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Twelve Ravens thoughts on Week 1 win over Buffalo

Posted on 12 September 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens kicking off the 2016 season with a 13-7 win over Buffalo on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Joe Flacco easily could have been satisfied with a win in his first game back from knee surgery, but you could tell he wasn’t pleased with the performance and the failure to further exploit “cover 0” looks from Buffalo. I like that kind of attitude in a quarterback.

2. No one envisioned Shareece Wright as the Week 1 defensive MVP after a rough preseason, but he was outstanding against the run with three tackles for a loss and 11 tackles overall. His confidence can be fleeting — as it is for many cornerbacks — but he played with plenty of it.

3. Much was made about 10 different Ravens players making catches, but you wonder if offensive coordinator Marc Trestman’s attempt to get so many players involved led to the clunky showing in the second half. Thirteen points were enough on Sunday, but this offense remains a work in progress.

4. It wasn’t surprising since he essentially took Carl Davis’ roster spot, but Michael Pierce being on the field with Brandon Williams gave the Ravens plenty of beef inside against a Buffalo running game that tried to avoid running between the tackles. That should really help in short-yardage situations.

5. After starting all last season, Kamar Aiken and Crockett Gillmore saw a total of three targets on Sunday. You can debate whether that’s a good thing or not, but it does illustrate how much deeper this group of pass catchers is.

6. The time is now for Timmy Jernigan to elevate his game as a third-year player. He collected a sack and had a tackle for a loss as a disruptive force up front. Improved discipline and health are the only factors holding him back from being an above-average starter.

7. The entire offensive line was less than stellar, but the struggles of Jeremy Zuttah stood out as a cadence issue led to a lost fumble on a snap and he whiffed blocking Jerry Hughes on a sack that ended another drive in the first half.

8. He’s received much criticism, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees put together an excellent game plan that left Tyrod Taylor confused and guessing as to who was rushing and who was dropping into coverage. The challenge will now be effectively disguising fronts and coverages every week.

9. You had to feel great for Steve Smith being back on the field after a horrible Achilles injury, but I’m sure he’d like to have more than 19 receiving yards on nine targets. It will be interesting to see how his role evolves with improved overall talent at receiver.

10. The whiff on a potential sack leading to Buffalo’s longest offensive play was ugly, but Albert McClellan played well against the run in Courtney Upshaw’s old spot. His tackle of Reggie Bush for a loss derailed Buffalo’s opening drive of the second half that ended with a missed field goal.

11. Mike Wallace offered the line of the day on his 66-yard touchdown catch when he said, “If you have a safety on me, he’s dead every time.” You have to love that kind of speed — and swagger — that was sorely lacking in this passing game a year ago.

12. It’s difficult to evaluate the pass rush as the Ravens wanted to keep Taylor in the pocket, but edge rushers didn’t generate consistent disruption against backup offensive tackles. Getting Elvis Dumervil back will certainly help, but Terrell Suggs will hopefully show more as he knocks off rust.

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Ravens “grateful” Dixon’s knee injury won’t sideline him for long

Posted on 29 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Running back Kenneth Dixon is expected to miss the start of the regular season, but the Ravens are relieved not to have lost the talented rookie for a longer period of time.

The fourth-round pick sustained a medial collateral ligament tear in his left knee when former Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata tackled him short of the goal line late in the second quarter of Saturday’s preseason game. The good news is that the injury did not require surgery and is expected to only cost Dixon about a month of action.

“It is going to be a loss for a little while,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “But I was grateful for the fact that it is not going to be more than a few weeks.”

Leading the Ravens with 107 rushing yards on 22 carries in the preseason, Dixon has turned more than a few heads despite beginning training camp behind Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, and Terrance West on the depth chart.

Though weighing only 212 pounds, Dixon has shown surprising physicality that’s impressed the coaching staff in addition to his quickness. Of course, the 22-year-old was a four-year starter at Louisiana Tech, making him more experienced that the typical rookie running back entering the NFL.

“A very mature player for his age — just a guy that always has a smile on his face,” Harbaugh said. “He always comes to work. He’s very eager to learn, and then he’s very elusive and very strong. I think he pushed the pile one time, along with some of his teammates, five or 10 yards. He’s a hard-running guy.I think he’s a guy that can create yards on his own. He also pass-protects, and he catches the ball. He’s got a chance to be really good.”

