Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

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Ravens address defense early in Day 3 of NFL draft

Posted on 28 April 2018 by WNST Staff

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Flacco-to-Jackson transition will prove challenging for Ravens

Posted on 27 April 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens took their quarterback of the future Thursday night.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh clearly stated Joe Flacco will remain their starter, but for how long? You don’t just trade back into the first round — surrendering a 2019 second-round pick in the process — and take Louisville’s Lamar Jackson to merely be a flier and long-term backup to light a fire under Flacco. Those picks are valuable commodities, especially for a team that’s made the playoffs just once in the last five years.

Drafting Jackson so early was a clear message that the Ravens have lost faith in their longtime starter.

It’s no secret that Flacco’s contract remains untouchable until next season while the consensus opinion is that the talented Jackson won’t be ready to play in the NFL right away. The Ravens would still be dealing with $16 million in dead money on their salary cap should they cut or trade Flacco next year, making it conceivable that he stays put for 2019 if he plays well this season or Jackson develops more slowly than they hope.

But how do the Ravens calibrate the present with Flacco while preparing for their future with Jackson?

Newsome said they want to win this year, but one of the major criticisms of the organization has been its inability to surround Flacco with more talent, something that wasn’t helped by drafting someone who will be standing on the sideline this season. Harbaugh cited New England as a recent example of a team contending while drafting a young quarterback early — Jimmy Garoppolo at the end of the second round in 2014 — but Flacco isn’t Tom Brady and the Patriots already had a championship-caliber roster in place. The Ravens really aren’t in a position to be using an early pick on a backup quarterback if they’re so determined to get back to the playoffs this season.

Beyond the question of whether Baltimore will adequately address its remaining needs, how do you go about developing Jackson appropriately? The idea of a first-round quarterback not playing right away was once commonplace, but that strategy is rarely executed successfully in today’s NFL for a variety of reasons, one of them being the overall shortage of practice time to adequately develop the player. There are only so many reps to go around, and an already-maligned veteran sharing valuable first-team reps with a developing backup isn’t a winning formula for Sundays.

Then again, the Ravens trying to utilize Jackson’s unique skills in some fashion during his rookie season should be a no-brainer. You can talk about practice reps and classroom time all you want, but there’s no substitute for live-game action and one of the major questions facing Jackson is his ability to handle pressure in the pocket, something not easily replicated in practice.

To little surprise, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was vague when asked how the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner would be handled during his rookie season.

“We talked about it just briefly on his visit about how we would go about these things,” Mornhinweg said. “So [quarterbacks coach James Urban] and myself and John plan together, pre-practice, all those things. It’s going to be important. As far as the future, we’ll see what happens there. Joe’s the quarterback of this football team. Lamar is going to develop all those things. So, we’ll see what happens.”

What about the coaches’ status in this equation?

Many have assumed Harbaugh and his staff would likely be dismissed without a return to the playoffs this coming season, but much has been made about the experiences of Mornhinweg and Urban resurrecting Michael Vick’s career in Philadelphia and assistant head coach Greg Roman tutoring Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor at previous stops. If Jackson’s development is truly the priority it needs to be after using a first-round pick on him, firing the coaching staff a year into his NFL career would seemingly set him back.

On Thursday, Harbaugh spoke in such glowing terms about a quarterback who doesn’t currently figure to be a major factor in 2018 that you wonder if he’s received assurances from owner Steve Bisciotti — who admitted he considered replacing him at the end of the 2017 season — that he’s not facing a playoffs-or-bust scenario and that his staff will be given sufficient time to oversee Jackson’s development. Otherwise, it’s difficult to imagine Harbaugh being thrilled about valuable draft capital being used solely for the future.

What about the relationship between Flacco and Jackson? The 33-year-old has always been viewed as a good teammate, but he’s never before been threatened by another quarterback on the roster, making you wonder how eager he’ll be to help tutor someone tabbed to take his job.

