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Ravens lose veteran scout to Philadelphia

Posted on 11 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have lost East regional scout Andy Weidl to Philadelphia where he will reunite with former Baltimore national scout Joe Douglas.

On Wednesday, the Eagles officially announced the hiring of Weidl as their assistant director of player personnel. They also hired Douglas, who spent last season as the director of college scouting for the Chicago Bears and will now become Philadelphia’s new vice president of player personnel.

With the Ravens since 2005, Weidl had served as the organization’s East regional scout since the 2013 draft and was responsible for scouting the entire eastern section of the United State, which included players from the ACC, American Conference, Big Ten, MAC, and SEC. He also evaluated and provided crosschecking scouting reports on players deemed “draftable” by the scouting department.

Both Douglas and Weidl were respected members of the scouting department valued by general manager Ozzie Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, and director of college scouting Joe Hortiz.

“I have known Joe for several years and have admired his work with both the Ravens and the Bears,” Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said on Wednesday. “He is a guy that we had targeted from the outset. I feel that we are very fortunate to have him lead our player personnel department. Ozzie Newsome and [Bears general manager] Ryan Pace spoke very highly of him and his work. He is passionate about football, passionate about scouting, and he played a vital role in the success of the Ravens over the last decade.

“Andy also comes from the Ozzie Newsome tree of talent evaluators in Baltimore, and he has a great working relationship with Joe. I spoke with Tom Donahoe, who hired Andy in Pittsburgh, and he had nothing but great things to say about his work ethic. Like Joe, you can sense his drive for scouting right off the bat, and he has spent his entire career working for an opportunity like this. We are very pleased to have him join us.”

Players drafted from Weidl’s territories over the years included five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle Arthur Jones, wide receiver Torrey Smith, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Weidl played his college football at Villanova where he graduated with a degree in communications in 1996. He had previous NFL stops with the Steelers and New Orleans before joining the Ravens more than a decade ago.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 9-2 win over Twins

Posted on 11 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 9-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday afternoon?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 32nd game of the 2016 season.

1st Mark Trumbo continues to be one of the best offensive performers in the American League and clubbed two more home runs and drove in three of Baltimore’s first five runs. His second-inning homer traveled 427 feet, and he has hit five long balls traveling at least 425 feet this season, according to ESPN. The right-handed slugger became the first in the majors with three multi-homer games in 2016. You keep waiting for Trumbo to cool off, but he instead keeps hitting baseballs a long way.

2ndChris Davis followed his three-hit night in the opener with a four-hit, four-RBI performance that included a two-run homer and two doubles to elevate his average to .242 and his on-base plus slugging percentage to .858. With Manny Machado and Trumbo continuing to pace the offense, Davis heating up could spell trouble for the Orioles’ opponents — Detroit and Seattle — on the upcoming homestand.

3rd — Adam Jones followed his clutch Tuesday night with four hits, which included a two-run shot on a hanging slider from Twins reliever Brandon Kintzler in the top of the ninth. The center fielder raised his average to .238 after it had dipped below .200 just a couple days ago. It’s looking more and more like the All-Star center fielder has finally found his swing after a rough start to 2016.

Home —  Tyler Wilson worked seven solid innings and pitched effectively after being staked to a comfortable lead. Plenty of balls were hit in the air against the right-hander in a big ballpark, but none of the six grounders he induced were bigger than the 6-4-3 double play from Eduardo Nunez, who had represented the potential tying run with one out in the fifth. … The Orioles improved to a season-best eight games above .500, which also eclipses their high-water mark from 2015. … With Davis and Trumbo each hitting bombs in the fourth, Baltimore has now hit back-to-back homers in three consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. … The traditional heart of the order (Jones, Davis, and Trumbo) combined to go 10-for-15 with four home runs and nine RBIs. … The Orioles will send Ubaldo Jimenez to the hill against Detroit’s Mike Pelfrey to begin a seven-game homestand on Thursday night.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 5-3 win over Minnesota

Posted on 11 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 31st game of the 2016 season.