Dixon has shown plenty of promise, but this is the third injury for which he’s missed time since being drafted in April. A lingering hamstring issue kept him out for the start of spring workouts and a minor knee injury suffered on the first day of training camp sidelined him for about a week.

Faith in tight ends after losing Watson

Despite losing veteran and projected starter Benjamin Watson to a season-ending Achilles injury on Saturday night, Harbaugh is confident in his remaining tight ends.

Third-year tight end Crockett Gillmore is healthy again after missing the start of the summer with a hamstring injury and undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason. The Ravens are also expecting veteran Dennis Pitta (broken finger) and 2015 second-round pick Maxx Williams (undisclosed) to return to the practice field soon after lengthy absences in the month of August.

“Dennis has missed a lot of time, so we have to get him back out there,” Harbaugh said. “I do think he can practice and play with the time [before the season opener], but we have to get him out there. He was not out there today. Maxx Williams is going to be back out here practicing shortly. His issue, we had to rest it for a few weeks. He will be back out here practicing shortly after the New Orleans game.”

Harbaugh also said that second-year tight ends Darren Waller and Nick Boyle remain in the organization’s plans despite their pending suspensions to begin the regular season. Waller will miss the first four games while Boyle will serve a 10-game ban.

Perriman preview?

Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman only returned to practice on a limited basis last week, but Harbaugh hasn’t ruled out the possibility of the 2015 first-round pick receiving some live-game reps in the preseason finale, a game in which few starters play.

“If he can play, he will play,” Harbaugh said. “I do want to see him out there playing before he gets in a regular-season game. It would be something that we would want to see him do if we can. That will be up to the doctors.”

Perriman suffered a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in June after missing his entire rookie season with an injury to his right knee.

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Ten Ravens thoughts on first week of training camp

Posted on 02 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens approaching the end of their first week of training camp, I’ve offered 10 early thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Ravens have numerous injury questions, but Joe Flacco is looking less and less like one. Other than the brace on his left knee, you’d never know he’s eight months removed from surgery. He’s moving and throwing like he always did and says he’s not even thinking about the knee.

2. Everyone is rooting for Keenan Reynolds to make an impact after his brilliant career at Navy, but he’s a substantial work in progress. It’s still very early, but he hasn’t played with much confidence and has dropped more passes and kicks than you’d like to see even in practices.

3. With other running backs currently sidelined, Terrance West is taking advantage of the reps and has looked the part of a motivated young player vying for a significant role in the offense. West has shed 15 pounds from last season and is noticeably more explosive running the football.

4. After missing spring workouts to have the screws removed from his right foot, Jimmy Smith has had a quiet start. He hasn’t practiced poorly, but he’s still working his way back to full strength. The defense sorely needs him to return to his pre-surgery 2014 form this season.

5. An understated need in 2016 will be for Za’Darius Smith to become an impact player. He looks comfortable in pass coverage and has shown good pass-rush ability. If he can handle responsibilities formerly held by Pernell McPhee and Courtney Upshaw, less pressure falls on Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.

6. Though Jerraud Powers remains the favorite to play slot cornerback in sub packages, rookie Tavon Young has displayed good ball skills and has shown good aggression in coverage. He also looked smooth and fast returning a kickoff at Monday’s stadium practice. He’s someone to watch in the preseason.

7. Much has been written about Kamalei Correa competing to start at inside linebacker next to C.J. Mosley, but he plays with an edge, evident by the skirmishes on Monday. The Ravens need more attitude and higher-end talent, and Correa has a chance to bring both to the defense.

8. It’s unclear how much time he’ll miss, but it was a shame to see rookie receiver Chris Moore walking with his left foot in a boot on Monday. It was only a couple practices, but his acceleration going after the deep ball reminds a little bit of Torrey Smith.

9. It was interesting to see Justin Tucker repeatedly pop kickoffs into the air that landed inside the 5-yard line on Monday. With touchbacks on kickoffs moving to the 25, John Harbaugh said this offseason that the Ravens could alter their approach instead of just booting it through the end zone.

10. Crockett Gillmore has a rare combination of size and quickness that is fun to watch, but you wonder if his physical style of play will continue hindering his durability. He’s already had quite a few injuries in two-plus years with a hamstring strain the latest ailment to sideline him.

