Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton greets Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, left, at midfield after a preseason NFL football game in Baltimore, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. The Panthers defeated the Ravens 34-27. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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Ravens-related thoughts on conference championship weekend

Posted on 25 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The lack of weapons surrounding Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been a major topic of discussion in two of the last three years.

That’s why Cam Newton’s season for the NFC champion Carolina Panthers is nothing short of exceptional. The fifth-year quarterback wasn’t exactly a popular pick to be the league MVP — especially after the Panthers lost No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin to a season-ending knee injury in August — but he’s done everything he can to silence critics about his play on the field.

To be clear, Newton hasn’t done it alone as he has a Pro Bowl tight end in Greg Olsen and the league’s No. 1 rushing attack — to go along with an excellent defense — but to watch him throw for 35 touchdown passes and a 99.4 passer rating with former first-round bust Ted Ginn Jr., journeyman Jerricho Cotchery, 2014 undrafted free agent Philly Brown, and second-round rookie Devin Funchess as his top four wide receivers?

That’s not exactly a group that instilled fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators.

We’re used to seeing the likes of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers put up impressive passing numbers despite not always having elite talent around them, but Newton deserves the praise he’s receiving as he prepares to play in his first Super Bowl. He’s always been dangerous with his legs — he’s rushed for 500 or more yards in each of his five NFL seasons — but to see his passing prowess take off this season with a less-than-stellar group of receivers is worthy of praise.

This isn’t meant as a knock on Flacco as plenty of good quarterbacks struggle to post big numbers without enough high-end talent around them, but Newton has had a special season.

Blind side surprise

Another reason that Newton has had such a successful year has been the play of Carolina’s offensive line, which includes former Raven Michael Oher playing left tackle.

Oher was mostly solid but still considered a disappointment in Baltimore as a first-round pick in the 2009 draft. The Ole Miss product was even worse with Tennessee in 2014 and was cut just one year after signing a four-year, $20 million contract with the Titans.

So, why the turnaround with the Panthers?

Oher has been reunited with John Matsko, the Ravens’ offensive line coach in his first two NFL seasons. The two share a good relationship, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that Oher has gotten his career back on track working with his old offensive line coach.

According to Pro Football Focus, Oher has graded 32nd among all offensive tackles in the NFL — Eugene Monroe was 22nd and Rick Wagner was 53rd — so it’s not as though he’s suddenly blossomed into a Pro Bowl player in his seventh season. But there’s no doubt that he’s played a key part in transforming what was a poor offensive line in 2014 into one of the better ones in the league.

Orange crush pass rush

The Denver Broncos registered a remarkable 20 quarterback hits on Tom Brady — the most any quarterback had taken in a game all season — over the course of Sunday’s 20-18 win in the AFC championship game.

But even more impressive was the fact that Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips blitzed a season-low 17.2 percent of the time, according to PFF. It certainly helps when you have a special pair of edge rushers like Von Miller — who will be a free agent this offseason — and DeMarcus Ware, but the Broncos’ success was a reminder that you need to be able to disrupt quarterbacks without leaving your pass coverage compromised.

After losing Terrell Suggs in the opener and having already lost Pernell McPhee via free agency, Dean Pees was left with a front unable to generate consistent pressure with a four-man rush for most of the season. As a result, the Ravens defensive coordinator felt compelled to blitz more, which left an underwhelming secondary even more vulnerable in coverage if the pressure didn’t get there in time. It wasn’t until late in the year with the improvement of rookie Za’Darius Smith that Baltimore started to be more disruptive without blitzing.

It’s easier said than done, but the Ravens need to improve their pass rush for 2016 and can’t just hope that the healthy return of Suggs alone will do the trick.

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Dumervil named to fifth Pro Bowl of his career

Posted on 25 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The list of Ravens players going to Honolulu continues to grow as outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil was named to the Pro Bowl on Monday morning.