1stAdam Jones has had a difficult start to 2016, but he turned in his best game of the season and did it in a way that will quell concerns about whether he’s over the rib injury suffered in the opening week. First, he ended a 3-for-27 slump by clobbering a 443-foot home run on a hanging curve from Twins starter Jose Berrios in the fifth to extended the Orioles’ advantage to 3-1. Then, he was able to get on top of a high 95 mph fastball from Kevin Jepsen in the top of the ninth to line the game-winning two-run single to left. It’s only one game and Jones will need to build on it with his average still sitting at just .210, but those two feats leave reason to believe he is getting healthy. And if he’s right physically, Jones is bound to heat up sooner rather than later.

2ndManny Machado went 3-for-3 and hit his club-leading 10th homer of the season to give the Orioles the lead in the top of the fifth. The ultimate sign of respect came in the ninth when Jepsen pitched around the red-hot Machado to face Jones, who was able to make the Twins reliever pay. Machado reached base all five times he went to the plate and now sports a .365 average to go along with a .424 on-base percentage. He continues to be the biggest reason why the Orioles are off to a 19-12 start.

3rdKevin Gausman threw a hanging breaking ball that Trevor Plouffe knocked out of the park for the game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth, but the 25-year-old was otherwise good on Tuesday. He struck out a season-high nine batters over his six innings and showed the ability to reach back for fastballs touching 97 and 98 mph when he needed to. His 111 pitches were two shy of his career high, but he he was still carrying excellent velocity late in the outing, a good sign with his right shoulder.

HomeJoey Rickard made the Orioles’ two-out rally in the ninth possible as he was behind 1-2 to Jepsen and worked the count full before lining a double off the base of the left-field wall. He eventually scored the go-ahead run on Jones’ single. … Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton combined for three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out three. O’Day earned the win while Britton picked up his eighth save of the season. … Chris Davis collected three hits to raise his season average to .217 while Matt Wieters had an RBI single and another hit to elevate his average to .227. … Jonathan Schoop’s 11-game hitting streak came to an end. … Tyler Wilson goes to the hill on Wednesday afternoon while veteran Phil Hughes will start for Minnesota.

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Dixon eager to prove himself in Ravens’ crowded backfield

Posted on 10 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens already had plenty of depth at the running back position when they selected Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon in the fourth round.

The question is whether someone will emerge as the clear-cut feature back for 2016 and beyond. Ranked by some as high as the second-best running back in the draft behind fourth overall selection Ezekiel Elliott, Dixon surprisingly fell all the way to the 134th pick where the Ravens snatched him up with the last of their record five fourth-round choices.

Watching his college highlights filled with big plays and impressive vision, it isn’t difficult to figure out which running back he tries to imitate on the football field as he wore No. 28 and averaged 11.1 yards per reception to go along with his robust 5.6 yards per carry over four seasons with the Bulldogs.

“The running back I really looked up to is Marshall Faulk,” Dixon said. “Just looking at his journey, just his work ethic that he had and the perseverance that he had through life. It’s always great, so that’s kind of who I modeled my game after.”

Of course, the Ravens would be thrilled if he could be half the player that Faulk was, but his physical gifts don’t stand out, a reason why he remained on teams’ draft boards until the end of the fourth round. His 4.58-second 40-yard dash time is good enough but hardly special and his 5-foot-10, 215-pound frame isn’t imposing, but then you watch his tape and look at his production as a four-year starter and can’t help but be intrigued.

Over four seasons, Dixon rushed for 4,483 yards on 802 carries — a heavy college workload that also might have scared some teams away — and caught 87 passes for 969 yards. His 87 career touchdowns temporarily gave him the NCAA Division I record last December before it was eclipsed by new Ravens teammate Keenan Reynolds, who is now Dixon’s roommate.

“It was kind of bittersweet. I was kind of mad at the time, but I’m especially happy for him and his journey,” said Dixon, who added that his mother is a huge Reynolds fan and asked for his autograph. “We all have different journeys, different walks through football. You never want to knock someone else’s walk through football. I gave him his props and everything.

