Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

copeland

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

NFL linebacker Copeland cultivating sense of community in Baltimore, beyond

Posted on 23 June 2018 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Copeland)

Brandon Copeland continues to cultivate a sense of community.

Whether it’s holding his free football camp for Baltimore youth, providing Thanksgiving meals to single mothers and their families, or offering financial advice to fellow NFL players, the Gilman School graduate and New York Jets linebacker doesn’t want his road to success to have a lonely destination.

Football remains his biggest platform, but Copeland doesn’t let the sport he loves define him and is hardly waiting until the end of his playing days to figure out what he’ll do next. He hasn’t viewed that as a linear process from the time he graduated with an economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania and eventually found his NFL footing in a journey that began with a brief stint with the hometown Ravens in 2013. The 26-year-old already has experience working as a Wall Street investment analyst and has even started his own real estate company with his wife, Taylor.

Copeland will remind youth at his third annual Beyond the Basics camp at Gilman on July 7 that football isn’t forever. It’s a lesson that hit all too close last summer as his career with the Detroit Lions was on the rise and he was competing for a starting spot after playing in all 32 games as a reserve and special-teams contributor the previous two seasons.

You should always have more than one plan.

“I’m living, walking proof that this career can end at any moment after sitting out last year,” said Copeland, who suffered a torn pectoral tendon in the first preseason game last August. “A lot of people tell you preparing for Plan B is distracting from Plan A. You can just generally have other things that you’re interested in. There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘Hey, I like football, and I like something else.'”

Copeland wants the 400 kids ages 11 to 17 registered for this year’s camp to understand they have options, a reason why he recruits volunteers from a variety of career fields. Many campers initially gravitate toward big-name volunteers such as two-time Super Bowl champion Torrey Smith, longtime NBA player Rudy Gay, and many other current and former NFL players — including former Baltimore Colts defensive end and Copeland’s grandfather, Roy Hilton — but the goal is for kids to also identify with other volunteers who love football while succeeding in other walks of life.

That’s the reason why this year’s registration form requested campers to list three professions they’d like to have other than being a professional athlete and to state three goals for themselves. Copeland said the exercise sparked much positive feedback from parents, who in some cases learned something new about their children’s interests and dreams.

“What we’re trying to do is open their eyes to let them know that certain things are possible for them,” Copeland said. “A lot of these kids grow up and see lawyers or police officers on TV, and they think negative thoughts about that profession. If we can create that positive experience with that profession, then that’s great.”

Beyond the Basics provides each camper a free t-shirt and lunch as well as opportunities to win other giveaways such as laptops, tablets, and headphones, but it isn’t just about what the attendees receive that day. Campers will put together 750 book bags and hygiene kits to be distributed to needy families through the Franciscan Center of Baltimore, an increase from the 500 of each donated last year.

Copeland is quick to express gratitude to a list of sponsors that includes Penn and even the Lions despite his free-agent departure in March. He’s also been amazed by the number of volunteers willing to make a difference in the community.

“A lot of these kids only see people on the sidelines cheering for them at the big game, the championship game, stuff like that,” said Copeland, who will have approximately 140 volunteers at next month’s camp. “When there’s nothing on the line, for them to see a bunch of different smiling faces encouraging them, that’s a message that I definitely want to allow to happen at our camp.”

That collection of volunteers has also sparked an unanticipated networking forum with internship opportunities and even jobs being offered among the helpers, further growing that overall sense of community.

In addition to getting involved in Baltimore and the other NFL cities in which he’s played, Copeland expanded his message to a different audience this offseason by offering financial advice to the 2018 NFL draft class through The Players’ Tribune. Given his Ivy League education and off-field ventures that have come without the luxury of a lucrative signing bonus or long-term contract, first-year players could stand to learn from someone whose NFL career has been anything but guaranteed.

“I wanted to speak to the things I had learned from other players, other advice that I had heard, and other things I had seen through my own internships and finances and all of that type of stuff,” Copeland said. “It was a great opportunity for me to voice my message on my way of thinking about money.”

