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Ravens position battles to watch this summer

Posted on 24 June 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens possess one of the deepest rosters in the NFL entering the 2015 season, but a number of key position battles will headline the summer as they seek their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.

After losing the likes of Haloti Ngata, Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, and Pernell McPhee, general manager Ozzie Newsome has done a remarkable job reloading, but several questions must be answered before the season begins in Denver on Sept. 13.

Below is an early look at each competition with the first full-squad workout of the summer set for July 30:

Starting wide receiver
The candidates: Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown
Why to be optimistic: The 26th overall pick in the draft, Perriman was projected to go in the middle of the first round by some and is a faster and bigger version of Torrey Smith on paper while Aiken and Brown are still developing and contributed a season ago.
Why to be concerned: Beyond the 13,000-plus receiving yards from 15-year veteran Steve Smith, the Ravens’ other returning wide receivers made a combined 55 catches last year, making you pray that Perriman is ready to contribute immediately.
The favorite: Aiken is the leader in the clubhouse following minicamp and has developed an impressive rapport with Joe Flacco, but Perriman’s skills are too enticing to pass on him as the favorite to start.

Starting tight end
The candidates: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta
Why to be optimistic: Even if we assume Pitta will not be cleared to play in 2015, the Ravens invested a 2014 third-round pick in Gillmore and a second-round pick in Williams this spring for a reason.
Why to be concerned: Gillmore caught just 10 passes as a rookie while Williams did not stand out during spring practices and is still trying to adjust to Marc Trestman’s offensive system.
The favorite: After showing improvement late in his rookie year, Gillmore was a surprise of the spring with a better physique and improved ability to make catches in traffic while Williams was very quiet.

Starting defensive end
The candidates: Chris Canty, Lawrence Guy, Brent Urban
Why to be optimistic: Canty and Guy were effective holding down the 5-technique position a year ago despite Urban’s knee injury that derailed his anticipated role in the rotation as a rookie.
Why to be concerned: Canty is entering his 11th year and the Ravens deemed him expendable before bringing him back at a cheaper rate while Urban has been unable to shake injuries going back to his collegiate days.
The favorite: Urban was very active during spring practices and could push the veteran starter, but it’s too tough to pick against Canty, who has started 119 games in his NFL career.

Starting safeties
The candidates: Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks
Why to be optimistic: Hill proved capable in handling a starting job in the second half of 2014 while Lewis was signed for his ability to play deep center, something the Ravens lacked in coverage a year ago.
Why to be concerned: Elam was a clear disappointment in his first two seasons while Brooks is still recovering from a torn ACL, creating legitimate depth concerns going into training camp.
The favorites: The Ravens gave Elam some reps with the starting defense this spring, but it would take substantial improvement for the 2013 first-round pick to overtake Hill or Lewis for starting spots.

Return specialist
The candidates: Michael Campanaro, DeAndre Carter, Asa Jackson, Fitz Toussaint, Lardarius Webb, Steve Smith
Why to be optimistic: Campanaro and Jackson have shown flashes in the return game in very limited opportunities while Webb and Smith bring experience to the equation.
Why to be concerned: It’s difficult to buy either Webb or Smith as a serious candidate to handle the job because of their importance, leaving the real competition to players lacking experience or facing questions about their durability.
The favorite: There isn’t one as this competition lacks candidates to really feel good about at this point, making you wonder if the man to handle the job is even on the current roster.

Backup running back
The candidates: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
Why to be optimistic: The Ravens feel very good about Justin Forsett in a starting role for a second straight year and have invested fourth-round picks in running backs in each of the last two drafts.
Why to be concerned: Taliaferro and Allen have a combined 68 carries in the NFL and are the primary backups behind a 29-year-old back who has one year of experience as a full-time back since college.
The favorite: Last month, Allen would have been my choice because of the versatility he showed in college, but a slimmed-down Taliaferro moved well this spring and has an experience edge for now.

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Which 2014 Ravens draft pick breaks out in second season?

Posted on 01 June 2015 by Luke Jones

The 2014 draft class offered one of the better immediate returns for the Ravens in recent memory.