How will other Ravens players react if Flacco gets off to a lackluster start and the talented rookie is itching for his opportunity? Quarterback controversies can easily fracture a locker room if you’re not careful.

And we haven’t even mentioned how ugly it could get as soon as Flacco throws an interception or the offense has a few three-and-outs playing at home. A viable backup quarterback is always the most popular guy in town, meaning fan pressure to replace Flacco with Jackson at the first sign of trouble will be immense.

It all has the potential to be a very bumpy ride.

Regardless of your view on the Ravens’ decision on Thursday night, Jackson has impressive abilities and could eventually blossom into a dangerous NFL quarterback, but he’ll need proper coaching as well as a good roster surrounding him to succeed. A less-than-ideal salary cap situation, questions about the long-term status of the coaching staff, and the incumbent still being on the roster could all prove to be significant challenges as the torch is eventually passed.

The process sure will be fascinating to watch.

And it could be very problematic.

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First-round quarterback would cap disappointing finish to Newsome era

Posted on 25 April 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will get the benefit of the doubt until they turn in their card late Thursday night.

Whether staying at 16th overall or moving elsewhere in the first round, Ozzie Newsome has a variety of directions he can go in the final draft of his Hall of Fame-caliber run as general manager that includes two Super Bowl titles and 10 playoff appearances in 22 years.

Despite signing three veteran wide receivers this offseason, Baltimore needs a pass-catching tight end and could still use another receiver with upside for both the present and future. After losing two starters from last year’s offensive line, a tackle such as Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey or even center Frank Ragnow from Arkansas would make sense despite neither being a sexy pick for an anxious fan base.

You could try to sell me on not being able to resist a special defensive talent such as Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith somehow sliding down the board, even if that would continue the post-Super Bowl XLVII theme of neglecting the offensive side of the ball. These are the defense-obsessed Ravens, after all, so that wouldn’t be all that stunning.

But a quarterback in the first round?

Nope.

Absolutely not.

Sorry, that’s a hard pass.

As owner Steve Bisciotti famously said in February, the Ravens have “bigger fish to fry.”

Yet the smoke persists with NFL Network’s Mike Mayock becoming the latest draft maven to mock Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson to the Ravens at No. 16. It’s one thing when a run-of-the-mill reporter or draft enthusiast makes the connection in the hundreds of mock drafts currently circulating the internet, but the likes of Mayock and Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer are connected throughout the league. At the very least, the Ravens are making it appear that they’re seriously considering drafting Joe Flacco’s heir apparent in the first round as Jackson reportedly even took a pre-draft visit to Baltimore.

To be clear, this isn’t an anti-Jackson stance. The former Heisman Trophy winner is an intriguing talent who has a chance to be a good NFL quarterback if he lands in the right environment, the same caveat that applies to other high-profile signal-callers in this year’s draft class.

Putting aside the warm-and-fuzzy narrative of Newsome taking the Ravens’ quarterback of the future in his final draft, let’s look at reality.

With Bisciotti admitting he considered replacing John Harbaugh at the end of last season, do you think the 11th-year head coach and his staff are going to be receptive to a first-round pick unlikely to make any meaningful impact this year when they’re in win-now mode and very likely fighting for their jobs after missing the playoffs three straight times? That puts them in an unfair position.

No matter how they spin it, taking a first-round quarterback would be a clear message that the Ravens are done with Flacco. You can point to the final year of the Alex Smith-Kansas City marriage that resulted in a trip to the playoffs as much as you’d like, but we still have no idea if Patrick Mahomes will work out for Andy Reid and the Chiefs, making that a flimsy example to use as justification.

In today’s NFL, the benefit of hitting on a quarterback in the draft is the flexibility it provides with the salary cap, but the Ravens will have essentially wasted the first year of that rookie contract and would still be dealing with $16 million in dead money on the 2019 cap by cutting Flacco next offseason. Sure, you could give his release a post-June 1 designation to push $8 million of that dead money to 2020, but that does you no good during free agency, meaning you’ve now minimized the benefits of the second season of that four-year rookie contract. That’s not a good start, and that’s assuming Jackson or whichever first-round quarterback you’d like to envision actually pans out.