Copeland doesn’t know how long he’ll have his current platform as he tries to carve out a place with the Jets and prove he’s fully recovered from last year’s injury, which created an extended absence that both renewed his love for the game and provided valuable time to put more extensive work into his real estate company.

His off-field ambitions and wisdom at such a young age leave few doubts that he’ll be successful no matter where life takes him, but Copeland has no interest in being the only one at that finish line as he continues to strive to set an example for others.

“One of the things that I’m trying to be better at now is sharing,” Copeland said, “so we can hopefully help each other and we all can grow.”

Comments (0)

rasmus

Tags: , , , , , ,

Orioles activate outfielder Colby Rasmus from disabled list

Posted on 21 June 2018 by Luke Jones

Sporting the worst record in baseball and desperately needing to get younger for the future, the Orioles have gone in the opposite direction by activating veteran outfielder Colby Rasmus from the disabled list and optioning outfielder Joey Rickard to Triple-A Norfolk.

The move came before the finale of a three-game set in Washington, meaning Rasmus would be seeing his first major league action since early April against three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The 31-year-old just completed a lengthy minor-league rehab assignment split between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie in which he batted a combined .275 with two home runs, three doubles, 10 runs batted in, and an .824 on-base plus slugging percentage in 57 plate appearances.

Rasmus was placed on the DL with a left hip flexor strain on April 7 after getting off to a 2-for-21 start to the season that included an alarming 13 strikeouts in 23 plate appearances. He has a history of hip issues and even had surgery in 2016, but the Orioles signing him to a one-year, $3 million deal to be their primary right fielder in February always made it likely they’d give him another look to see if his health was the primary reason for those April struggles.

The left-handed hitter batted .281 with nine homers, 23 RBIs, and an .896 OPS in 129 plate appearances for Tampa Bay last season before abruptly walking away from the game for personal reasons. It remains to be seen how much patience the organization will have should Rasmus look similar to the hitter he was in April, especially with a frustrated fan base clamoring for Triple-A prospects such as DJ Stewart and Cedric Mullins to get an opportunity in the big leagues for a last-place team going nowhere.

Rickard, 27, is batting .203 with five homers, eight RBIs, and a .673 OPS in 86 plate appearances for Baltimore this season.

To make room for Rasmus on the 40-man roster, the Orioles transferred left-handed relief pitcher Richard Bleier to the 60-day disabled list. Bleier underwent season-ending surgery to repair a Grade 3 latissimus tear in his left shoulder earlier this week.

Infielder Pedro Alvarez cleared waivers and was outrighted to Norfolk on Thursday.

Comments (0)

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 1.48.18 PM

Tags: , , ,

Ravens officially ink first-round pick Hurst to rookie deal

Posted on 20 June 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class under contract a month before the start of training camp.

First-round tight end Hayden Hurst became the 12th and final Baltimore draft pick to come to terms, officially signing a four-year deal expected to pay him just over $11 million. Contracts for first-round picks also include a fifth-year team option, meaning the Ravens could own the rights to the South Carolina product through the 2022 season.

Hurst, 24, caught a combined 92 passes for 1,175 yards and three touchdowns over his final two seasons for the Gamecocks and was regarded as having some of the most reliable hands in the draft class. He and third-round pick Mark Andrews will be asked to bring play-making ability to the tight end position since incumbents Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams combined for just 43 catches last season and are considered stronger blockers than receivers.

Hurst will need to buck a long history of even some of the most successful NFL tight ends struggling to make a major impact as rookies, but early reviews have been positive.

“He’s just a talented guy. It matters to him. I’m excited about he and Mark,” head coach John Harbaugh said last month. “The tight ends have a lot of football on their plate. The biggest challenge that they have is to not think their way through the play. That’s always going to be the toughest thing when you have so many options as a tight end because you’re both in the run game and the pass game and the pass protection.”

One of the criticisms of Hurst during the pre-draft process was his age as he will turn 25 in August and previously played minor league baseball for Pittsburgh, leaving some pundits to suggest he has a lower NFL ceiling. However, one could argue that the 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end is more physically mature than the typical 21- or 22-year-old rookie and better equipped to deal with failure after his well-documented experiences with his baseball career, factors that could lead to more success early in his career.