“I told him if I had those other two [extra] games, he probably wouldn’t have been the leader.”

Dixon smiled as he noted that Reynolds had played in 13 games as a senior compared to his 11, but he’ll need that competitive fire in a backfield that includes 2014 Pro Bowl selection Justin Forsett, 2015 fourth-round selection Buck Allen, 2014 fourth-rounder Lorenzo Taliaferro, 2014 third-round pick Terrance West, and Trent Richardson, the third overall pick of the 2012 draft who is trying to revitalize his career. Of those six, the Ravens figure to keep four at most on their 53-man roster.

Plenty of intriguing talent, but who will seize the opportunity and run with it?

It would be unwise to overlook the man who scored more touchdowns than any running back in FBS history.

“It’s a lot of competition in the room,” Dixon said. “[Running backs coach Thomas] Hammock, he works really well with us. He does a great job with us. All we can do is control what we can control. That’s what we’re going to do is come out here and compete and work hard.”

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Ravens sign fourth-round cornerback Tavon Young

Posted on 09 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens continued to make quick work of signing their 2016 draft class by agreeing to a deal with fourth-round cornerback Tavon Young on Monday morning.

The Temple product from Oxon Hills became the eighth of Baltimore’s 11 draft picks to ink his four-year contract as the signing process has become elementary with the the most-recent collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011. The only Ravens draft picks who had yet to sign through Monday night were first-round offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, third-round defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, and sixth-round wide receiver Keenan Reynolds.

The 104th overall pick and the first of a record five fourth-round selections made by the Ravens in last month’s draft, the 5-foot-9 Young is expected to compete with veteran Kyle Arrington for the nickel cornerback role this summer.

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Ravens great Ray Lewis reportedly out at ESPN

Posted on 09 May 2016 by Luke Jones

After serving as an NFL analyst for the last three seasons, former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is reportedly out at ESPN.

According to The Big Lead, ESPN is parting ways with Lewis, who was not part of the network’s NFL draft coverage last month. The future Hall of Fame linebacker was hired by ESPN immediatey after his retirement at the end of the 2012 season, but his work had been criticized during his tenure on more than one occasion with his trademark passion not always translating to cogent analysis.

Lewis isn’t the only ex-player leaving the network as Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter is also being let go while Randy Moss will join fellow newcomers Matt Hasselbeck and Charles Woodson this season.

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Seven surprising Orioles stats to ponder 30 games into 2016

Posted on 09 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Below are seven surprising Orioles statistics to ponder through the first 30 games of the 2016 season:

1. Orioles starting pitching has allowed the fewest home runs in the American League.

The starter ERA (4.35) ranks seventh in the AL, but the rotation has been good enough through the first 30 games of action in large part due to allowing only 14 homers in 165 2/3 innings. Chris Tillman has been particularly exceptional in this department with one long ball allowed in 38 1/3 innings.

2. Small ball has reached a new low with just four stolen bases and zero sacrifice bunts.

The Orioles ranking last in the AL in steals isn’t remotely surprising after finishing there in each of the previous two seasons, but they’re on pace to steal only 21 bases, eight shy of the AL record low set by the Washington Senators in 1957. Twenty-seven players in the majors have more steals than Baltimore.

3. The Orioles remain second in the AL in on-base percentage.

More than a month into the season, the Baltimore lineup continues to walk at a higher clip (8.5 percent of plate appearances) than last year (7.0 percent) and held a .330 OBP entering Monday. The Orioles are also seeing 3.94 pitches per plate appearance compared to 3.81 a year ago.

4. Adam Jones is sporting a career-high walk rate.

Lost in the center fielder’s difficult start to 2016 has been a 7.7 percent walk rate, which would easily be the highest mark of his career. Whether it’s a concerted effort to walk more or an effect of the rib injury he dealt with early in the season, you have to wonder if more patience is really what’s best for Jones.

