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Five numbers behind Ravens’ 26-6 win over Pittsburgh

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Five numbers behind Ravens’ 26-6 win over Pittsburgh

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Luke Jones

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

1 — The number of pass attempts thrown by Joe Flacco that traveled 20 or more yards
Skinny: Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s West Coast system is based on shorter throws in which the quarterback releases the ball quickly, and that’s exactly what Flacco did against the Steelers on Thursday. Knowing what kind of arm Flacco has, the Ravens will certainly mix in some deep shots, but Flacco completed 72.4 percent of his passes as the offense possessed the ball for 35:08. That kind of a game plan — along with the arrival of veteran Steve Smith — has temporarily stunted the production of speedy wide receiver Torrey Smith, but the Steelers failed to record a sack or even a quarterback hit against the Baltimore offense, which is exactly what you want every week.

3 — The number of takeaways by the Baltimore defense
Skinny: Though the Steelers were held to six points, they only produced 22 fewer total yards than the Ravens as three turnovers thwarted a couple attempts to get things going offensively. No takeaway was bigger than the one that came on the opening drive of the game when Pittsburgh had marched inside the red zone before linebacker Daryl Smith stripped the ball away from wide receiver Justin Brown to end a drive that had lasted 12 plays and gained 54 yards. Fellow inside backer C.J. Mosley forced and recovered a fumble of his own that led to a short field goal, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata tipped a pass to himself for the third takeaway of the night, putting an exclamation point on an opportunistic performance by the defense.

4 — The number of drives lasting 10 or more plays completed by the Ravens
Skinny: You should be noticing a trend of dictating the tempo of the game as the Ravens were essentially in complete control from their first offensive drive of the night. The unusual statistic accompanying this was the Ravens only going 5-for-12 on third down, but that just shows how effective they were on first and second down. Baltimore scored on all four of these drives — totaling 20 points — while the Steelers managed only three total points on their two drives that were 10 or more plays. The biggest negative you can draw from Thursday’s game was the red-zone offense in which the Ravens only scored touchdowns on two of six trips, three times settling for short field goals after driving inside the 5.

4.39 — The number of yards per play the Ravens averaged on first down
Skinny: I mentioned this number to follow up the stat from last week’s game in which the Ravens averaged just 1.67 yards per first-down play before the final drive of the first half. We constantly talk about the importance of third-down conversions, but success or failure on first down has an overwhelming impact on the outlook of a drive in terms of what play options are reasonably at your disposal. The Ravens success on first down against the Pittsburgh defense allowed them to maintain a better semblance of balance with the opponent not knowing whether to expect the run or pass when you’re consistently avoiding second-and-long situations.

36 — The number of rushes by the Ravens
Skinny: Throwing 62 passes is almost never an acceptable outcome, but last week’s passing total stuck out even more after an offseason in which the Ravens spoke ad nauseam about returning to their roots and committing to the running game. The final rushing total of 157 yards in Week 2 was a bit deceiving when you remember the Ravens only averaged 2.7 yards per carry through the first three quarters, but they ran effectively enough early to keep it as a viable part of the game plan and to avoid becoming one-dimensional. When they reached the fourth quarter with a 17-6 lead, the Ravens were committed to simply beating up the Pittsburgh front and that’s exactly what they did to the tune of 96 yards on 13 carries to sew up the first win of the season.

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Ten Ravens predictions for the 2014 season

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Ten Ravens predictions for the 2014 season

Posted on 06 September 2014 by Luke Jones

As everyone else goes through the endeavor of making division-by-division forecasts that will ultimately mean very little, these predictions focus on the Ravens and their effort to bounce back from the first non-playoff season of the John Harbaugh era.

1. Joe Flacco will be the Ravens’ Most Valuable Player.

The quarterback won’t suddenly transform into a 5,000-yard passer with 35 touchdowns, but the arrival of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will bring the most efficient Flacco we’ve seen since the 2010 season when he completed nearly 63 percent of his passes and posted a 93.6 passer rating. A steadier running game will alleviate pressure on the seventh-year signal-caller to feel the need to do it all like he encountered last year, which will only make him more effective with better weapons to target. Flacco will throw 25 touchdown passes for the second time in his career.