That maturity will play a role in how Hurst plans to spend his signing bonus at the very least.

“Since this is my second go-round, there’s not much that I need,” said Hurst, who signed for $400,000 as the 17th-round pick of the Pirates in 2012. “I knocked that out the first time. I got a car, so nothing really comes to mind. I’ll probably just put it all away.”

Comments (0)

alvarez

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Orioles designate Alvarez for assignment, promote infielder Wilkerson

Posted on 19 June 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have shaken up their 25-man roster prior to the start of a three-game set in Washington.

In addition to officially recalling catcher Caleb Joseph from Triple-A Norfolk to replace the demoted Chance Sisco, Baltimore has designated struggling veteran Pedro Alvarez for assignment and selected the contract of infielder Steve Wilkerson from the Tides.

With Mark Trumbo beginning the season on the disabled list, Alvarez had a good opening month, batting .237 with six home runs, 13 runs batted in, and a .933 on-base plus slugging percentage. However, the left-handed slugger had struggled mightily since May 1 with a .115 average and .424 OPS in his last 57 plate appearances.

In 127 plate appearances this season, Alvarez was batting .180 with eight homers, 18 RBIs, and a .698 OPS.

Wilkerson, 26, was batting .290 with three home runs, nine RBIs, and an .862 OPS in 70 plate appearances for Norfolk since returning from a 50-game ban for amphetamine use. The 2014 eighth-round pick is a switch hitter and was very much on the organization’s radar as a potential utility infielder prior to the announcement of his suspension this past offseason.

He batted a combined .305 with eight homers, 45 RBIs, and a .798 OPS between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie last season and also hit .317 in the Arizona Fall League. Wilkerson has played all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots in the minor leagues, but his most extensive action has come at second base.

Batting .273 with two home runs, 14 RBIs, and a .702 OPS for Norfolk since being demoted by the Orioles last month, Joseph was in the starting lineup against the Nationals on Tuesday. According to STATS, he and younger brother Corban Joseph are now the 28th set of brothers to be teammates in the majors since 1980 and just the second set in Orioles history, joining Cal and Billy Ripken.

First baseman Chris Davis was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game as he continues to work on making adjustments in a woeful offensive season in which he’s batted just .150 with a .454 OPS. He has started in just two of Baltimore’s last 10 games and hasn’t recorded an extra-base hit in over a month.

Comments (0)

collins

Tags: , ,

Sizing up the post-minicamp 2018 Ravens roster

Posted on 19 June 2018 by Luke Jones

With mandatory minicamp in the books and the start of training camp only a month away, the Ravens turn their sights toward the preseason and eventually paring the 90-man offseason to 53 by early September.

Few conclusions should be drawn from voluntary organized team activities and three mandatory practices — without live contact — but my all-too-early look at the roster suggests as many as 46 players would be considered safely on the roster if the deadline were to come now. This number is higher than in recent years and reflects both the lack of roster turnover on the defensive side of the ball and Baltimore making seven selections in the first four rounds of this year’s draft.

My rough assessment of the 91 players currently on the roster — German fullback Christopher Ezeala carries a roster exemption — lists 20 on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with some position groups lacking as much quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent and likely falling victim to the numbers game.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of the numbers at each position, simply trying to pinpoint a specific number of tight ends or inside linebackers or wide receivers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. Of course, the Ravens are looking for reserves who will excel on special teams, so coaches will look carefully at players’ other attributes in addition to what they bring to their specific positions when filling out the end of the roster.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that position. As we move into the preseason, I’ll provide updated looks as well as projections of who’s in and who’s out at different stages of the summer.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
IN: Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson
BUBBLE: Robert Griffin III
LONG SHOT: Josh Woodrum
Skinny: The Ravens haven’t carried three quarterbacks into the start of a season since 2009, but will Jackson show enough growth to be trusted as the sole backup and will the organization risk not having a third quarterback with the rookie expected to be involved in the offense in a variety of ways?