First-round pick C.J. Mosley became the first rookie in franchise history to make the Pro Bowl, an impressive feat considering general manager Ozzie Newsome’s impeccable track record with selections in the first round over the last two decades. It will be difficult for Mosley to gain much more notoriety than he received in his first year, but a number of other 2014 draft picks appear primed for a breakout second season.

Below are my thoughts on four breakout candidates from last year’s draft and you can vote in our poll:

Which 2014 draft pick is primed to break out for the Ravens in his second year? (Select up to two)

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Favorite: DT Timmy Jernigan
Skinny: The Ravens are expecting the 2014 second-round pick to lead the way in filling the large shoes left behind by Haloti Ngata, but Jernigan dealt with injuries that limited him to 12 games as a rookie. Rookie third-round pick Carl Davis will factor into the Ngata equation as well, but Jernigan should offer plenty as a pass rusher and showed he could be stout against the run in his college days at Florida State. With a 6-foot-2, 300-pound frame, he doesn’t have an overwhelming physical presence, but Jernigan used his strength, leverage, and quickness to fill in admirably when Ngata was suspended last December.

Underrated: TE Crockett Gillmore
Skinny: The Ravens traded up in the second round last month to select Minnesota’s Maxx Williams, but that doesn’t mean Gillmore won’t be counted on to contribute in the passing game after catching only 10 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in his rookie season. At 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, Gillmore has the frame to not only be a terrific blocker, but he should be more of a factor inside the red zone in his second season. Williams will receive the attention, but it isn’t always easy for a rookie to adjust quickly to the NFL, which could leave a few more opportunities for Gillmore than most expect, especially early on.

Falling back: RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
Skinny: The Ravens spent a fourth-round pick on a running back for the second straight year when they selected Buck Allen with the 125th overall selection. Taliaferro appeared slimmer and in excellent shape during last week’s voluntary workouts, but he didn’t look fully comfortable last year in Gary Kubiak’s one-cut zone schemes that are expected to be used again under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. He will continue to be a strong option in short-yardage situations, but many consider Allen the favorite to be the primary backup behind veteran starter Justin Forsett.

Sleeper: DE Brent Urban
Skinny: A forgotten man after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in training camp, Brent Urban would have factored heavily into the defensive line rotation as a rookie. Veteran Chris Canty is back with the Ravens, but Urban appears to be a prime candidate to eventually start at the 5-technique defensive end position if he can prove he’s healthy. Because the injury occurred late July, Urban has had plenty of time to recover and should be fully cleared for training camp. The coaching staff will probably bring him along slowly, but the Virginia product is a player to watch this summer.

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Five young players the Ravens need more from in 2015

Posted on 10 February 2015 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens coming off a 10-6 season that included a return to the playoffs after a one-year absence, the job this winter will be to augment a roster that has plenty of talent but clear deficiencies at several spots.

However, with a poor salary-cap situation and only so many holes that can be filled through the draft, the Ravens will lean on a handful of young players already on the roster to emerge and make a difference with another year of experience under their belts.

Below are five young players the Ravens will need more from in order to build on their 2014 campaign:

1. S Matt Elam

Through two years, it’s no secret that Elam has looked like the worst defensive first-round pick in franchise history, but the Ravens aren’t going to give up on the University of Florida product as quickly as many fans would like. In fairness, the 5-foot-10 safety was asked to play out of position for a second straight year — playing extensively at the nickel due to injuries — but leading the team in missed tackles doesn’t make a good argument for him to be the starting strong safety, either. Elam needs to take advantage of this offseason to improve after admitting he didn’t handle his demotion well in terms of putting in good effort during practices. Baltimore won’t pencil him in as a starter, so Elam needs to take advantage of his opportunities this summer.

2. TE Crockett Gillmore

The 2014 third-round pick had a solid rookie campaign considering he was supposed to be the No. 3 tight end entering the year, but the Ravens hope the signs he showed as a receiver late in the year will translate to more production in 2015. With Dennis Pitta’s future unclear and Owen Daniels scheduled to become a free agent, Gillmore is the most reliable option the Ravens currently have at the position. Even if those veterans return, Gillmore will be counted on more in the passing game after proving himself as a capable blocker. General manager Ozzie Newsome will likely look to address the tight end position this offseason, but Gillmore’s continued development would go a long way in helping quarterback Joe Flacco next season.