Beyond those realities, does the current regime really deserve to reboot at the quarterback position yet? Why should the Ravens be trusted to build around another quarterback when they’ve done such a dismal job putting talent around the one who led them to their second NFL championship five years ago?

And please spare me the talk about Flacco’s contract.

The Ravens rank last in the NFL in non-quarterback money invested in the offensive side of the ball, according to OverTheCap.com. They’ve used just four of their 17 total picks in the first, second, and third rounds of the last five drafts on offensive players while attempting to recreate the 2000 defense with underwhelming results.

Since investing nine figures in the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player, the Ravens have consistently asked Flacco to do more with less than virtually any quarterback in the NFL.

To be clear, Flacco has underperformed and needs to own his share of the team’s shortcomings like anyone else, including the front office and coaching staff. There are legitimate reasons to doubt his future, ranging from his steadily-declining yards per attempt to concerns about his durability as he enters his mid-30s.

The end could very well be near for Flacco.

But the Ravens owe it to themselves and to their longtime quarterback to put their best foot forward for 2018 in Newsome’s final draft. They’ve hired a new quarterbacks coach in James Urban, who has a good reputation around the league and will hopefully address Flacco’s mechanics that have regressed since Gary Kubiak’s departure three years ago. Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead are each coming off down seasons, but they bring diverse skills to the passing game and have all tasted NFL success to varying degrees in the past. Investing meaningful draft picks on the offensive side of the ball would put the finishing touches on an offseason in which the Ravens brass can at least say they made more of an attempt to help Flacco than the usual dollar-store signings and Day 3 draft picks of recent years.

If he shows no meaningful improvement in 2018 from what we’ve seen the last few years, I’ll be the first to say it’s time to move on. New general manager Eric DeCosta can then begin his own quest for a new quarterback as the organization would likely be in transition in more ways than one.

This isn’t a special case like the New York Giants having the second overall pick and wondering if they’ll have another golden opportunity to replace their aging quarterback. The Ravens are picking in the middle of the first round and would be taking the fourth- or fifth-ranked quarterback in the class at best. Starting over by drafting a quarterback is never a high-percentage play and shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially when you’d be moving on from someone who once got you to the pinnacle when he had enough talent around him.

Newsome taking a quarterback Thursday would essentially be letting Flacco take the fall for his own shortcomings in recent years.

I’m still not buying it being the Ravens’ true play, but such an outcome would cap a lackluster finish to his long and successful run as general manager.

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Orioles-Rays game postponed, rescheduled as part of May 12 doubleheader

Posted on 24 April 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Having lost nine of their last 10 and currently dealing with injuries in their infield, the Orioles probably weren’t disappointed to see Mother Nature give them a break.

A forecast of steady rain throughout the evening postponed the opener of a three-game series with Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The game will be rescheduled as part of a single-admission doubleheader with the Rays beginning at 3:05 p.m. on Saturday, May 12.

With infielder Tim Beckham expected to be placed on the 10-day disabled list after injuring his groin in Monday’s loss to Cleveland, the Orioles were able to delay making a roster move. Newly-acquired infielder Jace Peterson was traveling to Baltimore Tuesday after being claimed off waivers from the New York Yankees and is expected to take Beckham’s roster spot on Wednesday.

Batting just .179 and struggling to adjust to his new position at third base, Beckham underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Tuesday afternoon. The Orioles were already dealing with the absence of All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who is just beginning baseball activities after sustaining a right oblique strain on April 13.

Before the postponement, Trey Mancini had been penciled into Tuesday’s lineup as the left fielder and leadoff hitter. He missed two games over the weekend after slamming his knee into the wall down the left-field line on Friday night, but he was able to pinch-hit in the eighth inning of Monday’s game.

