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Ravens staking claim as one of NFL’s best with fast start

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Ravens staking claim as one of NFL’s best with fast start

Posted on 19 October 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens staked their claim as the best team in the AFC North with a 29-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday to move into first place ahead of Cincinnati.

With their fourth 5-2 start in the last five years, the Ravens have put themselves in prime position to return to the playoffs as they approach the midway point of the 2014 season. But how much does that mean as we approach the final week of October?

“Meaningful in Week 7, so, it’s good to be there in that situation at this time,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “But you have to build on it, you have to keep getting better. We’re not a good enough team to do the things that we want to do right now, so we have to keep improving.”

Baltimore may not be a flawless team — there’s no such thing in the modern NFL — but it’s difficult to look at the numbers and not be impressed with what Harbaugh’s group has done through the first seven weeks of 2014. Even with 14 teams having played only six games at the end of business on Sunday, the Ravens have allowed the fewest points (104) and own the best point differential (plus 89) in the NFL.

Yes, they appear to have drawn the right year to play the woeful NFC South — a division where 3-3-1 Carolina currently sits in first place — but you can’t control which teams are on the schedule. The Ravens are not only beating the teams they’re supposed to beat, but they’re throttling them, which doesn’t often happen in the parity-driven NFL.

Already securing four wins of 20 or more points, the improved Ravens offense has received much of the attention, but the defense is taking major strides with its second straight game collecting five sacks, the first time that’s happened since the 2006 season. It was no surprising feat to limit the hapless Tampa Bay offense last week, but holding Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ third-ranked unit to just seven points was an impressive task.

With the pass rush coming alive and the play of the secondary stabilizing, the confidence on the defensive side of the ball is growing. Several defensive players spoke after the game about the speech linebackers coach Ted Monachino offered Saturday night, challenging a talented group of outside linebackers to raise its level of play to where it belongs.

It’s safe to say the message was received on Sunday as Ryan was hit nine times a week after Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon was hit 15 times.

“We’re dangerous, and we’re real serious. We’re coming out playing with an attitude,” said rush specialist Pernell McPhee, who added two more sacks on Sunday to continue his strong season. “Our [secondary] needs us, and I know we need them. I think [defensive coordinator] Dean Pees is doing a great job of calling the plays and setting us up to get the sacks. We’re just focusing in and trying to play ball.”

Much credit should go to Pees, who has shown various looks up front by moving around Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and McPhee to cause confusion while using a safety-by-committee approach in the secondary. Matt Elam and Darian Stewart started the game, but rookie Terrence Brooks and the returning Will Hill also saw extensive action at the safety position.

Former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was known for bringing “organized chaos,” but Pees’ decision to substitute so frequently in the secondary reminded the 65-year-old coordinator of his college coaching days at Miami of Ohio when he used various personnel looks in a 1986 upset win over a top 10 LSU team in Baton Rouge. Of course, Baltimore didn’t face that kind of a talent disadvantage Sunday, but it illustrates the creative lengths used to help mask what’s been a deficiency of the defense to this point in the season.

Time will tell whether the safety rotation will continue, but the best weapon to neutralize a shaky secondary has been the major heat in the pocket. It’s also created more opportunities for turnovers as defensive backs got their hands on several Ryan passes despite not coming away with any interceptions.

“Those dudes are our best friends,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith about the pass rush. “They get in there, they disrupt things, they cause havoc, they make quarterbacks panic and throw the ball in the air. And on our end, we have to do a better job of coming up with some more turnovers. We’ve had a lot of opportunities, and we have a lot of drops.”

Unlike last season’s 8-8 team that remained static with issues on each side of the ball showing up on a weekly basis, these Ravens appear to be improving as the year progresses. Their only loss since Week 1 came on the road two weeks ago against Indianapolis, a team that’s won five straight games and only beat them by seven points at Lucas Oil Stadium.

It’s true that no one should confuse Tampa Bay or Atlanta for juggernauts, but the Ravens have a tremendous opportunity to not only seize commanding control of the AFC North but to make an emphatic claim as one of the best teams in the NFL if they can take care of business in trips to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh the next two weeks. It won’t be easy playing on the road against their two biggest rivals, but the Ravens have looked like the class of the division through seven weeks while the Bengals have gone 0-2-1 since their bye with two road losses of 26 or more points.

The Ravens continue to show improvement on both sides of the ball while stacking wins as they now have a chance to pay back Cincinnati for its Week 1 win in Baltimore.

“We have everything that we want to do right in front of us,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We just have to go out there and continue to play well. We have a tough opponent next week that we didn’t play necessarily good against, at least for a half, in the first game. We have to come back out there and prove ourselves. They’re a good football team, and they’re going to be hungry, and we’re [playing] there. It’s going to be a tough test; I can’t wait for it.”

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Five numbers behind Ravens’ 23-21 win over Cleveland

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Five numbers behind Ravens’ 23-21 win over Cleveland

Posted on 23 September 2014 by Luke Jones

After every Ravens game this season, we’ll take a look at five numbers that help explain the outcome …

2 — The number of field goals missed by former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff
Skinny: The Ravens were fortunate to come away with a win in Cleveland, and they can thank their former kicker for another wide-left try that brought back a not-so-pleasant memory. Cundiff’s second kick was blocked by Asa Jackson, but the Ravens defensive back acknowledged after the game that the attempt came out lower than normal. Both sides made mistakes that could have cost them the game, but Cundiff’s fourth-quarter misses were pivotal in keeping the Ravens within striking distance.