2. Haloti Ngata will be playing his final season in Baltimore.

The Ravens and Ngata talked about a new contract this offseason in the same way the organization extended Terrell Suggs’ deal, but talks didn’t go anywhere with the five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle carrying a $16 million salary cap figure this year and next. The difference next year will be the ability to save $8.5 million in cap space by releasing him, which will be easier to execute with the emergence of second-round rookie Timmy Jernigan and nose tackle Brandon Williams this season. Though Ngata is still a good defensive tackle, anyone who’s closely watched him play over the last few years has seen a decline in impact and durability, making it likely this is his final season with the Ravens unless he alters his financial expectations significantly.

3. Kyle Juszczyk and Brandon Williams will be players to take a step forward.

The second-year fullback was a non-factor offensively as a rookie, but it’s clear Kubiak envisions a role for Juszczyk as a receiver out of the backfield, making it possible he catches 30 passes in the way H-back James Casey did in Kubiak’s Houston offense a few years ago. Meanwhile, Williams will need to emerge to soften the blow from the loss of defensive tackle Arthur Jones in free agency, and the 2013 third-round pick was impressive against the run in the preseason. The Ravens need more young players to emerge to offset the reality of several core players approaching the end of their careers, and Juszczyk and Williams will make a bigger impact in 2014 after very quiet rookie campaigns.

4. Marlon Brown and Elvis Dumervil will be players to take a step back.

Even though the second-year receiver had an inconsistent summer, his inclusion in this prediction has more to do with the sheer number of weapons added to the equation with a fully-healthy Dennis Pitta back and the free-agent additions of Steve Smith and Owen Daniels. Brown won’t catch 49 passes again, but he will still be a target in the red zone, which will give him a chance to make his limited opportunities count. Dumervil collected 9 1/2 sacks in his first season with the Ravens, but had only one in his final seven games. He added weight in the offseason, which sounds like a questionable strategy for a 30-year-old rush specialist dependent on speed to get around the edge.

5. Jimmy Smith will be the player who deserves to make the Pro Bowl but won’t.

Before a scary fall that caused bruising and bleeding from his lungs in the second preseason game, Smith was having the best summer of any Baltimore defensive player and appears primed for a breakout campaign after taking significant strides in his first season as a starter. The rest of the secondary is a major concern right now, but Smith could be chosen by defensive coordinator Dean Pees to shadow Cincinnati wideout A.J. Green and the other elite receivers the Ravens encounter in 2014. It may take another year for Smith to finally receive league-wide recognition after an injury-riddled start to his career, but he will play at a Pro Bowl level for an otherwise shaky secondary this season.

6. Terrence Brooks will be starting at free safety before Halloween.

If Smith and Lardarius Webb are healthy, the Ravens should be alright at cornerback even with uncertainty at the No. 3 spot, but there is no such comfort at safety where 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam and veteran newcomer Darian Stewart will start. The Ravens hope Elam playing closer to the line of scrimmage allows him to make a bigger impact, but his summer was quiet as he still struggled to cover and tackle consistently. Stewart didn’t show any signs of being an impact defender playing deep center field and the third-round rookie Brooks took major strides at the end of the summer, making it only a matter of time before the Florida State product supplants him in the starting defense.

7. Steve Smith will be the top veteran newcomer.

It’s easy to be skeptical of the impact Smith will bring at age 35 by pointing to his yards per catch average steadily decreasing over the last three seasons, but the five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver was too impressive this summer to think he won’t be a substantial upgrade to the offense. His swagger and attitude will pump life into an offense that lacked any a year ago, and he has the ability to help move the chains and provide production similar to what Anquan Boldin did in his three years with the Ravens when he averaged 882 receiving yards per season. He won’t be able to bring the same explosiveness all 16 weeks that we saw this summer, but he will still be a significant reason why the offense improves from its 29th overall ranking a year ago.