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
IN: Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Gus Edwards, Mark Thompson, De’Lance Turner
ROSTER EXEMPTION: Christopher Ezeala
Skinny: This group of long shots is worth monitoring this summer as Baltimore could still use another back who can either thrive in short-yard situations or make an impact catching passes out of the backfield. Dixon’s status will go a long way in determining whether another back has a chance to stick.

WIDE RECEIVERS (13)
IN: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott
BUBBLE: Jordan Lasley, Tim White, Breshad Perriman
LONG SHOT: Andre Levrone, Jaelon Acklin, Janarion Grant, DeVier Posey
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Quincy Adeboyejo
Skinny: Scott appears safe as a fourth-round pick, Lasley carries upside, and White’s return ability helps his cause. However, the Ravens don’t give up on former first-rounders easily and didn’t talk this spring as though they’re ready to move on from Perriman despite the bonus he’s owed early in camp.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
IN: Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews
BUBBLE: Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle
LONG SHOT: Nick Keizer
Skinny: The Ravens hope their rookie draft picks can contribute immediately in the passing game, but tight ends remain a critical part of their run-blocking schemes, which should help Williams’ roster chances. Mayle played extensively on special teams last year, but the numbers here aren’t in his favor.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (15)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, James Hurst, Orlando Brown Jr.
BUBBLE: Jermaine Eluemunor, Nico Siragusa, Greg Senat, Bradley Bozeman, Andrew Donnal
LONG SHOT: Maurquice Shakir, Randin Crecelius, Alex Thompson, Justin Evans,
Skinny: The battle for the final two or three line spots will be interesting with Eluemunor having the experience edge over other bubble players. Siragusa will need to prove he’s fully recovered from last summer’s serious knee injury while Senat and Bozeman are interesting developmental rookies.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (11)
IN: Brandon Williams, Willie Henry, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, Brent Urban, Carl Davis
BUBBLE: Zach Sieler, Patrick Ricard, Bronson Kaufusi
LONG SHOT: Myles Humphrey, Christian LaCouture
Skinny: This remains one of the roster’s deepest position groups, but Urban and Davis are only under contract through 2018 and have injury histories. Sieler, a seventh-round rookie from Ferris State, looks the part of a 5-technique and could squeeze out the disappointing Kaufusi with a strong preseason.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young
BUBBLE: Albert McClellan, Bam Bradley
LONG SHOT: Alvin Jones
Skinny: Onwuasor remains the favorite to start next to Mosley, but Young will have every opportunity to push for snaps. McClellan has been a standout special-teams player and versatile backup for years, but how well he bounces back from last summer’s torn ACL will be a key in rounding out this group.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
BUBBLE: Kamalei Correa
LONG SHOT: Chris Board
Skinny: The Ravens have seemed to accept that Correa’s best fit is on the outside, but his versatility will still be the biggest factor in his ability to keep a roster spot. Bowser developing into a well-rounded third outside linebacker behind Suggs and Judon will be critical for this season and the future.

CORNERBACKS (11)
IN: Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett
BUBBLE: Jaylen Hill, Stanley Jean-Baptiste
LONG SHOT: Darious Williams, Jackson Porter, Bennett Jackson
Skinny: Even with health concerns headlined by Smith’s return from a torn Achilles tendon, it’s difficult to recall the Ravens having many cornerback groups as deep as this one with multiple options outside and inside. Young is a real wild card if he can regain the form he showed as a rookie two years ago.

SAFETIES (6)
IN: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: DeShon Elliott
LONG SHOT: Kai Nacua
Skinny: This group lacks a dynamic center fielder in pass coverage, but the floor remains high with the savvy Weddle and different chess pieces for defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to use in the dime and other sub packages. Elliott’s 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame makes him a rookie to watch this summer.

SPECIALISTS (5)
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Kaare Vedvik, Trent Sieg
Skinny: There once again appears to be no drama with this veteran group. The Ravens haven’t often carried a second long snapper on the preseason roster in years in which the 32-year-old Cox wasn’t coming back from injury, so Sieg’s presence could be minimally interesting.

Comments (0)

sisco

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sisco’s demotion latest head-scratching development for Orioles

Posted on 18 June 2018 by Luke Jones

Hours after Chance Sisco was originally penciled into Sunday’s lineup, the Orioles sent the 23-year-old catcher to Triple-A Norfolk.