Below is information about Tuesday’s postponement and the May 12 doubleheader:

Tickets and parking for Tuesday’s postponed game will not be automatically honored for the May 12 doubleheader. Fans must exchange the value of their tickets and parking from the Tuesday, April 24 game at the Oriole Park Box Office towards any remaining home game this season, including the May 12 doubleheader, based on availability.

Fans who purchased tickets on StubHub for the Tuesday, April 24 game will need to contact StubHub regarding their policy for postponed events.

Fans holding tickets for the originally scheduled 7:05 p.m. game on Saturday, May 12 should use those tickets for both games of the doubleheader.

All ballpark gates will open at 2:00 p.m., and parking lots will open at 1:30 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on MASN2 and on the Orioles Radio Network, including flagship station 105.7 The Fan.

Ticket exchanges can be performed at the Oriole Park Box Office or submitted in writing along with the original tickets and mailed via certified mail by May 31, 2018 to:

Baltimore Orioles
Attention: April 24 Rainout
333 West Camden Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 2-1 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 23 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles’ misery continuing in a 2-1 loss to Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore is scoring 3.17 runs per game — worst in the majors — and has plated one or zero runs in five of 10 games at Camden Yards and three or fewer in nine of those. Seven of the 11 Orioles players to bat Monday are hitting .200 or worse. Uncle.

2. Upon intentionally walking Manny Machado in the third, Carlos Carrasco needed 22 pitches to retire the next eight batters before walking Machado in the sixth. That’s one more pitch than the 21 Brandon Belt saw in one at-bat Sunday to set a major league record. Is there even a plan?

3. Speaking of that Machado intentional walk, the Orioles should expect much more of that if the lineup is going to continue being a one-man band.

4. It’s a shame a strong start from Kevin Gausman was wasted as he made one mistake on a two-run homer by Yonder Alonso in the second. The Indians had some other hard contact, but Gausman recorded his third straight quality start and gave his team a good chance to win.

5. Gausman retired 21 of the 23 final batters he faced, finishing his night by striking out Jason Kipnis on a 96.4 mph fastball to end the top of the eighth. Did I mention he deserved better?

6. An “immaculate” inning occurs when a pitcher strikes out the side on the minimum nine pitches. Gausman accomplished that impressive feat in the seventh. According to statistician Ryan Spaeder, he was the first Oriole to do that since B.J. Ryan in 1999.

7. Gausman’s average fastball velocity of 93.9 mph was easily his best of the season as he repeatedly hit 95 and 96 and even touched 97. That should quell concerns about him lacking his typical fastball early this season.

8. In contrast to Gausman’s “immaculate” inning, Danny Valencia struck out three times on a total of nine pitches, swinging and missing three straight times on the first one and looking at three straight in his next at-bat. He did mix in a double in the seventh inning.

9. Adam Jones’ frustration was apparent after he grounded out to end a threat in the eighth inning, throwing his bat, helmet, batting gloves, and shin guard. The center fielder is hitting just .240 with a .396 slugging percentage.

10. Chance Sisco struck out three times, but he delivered the only Orioles run of the night with an RBI single in the second. Monitoring his development is one of the few interesting aspects of this last-place club right now.

11. Trey Mancini coming off the bench to face Andrew Miller certainly wasn’t the easiest matchup, but it bodes well for his potential return to the starting lineup on Tuesday. He took batting practice and was feeling optimistic about his knee prior to Monday’s game.

12. Tim Beckham could be replacing Mancini on the sideline after he left the game with a groin issue and has also been dealing with a sore Achilles. Beckham is batting just .179, but the Orioles were already lacking the infield depth to handle the absence of Jonathan Schoop. What’s next?

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 7-3 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 22 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles continuing their struggles in a 7-3 loss to Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After a 3-for-4 performance that included two home runs, Manny Machado is slugging .713, which is higher than the on-base plus slugging percentage of every other member of Sunday’s lineup except for Pedro Alvarez. He’s doing his best to try to carry an inept offense so far.