8. Owen Daniels will be the disappointing veteran newcomer.

The 31-year-old tight end revealed a few days ago that he was dealing with a hamstring injury to clarify Harbaugh’s vague “leg soreness” diagnosis that forced him out of practice for two weeks, but Daniels wasn’t impressive when he was practicing in training camp, struggling to gain separation and make plays to complement Pitta at the tight end position. The Ravens have given Daniels the benefit of the doubt because he is so familiar with Kubiak’s system, but it’s difficult not to be reminded of how little Dallas Clark had remaining in the tank last season while watching Daniels practice this summer. Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore will need to be ready to step up if Daniels can’t provide what the Ravens need in 2014.

9. C.J. Mosley will be the top Ravens rookie.

This prediction isn’t exactly going out on a limb as he’s the only first-year player currently starting on either side of the football for the Ravens. The Alabama product could occasionally struggle to hold up against physical blockers in defending the run, but he has shown impressive ability in pass coverage, which will make him a three-down linebacker in Week 1. The selection of Mosley raised eyebrows considering the Ravens already had depth at inside linebacker and needs at a number of other positions, but he’s been as good as advertised and has the potential to be a dynamic defensive player in the years to come.

10. The Ravens will make the playoffs with a 9-7 record as a wild card, but they will exit in the first round.

The Ravens will move into the top half of the offensive rankings in 2014, but the defense will slide from last season’s 12th overall spot with an aging front seven and a shaky secondary. This adds up to only modest improvement from 2013 when Baltimore finished 8-8 and fell short of the postseason. Cincinnati will prevail in the AFC North with a 10-6 record, but the overall mediocrity of the AFC will leave the door open for the Ravens to finish 3-1 in the month of December and grab one of the two wild-card spots before bowing out in the first round of the playoffs to Indianapolis.

Bonus Super Bowl XLIX prediction no one asked for: New Orleans will beat Denver in a 30-24 final.

A defense that continues to improve under coordinator Rob Ryan will offset last year’s road struggles and put Drew Brees and the Saints in position to win their second Super Bowl title in the last six years while Peyton Manning and the Broncos fall short on the NFL’s biggest stage for the second straight year.

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Ravens sign first-round linebacker Mosley to rookie contract

Posted on 27 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Less than three weeks after selecting nine players in the 2014 draft, the Ravens have all but one under contract after announcing they’ve signed first-round linebacker C.J. Mosley on Monday.

The University of Alabama product was the 17th overall selection and is expected to start at the weakside inside linebacker spot next to veteran Daryl Smith in the base 3-4 defense. Mosley was the highest selection made by the Ravens since defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was the 12th overall pick of the 2006 draft.

The 2013 Butkus Award winner made a strong impression with the coaching staff at rookie minicamp after members of the organization had been impressed with both his ability and leadership qualities throughout the pre-draft process. He totaled 320 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks, 19 pass breakups, five interceptions, and two forced fumbles in 51 career games at Alabama and is third on the Crimson Tide’s all-time tackles list.

“He seems very comfortable in a defense. He understands the game very well. He’s been really well-coached, obviously, down [at Alabama],” head coach John Harbaugh said on May 17. “It’s not like he doesn’t know what gap he is fitting in. It’s not like he doesn’t know what adjustment to make. That’s a long way ahead for a rookie. Plus, he is athletic, and he moves around really well.”

Third-round safety Terrence Brooks is the only one of the Ravens’ nine draft choices who remains unsigned.

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Rookies try to make strong first impression with Ravens

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Rookies try to make strong first impression with Ravens

Posted on 17 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With most attention on the 2014 draft class as the Ravens gathered for their rookie minicamp this weekend, a number of former college players were trying to take advantage of what might be their only shot to catch on in the NFL.