It was a surprising announcement since manager Buck Showalter had just implied after the 10-4 win over Miami that Sisco was scratched due to being under the weather.

“I’m afraid he’s coming down with [something],” Showalter said. “He hasn’t slept in two or three days. … Just talking to him before the game, his energy level. He was ready to go. Just didn’t think it was in his best interest with the off-day tomorrow, but we’ll see. A lot of factors. That was the principal one. He just hadn’t slept any. It’s hard enough to play this game when you have.”

Sisco went from starting to being pulled from the lineup to being optioned to the minors in a little over six hours. Weird.

To be clear, the rookie isn’t exactly having a great season and has numbers that would definitely warrant a demotion if the club were even remotely in contention. He’s batting just .218 with a .328 slugging percentage and has struck out a whopping 35.5 percent of the time, a rate not far from Chris Davis territory (37.6 percent). However, his .340 on-base percentage is third on the club behind only Manny Machado and Danny Valencia, and a number of others on this roster deserve to be jettisoned before Sisco if we’re basing this solely on performance on a last-place club.

Sisco’s defense has been scrutinized throughout his professional career, and he had thrown out just one of the last 18 runners attempting to steal after surprisingly gunning down nine of the first 18 this season. His average pop time — the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder at the base a runner is attempting to steal — is still too slow and his arm strength lacking while his pitch-framing metrics also rank among the bottom catchers in the majors, according to Baseball Prospectus.

His defense undoubtedly remains a work in progress, but bench coach John Russell is also regarded as a superb catching instructor to continue to oversee Sisco’s development at this level.

The timing of this demotion doesn’t seem to make much sense for a club that is 30 games under .500 and going nowhere, but the Orioles are instead expected to summon the 32-year-old Caleb Joseph back to the majors. One could argue that Sisco might benefit from a mental break and a potential confidence boost playing for the Tides, but you won’t find a major league climate with less pressure from a competitive standpoint than Baltimore right now. He also spent his entire 2017 minor-league season with Norfolk, seemingly leaving little for him to prove at that level.

What does he need to work on that can’t be done while continuing to play in Baltimore?

The Orioles have used a catching carousel all season, going from the tandem of Joseph and Sisco to open the season to Sisco and Andrew Susac to Sisco and Austin Wynns to the current pair of Wynns and Joseph. Sisco’s demotion isn’t the end of the world nor does it mean the Orioles have soured on him to any great degree, but it does appear counterintuitive to what this season should be about the rest of the way.

Odds & ends

In an already-lost season from a competitive standpoint, you’re left to look for moments such as hard-throwing rookie Tanner Scott striking out Justin Bour with a nasty slider to leave the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a four-run game on Sunday. Scott is averaging an impressive 12.5 strikeouts compared to 3.1 walks per nine innings this season. … Trey Mancini had been 4-for-50 with runners in scoring position this season before his RBI single in the third inning of Sunday’s win. He batted .340 in that department as a rookie. … Jonathan Schoop drew four walks during the Miami series after registering only seven over his first 47 games. You hope that increased level of patience is a sign of better things to come as the 2017 All-Star second baseman is batting just .212 with a .626 on-base plus slugging percentage. … Brad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but he issued a walk and is averaging 5.2 free passes per nine innings. He needs to get on a roll and cut down on the walks to improve his trade value. … Sunday marked the first time the Orioles enjoyed a lead of four or more runs since May 24 in Chicago. … The Orioles scored a combined 27 runs on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They scored a total of just 18 runs in 11 straight home losses between those holidays.

Comments (0)

davis

Tags: , , , ,

Orioles continue to sit Davis with “no closed end to it”

Posted on 15 June 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — If it weren’t already becoming apparent after Chris Davis sat out four of the previous six games, Orioles manager Buck Showalter delivered the news prior to Friday’s game with Miami.

The veteran first baseman has been benched.