5. Joey Rickard has been worth minus-six defensive runs saved and minus-0.7 defensive wins above replacement.

The rookie entered Monday with a solid .328 OBP, but his defense hasn’t been as good as advertised as he hasn’t taken efficient routes and double-clutches on too many throws. He’ll improve with experience, but the metrics, at least, suggest Rickard has been as big of a defensive liability as Mark Trumbo.

6. Chris Tillman is averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

The right-hander struck out five in two innings in his rain-shortened Opening Day start, but he continues to exceed his career 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings by a wide margin in 2016. An improved slider is a major reason why he’s struck out 25 batters over his last three starts covering 20 innings.

7. Matt Wieters’ .292 batting average on balls in play is higher than his .289 career BABIP.

Wieters isn’t the only Orioles regular struggling, but his higher BABIP suggests he hasn’t experienced nearly as much bad fortune as Jones (.240) or Chris Davis (.226) so far. The catcher is also striking out a whopping 28.2 percent of the time after posting a career-worst strikeout rate (23.8 percent) last year.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 11-3 win over Oakland

Posted on 08 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 11-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics to earn a series win on Sunday afternoon?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 30th game of the 2016 season.

1stManny Machado continues to make us search for new adjectives to describe his play as he homered twice — including his second grand slam of the season — and drove in a career-high six runs to pace a Baltimore offensive attack that hit a season-high six home runs. His first long ball immediately got the Orioles back in the game after falling behind 3-0 in the top of the first while his eighth-inning grand slam removed any lingering doubt about the final outcome. He concluded Sunday with a .350 batting average and a 1.094 on-base plus slugging percentage and continues to play like the AL Most Valuable Player through the first 30 games of 2016. 

2ndChris Tillman was neither lucky nor sharp in giving up three runs in the opening inning, but he was able to grind through command issues and gained a feel for his secondary pitches to complete 6 1/3 innings. Not known as a strikeout pitcher throughout his career, Tillman has now struck out 25 batters over his last three starts spanning 20 innings. Perhaps even more amazing than his strikeout rate is the fact that the right-hander has only allowed one homer over his 38 1/3 innings this season. Tillman struck out four of the last five batters he faced, once again getting stronger as he pitched deeper into a game.

3rdMark Trumbo hit a two-run shot in the third to open up a three-run lead for the Orioles and received an assist from the sun in the fifth to pick up the Orioles’ first triple of the season. The right fielder finished a double short of the cycle, but he continues to be Baltimore’s second-best offensive player behind Machado with a .325 average and a .976 OPS.

HomeJoey Rickard hit his third home run of the season, reached base three times, and made a few strong defensive plays, including a spectacular diving catch in left-center to take away an extra-base hit from Mark Canha leading off the third. … Jonathan Schoop went 3-for-4 with a home run to extend his season-high hitting streak to 11 games and has elevated his batting average to .257. … Pedro Alvarez hit his second homer of the season and became the first hitter in 2016 to land a ball on Eutaw Street. It was the 83rd long ball to land on Eutaw Street in the 25-year history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. … Tyler Wilson takes the hill in Minnesota on Monday night while the Twins will start right-hander Jose Berrios.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 5-2 win over Oakland

Posted on 08 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 5-2 win over the Oakland Athletics to salvage a doubleheader split on Saturday night?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 29th game of the 2016 season.

1st Ubaldo Jimenez turned in the Orioles’ second eight-inning start in three games after they hadn’t received one in their first 26 contests of the 2016 season. The right-hander not only held the Athletics to two runs, but he was able to save the bullpen, which is always a concern in the days following a twin bill. Jimenez credited the effectiveness of his two-seam fastball and splitter, but the biggest key may have issuing only one free pass after he had walked at least three in his last four starts. Jimenez only had one perfect inning, but he finished his outing on a high note by striking out the side in the eighth.

2ndChris Davis snapped an 0-for-16 slump by slugging a long two-run shot into the right-center bleachers to open up a 4-0 lead for the Orioles that they wouldn’t relinquish. The blast ended a seven-game homerless streak, his longest drought of the season. Davis is hitting only .206, but sometimes all it takes is one bomb to get the streaky first baseman going at the plate. He is now one home run shy of becoming the third player to hit 100 career homers at Camden Yards, joining Rafael Palmeiro and Adam Jones.