In addition to working out draft picks, signed rookie free agents, and a few veterans previously on the practice squad or returning from injury, Baltimore invited 22 players to take part in rookie camp to not only fill out a full practice routine but take a look at any potential additions to the 90-man offseason roster. The most notable among them was wide receiver Jerry Rice Jr., the son of the Hall of Famer regarded by most as the greatest wideout in NFL history.

“He is a really good athlete. He doesn’t have his dad’s size, but he sure has his athleticism,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “When you watch him run, he runs a in a real similar way. And the other thing is he has that West Coast offense down. He has probably had that playbook since he was in the cradle.”

The former UCLA receiver is undersized at 5-foot-10 and caught only nine passes for the Bruins before transferring to UNLV for his senior season in which he caught 11 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, making the likelihood of the Ravens signing him a long shot. However, Rice caught several passes on Saturday and took one slant to the end zone during non-contact 11-on-11 team drills.

Of course, watching his father play for years in San Francisco made him familiar with the offensive attack the Ravens will be using under new coordinator Gary Kubiak. The 22-year-old has also dealt with living in the shadow of his father without allowing it to take away from who he is as a person.

“It’s something I’ve been born with since the beginning; I don’t know any better,” Rice said. “You can take it two ways. You can either burden yourself or take it as a challenge. I definitely take it as a challenge. Why not strive to be the greatest? You only get one chance to do this. Why not try to do your best?”

While Rice’s tryout was a feel-good story in an otherwise mundane weekend in which many of the players participating won’t even make it to the remainder of organized team activities, Harbaugh was complimentary of a number of the Ravens’ draft picks including first-round linebacker C.J. Mosley and fourth-round running back Lorenzo Taliaferro. Third-round tight end Crockett Gillmore was one of the most impressive players on the field as he showed good hands in catching several passes.

Mosley was vocal while running the defensive huddle, and most expect him to immediately start next to veteran Daryl Smith in the 3-4 base defense.

“The first impression is that he seems very comfortable in a defense,” Harbaugh said. “He understands the game very well. He’s been really well-coached, obviously, down [at Alabama]. That was a big plus coming out.”

Harbaugh made it clear that there was no time to ease the rookies into action with the draft taking place two weeks later this year.

The mental preparation of learning an NFL system understandably takes time, but the physical rigors of playing at the next level were felt by the rookies immediately, according to the head coach.

“We go right at it as much as we can,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not real football. It’s not tackling and all that, but we try to throw a bunch on them mentally and really physically as well in terms of the running. Lorenzo Taliaferro told me that he had never been so sore in his life without hitting. I said, ‘Yeah, we run a lot in the NFL.’”

Lewis-Moore ready to show he belongs

The Ravens selected Notre Dame defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore in the sixth round of the 2013 draft fully knowing that his rookie year would essentially be a redshirt season after he suffered a torn ACL in the national championship game that January, but they’re hoping to reap the fruits of that long-term investment beginning this season.

Now 16 months removed from the injury and taking part in this weekend’s rookie camp, Lewis-Moore is out to prove why he was a well-regarded NFL prospect and to find his place in the defensive line rotation.

“I don’t have to relearn too much. We’re all football players and the game comes back to us pretty quick,” said Lewis-Moore, who briefly practice on a limited basis for a three-week period last season. “The first practice, I was a little rusty with my technique, but the afternoon practice was better. It’s going to be really competitive.”

The 6-foot-4, 310-pound defensive lineman collected 40 tackles and six sacks in his senior season to help lead the Fighting Irish defense to the national championship game against Alabama.

Other veteran players taking part in rookie minicamp included tight end Matt Furstenburg, wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard, quarterback Nick Stephens, and lineman Cody Larsen, who were all members of the 2013 practice squad.

Injury report

Fourth-round defensive end Brent Urban (offseason ankle surgery) and sixth-round wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring strain) were present but did not participate in Saturday’s practice.

Third-round safety Terrence Brooks was excused from the team as he and his fiancée welcomed the birth of their son on Friday, but Harbaugh complimented the former Florida State defensive back’s work from earlier in the week.