Showalter didn’t use the “b” word, of course, as he explained Davis is being given an extended stretch of time to work on adjustments to try to turn around a historically-disastrous season in which he’s batting .150 with a .454 on-base plus slugging percentage. Both marks rank last in the majors among qualified hitters by a wide margin as the 32-year-old has hit only four home runs and has been worth an appalling minus-2.2 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. Davis hasn’t hit a homer since May 9, posting a .114 average with a .305 OPS, two extra-base hits, five walks, and 43 strikeouts over his last 95 plate appearances.

“Chris is continuing with some things that he’s working on,” Showalter said. “When they come to me and say they think he’s ready to get back in the lineup, we’ll put him back in there. But it’s nothing imminent.”

Asked exactly whom “they” was comprised of, Showalter would not specify. The manager does not expect Davis’ absence to be a long-term situation, but he added there is “no closed end to it.”

There have been no signs of improvement this season as Davis’ numbers have gotten worse each month since April when he batted an anemic .167 with a .513 OPS. It’s gotten so bad that the last-place Orioles promoted infielder and longtime minor leaguer Corban Joseph, the younger brother of Caleb Joseph, to start at first base against the Marlins on Friday.

Davis is only in the third season of a seven-year, $161 million contract and has now produced a slash line of .179/.266/.314 over his last 503 plate appearances dating back to the 2017 All-Star break, making it inappropriate to simply refer to this unprecedented decline as a slump. Davis had previously received a game or two off to use as a reset once or twice, but this current stretch represents the most meaningful public action taken to address what constitutes an organizational crisis.

“I’m hoping it’s sooner rather than later. I’d love to get back the Chris Davis that we all know he’s capable of [being],” Showalter said. “It hasn’t been there this year. With kind of a new approach and some new things you’re trying, this is not something that you’re going to do one day in a workout and then it’s all going to pop in one night. If that was the case, it would have happened a long time ago.

“This is something you’ve got to give a little time to and know that when you get into a game and you don’t hit a line drive over the center fielder’s head the first swing you take, you don’t throw everything out. If you’re looking for an instant return on stuff, this game doesn’t allow that.”

What those adjustments or alterations might look like remain to be seen as he hasn’t yet made any dramatic changes to his swing, stance, or positioning in the batter’s box for an extended period of time.

“We need a good Chris Davis. We do,” Showalter said. “He knows that, and that’s what’s frustrating for him. It’s like the chicken and the egg, what comes first confidence-wise?

“I’d love to see Chris get a good week under his belt and watch what happens.”

Comments (0)

trainingcamp

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Twelve Ravens thoughts following mandatory minicamp

Posted on 15 June 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens concluding their mandatory minicamp to conclude their offseason workout program, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A year ago at this time, tight end Dennis Pitta and cornerback Tavon Young had already been lost for the season. The Ravens are dealing with some minor ailments, but the return of cornerback Jimmy Smith to practice this week further signaled the good health so far.

2. Alex Lewis and John Brown being among those dealing with minor health concerns isn’t as encouraging. These two could be pivotal in determining whether this offense makes meaningful progress from last season, but they must stay on the field.

3. Lamar Jackson was given the keys to run Thursday’s practice from the quarterback position as several veterans rested on both sides of the ball, and he responded with his most consistent passing performance to date. The rookie knows he has a long way to go, but his confidence is impressive.

4. Some pundits have cherry-picked quotes complimenting Jackson while ignoring the parts about him being a work in progress, but anyone who’s watched this spring knows Joe Flacco has been head and shoulders above the other quarterbacks. Ignore any noise from those pushing a quarterback controversy this early in the game.

5. It’s been evident that new quarterbacks coach James Urban has stressed mobility, pocket movement, and footwork timing with Flacco. The quarterback being healthy and another year removed from the knee injury is crucial, but these skills have been lacking since Gary Kubiak was in Baltimore.

6. Linebackers coach Mike Macdonald labeled Tyus Bowser the most productive linebacker of the spring as he even recorded an interception return for a touchdown on a Flacco pass. Bowser making a Matt Judon-like leap from his first to second year would create some much-needed long-term stability at outside linebacker.

7. Meanwhile, Terrell Suggs is again in great shape as he enters his 16th year and comes off his first double-digit sacks season since 2014. He’s entered that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed territory in that the Ravens won’t easily replace what he’s brought to the table for so many years.