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Powers passes conditioning test, but others added to Ravens’ injury list

Posted on 30 July 2016 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of BaltimoreRavens.com)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Cornerback Jerraud Powers made his training camp debut after finally passing the conditioning test, but the Ravens added two to their growing list of absences on Saturday.

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan left the field with what appeared to be an upper-body issue and did not return in the second half of practice. His absence allowed Kapron Lewis-Moore to receive more reps along the first-team defensive line.

An unexplained absence from Saturday’s practice was rookie wide receiver Chris Moore, who was a standout performer in the first two days of training camp. There was no obvious sign of an injury on Friday as the University of Cincinnati product finished the entire practice and caught a long touchdown from quarterback Joe Flacco at one point.

Others missing from the workout included tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles) and Breshad Perriman (knee), and running backs Kenneth Dixon (knee), Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), and Trent Richardson (knee).

With an open roster spot after their initial agreement with offensive tackle Jake Long fell through, the Ravens signed punter Michael Palardy to their 90-man roster. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said Palardy being a left-footed punter added appeal to better evaluate a young group of candidates vying for the return specialist job while also preventing veteran Sam Koch from having to take too many reps.

Camp highlights

** Taking part in his first full-contact training camp practice in almost two years, tight end Dennis Pitta took a big hit from linebacker Zach Orr as he tried to catch a short pass, but he immediately popped back up without hesitation. Pitta is moving around smoothly over the first few days of camp.

** Serving as an inside linebacker in the starting base defense, rookie Kamalei Correa made an acrobatic one-handed interception on a Joe Flacco pass intended for tight end Maxx Williams down the seam. Correa has moved to the outside in sub packages, but he appears to be the very early favorite to start at inside linebacker next to C.J. Mosley.

** It was a sloppy day for the offense overall with bad snaps, dropped passes, and off-target throws from the first and second units, but running back Terrance West and wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Chris Matthews turned in good performances. Keenan Reynolds and Michael Campanaro were among the receivers who dropped passes.

** Matched up against speedy receiver Mike Wallace, cornerback Shareece Wright picked off Ryan Mallett in an 11-on-11 drill.

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Ravens tight end Gillmore to undergo MRI for hamstring injury

Posted on 29 July 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens tight end Crockett Gillmore will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam for a hamstring injury suffered in the latter half of Friday’s practice.

It’s unclear how Gillmore hurt himself, but he was spotted walking off the field with a member of the  training staff less than an hour before the conclusion of the morning workout. The third-year tight end was limited to 10 games last season as he dealt with back, shoulder, and calf ailments. He underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason, but the 2014 third-round pick returned for spring workouts.

The Ravens are fortunate to have a deep group of tight ends that also includes veterans Benjamin Watson and Dennis Pitta as well as second-year options Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle, Darren Waller, and Daniel Brown. Gillmore emerged as a legitimate threat at the position last year, catching 33 passes for 412 yards and four touchdowns.

“He’s just got to improve on everything, really,” said tight ends coach Richard Angulo about Gillmore’s development. “Execution of the small things. For him and all the other guys, I just want them to be great at all the little things. Stats and touchdowns are just byproducts of what you do with all the details.”

Early rookie standouts

The Ravens have only worked out in helmets, shells, and shorts over their first two days of training camp, but a pair of rookies have turned heads during the non-contact practices.

Wide receiver Chris Moore has shown impressive burst on vertical passes and caught a 60-yard touchdown from quarterback Joe Flacco on a play in which the rookie sprinted past cornerback Jimmy Smith. The fourth-round pick from Cincinnati has already made a number of plays down the field and has taken advantage of the current absences of older receivers on the roster.

“Chris made some plays today,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We made a little snafu in the secondary there. I was really happy that the offensive took advantage of it, and I was really ticked off that the defense let it happen. Such is the nature of training camp.”

Fourth-round cornerback Tavon Young also shined, intercepting a pass on a deflection in the middle of the field and picking off quarterback Ryan Mallett on a deep sideline pass intended for Kaelin Clay. With veteran slot cornerback Jerraud Powers still needing to pass his conditioning test, Young has receive dmore reps at the nickel spot with the first unit than veteran Kyle Arrington.

Steve Smith still on mend

Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith remains on the active physically unable to perform list and observed a few minutes of Friday’s practice, but it’s unclear when he will be ready to return to the field.