The Ravens coach also said that left guard Kelechi Osemele (back surgery) was participating fully in the offseason training program and that running back Bernard Pierce (shoulder surgery) should be ready to go by the start of training camp.

“[Bernard's] been allowed to move around a little bit, but we just can’t risk him falling on it right now and getting a setback,” Harbaugh said. “So, you’re probably looking at training camp for him, which shouldn’t be an issue as long as you don’t get a setback.”

Two more draft picks sign

The Ravens announced the signings of second-round defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and Urban to their rookie contracts on Saturday afternoon.

The only draft picks who remain unsigned were Mosley and Brooks despite the draft only being completed last weekend.

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Ravens issue jersey numbers to 2014 draft class

Posted on 12 May 2014 by Luke Jones

The Baltimore Ravens announced Monday which jersey numbers they’ve assigned their 2014 draft class of nine rookies.

Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley was not only taken with the 17th overall pick in the first round but his jersey number will garner the most attention as he will wear No. 57, which was last worn by Bart Scott and is obviously associated with former Ravens linebacker and current senior advisor of player development O.J. Brigance. The Alabama rookie acknowledged the privilege of wearing the number via his verified Twitter account on Monday afternoon.

The only other jersey number choice of interesting note is second-round defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan being assigned No. 97, which was worn by former Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones for the last four years before he signed with the Indianapolis Colts earlier this offseason.

Here is a complete list of the jersey numbers assigned to the 2014 draft class:

LB C.J. Mosley – No. 57
DT Timmy Jernigan – No. 97
FS Terrence Brooks – No. 33
TE Crockett Gilmore – No. 80
DE Brent Urban – No. 96
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro – No. 34
OL John Urschel – No. 64
QB Keith Wenning – No. 10
WR Michael Campanaro – No. 6

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Ravens’ 2014 draft may prove strong, but immediate questions remain

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Ravens’ 2014 draft may prove strong, but immediate questions remain

Posted on 11 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Assessing the Ravens’ 2014 draft now is akin to judging a gift based solely on its wrapping paper.

Only time will tell how many of their nine selections will pay dividends in 2014 and beyond. Even assistant general manager Eric DeCosta acknowledged recently that the evaluation process is as much art as it is science — and luck — with a number of variables ranging from talent and intelligence to health and work ethic determining how successful a player will be.

But the initial reaction to what the Ravens accomplished over the weekend and how it specifically relates to the 2014 season? Underwhelming and redundant.

It has little to do with questioning the quality of players they selected as much as it felt like a repeat of the 2013 draft with an overwhelming emphasis on defense — at the same positions — for a second consecutive year. After selecting a safety (Matt Elam), an inside linebacker (Arthur Brown), and a defensive tackle (Brandon Williams) with their first three picks last year, general manager Ozzie Newsome grabbed an inside linebacker (C.J. Mosley), a defensive tackle (Timmy Jernigan), and another safety (Terrence Brooks) with his first three selections over the weekend.

“You never know what kind of shape the draft is going to take,” DeCosta said Saturday evening. “We go into it blind, and this just ended up being really a draft about substance. We got guys that we think are going to be here for a long time and are going to help us win games. They’re guys in the fourth quarter that should be big-time players for us over time.”

It would be unfair to strongly doubt the talents of Mosley or Jernigan — two players viewed as top 20 talents by more than a few draft pundits — or the potential of Brooks to become defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ starting free safety as early as this coming season. But it is reasonable to question what the selections of Mosley and Jernigan mean for Brown and Williams, two players many expected to step into starting roles this season.

Of course, the Ravens would privately tell you they’ve found the eventual successors for veterans Daryl Smith, Haloti Ngata, and even Chris Canty after grabbing 5-technique defensive end Brent Urban with their first choice on Day 3 of the draft. But that doesn’t sound like dramatic improvement for this season as the Ravens try to bounce back from an 8-8 record and the first non-playoff season of the John Harbaugh era.