2. It’s difficult to recall the Orioles starting a less impressive bottom third of the batting order than Anthony Santander, Caleb Joseph, and Luis Sardinas. Of course, the fifth and sixth spots — Chris Davis and Tim Beckham — haven’t been much better.

3. Opponents entered Sunday 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position against Andrew Cashner, but we witnessed a market correction as he allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks over six innings. I’ll still gladly take his 3.60 ERA through his first five starts.

4. Cashner was strong through his first three innings before laboring mightily the second and third times through the order. However, his strikeout numbers continue to be surprising as he recorded seven over his six frames.

5. He received an assist from the strategy to have Rajai Davis bunt with runners on first and second and no outs in the third after Sardinas had just made an error. I understand Cleveland has struggled offensively, but that helped short-circuit a major threat so early in the game.

6. The Orioles struck out only once through the first six innings against two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, but that allowed him to keep his pitch count at a reasonable 74. They weren’t hitting the ball particularly hard despite him lacking his typical swing-and-miss stuff.

7. Normally you’d admire Santander forcing Kluber to throw 12 pitches in a seventh-inning strikeout that drove up his pitch count, but that merely paved the way for Andrew Miller to enter in the eighth. Pick your poison.

8. Speaking of Miller, Sardinas striking out on four pitches in the eighth was as predictable as it gets. I suppose that’s the joy of having a two-man bench over the weekend with Trey Mancini temporarily sidelined.

9. Brad Brach needed to keep the deficit at one and give Manny Machado a chance to tie it in the ninth, but he was tagged for three runs. His 5.19 ERA and Mychal Givens’ 5.91 mark haven’t given the bullpen a chance to stay afloat without Zach Britton.

10. The Orioles entered Sunday last in the majors at minus-14 defensive runs saved. The defense may not have factored too heavily into this loss, but it continues to be difficult to watch.

11. Mark Trumbo will resume his minor-league rehab assignment Monday, but he’ll need to stack some at-bats after missing so much action dating back to early March. Meanwhile, Pedro Alvarez has seen his average fall to .214 after going 0-for-11 over the first three games of the Indians series.

12. This is the fifth-fastest Orioles club to fall 10 games below .500 and is tied for the third-worst start in franchise history after 22 games with only the 1988 Orioles (1-21) and the 2010 team (4-18) being worse. At least they have 140 games to turn it around, right? Right?

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 4-0 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 21 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles being shut out at home for the second time this season in a 4-0 loss to Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The absence of Trey Mancini didn’t bode well for an offense that was already struggling and without Jonathan Schoop, so the end result wasn’t exactly shocking. Baltimore has now been held to three or fewer runs in 14 of 21 games this season.

2. Indians starter Mike Clevinger had a good 2017 campaign, but he had logged seven or more innings in just three of his 34 career starts before his first career shutout. Give the 27-year-old credit, but this has been an all-too-familiar pattern for the 2018 Orioles.

3. The bar is extremely low, but Chris Tillman showed some improvement in giving the Orioles a chance to win by completing six innings for the first time since July 17 of last season. He managed only four swinging strikes, but he threw some decent breaking pitches and struck out five.

4. Despite a low pitch count, Tillman’s stamina came into question beginning in the fourth inning as his velocity dipped. He gave up solo home runs on poorly-located fastballs clocked at 86, 86, and 87 miles per hour. That’s just not going to get the job done.

5. With the middle of the Cleveland order coming up a third time, Buck Showalter could have gone to the bullpen after five and allowed Tillman to leave on a high note. That said, he had just recorded his first 1-2-3 frame and was at only 63 pitches. I understand it.

6. I’m sure Saturday’s performance bought Tillman another start, but I’ve said before the problem is this feels close to his ceiling at this point. Allowing four earned runs over six innings — a 6.00 ERA — lowered his season mark by more than two full runs.