With Denver linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware and Carolina outside linebacker Thomas Davis now playing in Super Bowl 50, the 32-year-old Dumervil will take part in his second straight Pro Bowl, the fifth of his 10-year career. Dumervil will join right guard Marshal Yanda, punter Sam Koch, and long snapper Morgan Cox as the Ravens’ representatives in Hawaii.

“Whenever you are recognized by your peers, it is an honor,” Dumervil said in a statement released by the Ravens. “To be able to play with the best the NFL has to offer is a blessing.”

After setting a franchise record with 17 sacks in the 2014 season, Dumervil collected only six quarterback takedowns in 2015, his lowest total since 2008. The season-ending loss of Terrell Suggs in Week 1 led to a bigger-than-expected role for Dumervil, who played 792 defensive snaps — 189 more than he saw a year earlier, according to snap counts compiled by Football Outsiders.

Spending his first two seasons with Baltimore as more of a situational rush specialist, Dumervil collected 26 1/2 sacks while playing less than 56 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. The Louisville product played in almost 75 percent of the defensive snaps this past season with Suggs injured and free-agent departure Pernell McPhee in Chicago.

“I think Dumervil has still got a year or two left, but we certainly didn’t expect to run him as many snaps, and he wore down,” owner Steve Bisciotti said earlier this month. “That’s not what we expected Dumervil to do this year was [to] have to go and play 800 snaps or whatever it was. That’s kind of the big difference.”

In 16 games, Dumervil accumulated 48 tackles, a forced fumble, and a pass breakup in addition to his six sacks.

In addition to Dumervil, former Ravens quarterback Tyrod Taylor was named to the Pro Bowl as the replacement for Carolina’s Cam Newton. Taylor threw for 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions in his first year as the starter for the Buffalo Bills.

The game takes place at Aloha Stadium at 7 p.m. on Sunday and will be televised on ESPN.

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kubiak

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Former Ravens coordinator Kubiak going to Super Bowl 50

Posted on 24 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Gary Kubiak had every intention of staying with the Ravens until his dream job suddenly opened up.

A year later, the former offensive coordinator is now going to the Super Bowl. A strong effort by his defense led the Denver Broncos to a 20-18 win over New England, giving Kubiak a shot at his first NFL championship as a head coach.

In his only season in Baltimore, Kubiak not only fixed an abysmal running game, but the Ravens set franchise records by scoring 25.6 points per game and producing 364.9 yards per game. After the season-ending playoff loss to New England last January, the 54-year-old declined interview requests from other NFL teams and even issued a statement that he would be staying with the Ravens before the Broncos parted ways with head coach John Fox the next day.

The subsequent call from former teammate and longtime friend John Elway was the “game-changer” for Kubiak, who had previously spent a combined 20 years in Denver as a player and assistant coach. The Ravens hired current offensive coordinator Marc Trestman soon after Kubiak became the head coach in Denver.

Two other ex-Ravens had big days for Denver on Sunday as tight end Owen Daniels caught two touchdown passes from Peyton Manning in the first half and safety Darian Stewart intercepted a Tom Brady pass in Broncos territory in the second quarter. Stewart later left the game with a knee injury, but he told reporters after the AFC championship game that he expected to be ready for Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif. on Feb. 7.

Three other former Ravens will meet Denver in the Super Bowl as Michael Oher, Ed Dickson, and Dwan Edwards were part of Carolina’s dominating 49-15 win over Arizona. While Oher started at left tackle for the Panthers, Edwards had a tackle and a quarterback hit as part of the defensive line rotation and Dickson failed to rein in two passes from quarterback Cam Newton.

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Ranking the Ravens’ special teams needs for 2016

Posted on 23 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Special teams are cut and dry for the Ravens this offseason.

They don’t need to mess with a good thing when they were the consensus choice as the best special-teams unit in the NFL in 2015. Keeping the group together will be the challenge.

With free agency set to begin in less than two months — March 9 at 4 p.m. — and the draft set for April 28-30, the Ravens are currently evaluating their biggest needs in all three phases of the game. In the finale of a three-part series — we’ve already looked at the offense and defense — I offer my thoughts on the special teams and rank the greatest needs.