3 — The number of incompletions thrown by Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer on the final two drives
Skinny: Overall, it was a brutal day for the Ravens secondary as Hoyer completed 19 of 25 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown, but three of those six incompletions came on the Browns’ final two drives of the game when they simply needed some first downs to run out the clock. Instead, the Browns went three-and-out each time and the Ravens finally cashed in on their final drive to set up a game-winning 32-yard field goal by Justin Tucker. As poorly as the defense played for long stretches of Sunday’s game, the group was able to come up with two big stops when the Ravens needed them.

3.1 — The yards per carry allowed by the Ravens defense
Skinny: Baltimore’s outside linebackers still need to do a more consistent job of setting the edge, but a stout Cleveland running game found little room to work save for a handful of plays. Even though Hoyer played well, the Browns would have likely been able to put the game away had they ran with any consistency. Over Cleveland’s final two offensive drives, the Ravens gave up six rushing yards on three carries and forced two punts to keep their hopes alive. The front seven may not be getting enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but playing the run hasn’t been too large of a problem through three weeks.

75 — The number of receiving yards produced by Steve Smith in the fourth quarter
Skinny: Through three quarters, the 35-year-old wide receiver had caught just one pass for 26 yards on three targets, but that changed when Joe Flacco began looking his way often in the final 15 minutes. Targeted four times in the fourth quarter, Smith made four receptions and was the only receiver the Ravens quarterback trusted in crunch time. With Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones struggling to get acclimated in Gary Kubiak’s offense and Dennis Pitta exiting in the second quarter, Steve Smith’s ability to beat Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden for the 32-yard reception on the final drive was obviously the biggest play of the game.

157 — The number of rushing yards reached by the Baltimore offense for the second straight week
Skinny: The Ravens finished with 160 yards on 33 attempts, but hitting the 157-yard plateau in two straight games illustrates how far the running game has come under Kubiak. Baltimore ran for that many yards in a game just once (against Chicago) all last year, but a productive running game makes Flacco that much more efficient when he goes to the air. The Cleveland rush defense has been a mess this season, but it was nice to see the Ravens commit to the run despite starter Bernard Pierce being out and they learned Lorenzo Taliaferro can be a major contributor sooner rather than later.

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Old and new give Ravens exactly what they need in Cleveland

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Old and new give Ravens exactly what they need in Cleveland

Posted on 21 September 2014 by Luke Jones

There was plenty to be concerned about throughout the Ravens’ narrow 23-21 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

The disheartening hip injury to tight end Dennis Pitta, the immense struggles of the pass defense, and the early inconsistency of wide receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are points of concern as the Ravens turn their attention toward next Sunday’s meeting with the Carolina Panthers. But the continued dependability of veteran Steve Smith and the emergence of two young offensive players — rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and second-year fullback Kyle Juszczyk — helped Baltimore improve to 2-1 in their stretch of three consecutive AFC North games to begin the 2014 season.

Despite turning 35 and coming off two straight seasons in which his yards per catch average declined from the previous year with the Carolina Panthers, the veteran Smith has been better than advertised in his first three games with the Ravens as he caught five passes for 101 yards on Sunday. No play was bigger than his 32-yard catch on a slant-and-go route to beat Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden on the final drive of the game to set the Ravens up on the 13-yard line, leading to Justin Tucker’s game-winning 32-yard field goal moments later.

It was just the latest example of the 14-year wideout laughing in the face of Father Time and the critics who doubted how much of an impact he would bring to the Ravens’ passing game. While Joe Flacco threw a deep ball that clanked off the hands of Jones to start the fourth quarter and connected on just two of eight targets to Torrey Smith throughout the day, the quarterback looked in no other direction but Steve Smith’s on the final drive of the game when the Ravens were staring at a 1-2 start with under two minutes to go.

And with Pitta possibly done for the season after suffering a second dislocation to his right hip in the last 14 months, Flacco will need the veteran Smith to continue being a dependable target on third down and in crunch time. Through his first three games, Steve Smith has caught 18 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown and has collected at least 71 receiving yards in each contest, a benchmark he didn’t reach once in his final season with Carolina.

Of course, Steve Smith wasn’t alone in the offensive heroics Sunday as Juszczyck and Taliaferro emerged as key contributors with the former entering the day having never caught a pass in the NFL and the fourth-round rookie tailback never registering a carry. Both made their names known against the Browns on Sunday.

Juszczyk caught a 9-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter and finished with three receptions for 54 yards. His presence as a receiver in the flat will be even more critical now to complement tight end Owen Daniels with Pitta’s status in doubt.

