in which a washed-up Michael Vick was under center for their AFC North rival.

The sobering reality of watching the likes of Buffalo and Tennessee in the playoffs last weekend wasn’t that the Ravens might have been more formidable, but it’s that they’re closer to those mediocre teams in quality than the Patriots and the Steelers. They couldn’t even beat out such wild-card contenders despite having one of the most-favorable schedules in the NFL.

Harbaugh’s team went just 1-5 against teams who finished above .500 this season and is now 7-27 in that department since Super Bowl XLVII. For context, the 2011 team alone won six games against opponents finishing that season with winning records, and the Ravens were 18-20 against squads finishing over .500 from 2008-12.

Even that last playoff team in 2014 was an unimpressive 1-6 against teams finishing with winning records, but those Ravens did go a perfect 9-0 against opponents .500 or worse and swept a terrible NFC South division to ultimately secure a wild card. This year’s team lost home games to Chicago and Cincinnati, who finished a combined 12-20.

The standard that once made losing a playoff game in New England a bitter disappointment has regressed to not being good enough to beat winning teams and dropping a few too many games that they shouldn’t. The latter part is evident from a 33-13 record against teams finishing .500 or worse over the last five years compared to a 36-6 mark over the first five seasons of the Harbaugh era.

It’s resulted in a team that’s still competitive, but not one as close to being a serious contender as the Ravens would like to believe.

Three years ago, that disappointing 35-31 playoff loss to the Patriots still felt like the beginning of a new run for Harbaugh and the revamped Ravens after their 2013 absence from the postseason. Instead, it may have simply been the final chapter in the most successful era in franchise history.

The Ravens have a lot of work to do this offseason to both change that perception and resurrect their once-lofty standard.

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Ravens promote linebackers coach Martindale to defensive coordinator

Posted on 09 January 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens followed an old pattern to hire the seventh defensive coordinator in franchise history.

Continuing the organization’s long-held practice of promoting from within, head coach John Harbaugh announced linebackers coach Don “Wink” Martindale would replace retired defensive coordinator Dean Pees. He is the sixth consecutive Ravens defensive coordinator to be an internal promotion with Marvin Lewis being the only outside hire that arrived for the team’s inaugural 1996 season.

Hired to coach the inside linebackers in 2012 and promoted to linebackers coach in 2016, Martindale is held in very high regard by his players and has helped develop the likes of three-time Pro Bowl selection C.J. Mosley and Matthew Judon as well as former undrafted free agents Zachary Orr and Patrick Onwuasor. The 54-year-old was considered the top in-house candidate to replace Pees, but the delay in promoting him lead many to believe he wasn’t the top choice.

“Wink has earned the promotion to defensive coordinator,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “His aggressive mentality will serve to take our defense to new levels. He is obviously respected by players, many of whom have already benefited from his direct coaching at the linebacker position. He knows the ins and outs of what we have been about on defense and has been an important contributor to our success on that side of the ball.”

The announcement was met with a lukewarm response from those fans wanting the organization to bring back Chuck Pagano, who served as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator in 2011 before being hired as the head coach in Indianapolis. The Ravens had been interested in a reunion with Pagano, but he had two years remaining on his contract with the Colts and may ultimately elect to take some time off from coaching after being fired last week.

Martindale served as the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos in 2010, but it was a forgettable year as Pro Bowl defensive end Elvis Dumervil missed the entire season with a pectoral injury and the unit finished last in total yards and points allowed. He was dismissed after that season and hired a year later by Harbaugh.

An internal hire is rarely an exciting one, but Martindale has roots with the Ryan family and coached with former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan at the University of Cincinnati from 1996-97 and with Rob Ryan in Oakland from 2004-08. It’s also worth noting that the popular Pagano was an internal Ravens hire who replaced Greg Mattison, who wasn’t exactly a popular defensive coordinator in the eyes of many Ravens fans.

Harbaugh also named Mike Macdonald to take Martindale’s place as the linebackers coach. The 30-year-old has been with the Ravens since 2014 and served as the defensive backs coach this past season.

“Mike is one of the rising coaching standouts in the NFL, and he has earned the respect in the locker room and in the coaching room,” Harbaugh said. “We’re excited to see what he’ll do when he coaches our linebackers.”

Baltimore promoted Sterling Lucas to the role of defensive quality control after he most recently served as administrative assistant for the defense.

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