1. Re-sign Justin Tucker

The 2013 Pro Bowl kicker isn’t going anywhere despite going only 4-for-10 from 50 or more yards this past season. Tucker missed only one field goal inside 50 all year and that came when the turf at Levi’s Stadium swallowed his plant foot on a 45-yard attempt in Week 6.

It will simply be a matter of whether the Ravens can sign the 26-year-old to a long-term contract or they’ll be forced to use the franchise tag, which was $4.126 million for kickers in 2015.

New England’s Stephen Gostkowski received just over $10 million guaranteed last year, so you’d have to think Tucker is looking for something in that neighborhood. We’ll see if general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens are willing to give it to him.

2. Long snapper

To be clear, longtime snapper Morgan Cox remains the Ravens’ top choice, but they were able to re-sign the veteran to a small one-year deal this past offseason as he was recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Of course, long snappers don’t make lucrative money, but Cox’s $665,000 salary cap figure for 2015 tied for 22nd among NFL snappers, according to Spotrac.com. If Cox is looking for a substantial raise after making his first Pro Bowl, you wonder if the Ravens would consider going with a younger and cheaper option due to their tight cap situation.

But you’d hate to test the chemistry of a superb trio that also includes Pro Bowl punter Sam Koch.

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Ranking the Ravens’ defensive needs for 2016

Posted on 22 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens defense needs some work.

Yes, the unit finished eighth in total defense and surrendered the fewest passing yards in the NFL over the second half of the season, but five of the Ravens’ final eight games came against passing attacks ranked 19th or worse and another came against an AJ McCarron-led Cincinnati attack in the season finale.

The improvement was encouraging, but it wasn’t enough to just assume everything is fine, especially after the defense finished with just 14 takeaways, shattering the worst mark in team history. The hiring of former NFL head coach Leslie Frazier to coach the secondary highlights the Ravens’ desire to improve against the pass.

With free agency set to begin in less than two months — March 9 at 4 p.m. — and the draft set for April 28-30, the Ravens are currently evaluating their biggest needs in all three phases of the game. In the second of a three-part series — we’ve already looked at the offense and special teams will follow — I offer my thoughts on the defensive side of the football and rank the positions of greatest need.

1. Cornerback

Some will argue that improving the pass rush is a bigger need than cornerback, but with Shareece Wright scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and Lardarius Webb moving to safety, who will start opposite top cornerback Jimmy Smith?

Even if they’re able to re-sign Wright — who shook off a nightmare debut against San Francisco to play quite well the rest of the way — the Ravens would benefit from having another high-end cornerback. In addition to hoping that Smith is finally over the effects of his 2014 foot surgery, they need another playmaker in the secondary.

That’s the biggest reason why the Ravens have been linked to top cornerback prospects such as Jalen Ramsey from Florida State or Vernon Hargreaves from Florida with the sixth overall pick in this spring’s draft.

Baltimore has some internal options such as Will Davis who carry intrigue, but none have a body of work suggesting you could pencil them into the starting lineup with any great level of confidence.

2. Outside linebacker

Owner Steve Bisciotti spoke at length at the season-ending press conference about how much the Ravens missed Terrell Suggs after he was lost for the year in the 2015 opener, but the six-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker will be 34 in October and coming off his second Achilles injury in four years.

Further complicating matters is the pending free agency of Courtney Upshaw, who lacks pass-rushing skills but is effective setting the edge against the run. The Ravens saw promising development from 2015 fourth-round pick Za’Darius Smith late in the year, but they’d love to add another outside linebacker to ease the workload of the 32-year-old Elvis Dumervil, who wore down late in the year as a three-down player.

The defense needs a young outside linebacker who can get after the quarterback, but the top options in the draft beyond Ohio State’s Joey Bosa — Myles Jack of UCLA and Leonard Floyd of Georgia — would likely be considered a reach where the Ravens are picking in the first round.