Receiving his first opportunity to carry the ball with Bernard Pierce out with a thigh injury, Taliaferro took full advantage of a shaky Cleveland run defense to pick up 91 yards on 18 carries, showing impressive speed and physicality that reminded many Ravens fans of Jamal Lewis on Sunday. Of course, plenty of credit needs to go to the offensive line as veteran Justin Forsett also averaged 5.7 yards per carry, but you do wonder if Taliaferro has already begun wrestling away the starting job from Pierce, who missed his first NFL game in three seasons Sunday but has dealt with nagging injuries throughout his career.

The rookie was decisive and aggressive when carrying the ball in contrast to what we’ve seen from Pierce, who has often looked unsure of himself running in a zone-blocking system the last two seasons.

Sunday’s win was far from perfect as the Ravens face plenty of questions both on and off the field, but a 2-1 start is nothing to be unhappy about as the offense is receiving contributions from younger players as well as the big-play ability of Steve Smith.

The disappointing loss of Pitta won’t be easy to overcome, but the Ravens offense continued to move in the right direction on Sunday thanks to the old — just don’t tell that to Steve Smith — and new.

 

 

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Pitta carted off field with dislocated right hip in Cleveland

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Pitta carted off field with dislocated right hip in Cleveland

Posted on 21 September 2014 by Luke Jones

Less than 14 months after enduring a devastating injury to his right hip, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a dislocation to the same hip in the first half of Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

After catching a short pass from quarterback Joe Flacco late in the second quarter and attempting to turn upfield, Pitta twisted awkwardly and went down without being hit. Medical personnel immediately called for a cart to take Pitta off the field as teammates and coaches looked on with grave concern.

“I don’t know how serious that is,” head coach John Harbaugh said immediately after the Ravens’ 23-21 victory. “I haven’t heard. He told me on the field that it wasn’t as bad as before. I don’t know what that means.

“Just going to be praying and hoping for the best there. We’ll get more information, but that’s just so, so disappointing.”

Pitta was taken to a local hospital for further examination. The fifth-year tight end is feared to be lost for the season, but further testing will determine if he suffered a fracture in addition to the dislocation.

The injury occurred to the same hip Pitta dislocated and fractured on July 27, 2013. The 2010 fourth-round pick was able to return for the final four games of last season, but this latest injury is extremely concerning coming so soon after the first hip injury.

Pitta has caught 16 passes for 125 yards this season. Confident that Pitta had recovered fully from his first hip injury, the Ravens signed Pitta to a five-year, $32 million contract that included $16 million guaranteed this offseason.

“It’s not easy,” said quarterback Joe Flacco about the starting tight end’s injury. “Dennis is a good friend, he’s a good teammate, and he’s a hell of a player. It’s tough to see that happen.”

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 20 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will attempt to go 2-1 against the AFC North to begin the 2014 season, but the Cleveland Browns stand in their way while feeling good about themselves following last week’s surprising win over the New Orleans Saints.

While Baltimore has benefited from extra rest after a Thursday night win over rival Pittsburgh in Week 2, Cleveland has used a strong running game led by Towson product Terrance West while committing no turnovers through the first two weeks of the season. The Browns’ summer quarterback controversy between veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel has also subsided with the former off to an efficient start in his return from a season-ending knee injury last season.

Sunday marks the 31st all-time meeting between these AFC North rivals with the Ravens enjoying a 22-8 advantage and a 10-5 edge at FirstEnergy Stadium. Baltimore is 11-1 against the Browns since 2008 with last year’s 24-18 loss in Cleveland the first defeat over that stretch.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their sixth game in seven tries in Cleveland in the John Harbaugh era …

1. Torrey Smith finally gets his 2014 season going, making six catches for 95 yards and a long touchdown reception. Aside from a long touchdown to Steve Smith on a broken play in the season opener, quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t taken many deep shots, but that could change on Sunday with the Browns looking to clean up their run defense and fully aware of Gary Kubiak’s use of Steve Smith and the tight ends in the short-to-intermediate passing game. Torrey Smith has been held to just four catches for 60 yards in his first two games, but that will change on Sunday as he catches a 40-plus-yard touchdown to beat Cleveland cornerback Buster Skrine in the first half.

2. The Browns running game picks up 130 yards on the ground to win the time of possession battle. The Ravens defense was very physical against Pittsburgh, but it’s difficult to determine how much of that was about playing their biggest rival in a prime-time game and handling an inferior offensive line. Cleveland has averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per carry and won’t match that impressive clip, but West and fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell will grind out tough yards to keep the Baltimore defense on the field too long. A key matchup will be Pro Bowl center Alex Mack going up against second-year nose tackle Brandon Williams, and the Browns will have the edge there to find some running room inside.

3. Terrell Suggs collects his first sack of the year in a difficult battle against Browns tackle Joe Thomas. The six-time Pro Bowl linebacker has more career sacks (15) against Cleveland than any opponent, but only seven have come since 2007 when the Browns drafted the seven-time Pro Bowl selection Thomas. Even though the Ravens insist Suggs has played very well and Pro Football Focus has graded Suggs as the team’s best defensive player through two weeks, the 12-year pass rusher has collected only one sack in his last 10 games dating back to last season and hasn’t been making high-impact plays since the first half of 2013. Suggs and fellow rusher Elvis Dumervil need to put heat on Hoyer, and Suggs will break through for his first sack since Week 16 of last year.

4. Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins beats a rusty Lardarius Webb for a touchdown catch from the slot. With Webb listed as probable on the final injury report, it appears the Ravens will have their full secondary at their disposal for the first time since the beginning of training camp. However, it remains to be seen how much rust the sixth-year corner will need to shake off even after practicing fully for the last three weeks. Meanwhile, the Browns are without suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon, but the shifty Hawkins has been very effective out of the slot where he has lined up more than half of the time, leading the team with 14 catches for 157 yards. He’ll catch his first touchdown on a quick out route as Webb misses the tackle on the play.

5. A fourth-quarter touchdown run by West is the difference as the Ravens’ road struggles from last season carry over to Sunday in a 20-17 loss to Cleveland. It’s easy to be encouraged by what Baltimore did playing at home last Thursday night, but the Ravens have almost always played well at home even in some of their worst seasons. A 2-6 road record in 2013 is difficult to forget, particularly because it was the Ravens defense that struggled in allowing 26.4 points per game on the road compared to 17.6 points surrendered per home contest. A typical, ugly game between the Browns and Ravens will play out once again, but the Cleveland defense bounces back from its poor start to the season while the Baltimore defense is worn down by the running game in the final quarter.

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Ravens list Webb probable, Pierce questionable against Browns on Sunday

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Ravens list Webb probable, Pierce questionable against Browns on Sunday

Posted on 19 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have listed Lardarius Webb as probable for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, which paints an encouraging picture for the starting cornerback to make his 2014 debut this weekend.

Webb has practiced fully for three straight weeks after missing all of training camp while dealing with a back injury. He was deemed inactive in Weeks 1 and 2 after being listed as questionable on the final injury report for each of those games.

Starting running back Bernard Pierce is listed as questionable after being added to Thursday’s injury report with a thigh injury. The third-year back practiced on a limited basis on Thursday before being upgraded to full participation on Friday.

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) is doubtful after missing practice all week and is reportedly recovering from a meniscus injury that could keep hiim sidelined for a couple weeks.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (stomach bug), cornerback Asa Jackson (concussion), and left tackle Eugene Monroe (knee) are also listed as probable for Sunday’s game.

Meanwhile, the Browns have ruled out running back Ben Tate (knee) as expected and designated standout tight end Jordan Cameron (shoulder) and outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (shoulder) as questionable.

Here’s the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: DT Timmy Jernigan (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)
PROBABLE: QB Joe Flacco (illness), CB Asa Jackson (concussion), T Eugene Monroe (knee), CB Lardarius Webb (back)

CLEVELAND
OUT: RB Ben Tate (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder), LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder)
PROBABLE: WR Travis Benjamin (knee), DL Desmond Bryant (wrist), DL John Hughes (hamstring), P Spencer Lanning (shoulder), OL Paul McQuistan (ankle), CB Buster Skrine (thumb)

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Secondary remains fluid as Ravens turn attention toward Cleveland

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Secondary remains fluid as Ravens turn attention toward Cleveland

Posted on 15 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to work to begin preparations for a Week 3 showdown with the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens weren’t offering clues about the projected state of their secondary.

With starting cornerback Lardarius Webb (back) still waiting to make his 2014 debut and reserve Asa Jackson sustaining a concussion against Pittsburgh last Thursday, the third level of the defense remains fluid as the Ravens look to improve to 2-1 in their three AFC North contests to begin the regular season. Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t shed any light on the status of Jackson or Webb when he met with reporters on Monday afternoon.

“I’m just not going to get into injuries,” Harbaugh said, “because there is just no strategic advantage for us in doing it and putting that information out there. … I’m really optimistic about all our guys — I will say that, with [Jackson] included — but I’ve been optimistic in the past and guys haven’t played. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

Webb has practiced fully over the last two weeks, but the sixth-year defensive back missed all of training camp and the preseason after suffering back spasms on July 25, the second day of full-team workouts. The Ravens and Webb are reportedly targeting this Sunday’s game for him to make his return, but doubts will remain until he’s suited up to play on Sunday.

After going with the trio of Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, and Jackson in the nickel package in the season opener, defensive coordinator Dean Pees used a different alignment against the Steelers with strong safety Matt Elam defending the slot and reserve Jeromy Miles playing safety in the nickel alignment. Smith and Jackson started the game at the outside corner spots — with Brown on the sideline — before a concussion ended Jackson’s night in the first half and forced Brown into duty.

With Brown shaky in outside coverage throughout the summer and Jackson missing a couple tackles from the nickel spot against the Bengals, the Ravens went with the versatile Elam to provide more support from the nickel against the run. Harbaugh complimented Elam’s ability to pick up the intricacies of playing the position to provide more flexibility for the Baltimore defense.

“We’re blessed with safety depth, so it’s not a bad thing to get those guys on the field,” Harbaugh said. “But a guy like Matt being in there playing [the nickel] gives you a nice little run-nickel package, because he’ll fly around and hit you and tackle you. He’ll be the first to tell you he tackled better in the second half than he did the first half. It builds our defensive package in good ways, because now you have a guy in there playing that can really defend the run, too.”