As Bleacher Report’s Dan Pompei noted in an excellent piece about Smith’s horrific injury and the long recovery, the 37-year-old’s right calf is still noticeably smaller than the left one after the muscle atrophied in the injured leg. This certainly isn’t abnormal, but it does illustrate how long and difficult the rehabilitation process has been and how Smith’s return to the practice field isn’t imminent.

Fortunately, Smith has just over six weeks until the season opener against Buffalo and the Ravens aren’t concerned with him returning in time to play in the preseason.

First fight

Running back Buck Allen and linebacker Patrick Onwuasor got into the first fight of the summer as Allen took a couple swings at the Portland State rookie after the two were engaged in an aggressive pass-blocking drill.

Order was quickly restored, but Onwuasor was the defensive player who shoved rookie running back Kenneth Dixon out of bounds on Thursday. Dixon suffered a Grade 1 MCL sprain and did not practice on Friday.

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Five Ravens questions ahead of mandatory minicamp

Posted on 10 June 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will hold their three-day mandatory minicamp in Owings Mills next week, giving us our final look at John Harbaugh’s team before the beginning of training camp in late July.

Below are five questions pertaining to the Ravens as they conclude spring workouts:

1. How will Eugene Monroe look and where will he fit in?

We’ve heard at length — and then some — about the maligned left tackle’s stance on medical marijuana this offseason, but he revealed this week via Twitter that he’s finally been cleared to play after undergoing shoulder surgery in December, meaning he should be on the field for mandatory minicamp. It was telling how coach John Harbaugh alluded to 2016 first-round pick Ronnie Stanley playing exclusively at left tackle during organized team activities, so what will that mean with Monroe back at practice this coming week? Many continue to doubt whether the oft-injured veteran will be on the roster come September, but it will be interesting to see how he’s handled in the meantime.

2. Will Terrell Suggs break his lengthy silence?

It’s been nine months since the outside linebacker tore his left Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter of the season-opening loss to Denver, and we’ve yet to hear from him to any meaningful degree regarding his health and where he stands mentally entering his 14th year in Baltimore. The Ravens have given no indication that the 33-year-old will be on the field for minicamp, but he has been at the team’s Owings Mills facility working out during OTAs, an encouraging sign in terms of where he is mentally for the 2016 season. Considering how introspective he was talking about the twilight of his career a year ago, Suggs will inevitably be asked whether this could be his final year whenever he does talk to the media.

3. How are the reps divided for the Ravens’ deep group of tight ends?

Crockett Gillmore saying Baltimore had the best collection of tight ends in the NFL sparked debate, but it was interesting how he acknowledged that the Ravens will likely be forced to let go of a couple NFL-caliber tight ends due to numbers. Gillmore, veteran Benjamin Watson, and 2015 second-rounder Maxx Williams are roster locks, but the Ravens must evaluate what kind of player Dennis Pitta is after two serious hip injuries and have intriguing young options in converted receivers Darren Waller and Daniel Brown and the suspended Nick Boyle. With Watson possibly only in Baltimore one year and Pitta’s health a major question, you’d hate to lose a promising option or two for the future.

4. What will Breshad Perriman show us over the three-day period?

Though the 2015 first-round pick was a full participant in both OTA days open to media, it will be interesting to see how he performs over three full-squad practices next week. Perriman looks healthy as he easily sprinted past defensive backs on several occasions on Tuesday, but his development is far from finished after missing so much time with the knee injury during his rookie season. Maybe it’s putting too much pressure on a 22-year-old who’s been through a lot this offseason, but you can’t help but think Perriman could be one of the biggest X factors in determining whether the Ravens return to being a dangerous playoff contender in 2016 or are more of a team fighting to finish .500 or so.

5. Can Trent Richardson provide some substance to accompany the attention he’s received?

We always look for captivating stories at this slow time of year in the NFL, but the attention being paid to a player who was out of the league entirely during the 2015 regular season has felt excessive, especially when there are five running backs ahead of him on the depth chart. Anyone can appreciate a redemption story, but Richardson already tweaked a hamstring before OTAs even began and rarely showed good field vision in Cleveland or Indianapolis when those teams weren’t already displeased with his weight and conditioning. It’s admirable for Richardson to have goals that still include making the Hall of Fame, but there was a reason no one wanted him after being cut by Oakland last summer.