There’s a lot of uncertainty at this position for 2016 and beyond when your top two options are both well over 30.

3. Safety

Since the departure of Ed Reed, the Ravens have pumped so many resources into improving this position with very underwhelming results.

Though not quite as consistent as you’d probably like, Will Hill has emerged as a solid starter at strong safety, but the free safety position remains a different story. Kendrick Lewis just doesn’t show enough ability to make high-impact plays, and Lardarius Webb’s $9.5 million salary cap figure for 2016 will need to be addressed if he’s even to remain on the team.

Terrence Brooks has flashed his athleticism when given opportunities, but the 2014 third-round pick has battled injuries and has yet to earn the trust of the coaching staff from a mental standpoint.

Unless you draft Ramsey and move him to safety, there doesn’t appear to be a safety in this year’s draft who can bring the type of impact the Ravens are seeking. This could mean another year of hoping an internal option such as Brooks finally emerges as more of a ball-hawking threat.

4. Inside linebacker

Daryl Smith will be 34 and is no guarantee to return, meaning the Ravens should be looking for the inside linebacker of the future next to 2014 Pro Bowl selection C.J. Mosley.

Former undrafted free agent Zach Orr showed solid coverage skills while replacing Smith in the nickel package late last season, but it remains to be seen whether he can be a viable three-down linebacker. And 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown is more likely to be cut then to suddenly become a starter after three disappointing seasons in Baltimore.

Considering Mosley has struggled in pass coverage, the Ravens would benefit greatly from having another inside linebacker who can stick with running backs or tight ends in routes.

Whether it’s for 2016 or beyond, general manager Ozzie Newsome would probably be wise to be on the lookout for an inside backer with upside in the middle rounds of the draft.

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Orioles haven’t found pitching they like for prices they like

Posted on 22 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Having just signed the richest deal in franchise history, first baseman Chris Davis stated the obvious when asked Thursday what else the Orioles still need for the 2016 season.

“Obviously, we lost [Wei-Yin] Chen,” Davis said, “so I think we need another starting pitcher.”

The answer probably wasn’t music to the ears of Dan Duquette after the organization awarded the 29-year-old slugger with a seven-year, $161 million contract, but the executive vice president of baseball operations said at the start of the offseason that upgrading the starting rotation would be a top priority. And that was before Chen, their most consistent starter over the last four seasons, signed a five-year, $80 million contract to join the Miami Marlins.

With spring training less than a month away, the remaining options are few for a club that finished 14th in the American League in starter ERA in 2015, which included Chen’s 3.34 mark over 31 starts.

“We’re still looking for additions to our pitching staff,” Duquette said. “It takes a lot of energy to sign a star player for an organization. Obviously, we have a long-term deal with Chris, and we’re happy to have him here. We’re always cognizant of what we need to add to our pitching staff. We haven’t found the pitching that we really like at the prices we like. That’s been a very, very expensive market this offseason, but I’m confident we’ll be able to come up with the pitching that we need to compete.”

How costly has it been?

Even Davis’ agent, Scott Boras, commented on the high demand for starting pitching this offseason after he negotiated five-year contracts for Chen and Kansas City starter Ian Kennedy and even fetched a two-year, $16 million deal for Mike Pelfrey — and his career 4.52 ERA — in Detroit. Boras said this has affected the timing of the market for position players such as Davis.

Of the 10 contracts worth $80 million or more that have been signed this winter, seven have gone to starting pitchers.

“We’ve had eight pitchers sign five-or-more-year contracts in this market,” Boras said. “That’s unheard of. The demand on pitching quelled the market on offensive power, because the teams were so focused. So many teams needed pitching and needed offense, but the competitiveness for the pitching took a focus.”

So, who’s left?

Right-hander Yovani Gallardo turns 30 next month and has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his seven full seasons in the majors, but his strikeout rate has rapidly declined from 9.0 per nine innings in 2012 to just 5.9 last year and the Orioles would have to forfeit their 2016 first-round pick to sign him.