Against Pittsburgh, Elam played all 59 defensive snaps — most of them from the nickel position — while Miles participated in 48, a major change for a fifth-year safety primarily known for his special-teams ability.

West playing hometown team

Former Towson standout and Northwestern High product Terrance West’s NFL career is off to a strong start with the Browns, which has drawn plenty of attention from Ravens fans who clamored for the organization to draft him back in May.

West became the first rookie running back to collect at least 90 yards from scrimmage in his team’s first two games since Chris Johnson and Matt Forte — two Pro Bowl running backs — did it in 2008. In the wake of the Ray Rice release, it would be understandable for the Ravens to lament the inability to come away with the local product after he was selected with the 94th overall pick by Cleveland. Baltimore selected safety Terrence Brooks with the 79th overall pick and tight end Crockett Gillmore at 99th after West had just come off the board.

“Terrance is a guy that we really liked, as you know,” Harbaugh said. “We had designs on him in the draft, certainly, and Cleveland jumped up there and got him, and he has not disappointed. He has played really downhill, [and is a] hard runner, make-you-miss type of back [who] understands the scheme they’re running really well.”

West is receiving a heavier workload than anticipated with Browns veteran Ben Tate currently sidelined with a knee injury.

Hill reinstated before Week 7?

Despite reports suggesting suspended safety Will Hill could have his ban reduced under the terms of the NFL’s new drug policy, Harbaugh offered no indication whether that would happen when posed the question.

Hill is in the midst of a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. After receiving limited reps in the summer due to his situation, he could be an intriguing option at the safety position whenever he is reinstated.

“I have no sense of [a possible reduction] at all,” Harbaugh said. “No one has spoken to me about that, and I don’t know a thing about that right now. I’m interested in it though.”

Odds & ends

Harbaugh defended linebacker Courtney Upshaw’s technique on the penalized hit against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the opening drive of Thursday’s game, insisting he did exactly what he’s been coached and to play it differently would have put him at risk for injury. “We’re never going to put our player in position to coach him to drop his head. Football has always been about seeing what you hit — heads-up football keeping your eyes up.” … Asked about the chances of seeing Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel on the field, Harbaugh said the Ravens will be prepared for the first-round pick while also going out of his way to praise starter Brian Hoyer. “He’s the best quarterback they’ve had in a number of years. He’s playing great. Then, they have Johnny Manziel as part of their arsenal. So, it’s something to contend with for sure.” … The Ravens signed rookie free agent cornerback Lou Young to their practice squad Monday to fill the spot vacated by cornerback Jamell Fleming, who was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs to their 53-man roster last week.

 

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Former Towson RB West participating in NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Posted on 31 May 2014 by WNST Staff

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Former Towson football running back Terrance West will be among the group of 35 top rookies from the 2014 NFL Draft class who will come together in Los Angeles from May 29-31 to learn the business of football at the 20th annual National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) Rookie Premiere.

Throughout the event, players will gain information to assist in the development of their professional careers. The union’s annual orientation includes seminars focused on financial planning, brand building, group player rights, and social media best practices.

Among the featured guest speakers are former and active NFL players Marshall FaulkWillie McGinestTorry HoltBrandon WilliamsDaunte CulpepperKevin BentleyJamaal CharlesIsrael Idonije and Austin Pettis. Additional speakers include NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and NFL Players Inc. (NFLPI) President Keith Gordon.

“NFLPA Rookie Premiere is an unparalleled opportunity for our partners to engage with tomorrow’s most influential athletes today,” said Gordon. “For the first time as professionals, players will learn about the business of football from fellow players, union leadership, and industry experts as they start to build a game plan to succeed beyond their playing careers.”

The three-day event, hosted by NFLPI, the marketing and licensing arm of the NFLPA, will also feature one of the most thrilling moments for any rookie – wearing their official Nike team uniforms for the first time during photo shoots with trading card companies Panini America and Topps at LA Memorial Coliseum.

Other notable rookies joining West at the 2014 NFLPA Rookie Premiere include quarterback Blake Bortles (Central Florida, Jacksonville Jaguars), quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville, Minnesota Vikings), defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina, Houston Texans), wide receiver Marqise Lee (Southern Cal, Jacksonville Jaguars), linebacker Khalil Mack (Buffalo, Oakland Raiders), quarterback Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M, Cleveland Browns) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (Clemson, Buffalo Bills).

Launched in Los Angeles in 1994, NFLPA Rookie Premiere is unique across professional sports as the event provides business partners with unmatched access to many of the NFL’s most promising and marketable young stars. Each year, NFLPI facilitates approximately 100 individual player service deals for NFLPA Rookie Premiere participants.

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Former Towson RB West picked by Browns in round three

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Former Towson RB West picked by Browns in round three

Posted on 10 May 2014 by WNST Staff

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Former Towson running back Terrance West was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2014 National Football League Draft on Friday night.

West was the sixth running back taken in this year’s draft and the 94th overall selection.

West becomes the fifth Towson football player to be drafted and the highest ever selection. Offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round at pick No. 125 overall in 2007. Running backs David Meggett (1989) and Tony Vinson (1995) were each chosen in the fifth round and kicker Randy Bielski was chosen in the 12th round in 1980.