3rdAdam Jones is only hitting .200, but his RBI single in the third gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead and he scored on Davis’ homer. There’s no sugarcoating how much the All-Star center fielder has struggled over the first month of the season as he raised his season average with a 1-for-4 performance.

HomeZach Britton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to collect his seventh save of the season. He struck out Josh Phegley to end the game. … Jonathan Schoop extended his hitting streak to 10 games, the third in his career of 10 or more contests. … Manny Machado has hit safely in eight of his last nine games and now has 22 extra-base hits in 29 games. … Hyun Soo Kim singled and drove in a run with a grounder and has now hit safely in seven of his nine games played this season. … Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick went an impressive 7-for-9 over both games of the doubleheader. … Chris Tillman goes to the hill in search of a series win on Sunday afternoon while the Athletics counter with right-hander Kendall Graveman.

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A Flacco surfaces on practice field for Ravens

Posted on 07 May 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco won’t be ready until training camp and wouldn’t have been anywhere near the practice field for Ravens rookie camp anyway, but the family was still represented on Saturday.

Continuing to pursue an NFL career after brief opportunities with San Diego and Jacksonville, tight end Mike Flacco, the younger brother of the Super Bowl XLVII MVP, was a tryout participant for Baltimore this weekend. The Ravens have a very deep group of tight ends on their offseason roster, but the 29-year-old can’t help but think about having the opportunity to catch passes from his older brother.

“That’d be a dream if I could make it that long,” said Mike Flacco, who played his college football at New Haven. “Just day by day and try to give it all I’ve got.”

Of course, this weekend’s tryout isn’t Mike Flacco’s only link to Baltimore sports as he was drafted by the Orioles in the 31st round of the 2009 draft out of CCBC-Catonsville. Primarily a first baseman, he advanced as high as Double-A Bowie before being traded to the Boston Red Sox and electing to retire from professional baseball in 2013 with a career .253 average.

In 2013 with Division II New Haven, Mike Flacco caught 30 passes for 591 yards and nine touchdowns. He was signed by the Chargers the following spring but cut at the end of the 2014 preseason. The Jaguars then signed him to their practice squad in October 2014, but he only stuck with that organization for a few weeks.

The 6-foot-5, 251-pound tight end has only received a few tryouts since then, but he isn’t ready to give up on the possibility of a football career just yet.

“It’s been long. It’s been all over the place,” said Mike Flacco about his athletic endeavors. “Unfortunately, I’ve never quite gotten to the point where I want to yet. You just push and if it happens, it happens. If not, I’ll go back to school and I’ll be happy.”

He has been pursuing a degree in chemical engineering at Villanova.

His chances of receiving an extended look with the Ravens beyond this weekend are remote, but that didn’t stop him from showing off some athletic ability on Saturday as he caught a long pass in 1-on-1 drills and made a few other receptions during the practice session.

“It’s been great. Mike is a great kid,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He does move a little bit like Joe. The body mechanics, a little bit, are similar, so it’s fun to watch.”

Two draft picks sidelined

Third-round defensive end Bronson Kaufusi was the only member of Baltimore’s 2016 draft class not on the field during Saturday’s practice open to media.

“Bronson tweaked his back a little bit yesterday,” Harbaugh said. “He was out here yesterday practicing, did a good job, and strained his lower back a little. He’s not practicing today.”

Fourth-round running back Kenneth Dixon only observed Saturday’s practice as he continues to deal with a hamstring issue stemming from his March pro day.

Harbaugh also announced that fullback Trevon Pendleton, a tryout player from Michigan State, suffered a broken foot on Friday.

No joint training camp practices this year

Harbaugh confirmed that the Ravens would not have any joint practices with another team this summer.

Baltimore hosted San Francisco in Owings Mills two years ago and traveled to Philadelphia to practice against the Eagles ahead of their preseason meeting last August.

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