The 28-year-old Mat Latos was an above-average starter in the National League — he had a 3.34 career ERA entering 2015 — until injuries derailed his last two seasons and questions arose about his attitude after his trade from Cincinnati to Miami last offseason. At this point, he could be looking for a one-year pillow contract to re-establish his value, but Camden Yards wouldn’t be the ideal setting for that from his perspective.

Like Latos, signing right-hander Doug Fister wouldn’t require a draft pick, but he will be 32 and has seen his strikeout and groundball rates decline as well as his velocity. However, he does have experience pitching in the AL and won 16 games and posted a 2.41 ERA in 2014.

There isn’t much out there beyond that, unless you want to try to take Tim Lincecum for a ride in your DeLorean.

“There are some pitchers out there that we like, and then we have talked to some other teams about pitching,” Duquette said. “The problem with the pitching market is there have been more teams chasing fewer pitchers. There’s not enough to go around. That’s an age-old problem. But it was very acute this winter.”

Even if the Orioles are to pluck one of the aforementioned options from the market, none would be a guarantee to settle into the top half of the rotation, much less headline the group. Depth will remain a concern with the likes of Vance Worley, Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, T.J. McFarland, or a stretched-out Brian Matusz waiting in the wings.

The need for Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez to return to pre-2015 form and for Kevin Gausman to take a a major step forward has been discussed ad nauseam, but injuries — at least minor ailments — are inevitable over the course of a 162-game schedule and Baltimore appears ill-equipped to endure that reality. Duquette’s statements about the pitching market on Thursday may have contained truth, but the Orioles annually lament a free-agent market that’s more expensive than they anticipated.

That won’t make fans feel any better about the state of the rotation.

“We should have a good defensive team,” Duquette said. “We’ve got a lot of the core back. We should be strong up the middle. We have Buck’s leadership and the bullpen, and I think those are all strengths of the team that we can build on. We’re going to have to get some good performance from the pitchers that we have and then continue to add to that.”

The Orioles still have a lot going for them, and there is some reasonable upside to help fill the void left by Chen. Doubts entering the season certainly existed prior to 2012 when the club unexpectedly returned to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years and before 2014 when the Orioles endured season-ending injuries to Manny Machado and Matt Wieters to win their first AL East title since 1997.

It’s a reality in which the Orioles have thrived, according to Davis.

“That’s kind of been our MO the last few years,” Davis said. “We’ve never been the sexy team, so to speak — the easy pick to win the AL East. I think we kind of like that role.”

Hopefully, the starting rotation will feel the same way.

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Former Oriole Pearce set to join Tampa Bay

Posted on 21 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The last of the Orioles’ free agents has finally found a home.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, veteran outfielder and first baseman Steve Pearce has agreed to a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. The deal is pending a physical.

Though a favorite of manager Buck Showalter, the 32-year-old Pearce was not expected to return as the Orioles hadn’t made any real effort to re-sign him after a disappointing followup to his career year in 2014. With the acquisition of Mark Trumbo early in the offseason and the re-signing of Nolan Reimold, Pearce became expendable with the Orioles having a number of right-handed bats to fill a similar role.

In 325 plate appearances in 2015, Pearce hit just .218 with 15 home runs, 40 runs batted in, and a .711 on-base plus slugging percentage. He received starts at first base, second base, left field, right field, and designated hitter in 2015.

The journeyman was a major reason why the Orioles were able to endure the losses of Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis on their way to finishing 96-66 and winning their first American League East title in 17 years two seasons ago. Playing a career-high 102 games, Pearce hit .293 with 21 homers, 49 RBIs, and a club-leading .930 OPS. Despite receiving only 383 plate appearances, he led the Orioles with 5.9 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

The Lakeland, Fla. native would appear to be a perfect fit with Tampa Bay, especially when you consider his career numbers at Tropicana Field. Pearce has seven homers and a 1.039 OPS in 86 career plate appearances playing at the Rays’ home ballpark.