West was Cleveland’s fourth pick in the first three rounds. The Browns selected cornerback Justin Gilbert with the eighth overall pick and then traded back into the first round to grab Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with the 22nd overall pick. Cleveland selected offensive tackle Joel Bitonio with the third pick in the second round (No. 35 overall) and also picked outside linebacker Chris Kirksey from Iowa earlier in the third round.

A three-time All-America running back, West was a consensus All-America first team selection in 2013 when he led all college football players with 2,509 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns.

Honored as the 2013 Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the 2013 Walter Payton Award, West led the Tigers to the NCAA FCS championship game. With a record of 13-3, the Tigers were national runners-up.

With 2,509 rushing yards, West shattered the NCAA FCS single season record of 2,326 yards set by Jamaal Branch of Colgate in 2003. He also broke the NCAA FCS record with 42 touchdowns, eclipsing the record of 39 set by Omar Cuff of Delaware in 2007.

In his three-year career at Towson, West ran for 4,849 yards on 802 carries with 84 touchdowns. His 84 career rushing touchdowns tied the NCAA FCS record set by Adrian Peterson of Georgia Southern from 1998 to 2001.

West, who also caught two touchdown passes in his career, ended his career with 86 total touchdowns scored. He ranks third on the NCAA FCS all-time list of touchdown scorers. Brian Westbrook of Villanova holds the record with 89 touchdowns while Peterson is second with 87 touchdowns.

The winner of the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in NCAA FCS in 2011, West earned All-CAA first team honors three times. During his career, West was named as the CAA Offensive Player of the Week seven times.

In 2013, he scored at least one touchdown in all 16 games for the Tigers. He also ran for more than 100 yards 12 times and had four 200-plus-yard games. In the Tigers’ NCAA FCS quarterfinal victory over No. 2 Eastern Illinois, he set an NCAA FCS playoff record by rushing for 354 yards. He also scored five touchdowns against Eastern Illinois.

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Pettine adds Moeller, Montgomery, former Raven Weaver to Browns staff

Posted on 06 February 2014 by WNST Staff

BEREA, Ohio – Cleveland Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine on Wednesday named 11 assistants to his initial coaching staff. Pettine named George DeLeone assistant offensive line coach, Chris DiSanto assistant strength and conditioning coach, Richard Hightower offensive quality control coach, Dowell Loggains quarterbacks coach, Derik Keyes assistant strength and conditioning coach, Mike McDaniel wide receivers coach, Andy Moeller offensive line coach, Wilbert Montgomery running backs coach, Paul Ricci strength and conditioning coach, Tony Tuioti defensive quality control coach and Anthony Weaver defensive line coach.

The Browns coaching staff also includes coordinators Jim O’Neil (defense), Kyle Shanahan (offense) and Chris Tabor (special teams), and assistants Brian Angelichio (tight ends), Bobby Babich (assistant secondary), Chuck Driesbach (linebackers), Brian Fleury (assistant linebackers), Jeff Hafley (secondary) and Shawn Mennenga (assistant special teams).

Assistant offensive line coach George DeLeone

DeLeone is a veteran coach of 41 seasons, including the last three at Connecticut where he served as offensive coordinator from 2011-12 and associate head coach/offensive line in 2013.

He has spent 37 years coaching on the collegiate level and four in the NFL. DeLeone has coached in 12 bowl games, including the Fiesta, Sugar, Gator and Orange bowls. On the professional level, he was the San Diego Chargers offensive line coach (1997) and the tight ends coach for the Miami Dolphins (2008-10).

DeLeone also coached at Southern Connecticut (1970-79), Rutgers (1980-83), Holy Cross (1984), Syracuse (1985-96 and 1998-2003), Mississippi (2005) and Temple (2006-07).

During his 18 seasons at Syracuse, the Orange played in 12 bowl games, posting an 8-3-1 record. While working with the offensive line at Syracuse, five of his players were drafted in the NFL.

The New Haven, Conn., native graduated from Connecticut with a degree in physical education. He also earned a master’s degree in physical education from Southern Connecticut.

Assistant strength and conditioning coach Chris DiSanto

DiSanto first joined the Browns as assistant strength and conditioning coach in 2013.

DiSanto spent the 2012 season in the same position at the University of California. Prior to his time with the Golden Bears, DiSanto served four seasons (2008-11) as assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Oakland Raiders.

After graduating from West Chester (Pa.) University in 2000, DiSanto served as a volunteer strength and conditioning coach for the Philadelphia Eagles for three seasons (2000-02), while also serving as an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Philadelphia Kixx (Major Indoor Soccer League), the Philadelphia Wings (National Lacrosse League) and at his alma mater. In 2005, DiSanto served as the offensive line and assistant strength and conditioning coach for the University of Pikeville. DiSanto spent 2007 as a strength and conditioning intern with the Minnesota Vikings.

A native of Holland, Pa., DiSanto played four years with multiple teams in Arena Football League 2 as an offensive and defensive lineman. During the 2006 season, DiSanto served as captain for the Spokane Shock and helped the team capture the league championship.

Offensive quality control coach Richard Hightower

Hightower, who spent the past four seasons with the Washington Redskins, owns eight years of coaching experience, including seven in the NFL.

