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Even with chip on shoulder, Jernigan recognizes perfect fit with Ravens

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Even with chip on shoulder, Jernigan recognizes perfect fit with Ravens

Posted on 16 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Based on last week’s conference call and his first meeting with the media in Owings Mills on Friday, it’s clear that Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan has a chip on his shoulder.

Slipping to the second round and the 48th overall selection before general manager Ozzie Newsome finally snatched him up, Jernigan is out to silence criticism over a diluted drug test sample at the NFL scouting combine in February and doubts over whether he has the size and stamina to thrive at the next level despite a successful career at Florida State. The Ravens have said they were comfortable with Jernigan’s explanation for his diluted sample — claiming he was counteracting problems with cramping and dehydration — and graded the 6-foot-2, 300-pound lineman as a first-round talent on their draft board.

They now hope he — along with 2013 third-round pick Brandon Williams — can help fill the void left behind by free-agent departure Arthur Jones along the defensive line. Jernigan is viewed as an option at either nose tackle or the 3-technique that lines up on the outside shoulder of the opposing guard.

“I just want to be the best I can be. It’s clear to see I was a great run-stopper in college,” Jernigan said. “I didn’t really get a chance to show off my pass-rushing abilities, because I played in a two-gap scheme. Now I feel like I’m in the right type of defense that is really going to turn me loose and showcase my ability.”

Jernigan was an Associated Press second-team All-American for the national champion Seminoles, collecting a career-high 63 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks in 2013. However, he will be expected to show more pass-rushing ability in addition to his strong play against the run that he displayed in college.

Some of the doubts about Jernigan are reminiscent of 2006 first-round pick Haloti Ngata, who was accused by some of taking plays off and not playing with full effort at the University of Oregon. Eight years and five Pro Bowl selections later, it’s safe to say the Ravens chose wisely in drafting Ngata to anchor their defensive line.

Now, Jernigan is looking forward to reaping the benefits from playing next to the 30-year-old lineman.

“It’s a blessing to play with another great defensive tackle,” Jernigan said. “It’s a defensive lineman’s dream to be able to play with a great player beside him. It definitely will take a whole bunch of pressure off me, and he’ll definitely be a great person to learn from.”

Gillmore different breed at tight end position

The Ravens raised eyebrows by not selecting an offensive player until late in the third round of last weekend’s draft when Colorado State’s Crockett Gillmore was finally called.

Of course, tight end wasn’t considered a position of major need after the organization re-signed Dennis Pitta to a five-year contract and inked veteran Owen Daniels to a one-year deal earlier this offseason, but the desire to have a stronger blocker in the group made Gillmore — who began his college career as a defensive end — an attractive option. At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Gillmore will likely be in the mix immediately as a traditional tight end with Pitta and Daniels being better fits to move around in Gary Kubiak’s system.

“A tight end is a guy that can play any position on the field; he just happens to be a bigger body,” Gillmore said. “For me, I think of myself as a blocker with ability to catch the ball. I think championships are still won running the ball and playing defense. So, I’d much rather be considered a blocker that can catch than a receiver that can block.”

Baltimore hopes a season working behind both Pitta and Daniels will help transform Gillmore into a dangerous pass-catching threat in the years to come, but his ability to block would be a major asset to an offensive line that struggled immensely last season.

Undersized understudy

Seventh-round wide receiver Michael Campanaro is a feel-good story as a Clarksville, Md. native who went on to set Wake Forest’s all-time career mark for receptions, but it’s no secret that he faces an uphill battle to become a productive NFL receiver.

Standing only 5-foot-9, Campanaro doesn’t fit the mold of the perceived necessary stature to thrive at the next level, but the rookie won’t have to look far to find inspiration and tutelage from 35-year-old receiver Steve Smith, who shares the same height while catching more than 800 passes and accumulating more than 12,000 yards over the last 13 years.

“[When] I go out there and I’m with the receivers, Steve and I are definitely the smallest, shortest guys there,” Campanaro said. “He is a Hall of Fame receiver. He’s gotten it done for so many years. So, having a guy like that who I can learn from him and see the little things he does preparing with his game, it’s going to help out a ton.”

Campanaro figures to be in the mix as a punt returner as well as in the slot while Smith is expected to work primarily as an outside receiver as he did during his 13 years with the Carolina Panthers, but the Ravens hope the veteran can pass along a few tricks to help offset the obvious size disadvantage that the former Demon Deacon will encounter in not only trying to make the 53-man roster but to eventually contribute in the passing game.

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Colorado State HC McElwain thinks Raven Gillmore is rare natural TE in NFL

Posted on 12 May 2014 by WNST Audio

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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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Crockett Gillmore’s Agent Domann says his client had a lot of interest from teams in fourth round

Posted on 10 May 2014 by WNST Audio

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Ravens select Colorado State TE Gillmore with 99th overall pick

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Ravens select Colorado State TE Gillmore with 99th overall pick

Posted on 10 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens finally turned to the offensive side of the ball with their final pick of the third round Friday night in taking Colorado State tight end Crockett Gillmore with the 99th overall selection.

The 6-foot-6, 260-pound target is considered a strong receiver and turned heads at the East-West Shrine Game in January to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged Gillmore was on their radar at that point in time despite many pundits projecting him to be a late-round selection.

“I knew Baltimore’s needs and a few other teams, and they’re all right at the end of the third round,” Gillmore said in a conference call. “It was a good opportunity to be drafted there. To have this opportunity is unbelievable. I’m very excited to be a Raven.”

Gillmore began his career as a defensive end before moving to the tight end position where he 111 passes for 1,308 yards and eight touchdowns over three seasons for the Rams. In 2013, he made 47 receptions for 577 yards and two touchdowns and was a first-team all-Mountain West selection.

In new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system that relies so heavily on production from tight ends in the passing game, Gillmore will back up Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels as he learns from two productive pass-catching veterans.

“I’ve been watching Owen since I was a little kid,” Gillmore said. “And Dennis, he played at BYU, and [with me] being a Ram, he torched us a couple times. It’s been a great opportunity for me to watch those guys as a young college guy as it is, much less in the same room with them now.”

Baltimore will conclude the draft on Saturday with two fourth-round selections (134th and 138th overall), a fifth-round pick (175th overall), and a sixth-round choice (194th overall).

 

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