8. It’s difficult to evaluate line play in the spring, but Orlando Brown Jr. definitely showed growth from rookie camp until the end of spring workouts. This next month will be critical for him to keep himself in good shape to continue that momentum into the summer.

9. Willie Snead is developing a good rapport with Flacco as they frequently connected over the middle. Flacco complimented the slot receiver for having “a knack for seeing the game the way the quarterback does.” You can see why Drew Brees liked him a couple years ago in New Orleans.

10. I’ve been as critical as anyone about this Ravens offense, but I do believe it has more intrigue and potential than it’s enjoyed the last few years. The problem is there are so few sure things, meaning the floor remains very low.

11. Hats off to John Harbaugh for offering this truth about spring workouts: “This isn’t football practice. This is just getting ready for football practice. … Nobody is going to make a play here that’s going to make the team.” We now return to our regularly-scheduled overreacting.

12. Between Eric Weddle dropping a Wolverine reference about Smith and Wink Martindale joking that Suggs must have done his offseason training in Wakanda, this week’s quotes were a Marvel fan’s dream. You just hope Thanos stays away from the roster when training camp gets underway.

Comments (0)

jimmysmith

Tags: , , , , ,

Jimmy Smith returns to practice six months after Achilles tear

Posted on 13 June 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A torn Achilles tendon last December was supposed to put the start of the 2018 season in jeopardy for Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.

Instead, the veteran defensive back made a surprising appearance on the practice field for the second day of mandatory minicamp nearly three full months before the Sept. 9 opener and just over six months after the left Achilles that hampered him for much of the 2017 season ruptured in Week 13. For Smith to even be practicing on a limited basis like he did Wednesday prompted a teammate to question whether he possesses a mutant-like recovery power.

“I don’t know if Jimmy is like half-Wolverine, but the dude is healed up in half the time than normal, regular human beings with an Achilles [injury],” safety Eric Weddle said. “But he’s worked extremely hard. I mean I’ve been in here since after the Pro Bowl every week, and he’s been in here rehabbing. The medical staff has done a great job. It was nice to see him out here doing backpedaling and just being a part of the team.”

Smith spent much of the practice session on the sideline chatting with visiting former Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, but his presence clearly bodes well for his availability for training camp and, more importantly, the start of the regular season. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound corner will have much to prove as he comes off a major injury and enters the penultimate year of a contract that carries salary cap figures of $15.675 million in 2018 and $16.175 million next year.

Injuries have repeatedly prevented the 2011 first-round pick from reaching Pro Bowl stature as 2017 marked the fifth time in his seven-year career that he’s missed at least four games in a season. Despite already being on injured reserve, Smith was also suspended without pay for the final four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, adding insult to injury.

That history of not being able to stay on the field coupled with the fact that Smith will soon turn 30 could prompt the Ravens to move on next season with 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey already looking the part of a future shutdown corner and other young cornerbacks on the roster showing promise. In the meantime, a healthy Smith would give new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale a good problem of determining how to distribute playing time among Smith, Humphrey, and veteran Brandon Carr, who has started all 160 games of his career and was a solid No. 2 corner last season.

“I think we have more depth in the secondary right now than we ever have,” Martindale said. “Where we’re going with this thing is really exciting to me.”

Defensive lineman Carl Davis (shoulder) also returned to practice on Wednesday. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery and had been a limited participant in organized team activities prior to being absent on Tuesday.

The Ravens are still without cornerbacks Maurice Canady (knee) and Jaylen Hill (knee) as well as safety Anthony Levine (foot) in the secondary. Guards Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (back), linebacker Bam Bradley (knee), tight end Vince Mayle, and wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (leg) were not participating.

Wide receiver John Brown was also absent after appearing to tweak his knee during Tuesday’s workout. The issue did not appear serious at the time as he remained on the field for the rest of practice and even did some extra work with other receivers after its conclusion.

In addition to Smith, the Ravens welcomed back longtime reserve linebacker Albert McClellan, who practiced for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee last summer. The 32-year-old has been a core special-teams player for Baltimore since 2011.