While no one would confuse the league’s 12th-ranked defense with the 2000 Ravens a year ago, it was the offense that was the biggest culprit that needed major reconstructive surgery this offseason.

It’s true that the Ravens have already worked to address the league’s 29th-ranked offense with the hiring of new coordinator Gary Kubiak, the free-agent additions of 35-year-old receiver Steve Smith and 31-year-old tight end Owen Daniels, and the trade for Tampa Bay center Jeremy Zuttah, but the need for a right tackle and the desire for another impact pass-catcher virtually went untouched this weekend. Yes, the Ravens will always take the best talent available, but the fact that they’ve taken only one offensive player in the first three rounds in the last two years — out of a total of seven choices — is concerning for that side of the football.

Third-round tight end Crockett Gillmore has encouraging upside, but many consider him more of a developmental prospect than someone ready to contribute this year behind Dennis Pitta and Daniels. And while the organization thinks fourth-round running back Lorenzo Taliaferro could be one of the steals of the entire draft, the 230-pound back will need to prove his accomplishments at FCS school Coastal Carolina will translate to the next level.

Are those additions enough to not just improve but dramatically improve what was an abysmal offense a year ago?

“We’re all laughing because the whole board was stacked toward the offense,” said Newsome at the conclusion of the third round. “But Eric has made the comment several times that we’re being contrary — everybody else in this league is drafting offensive players and we’ve been drafting defensive players. But it was stacked more toward the offensive side, but the way it fell for us, it’s been the defensive players.”

Truth be told, the Ravens are higher on second-year linemen Rick Wagner and Ryan Jensen than most assume as the former is currently projected to be the starting right tackle with the season just under four months away. But considering the albatross that was the offensive line for a franchise-worst running game a year ago, Penn State guard John Urschel being the lone lineman selected by Newsome — in the fifth round — understandably raises eyebrows.

And even after their other defensive additions, the Ravens’ decision not to draft a cornerback after the free-agent departure of Corey Graham will also put more pressure on Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson as they compete for the No. 3 corner spot.

That’s plenty of dependence on former late-round draft picks who’ve made little impact in their time with the Ravens.

“We need to give these young guys a chance,” Newsome said. “I think guys should fail on the field, so we’re going to give these guys the opportunity to fail on the field. That way we know whether they can [play] or not. But we feel real good about them. And the other aspect of that, bringing in a new set of coaches, and they’re getting a chance to put their eyes on them, and they feel good about the young guys that we drafted last year.”

That message sounds contradictory to how some now view the 2013 selections of Brown and Williams after Mosley and Jernigan were picked in this year’s draft. There’s no shame in acknowledging Mosley and Jernigan as superior prospects on their board, but it’s only natural to wonder if the Ravens feel they whiffed on last year’s class more than they lead on.

Make no mistake, the draft should always be about the long run, but that doesn’t prohibit a team from immediately improving its prospects for this season, which leaves this weekend with questions still unanswered.

The truth is the Ravens won a Super Bowl based largely on offense two years ago but have been more committed to improving the defensive side of the ball ever since. And though the defensive-minded Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl in February, the Ravens’ tireless dedication to defense doesn’t appear to mesh with what the league has become as DeCosta even pointed out over the weekend.

“We’ve added a nice influx of young defensive talent,” DeCosta said. “We’ve always been known as a team that has prided itself on defense. This is a blue-collar community, and I think they’re going to enjoy watching these guys play.”

Maybe so, but fans will also continue to hold their breath about the offense until the Ravens prove otherwise.

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C.J. Mosley’s great, but Ravens’ draft class will be defined by who they take next

Posted on 09 May 2014 by johngallo

It’s a great start. But one player rarely makes for a great draft class.

It’s not surprising the Ravens took C.J. Mosley, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound inside linebacker out of the University of Ozzie Newsome, I mean Alabama.