After spending two years (2010-11) as the Redskins’ assistant special teams coach, Hightower acquired additional duties assisting the defensive backs in 2012. During his tenure, he helped linebacker Lorenzo Alexander reach the 2013 Pro Bowl and aided a defensive unit that ranked tied for third in interceptions in 2012.

Prior to Washington, Hightower spent the 2009 season coaching wide receivers at the University of Minnesota, where he guided Eric Decker to first-team All-Big Ten honors. Decker, selected by the Denver Broncos in the third round of the 2010 draft, has registered at least 85 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in each of his past two NFL seasons.

Hightower launched his coaching career as an assistant with the Houston Texans (2006-07), before being elevated to special teams assistant in 2008.

A native of Houston, Texas, Hightower received a bachelor of arts in marketing at Texas, where he was a three-year letterman.

Quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains

Loggains (pronounced DAAW-uhl LOGG-ins) spent the past eight years (2006-13) with the Tennessee Titans. He served as the offensive coordinator in 2013 and during the final five games in 2012. Last season, he helped Tennessee to a 3-1 start before an injury to QB Jake Locker.

Loggains was the quarterbacks coach from 2010-12, when he worked with Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck and Locker, a first-round pick in 2011. The previous two seasons (2008-09), Loggains was the quality control coach for the offense. He originally joined Tennessee as a coaching administrative assistant (2006-07).

Prior to the Titans, Loggains spent the 2005 season as a scouting assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. His duties included assisting with opponent film breakdown, self-scouting and statistical analysis to be used in game-plan preparation.

A native of Newport, Ark., Loggains was a four-year letterman as a quarterback at Arkansas, where he appeared in 50 games. He graduated with a bachelor of science and master’s degree in education. Loggains was a two-year starter at quarterback for Abilene Cooper (Texas) High School.

Assistant strength and conditioning coach Derik Keyes

Keyes first joined the Browns as assistant strength and conditioning coach in 2013.

Keyes spent the 2012 season in the same capacity with the Houston Texans. Prior to joining the Texans, Keyes was an assistant strength and conditioning coach at his alma mater, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, for the 2011 season. He began his coaching career as an assistant strength and conditioning intern in 2009 at Louisiana-Lafayette.

A four-year letterman as a safety at Louisiana-Lafayette, Keyes was named second-team All-Sun Belt Conference as a senior. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations/business finance in 2008.

Wide receivers coach Mike McDaniel

McDaniel spent the past three seasons with the Washington Redskins, first as an offensive assistant (2011-12) before serving last season as wide receivers coach.

In 2013, he helped Pierre Garcon lead the NFL and set a franchise record with 113 receptions. His total surpassed Hall of Famer Art Monk’s mark of 106, which stood for 29 years. Garcon also finished eighth in the league with 1,346 receiving yards.

From 2009-10, McDaniel coached the running backs for the UFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions (originally named the California Redwoods). In 2010, Mountain Lions running back Cory Ross was named UFL Offensive Player of the Year.

McDaniel spent three seasons (2006-08) as an offensive assistant with the Houston Texans. In 2008, WR Andre Johnson led the NFL in receiving yards (1,575) and receptions (115).

McDaniel got his start in coaching as an intern with the Denver Broncos in 2005.

A native of Greeley, Colo., McDaniel was a wide receiver at Yale, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in history.

Offensive line coach Andy Moeller

Moeller spent the past six seasons (2008-13) with the Baltimore Ravens. He was an assistant offensive coach for three years before spending the past three as offensive line coach.

Under Moeller’s guidance, guard Marshal Yanda was selected to the Pro Bowl from 2011-13 and guard Ben Grubbs was named to the Pro Bowl in 2011. In 2012, the Ravens scored a franchise-record 398 points and totaled the second-most total yards (5,640) in team history en route to winning Super Bowl XLVII.

Moeller’s offensive line helped pave the way for running back Ray Rice, who registered more than 1,100 rushing yards and 1,600 scrimmage yards in four consecutive seasons (2009-12).  Rice led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage in 2011.

Prior to Baltimore, Moeller spent eight seasons at Michigan, where he served as tight ends/offensive tackles coach from 2000-01 and offensive line coach from 2002-07. He tutored two All-Americans, center David Baas (2004) and tackle Jake Long (2006-07), the first-overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Moeller’s offensive line helped block for a 1,000-yard rusher in five of his six seasons as offensive line coach.

Before joining Michigan, he spent six years at Missouri. Moeller served as offensive line coach from 1997-99 after coaching the tight ends, tackles and special teams from 1994-96. He coached Army’s offensive line, inside linebackers and special teams from 1998-93. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Indiana in 1987.

A four-year letterman and two-year starter at linebacker for Michigan, Moeller earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., Moeller earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics and communications.

Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery

Montgomery spent the past six seasons (2008-13) as the Baltimore Ravens running backs coach. During his time in Baltimore, the Ravens made five playoff appearances, captured two division titles and won Super Bowl XLVII.