3. DE Brent Urban

Normally, it’d be unfair to include a player on this list who’s coming off a season-ending knee injury suffered in his first training camp, but veteran Chris Canty may retire or be released and reserve Lawrence Guy is a free agent, meaning the Ravens will hope the fourth-round pick can be a factor at the 5-technique defensive end position in 2015. The organization loved Urban’s 6-foot-7, 295-pound frame coming out of Virginia, and the timing of his injury last summer would presumably allow him to be a full participant in training camp this summer. It’s unlikely that Urban will simply be penciled in as the starter with veteran DeAngelo Tyson still on the roster, but the Ravens drafted him last May with visions of him eventually replacing Canty.

4. S Terrence Brooks

The season-ending knee injury the 2014 third-round pick suffered in December ended a disappointing first year for the Florida State product, who often looked unsure of himself in coverage and gave up big plays at a few critical junctures. The emergence of Will Hill in the second half of the season brought some stability to the position, but Hill’s off-field baggage is good reason for Brooks to be ready to seize opportunities when he’s healthy enough to get back on the field. Last May, the Ravens had to be hoping that Brooks and Elam would be their starting safety tandem for years to come, but both have much to prove going into the 2015 season. Unfortunately, getting healthy is the first item on the offseason agenda for the athletic Brooks.

5. LB Arthur Brown

When you’re active for only four games and can’t even get on the field as a special-teams contributor, what else needs to be said for a second-round pick after two seasons? It wasn’t surprising to see Brown’s defensive role diminish — he saw time as a nickel linebacker as a rookie — after C.J. Mosley was selected in the first round, but the Ravens regularly going with undrafted rookie Zachary Orr for special teams on game days didn’t speak well for Brown’s athleticism. So, why not simply admit he was a bust and move on? Mosley and Daryl Smith remained healthy enough to play over 1,000 snaps each in 2014. The odds suggest that’s unlikely to happen again, so it’d be nice to see Brown improve enough to at least become a solid backup in his third year.

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Rookie defensive end Urban lost for season due to torn ACL

Posted on 31 July 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After being carted off the field with a severe right knee injury, Ravens defensive end Brent Urban learned he will be lost for the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed the specifics of the injury following Thursday’s practice, describing it as “a clean tear” to reporters. Urban will be placed on season-ending injured reserve after being selected in the fourth round of May’s draft.

“He’s been through this before. He tore his other ACL about five years ago,” Harbaugh said. “He fought through a bad ankle injury his senior year at Virginia and rehabbed that and got back really quick, obviously, in the offseason here. It’s a tough break. It was just a situation where one guy was blocking another guy, and the knee just buckled on him.”

The Ravens had expectations for Urban to become an immediate contributor in the defensive line rotation, potentially serving as the primary backup to veteran Chris Canty at the 5-technique defensive end spot. Urban’s injury likely opens the door for second-year lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore to receive more reps.

A day after being injured on the same play as Urban, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan sat out Thursday’s practice with lingering back spasms, but Harbaugh expected him to return to action “soon.”

Linebacker Daryl Smith (groin) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (back) while linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata were given a day off to rest. Smith was absent from his second straight practice while Webb has been sidelined since last Friday with back spasms.

Inside linebacker Albert McClellan returned to practice after missing Wednesday.

Wide receiver Jacoby Jones and running back Justin Forsett were both on the field during the opening portion of practice but appeared to be receiving the day off. Forsett observed the rest of the running backs going through individual drills while Jones did some work at the Jugs machine while the wide receivers participated in drills.

Other offensive players absent included guard Will Rackley (concussion-related symptoms) and wide receiver Jeremy Butler (groin).

Defensive tackle Terrence Cody (hip surgery) remains on the active physically unable to perform list.

The Ravens were working in helmets, shells, and shorts on Thursday.

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens concerned about injury to DL Urban

Posted on 30 July 2014 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens returned to practice Wednesday after their first off day of Training Camp for 2014.

The session was short for two rookie defensive linemen, both of whom were injured on the same play. DL Brent Urban had to be carted off the field after suffering an injury to his right knee. Urban was pancaked on the play by OL Jah Reid and appeared to suffer the injury during the course of the block. Away from that block, DL Tim Jernigan was also hurt-he limped off the field appearing to have injured his back.