Beginning the offseason with six free agents, the Orioles ultimately kept three as catcher Matt Wieters accepted a $15.8 million qualifying offer, relief pitcher Darren O’Day signed a four-year, $31 million contract, and first baseman Chris Davis agreed to a seven-year, $161 million deal last weekend. Starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (Miami) and outfielder Gerardo Parra (Colorado) joined Pearce as free-agent departures.

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Ranking the Ravens’ offensive needs for 2016

Posted on 21 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Trying to assess the 2015 Ravens offense isn’t easy.

Even if you weren’t always pleased with his play-calling and the lack of commitment to the running game, new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman was without his franchise quarterback, two of his top three wide receivers, his starting running back, his starting center, his starting left tackle, and his starting tight end for large chunks of the season. In some ways, you have to be impressed that the Ravens finished 14th in total offense, but finishing 25th in points per game (20.5) reflects how much they lacked playmakers.

How can you fairly judge Trestman’s work with a starting offense in the second half of the season that resembled one you’d see in the fourth preseason game?

The good news is that the Ravens will begin consecutive seasons with the same offensive coordinator for the first time since Cam Cameron’s five-year run that concluded in 2012. That continuity will be critical with Joe Flacco spending the offseason rehabbing from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee.

With free agency set to begin in less than two months — March 9 at 4 p.m. — and the draft set for April 28-30, the Ravens are currently evaluating their biggest needs in all three phases of the game. In the first of a three-part series — with defense and special teams to follow — I offer my thoughts on the offensive side of the football and rank the positions of greatest need.

1. Left tackle

Considering Eugene Monroe is under contract for three more years, some could still argue that receiver is a bigger need, but surely no position on either side of the ball is more complicated right now for the Ravens.

I’m not completely convinced that Monroe is a goner since Kelechi Osemele will be an unrestricted free agent and the former’s release would leave $6.6 million in dead money on a salary cap that is already way too tight. Monroe’s performance over the last two years certainly doesn’t reflect the five-year, $37.5 million contract he was awarded, but his play has mostly still been solid when he has been on the field.

Can you count on Monroe to stay healthy after starting just 16 games over the last two years? Is the organization simply finished with him after he reportedly refused a simple restructure of his contract last offseason?

Osemele figures to be in high demand as either a guard or a left tackle, making it difficult to predict whether the Ravens can be a serious contender to sign him. Their best strategy might be to keep Monroe until the 2016 draft when they could potentially come away with a top left tackle such as Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick and then part ways with the veteran. If it’s not a first-round talent, perhaps the Ravens draft a tackle in the second or third round and ride the roller coaster with Monroe for one more season.

2. Wide receiver

It’s a broken record at this position, but it was reassuring for Ravens fans to hear general manager Ozzie Newsome say at the season-ending press conference that he needs to add at least one more receiver.

There’s no reason to think Baltimore wouldn’t keep restricted free agent Kamar Aiken, but he is the group’s only fully-known commodity at the moment. No one doubts Steve Smith’s determination to return from an Achilles injury at age 37, but you can’t just bank on him being his old self, either. And even if the Ravens are confident that 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman will be 100 percent for the offseason conditioning program, he has yet to complete as much as a full-contact practice in the NFL.

The Ravens averaged a league-worst 10.4 yards per catch in 2015, reflecting their inability to stretch the field with any success. Perriman can still be viewed as the primary option to provide that skill next season, but Newsome can’t be without a backup plan this time around.

Whether it’s a free agent or a pick in the first three or four rounds of this spring’s draft, the Ravens need another speed receiver with upside to add to the passing game for 2016.

3. Reserve offensive tackle

This is a need that will be based on what the Ravens ultimately do at left tackle, but they probably shouldn’t count on James Hurst as the primary backup tackle, especially if Monroe is retained.

The former undrafted free agent from North Carolina is a hard worker and a favorite of offensive line coach Juan Castillo, but he graded 78th out of 81 qualified offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus and was simply overwhelmed for large stretches of playing time. He was also the one who fell into Flacco’s left knee to cause the season-ending injury against St. Louis on Nov. 22.