7. Many have questioned Chance Sisco’s throwing ability at the major league level, but he became the first Orioles catcher since Matt Wieters in 2012 to gun down three runners attempting to steal in a game. He’s now thrown out seven of 11 trying to swipe a bag this season.

8. Tanner Scott allowed one hit and struck out one in two scoreless frames. Despite little experience above the Double-A level and well-documented control issues, the hard-throwing lefty has presented himself well in two major league appearances this season.

9. Saturday was the fifth time in eight games at Camden Yards in which the Orioles have failed to record a hit through the first three innings. They’re begging to put themselves in an early hole with that formula.

10. I’m guessing Showalter wasn’t daydreaming about an April 21 lineup featuring Craig Gentry, Pedro Alvarez, Luis Sardinas, and Anthony Santander over the winter. Then again, established bats aren’t producing either.

11. Santander has shown some promise, but he’s batting .170 and his on-base plus slugging percentage has dipped to .497. His Rule 5 requirement will be satisfied next month, which will allow him to return to the minors. The right field problem will remain, however.

12. The Indians offense has been nearly as bad as the Orioles so far, but Cleveland is allowing nearly half as many runs per game. Elite pitching always gives you a chance.

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New Orleans elects not to match Snead’s offer sheet with Ravens

Posted on 20 April 2018 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Monday 11:15 a.m.)

The Ravens have taken another step in addressing the wide receiver position by signing restricted free agent Willie Snead to a two-year offer sheet that won’t be matched by New Orleans.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the deal is worth $7 million, which includes a $2 million signing bonus and an additional $3.4 million in incentives. New Orleans had until Wednesday to match the offer and will not receive any compensation for the former undrafted free agent’s departure. According to the NFLPA, the Saints entered Monday with just over $6 million in salary cap space, a limited amount for a team that recently signed wide receiver Cameron Meredith.

Snead is coming off a forgettable season in which he caught only eight passes for 92 yards in 11 games. He was suspended for the first three games of 2017 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, a penalty stemming from charges of driving while intoxicated and failing to maintain proper control of a vehicle last June. The Ball State product also dealt with a hamstring injury for a large portion of last season, another factor leading to him falling out of the mix.

However, the 25-year-old was a major contributor for Drew Brees and the Saints offense in the previous two seasons, catching a combined 141 passes for 1,879 yards and seven touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Snead will serve as Baltimore’s slot receiver, a position general manager Ozzie Newsome had yet to fill after Jeremy Maclin was released and Michael Campanaro signed a one-year deal with Tennessee.

With the Ravens landing Snead, they have added a possession receiver and red-zone weapon in Michael Crabtree, an outside speed target in John Brown, and now a slot receiver to a passing game that ranked 29th in the NFL last season. The three offer diverse skills and have all enjoyed success in the past, but they combined for just 87 catches for 1,009 yards and 11 touchdowns last season with Crabtree accounting for most of that production. In other words, Newsome has invested quite a bit in a trio of targets needing bounce-back seasons.

Signing Snead is expected to take the Ravens out of the running for former Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant, who hasn’t publicly expressed any interest in signing with Baltimore. The Ravens would be wise to still make drafting another receiver or two a priority this week since none of the aforementioned receivers can be viewed as long-term solutions at this point.

Snead worked out for the Ravens in late March and caught passes from quarterback Robert Griffin III, who also signed with the team earlier this month.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on 2018 schedule release

Posted on 20 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens unveiling their 2018 regular-season schedule on Thursday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Playing four of the first six games on the road is a challenge, but that pales in comparison to 2015 when Baltimore played five of its first seven on the road with four being played out west. The longest trip the Ravens will make over that stretch is to Nashville.

2. This marks the first time the Ravens will play three straight road games since 2008, but that was the result of a rescheduled game in Houston because of Hurricane Ike. They did play three straight road games in 2000, which seemed to work out OK in the end.