What’s not to like: He runs a 4.63 40-yard dash and can jump 35 inches. He was one of the best linebackers available in the draft – one so good the Ravens would have picked him as high as No. 10, if you believe Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta.

“There’s no question in my mind that he’s going to be ready to play from Day 1,” Newsome, the general manager, said.

Mosley won The Butkus Award in 2013, given to the nation’s top college linebacker, after posting 108 tackles, forcing a fumble and defending five passes for the Crimson Tide.

“He’s the one guy that you can’t find anyone to say anything bad about him – how reliable, accountable and dependable he is on and off the field,” Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said.

Coach John Harbaugh agreed.

“You’re going to love him,” he said. “You’re going to love his work ethic. You’re going to love his personality. He’s going to be in here Monday ready to go to work.”

Mosley is the sixth inside linebacker on the roster, but he was simply too good to ignore.

“We know we got better as a football team because of the way C.J. plays,” Newsome said.

Yes, Baltimore should be better with Mosley, but whether the Ravens can transform from a mediocre, 8-8 team to one that makes the playoffs will be determined by who they add with their final seven picks.

The Ravens have the Nos. 48 (second round), 79, 99 (third rounds), 134, 138 (fourth rounds), 175 (fifth round) and 194 (sixth round) picks, so they have plenty of chances to fill glaring weaknesses.

Here are three areas the Ravens must address:

Offensive line: If the season started tomorrow, who would start at right tackle? Raise your hand if you had Ricky Wagner, a fifth-round pick who played in all 16 games with two starts as a rookie last year. Upgrading an offensive line that was terrible in protecting Flacco and just as bad in creating holes for Ray Rice is critical if the Ravens are going to return to the playoffs. The Ravens have been superb at picking offensive linemen in the first round. Ogden (1996) played in 11 Pro Bowls and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame, while Ben Grubbs (2007) made one. The odd man out: Oher, who never lived up to his lofty expectations and signed with the Titans during the offseason.

Options:

Rounds: 2-4: Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA, 6-4, 307; Cyrus Kouandijo, Alabama, 6-7, 332; Morgan Moses, West Virginia, 6-6, 312; Jack Mewhort, Ohio State, 6-6, 309; Antonio Richardson, Tennessee, 6-6, 236; Cameron Fleming, Stanford, 6-5, 323; Billy Turner, North Dakota State, 6-5, 315; Michael Schofield, Michigan, 6-7, 301.

Rounds 5-6: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, McGill, 6-5, 298; Justin Britt, Missouri, 6-6, 325; Seantrel Henderson, Miami, 6-7, 331; Matt Patchan, Boston College, 6-6, 302.

My pick: Richardson.

Safety: The Ravens’ bolstered the position by signing former St. Louis Ram Darian Stewart in free agency. Stewart played in 13 games (six starts) last season, when the 5-foot-11, 216-pounder made 36 tackles. The Ravens need someone to replace James Ihedigbo, who signed with Detroit during the offseason. The Ravens drafted Matt Elam in the first round last year as they try to find the next Ed Reed, a future Hall of Famer and former defensive player of the year who made eight Pro Bowls.

Options:

Rounds 2-4: Brock Vereen, Minnesota, 6-0, 199; Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin, 6-0, 211.

Rounds 5-6: Craig Loston, LSU, 6-1, 217; Vinnie Sunseri (recovering from torn ACL), Alabama, 5-11, 210; Ahmad Dixon, Baylor, 6-0, 212; Tre Boston, North Carolina, 6-0, 204.

My pick: Loston.

Running back: Rice, Bernard Pierce and Bernard Scott – that’s the Ravens’ depth chart at the position right now. If the Ravens enter the season with that Holy Trinity of Mediocrity, Flacco might have to throw until his arm falls off if the Ravens are to make a deep run in the playoffs. Rice, Pearce and Scott combined for 373 carries for 1,110 yards – an average of 2.9 yards per carry – and six touchdowns. If that happens this season, the Ravens will have a really high draft pick in 2015.