He oversaw the development of 2008 second-round pick Ray Rice, who was named to three Pro Bowls (2009, 2011-12) and was named second-team Associated Press All-Pro twice (2009, 2011). Rice rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 1,600 scrimmage yards in four straight seasons (2009-12).  He led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage in 2011 and was second in the league with 1,364 rushing yards. He also set a team record with 15 total touchdowns. Rice ranked fourth in the NFL with 9,214 scrimmage yards (6,180 rushing and 3,034 receiving) from 2008-13.

Montgomery also helped fullbacks Le’Ron McClain (2008-09) and Vonta Leach (2011-12) to multiple Pro Bowls.

In 2008, Montgomery’s unit ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (148.5) and fifth in 2009 (137.5). The Ravens also set a team record with 22 rushing touchdowns in 2009.

Prior to Baltimore, Montgomery spent two seasons (2006-07) as the Detroit Lions running backs coach after spending nine years (1997-2005) with the St. Louis Rams. He coached the Rams running backs from 1997-99 and 2003-05, while serving as tight ends coach from 2000-02.

In St. Louis, Montgomery guided two of the NFL’s top running backs in Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson. Faulk currently ranks 10th on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, while Jackson is 20th.

During his first season with the Rams (1999), Faulk set an NFL record with 2,429 yards from scrimmage as he joined Roger Craig as the only player to total 1,000-plus rushing and receiving yards in a season. Faulk was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year as St. Louis led the NFL in total offense (fifth in rushing) and went on to capture Super Bowl XXXIV.

Prior to joining the coaching ranks, Montgomery spent nine seasons (1977-85) in the NFL as a running back. He was a sixth-round pick by Philadelphia and played eight seasons with the Eagles (1977-84). He finished his playing career with Detroit in 1985.

Montgomery was a two-time Pro Bowl honoree (1978-79) and two-time AP All-Pro selection (1978-79). In 1979, he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2,012.

An inaugural inductee of the Eagles’ Honor Roll in 1987, Montgomery holds the Eagles’ franchise record in several categories, including career rushing yards (6,538).

As a four-year starter at Abilene Christian, Montgomery set the NAIA record for career touchdowns with 76. He also set the record for touchdowns by a freshman with 37 in 1973, while leading the Wildcats to the NAIA Division I national championship. Montgomery was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

Strength and conditioning coach Paul Ricci

Ricci spent the past two seasons (2012-13) as an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the New York Jets. Prior to joining the Jets, he served as the director of basketball performance at Texas Tech for one season (2011-12). Ricci was the director of basketball performance at Maryland from 2008-11.

Ricci spent nine seasons (1999-2008) on the strength and conditioning staff of the Baltimore Ravens, including the staff that helped the team claim a victory in Super Bowl XXXV.

Ricci had a one-year stint on the strength and conditioning staff of the Arizona Cardinals (1996), in addition to spending spring training with the San Diego Padres (1996).

Ricci played offensive line for Penn State. He earned a master’s of education from Goucher College and an undergraduate degree from Temple University.

Defensive quality control coach Tony Tuioti

Tuioti (pronounced TOO-ee-oh-TEE) spent the past six seasons at Hawaii. He served as the team’s linebackers coach (2012-13), defensive tackles coach (2010-11) and director of player personnel (2008-09).

In 2010, the Rainbow Warriors led the nation in takeaways (38). In addition, Tuioti’s defensive tackles registered 22.5 of the team’s 30 sacks.

Prior to Hawaii, Tuioti served as defensive coordinator at Silverado High School in Las Vegas, Nev., where he helped the team to the Southeast Division championship with a 10-1 record. Tuioti was the head coach at Kalaheo High School on O‘ahu in Hawaii from 2003-05. He led the Mustangs to the OIA playoffs for the first time in 10 years and was the youngest varsity head coach in the state.

A four-year letterman at Hawaii, Tuioti was an All-WAC defensive lineman. He is one of two former Rainbow Warriors to win a WAC championship as both a player and coach.

Tuioti earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Hawaii. He served as graduate assistant coach from 2000-01, while earning his master’s in educational administration. Tuioti also received a second master’s degree in special education from UNLV.

Defensive line coach Anthony Weaver

Weaver spent last season as the defensive line coach with the Buffalo Bills, where his defensive linemen accounted for 47 of the Bills’ 57 sacks, a franchise record and the second-most in the NFL in 2013. Buffalo was the only team to have three players record double-digit sacks, with DE Mario Williams leading the team and finishing fourth in the NFL with 13. DT Kyle Williams registered a career-high 10.5 and DE Jerry Hughes recorded a career-best 10. DT Marcell Dareus added a career-most 7.5 sacks. All four players were selected to the Pro Bowl.

Prior to Buffalo, Weaver spent the 2012 season as the assistant defensive line coach with the New York Jets. He also spent a season (2011) as the linebackers coach at North Texas after beginning his coaching career as a defensive graduate assistant at Florida in 2010.

As a defensive end, Weaver was a second-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2002 and played seven NFL seasons. He appeared in 103 regular-season games with 98 starts, while spending time with Baltimore (2002-05) and Houston (2006-08). He recorded 260 career tackles, 15.5 sacks, three interceptions, five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.

A native of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Weaver was a four-year starter at Notre Dame and earned All-America honors.

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