“Albert is a warrior. Our young players benefit so much from having Albert on the field,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “He’s a mentor, but he’s a great role model for how to practice and how to play physical, smart football.

“The other part of it is he’s really a great coach. If he wants to coach someday, he’s going to be a great coach because he understands football and is able to communicate to the young guys.”

Comments (0)

mosley

Tags: , , , , , ,

Unresolved contract doesn’t keep Mosley away from Ravens

Posted on 12 June 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — At a time of year when many NFL players seeking contract stability choose to skip voluntary workouts or even mandatory minicamp, Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley has continued to show up.

The long-term contract extension that many anticipated hasn’t yet come to fruition, but that hasn’t prevented the three-time Pro Bowl selection from regularly attending the offseason workout program. Mosley once again shied away from discussing his contract situation on Tuesday, but he explained why it hasn’t impacted his attendance in Owings Mills this spring.

“It’s just what I’m used to,” said Mosley, who is set to make $8.718 million this season. “Coming to work, being here with my guys in the offseason, building new relationships with the rookies and the new players on the team. For me, it’s just what I’ve been used to the last four years.”

With Don “Wink” Martindale taking over as the defensive coordinator this offseason and much discussion centering around the flexibility and responsibility being handed to veteran players with tweaks to the defensive system, the Ravens have been pleased to have their “Mike” linebacker on the practice field and in the huddle to ease the transition.

“We’re doing a lot of really neat things on defense; things that are really good,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “C.J. is excited to be in there and learn them and do them. The fact that we’re putting more than ever on our players on the field in real time to make decisions, you want your decision-makers out there practicing now.”

Mosley’s presence serves as a reminder of the stability he’s brought to the position despite being tasked with following in the colossal footsteps of Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. Whether the Ravens reward that productivity with something north of $10 million per year — the going rate for a top inside linebacker — remains to be seen.

Lewis sidelined with back issue

Two weeks after receiving an extended look at the center position, third-year offensive lineman Alex Lewis was sidelined with a back issue that could keep him out through the end of minicamp.

According to Harbaugh, Lewis started experiencing spasms in the weight room recently. The 2016 fourth-round pick showed promise as a rookie, but he’s played in just 10 of a possible 32 games so far in his career, a factor making one take pause about entrusting him with the all-important center spot.

“We’re just holding him out right now. We’ll be evaluating it,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think it’s anything, according to our trainers, serious that would keep him out of training camp or even keep him out for very long. But I didn’t see any reason to bring him out here today with all the work he’s got in already.”

With Lewis absent from Tuesday’s practice, Matt Skura was once again manning the center spot with Jermaine Eluemunor and James Hurst at the left and right guard spots and Ronnie Stanley and rookie Orlando Brown Jr. at the left and right tackle positions. The versatile Hurst has already lined up as the starting right tackle, starting left guard, and starting right guard at different points this spring.

“That’s part of the job, moving around,” said Hurst, who signed a new four-year, $17.5 million contract in March. “We have so many young guys out there right now that they have that flexibility. Marshal [Yanda] isn’t out there right now, and Marshal is the right guard. Everyone knows that. Because of that flexibility, it gives us the chance to try guys and move guys around and get everyone in their best position, which is promising.”

Attendance report

A total of 11 players were not taking part in Tuesday’s workout, a list that included Lewis, Yanda (ankle), cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon), Maurice Canady (knee), and Jaylen Hill (knee), safety Anthony Levine (foot), linebackers Albert McClellan (knee) and Bam Bradley (knee), defensive tackle Carl Davis (shoulder), tight end Vince Mayle (undisclosed), and wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (leg).

On the flip side, defensive end Brent Urban (foot) increased his activity level from earlier spring workouts by taking reps in full-team drills, an encouraging step ahead of the grind of training camp. The 6-foot-7, 300-pound lineman suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in Week 3 of last season

“He looks good from what I can tell,” Harbaugh said. “He has a lot of rust, sure. It’s all new to him. But it’s good to get this in before he gets the time away [and] then back to training camp to get a little feel for it again. He’s a big guy. It’s fun seeing him out there.”

Comments (0)