Options:

Rounds 2-4: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State, 6-0, 230; Bishop Sankey, Washington, 5-10, 209; Tre Mason, Auburn, 5-9, 207; Jeremy Hill, LSU, 6-1, 233; Andre Williams, Boston College, 5-11, 230; Terrance West, Towson, 5-9, 225; Devonta Freeman, Florida State, 5-8, 206; Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona, 5-9, 207.

Rounds 5-6: Charles Sims, West Virginia, 6-0, 214; Lache Seastrunk, Baylor, 5-10, 201; Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern, 5-9, 209; James White, Wisconsin, 5-9, 204; De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon, 5-9, 174

My pick: Thomas.

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Ravens select Alabama linebacker Mosley with 17th overall pick

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Ravens select Alabama linebacker Mosley with 17th overall pick

Posted on 08 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continued a trend of drafting Alabama players in recent years with the selection of inside linebacker C.J. Mosley as the 17th overall pick of the 2014 draft Thursday night.

Despite rumors of possibly trading back and obvious needs at free safety and right tackle, general manager Ozzie Newsome tabbed Mosley as the first inside linebacker the Ravens have taken in the first round since future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis in 1996. The 2013 Butkus Award winner and Southeastern Conference Player of the Year is the second Alabama linebacker drafted by the Ravens in the last three years, joining outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw.

“It was a great vibe from the Alabama connection that I have [with] the Ravens,” Mosley said in a conference call. “Visiting there, talking to all the coaches, visiting staff, it was nothing but good vibes. I’m pretty sure that helped them make their choice a little bit easier. I’m just excited to get there now.”

Mosley led the Crimson Tide in tackles in each of the last two seasons and was praised by the Ravens’ brass Thursday night for his athleticism and leadership qualities as he served as a team captain. The biggest question mark about Mosley has been durability, but the Ravens felt comfortable that previous shoulder, hip, and elbow injuries were no longer issues with their medical staff.

In his final season with Alabama, Mosley collected 108 tackles — nine of them going for losses — as well as five pass breakups and a forced fumble.

“Very smart, relentless player, fast, always involved,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “He can play the run, can play the pass [and] should be a great special-teams guy for us if we need him to do that. [He’s] just a relentless, smart, tough football player.”

Newsome said the Ravens received some calls about moving back in the first round, but they didn’t receive any value significant enough to strongly consider trading their 17th pick. When asked how Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix stacked up against Mosley on the Ravens’ board when they were on the clock, Newsome described the linebacker as their “clear-cut” choice among all available players.

Many projected Mosley to be off the board before the Ravens would pick in the middle of the first round, but the Alabama linebacker was on their radar as they met during the pre-draft process. He figures to be a logical fit to play the weak-side inside linebacker position in defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ 3-4 base alignment.

“There’s no question in my mind that he’s going to be ready to play from Day 1,” Newsome said. “The day he gets here on Monday, he’ll be ready to go out there and start to prepare himself to get ready for our first game against Cincinnati.”

Mosley joins what appears to be a crowded group of inside linebackers after the Ravens re-signed veteran Daryl Smith earlier this offseason and drafted Arthur Brown in the second round of the 2013 draft. The Alabama linebacker’s talent is clear, but his selection isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for Brown, who was limited to duties in the nickel package and special teams in his rookie season.

The 6-foot-2, 234-pound Mosley told the Baltimore media in a conference call that he grew up idolizing Lewis and an opportunity to finally meet him was something he was able to cross off his bucket list. Of course, Mosley being drafted in the first round by Baltimore will draw inevitable comparisons to his boyhood idol.

“I’m not trying to go in there and be the next [No.] 52 or anything like that,” Mosley said. “I’m going in there to be C.J. Mosley and help the team win.”

The Ravens selected Mosley a spot after coveted offensive tackle Zack Martin was selected by the Dallas Cowboys. Earlier this offseason, Baltimore lost a coin flip to Dallas to determine which team would receive the 16th selection.

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