3. Not having a prime-time home game is a bummer. Baltimore didn’t host one in 2015 either, but that was the result of two Sunday night games being flexed out during a 5-11 season. This is the first time M&T Bank Stadium hasn’t been originally scheduled to host one since 2008.

4. If you count the nationally-televised Christmas game two years ago, this marks the fifth straight year the Ravens will play a prime-time game in Pittsburgh. The NFL hasn’t scheduled a Ravens-Steelers night game in Baltimore since 2015, and even that one was flexed out. That seems unbalanced.

5. The Ravens haven’t entered their bye week with a winning record since 2014, illustrating how little margin for error they’ve had down the stretch in recent years. John Harbaugh must get his team to start fast despite six of the first nine contests coming against 2017 playoff teams.

6. Don’t forget how dramatically the perception of the schedule can change by the time these games are actually played. Last April, trips to Oakland and Green Bay looked like major challenges, but EJ Manuel and Brett Hundley subbing in for Derek Carr and Aaron Rodgers sure altered that.

7. I couldn’t help but laugh over the Ravens not having a Monday game at all after they finally hosted Monday Night Football for the first time since 2012 last season. Then again, I’m not sure I can blame the league when you recall how lousy that Ravens-Texans contest was.

8. Monday Night Football may not be returning to Baltimore this season, but former ESPN analyst Jon Gruden will be as the Raiders head coach. This is the first time Gruden will coach a game in Baltimore since 2002.

9. The Raiders have become the new Miami as Baltimore meets them for the fourth straight year. Meanwhile, the five-year streak of there being a Ravens-Dolphins game will finally come to an end this season.

10. The Ravens’ first ever trip to Los Angeles should have been one of the most attractive on the schedule for traveling fans, but leave it to the NFL to decide by late October whether it will be played Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, or Sunday afternoon — a couple days before Christmas.

11. It was a good decision moving up the sale of single-game tickets to the night of the schedule release rather than waiting until the summer. The organization needed to be more proactive after the number of empty seats witnessed last season.

12. The hype surrounding the schedule being released is a bit much considering we’ve known the opponents the Ravens would be playing for months, but it brings focus to the anticipation of a new season. Now we know they’ll be kicking off against Buffalo in a mere 142 days.

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Ravens to play two prime-time road games as part of 2018 schedule

Posted on 19 April 2018 by Luke Jones

Barring a flex scheduling change during the season, the Ravens will not host any prime-time games in 2018.

Baltimore opens the season at home against the Buffalo Bills for the second time in three years, but John Harbaugh’s team will face the challenge of playing four of its first six games away from M&T Bank Stadium, a stretch that includes two prime-time road games against AFC North rivals in the opening month and three straight road contests. The Ravens travel to Cincinnati for a Thursday game in Week 2 and will then try to exorcise their recent demons at Heinz Field for Sunday Night Football in Week 4.

For the first time since 2003, the Ravens will not play a Monday night game in the regular season.

In a peculiar twist, all three divisional road games will be completed by Week 5, the earliest the Ravens will have done this in franchise history. They will play just one AFC North team in the season’s final six weeks when Cleveland comes to Baltimore for Week 17.

After playing five of their first eight games on the road, the Ravens will stay home for the entire month of November, a period that includes their Week 10 bye.

The Ravens will play eight games against playoff teams from last season: Pittsburgh (twice), Buffalo, Kansas City, Tennessee, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Carolina. They have seven games against opponents who finished below .500 in 2017: Cincinnati (twice), Cleveland (twice), Denver, Tampa Bay, and Oakland.

For now, 11 of the Ravens’ 16 regular-season games are scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday starts, but many of those games are subject to flexible scheduling (see below).

2018 SCHEDULE

Sunday, Sept. 9 vs. Buffalo Bills — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: The Bills ended their 17-year playoff drought thanks to the Ravens’ Week 17 collapse last December, but this is a team in transition with A.J. McCarron at the helm — for now.