Head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the injury to Jernigan, saying he “looks fine” after practice. The news did not appear to be as good for the team’s fifth round pick out of Virginia, as Harbaugh said the team was “a little more concerned about” the knee injury.

“We’re going to have to see, he’s going to get a MRI tonight” Harbaugh added. “We’ll just hope and pray for the best on that one.”

Center Jeremy Zuttah was also banged up during the course of practice but did not have to leave the session and Harbaugh also declared his injury as “fine”.

DL Chris Canty returned to the practice field Wednesday after missing Monday night’s public practice at M&T Bank Stadium for family reasons. OL Parker Graham also returned to the practice field after missing the last few sessions with a groin injury.

Two new Ravens were not on the practice field Wednesday. LB Albert McClellan did not participate in the session, he had battled a lower body issue during Monday night’s practice that had forced him to limp off the field at one point. LB Daryl Smith also did not participate in practice for unknown reasons. With Smith out, Josh Bynes took a number of the first team reps next to first round pick C.J. Mosley.

Three other players remained away from the practice field Wednesday. OL Will Rackley (head) remained out, as did CB Lardarius Webb (back/neck). The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday Webb had “no structural damage” and was instead dealing with a muscular issue.

With Webb out, CB Chykie Brown appeared to get the majority of first team reps-CB Asa Jackson had seemed to receive more of the first team reps in the previous two practices.

DL Terrence Cody (hip) also did not participate, remaining on the Active Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

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Jernigan, Urban latest draft picks to sign deals with Ravens

Posted on 17 May 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Baltimore Ravens have signed two more draft picks from their 2014 class, general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome announced Saturday afternoon. DT Timmy Jernigan (second round) and DE Brent Urban (fourth round) each signed four-year contracts with the team.

The Ravens now have seven of their nine 2014 draft picks under contract.

Timmy Jernigan (second round)

No. 97

Defensive Tackle

Florida State

6-2, 300

Jernigan finished his collegiate career after appearing in 40 games (16 starts), recording 139 tackles (73 solo), 25 TFL (-104 yards), 8.5 sacks (-63 yards), one pass defensed and one fumble recovery. In 2013, he earned first-team All-ACC honors after helping FSU’s defense rank third in the nation by allowing only 281.4 yards per game en route to a BCS National Championship victory over Auburn.

Brent Urban (fourth round)

No. 96

Defensive End

Virginia

6-7, 298

Urban started 20 of 36 games in his career at Virginia, producing 75 total tackles (26 solo), 16.5 TFL (-48 yards), three sacks (-15 yards), two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and 11 passes defensed. He led all NCAA down linemen in the country and finished sixth overall in the ACC with 9 PD in 2013. Urban’s efforts as a senior helped him garner honorable mention All-ACC honors.

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Virgina DL Urban feels he is natural fit as 3-4 DE

Posted on 10 May 2014 by WNST Audio

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Ravens select Virginia defensive end Urban to begin Day 3 of draft

Posted on 10 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continued an effort to beef up their defensive line by selecting Virginia’s Brent Urban with the 134th overall selection to begin Day 3 of the 2014 NFL draft.

The 6-foot-7, 298-pound end was the second defensive line to be drafted by the Ravens over the first four rounds, joining second-round pick Timmy Jernigan from Florida State. The Canadian lineman was drafted with the 15th overall selection of the Canadian Football League by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last year but elected to remain with the Cavaliers.

Starting 20 games over his last two seasons in Charlottesville, Urban made 75 tackles, 16.5 stops for a loss, and three sacks in his four-year collegiate career. A high ankle sprain limited him to eight games last season, but Urban still earned all-ACC honorable mention honors as he led all down linemen in the nation and finished sixth overall on the league charts with nine pass deflections.

Urban told reporters he’s confident he’ll be 100 percent by the summer after undergoing ankle surgery in February. The lingering issue forced him to withdrawal from January’s Senior Bowl.

With Ravens defensive end Chris Canty turning 32 in November, Urban figures to be a possible successor at the 5-technique spot in Baltimore’s 3-4 base alignment.

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