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Offensive position battles aplenty for Ravens at start of OTAs

Posted on 24 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are holding their first organized team activities this week and with them come plenty of questions as on-field preparations begin for the 2016 season.

Few conclusions can be drawn from the voluntary workouts that will be conducted without a number of veterans, but the practices will provide an early look at some players returning from injuries as well as rookies competing with established NFL talent for the first time. Thursday’s workout will be open to media to conclude the first week.

Coming off their worst season in nearly a decade, the Ravens have plenty of jobs up for grabs on both sides of the ball.

Here is a look at the top offensive competitions:

1. Left tackle

The candidates: Eugene Monroe, Ronnie Stanley

The reality: With Monroe continuing his crusade for medical marijuana in Las Vegas this week, the rookie first-round pick Stanley should receive extensive opportunities at left tackle. If he proves to be more than ready to handle the job, general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh can feel better about the possibility of letting the oft-injured Monroe go and saving $6.5 million in salary.

2. Left guard

The candidates: Ronnie Stanley, John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, Vlad Ducasse Alex Lewis

The reality: This spot is directly tied to left tackle as Stanley would appear to be the slam-dunk choice to start should the Ravens keep Monroe for 2016. If Stanley plays tackle, the other four will compete for Kelechi Osemele’s old spot with Ducasse holding the experience edge with 22 career NFL starts, but both Urschel and Jensen have fared well at guard when given the chance to play there in the past.

3. Running back

The candidates: Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Trent Richardson

The reality: The veteran Forsett is the early favorite to start, but the size of this list reflects how wide open this competition could be. There is plenty of depth, but the question will be whether there is enough high-impact talent to make the running game thrive and not just a collection of No. 2 and No. 3 backs. At the very least, Allen and Dixon give Joe Flacco two attractive options as receivers out of the backfield.

4. Tight end

The candidates: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta

The reality: All eyes will be on Pitta — with fingers crossed — as he is serious about returning to action, but it’s impossible to know what kind of player he can be after two serious hip injuries. Is the veteran newcomer Watson the favorite to start after a career year in New Orleans or will Gillmore build on his encouraging 2015? The 2015 second-rounder Williams could also be ready to take a big step forward.

5. Wide receiver

The candidates: Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman

The reality: We don’t figure to get a look at Smith until training camp, but Perriman will be intriguing to watch after missing his rookie season with a knee injury. Perriman and Wallace are better speed complements to Smith’s skill set, but it would be unwise to overlook Aiken after his 2015 campaign. The next tier of receivers that includes rookies Chris Moore and Keenan Reynolds, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Chris Matthews, and Daniel Brown will be competing for the last couple roster spots.

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Harbaugh updates health of Gillmore, Flacco, Perriman, Suggs

Posted on 22 March 2016 by Luke Jones

While speaking at length about the tragic death of cornerback Tray Walker as well as NFL rules changes and instant replay, Ravens coach John Harbaugh also provided health updates on several players at the league meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. on Tuesday morning.

Tight end Crockett Gillmore continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery, but the Ravens learned recently that he would not need surgery for torn labrums in both shoulders as was previously thought. Gillmore’s uncertain status as well as the 10-game suspension of second-year tight end Nick Boyle prompted Baltimore to sign veteran Benjamin Watson two weeks ago, but their 2015 starting tight end appears to no longer be a question mark for the start of the coming season and could even be back on the practice field for organized team activities this spring.

“It turned out that as time went on, the other shoulder didn’t need to be done,” Harbaugh said. “He’s had one shoulder done, and they say now that the other one does not need to be done. He’s going to be fine, probably for OTAs — certainly for training camp. That [information came] within the last two weeks, so that was great news for us.”

Meanwhile, quarterback Joe Flacco remains “right on schedule” to be ready for training camp, but Harbaugh reiterated that the Ravens will “just have to see how he feels” as they move closer to the summer.

Second-year wide receiver Breshad Perriman continues to rehab from a partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, but the Ravens are still saying that the 2015 first-round pick should be ready for spring workouts. Of course, observers will remain skeptical until the Central Florida product is back on the practice field and can prove he is healthy after initially injuring his knee on the first full day of training camp last July and suffering a setback in late September.

“The expectation for Breshad is to be back for OTAs,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know what percentage [the knee] is right now, but I know that everybody seems to be happy with his progress. He looks strong. I’ve seen him in there a few times in rehab. Everybody tells me that he’s right where he should be.”