Starting right tackle Rick Wagner will also be an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season, so the Ravens need to be prepared to address that position a year from now.

Undrafted free agent De’Ondre Wesley finished the season on the 53-man roster, but it’s unclear whether he would be ready to step into a primary backup tackle role next year.

4. Reserve interior lineman

John Urschel is projected to take Osemele’s place as the starting left guard in 2016, but the Ravens would probably like to add another interior lineman to the roster mix if they can.

Reserve guard Ryan Jensen played well when Osemele moved to left tackle, but the organization lost rookies Kaleb Johnson and Robert Myers to other teams late in the season. Adding another interior lineman in the late rounds of the draft to develop for the future would make sense.

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Special teams elite once again for Ravens in 2015

Posted on 20 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens lacked the playmakers to win consistently in a 5-11 season that included 14 games decided by a single possession, but how did they remain competitive despite having 20 players on injured reserve?

The special teams were once again huge for Baltimore in 2015.

So huge in fact that longtime NFL writer Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News named special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg’s group first overall in his annual rankings, which consist of the league’s 32 teams being ranked in 22 categories and assigned points according to their standing in each. According to Gosselin, the Ravens finished in the top 10 in 14 of the 22 categories to win in convincing fashion while the New York Giants, Jacksonville, Dallas, and Philadelphia rounded out the top five.

The Ravens have now finished in the top five in Gosselin’s rankings in four straight seasons. And if you’re skeptical of only one grading system’s results, Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus also graded Baltimore’s special teams as the finest in the NFL this season.

With punter Sam Koch and long snapper Morgan Cox each going to their first Pro Bowl, the Ravens were especially proficient in the punting categories. They finished second in the NFL in net punting average and allowed only 5.0 yards per punt return, which was best in the league.

The Ravens also became the first team since Atlanta in 1983 to block a kick — a punt, extra point, or field goal — in five straight games from Oct. 26 through Nov. 30, a streak that culminated with Will Hill’s game-winning 64-yard return for a touchdown off a blocked field goal on the final play in Cleveland.

Special teams rarely grab headlines, but the Ravens earned four of their five victories on the final play of the game with three Justin Tucker field goals and Hill’s return, making you wonder where they might have been with lesser contributions in that area. Rosburg and his special teams deserve plenty of credit in an otherwise-lost season, so it’s fitting that two of his key players will make the trip to Honolulu.

 

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Ravens long snapper Cox selected to first Pro Bowl

Posted on 19 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will have another player joining guard Marshal Yanda and punter Sam Koch in Hawaii later this month as long snapper Morgan Cox was added to the Pro Bowl roster on Tuesday.

Selected by Kansas City head coach Andy Reid to play for one of the teams, Cox will be joining Koch as a first-time Pro Bowl selection. Long snappers are not part of Pro Bowl balloting, but each coach is permitted to take a long snapper as a “needs” player for the game, which will be played on Jan. 31.

“I’m humbled by the honor of being selected as a Pro Bowl long snapper,” Cox said in a statement in which he also thanked his coaches as well as Koch and kicker Justin Tucker. “I’m especially proud to be a part of the most elite special teams unit in the NFL. A special ‘thank you’ goes out to our fans for all of their love and support. Ravens fans are the best in the world.”

Having spent the last six seasons with Baltimore, the undrafted free agent from Tennessee has been one of the NFL’s most consistent long snappers despite suffering an anterior cruciate ligament tear to each knee over the course of his career. The first came in Cleveland late in the 2010 season when Cox tore his left ACL early in the second quarter and managed to finish the rest of the game, which included snaps on a field goal, two punts, and two extra points. The feat led to him being chosen as the Ravens’ 2011 Ed Block Courage Award winner.

The 29-year-old also tore his right ACL midway through the 2014 season.

Cox has snapped for two Pro Bowl kickers — Billy Cundiff in 2010 and Tucker in 2013 — and will now have the opportunity to play with his Pro Bowl punter in Honolulu.

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