Thursday, Sept. 13 at Cincinnati Bengals — 8:20 p.m.
Skinny: The Bengals knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs in one of the more stunning defeats in franchise history, an outcome that likely saved Marvin Lewis’ job.

Sunday, Sept. 23 vs. Denver Broncos — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Case Keenum was one of the feel-good stories of the 2017 season, but the Broncos have fallen on hard times since their Super Bowl victory a couple years ago.

Sunday, Sept. 30 at Pittsburgh Steelers — 8:20 p.m.
Skinny: Will the Ravens avoid losing a last-second heartbreaker at Heinz Field for the third straight year? This marks the fifth straight year the trip to Pittsburgh will be televised nationally.

Sunday, Oct. 7 at Cleveland Browns — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Hue Jackson has already declared Tyrod Taylor his quarterback for the 2018 season, which means the Browns’ first-round pick will likely be at the helm by Week 5.

Sunday, Oct. 14 at Tennessee Titans — 4:25 p.m.
Skinny: The Week 9 loss in Nashville last year proved to be the difference between the Titans making the playoffs and the Ravens being left out for the third straight year.

Sunday, Oct. 21 vs. New Orleans Saints — 4:05 p.m.
Skinny: The Saints are very talented and Drew Brees will be enshrined in Canton one day, but he’s a surprising 0-4 in his career against the Ravens.

Sunday, Oct. 28 at Carolina Panthers — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: The hype for this one will pale in comparison to the 2014 meeting as Steve Smith now enjoys retirement, but the Panthers did add Torrey Smith to their receiver group this offseason.

Sunday, Nov. 4 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: There’s something not right about these rivals wrapping up the season series three weeks before Thanksgiving, but the Steelers snapped their four-game losing streak in Baltimore last year.

Sunday, Nov. 11 BYE
Skinny: The bye will be in Week 10 for the second straight year and has fallen no earlier than Week 8 in seven straight seasons.

Sunday, Nov. 18 vs. Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: You’re telling me it’s not part of the NFL bylaws for the Ravens to play the Bengals in Week 17? This will be only the second time in nine years that hasn’t happened.

Sunday, Nov. 25 vs. Oakland Raiders — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Michael Crabtree put up huge numbers against Baltimore as a Raider, so we’ll see if he has a similar impact playing against his former team.

Sunday, Dec. 2 at Atlanta Falcons — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Who else is looking forward to reigniting those tired Matt Ryan-Joe Flacco debates stemming from the 2008 draft?

Sunday, Dec. 9 at Kansas City Chiefs — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Patrick Mahomes has big shoes to fill after the Chiefs traded Alex Smith, who led them to the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.

Sunday, Dec. 16 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Ryan Jensen returns to Baltimore after the Buccaneers made him the highest-paid center in the NFL last month.

*Saturday, Dec. 22 or Sunday, Dec. 23 at Los Angeles Chargers
Skinny: I suppose the NFL is taking flexible scheduling to a new level this year as the Ravens will be making their first ever trip to Los Angeles.

Sunday, Dec. 30 vs. Cleveland Browns — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: If the Ravens again need to win their season finale to secure a playoff berth and still can’t do it this time around, I really don’t know what to tell you.

* = The NFL will determine by Week 8 whether the Ravens-Chargers game will be played on Dec. 22 or Dec. 23.  If the game is played Saturday, it will kick off at either 4:30 p.m. or 8:20 p.m.on the NFL Network. Should the game be selected for Sunday, it will begin at 4:25 p.m. on CBS.

Notes: Flexible scheduling can be applied in Weeks 5 through 17. A flex scheduling change would be announced at least 12 days before the game except for the final week of the season. For Week 17, the Sunday night game is announced no later than six days prior to Dec. 30.

Another wrinkle implemented in recent years is a select number of games being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring certain games to wider audiences.

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