Meanwhile, Harbaugh offered an update on veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the season opener last Sept. 13 and didn’t have extensive contact with the organization after the injury. The 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors in Arizona earlier this month for driving with a suspended license and failing to notify after striking a fixture.

The fact that Suggs was still in a walking boot when he stood on the Ravens’ sideline during their Week 16 win over Pittsburgh raised some eyebrows regarding his recovery last December, but the organization continues to express an optimistic outlook for his 2016 status. The six-time Pro Bowl selection will be entering his 14th season and turns 34 in October.

“Just texting with Terrell back and forth and talking to Mark Smith, he seems to be on schedule,” Harbaugh said. “I have not seen him, so I have not done my own eyeball test yet. Terrell’s going to work hard. He’s going to be ready.”

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As free agency opens, new concern becomes apparent for Ravens

Posted on 09 March 2016 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens entered the offseason, one of the few strengths of a 5-11 team appeared to be its depth at tight end.

Even with the serious doubts surrounding Dennis Pitta’s future in Baltimore, the position consisted of 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore and 2015 draft picks Maxx Williams (second round) and Nick Boyle (fifth round). The trio combined to make 83 receptions for 833 yards and five touchdowns, making one assume that tight end was one of the few spots on either side of the ball that general manager Ozzie Newsome didn’t need to touch.

Then came last month’s news of Boyle being suspended for the first 10 games of the 2016 season for a second violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The following week at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh revealed that Gillmore — who finished the 2015 season on injured reserve with a back injury — needed surgery for torn labrums in each of his shoulders.

Newsome said Gillmore would “hopefully” be ready for the start of training camp in late July, but the executive’s moves at the start of free agency make you wonder if concerns are even greater than he and Harbaugh indicated late last month.

The signing of veteran tight end Benjamin Watson to a two-year, $7 million contract was surprising because of the Ravens’ typical patience at the start of free agency, but it still made sense with Boyle gone until late November and the offense’s heavy reliance on tight ends. Even at age 35, Watson caught a career-high 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns with New Orleans last season and brings strong character and leadership to a position with very young talent.

But Newsome followed that acquisition with the surprising tender of restricted free agent Chase Ford, who didn’t play a snap for the Ravens last year and was sent to IR shortly after being signed in mid-November. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Ford caught a combined 34 passes for Minnesota in 2013 and 2014, but the $1.671 million low tender is steep for a player who didn’t play a snap last year and was on the Vikings practice squad before Baltimore signed him.

To be clear, the right-of-first-refusal tender isn’t guaranteed, but that amount currently counts toward the salary cap and it’s no secret that the Ravens don’t have an abundance of room to maneuver. Perhaps the organization thinks Ford is a diamond in the rough, but it’s more likely a reflection of the uneasiness about Gillmore’s status for the start of the season.

The Ravens are already facing the brutal reality of Pitta retiring or releasing him with either outcome leaving a total of $6.6 million in dead cap space that will likely be split over the next two seasons with a post-June 1 designation. But Boyle’s foolishness and Gillmore’s health concerns transformed one of the roster’s deepest positions into a concern on which Newsome felt compelled to act.

These may have been the right moves under the current circumstances, but a $32 million contract to Pitta and three draft picks had already been devoted to the position over the last two years before Watson and Ford were added to the picture over the last couple days, exhausting more resources at tight end.

And that’s a disappointing development when the Ravens have an assortment of needs on both sides of the ball and only so much cap space and so many draft picks to go around.

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Seven Ravens takeaways from NFL scouting combine

Posted on 28 February 2016 by Luke Jones

As the 2016 NFL scouting combine winds down in Indianapolis, we came away with plenty of headlines related to the Ravens as the countdown to the start of free agency and the new league year continues.

Below are seven takeaways from the week:

1. The Joe Flacco contract talks between the Ravens and agent Joe Linta have appeared to be more harmonious than expected. Given the acrimonious negotiations from three years ago, you had to wonder how willing Linta and Flacco would be to cooperate since they once again have all the leverage like they did in 2013 and didn’t have to touch the original six-year, $120.6 million deal. But more signs were pointing to an agreement eventually being reached as the weekend concluded in Indianapolis, which reflects the comments Flacco made earlier this winter in which he acknowledged wanting to win and his $28.55 million salary-cap figure making that difficult. Nothing is official, but the Ravens appear closer to gaining much-needed space to maneuver with free agency rapidly approaching.

2. On the other hand, Justin Tucker receiving the franchise tag early meant a deal wasn’t close. Tucker’s agent, Robert Roche, announcing on Friday that the kicker had been tagged wasn’t surprising after general manager Ozzie Newsome indicated on Wednesday that the Ravens would use it if a long-term agreement wasn’t reached. The organization hasn’t announced the move — probably because it doesn’t want the $4.572 million franchise amount to kick in against the cap any earlier than Tuesday’s deadline — but the early nature of the decision reflects how far apart the sides remained. The Ravens have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal with Tucker before he must play out 2016 for the tag amount, but it would be in Newsome’s best interest to strike a deal sooner rather than later to clear cap room.

3. Baltimore sounds perfectly convinced that Lardarius Webb will be the answer at safety this season. Despite the 30-year-old having a $9.5 million cap figure for the 2016 season, the Ravens were once again adamant that they view Webb as a starting safety. Asked whether he was comfortable with Webb having a cap number that would put him among the most expensive safeties in the league, Newsome went as far as to say it’s a “very good number” when you consider what this offseason’s top safeties are expected to fetch on the open market. Still, it’s a risky assumption to think Webb will play at a level deserving of that kind of price tag. What the Ravens’ stance might mean for the roster standing of other safeties such as Kendrick Lewis, Will Hill, and Matt Elam will be interesting to watch.

4. Concerns remain about wide receiver Breshad Perriman. It’s been seven months since the 2015 first-round pick partially tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first day of training camp, but Newsome indicated he has yet to be fully cleared, which is an all-too-familiar update. The general manager noted Perriman’s smile and good spirits around the team’s Owings Mills training facility in recent weeks, but Newsome only saying he anticipates “at some point this spring that he’ll be out there ready to play” leaves plenty of room for doubt. The Ravens should be looking for another speed receiver to add to the mix, but the passing game needs Perriman on the practice field as much as possible since we’re talking about a player who isn’t yet a proven commodity at the NFL level.

5. The tight end position suddenly doesn’t look so deep anymore. Even with Dennis Pitta likely to be cut if he doesn’t retire, the Ravens appeared to be in great shape at the position. But with the suspended Nick Boyle’s “double down on dumb” — in John Harbaugh’s words — and Crockett Gillmore undergoing surgery on each shoulder that could sideline him into training camp, the Ravens may need to add another tight end to the mix after all. There is plenty of talent at this position, but Gillmore’s health concerns and Boyle’s ban for the first 10 games of the regular season will leave Maxx Williams as Baltimore’s only sure option during spring workouts. The team could re-sign a fringe guy like Konrad Reuland, but drafting a tight end in the later rounds now appears more likely than it did a few weeks ago.

6. Depth at running back won’t be a problem. The group could grow if 2012 first-round pick Trent Richardson is added to the mix, but Harbaugh reiterated on Thursday that Justin Forsett “certainly fits the bill” of a starter and is “absolutely” expected to be part of the team in 2016. Of course, you never know for sure with the Ravens’ cap situation, but that should answer questions about his roster standing as he carries a $3.7 million cap figure for the coming season. The Baltimore coach didn’t go as far as anointing Forsett his starter for 2016, but you just didn’t see quite enough from Buck Allen as a rookie to assume he’s ready to become a No. 1 back. It will be fun watching a group that already includes Forsett, Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Terrance West compete for playing time this summer.

7. It’s all about the defense in this draft. The Ravens have needs on both sides of the ball after a 5-11 season, but the combine reiterated just how deep this draft is with defensive talent compared to the other side of the ball. Many mock drafts continue to link Baltimore to Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley — especially if Kelechi Osemele isn’t re-signed — but there are so many directions Newsome can go in finding a high-impact defensive player. Whether staying put at No. 6 or moving up or down in the first round, there are intriguing pass rushers (Joey Bosa, Noah Spence, and Shaq Lawson), talented cornerbacks (Jalen Ramsey, Vernon Hargreaves, and Mackensie Alexander), and even a dynamic linebacker (Myles Jack) who could be sitting there for a defense in need of a game-changing talent.

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