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B&B Big Story Banter: Preseason Week 2 Ravens Watch

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B&B Big Story Banter: Preseason Week 2 Ravens Watch

Posted on 15 August 2014 by Brett Dickinson

By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen

With the Baltimore Ravens heading into their second preseason game, there is still a lot of questions pertaining to the current roster. Injuries have plagued the practice field and concerns have arisen about the depth at certain positions.  Before the Ravens head to Jerry-World to face the Cowboys, we give you four Ravens to keep an eye on in Week 2 of the preseason.

Sammy Seamster (Cornerback)-Brett

Sammy SeamsterWith LarDarius Webb having a back injury, along with Asa Jackson leaving practice earlier this week, an already thin unit now has serious issues. Seamster is an undrafted rookie free agent, but had a legit shot to make the team before the depth chart began to look baron. Now with those injuries the Ravens brass will be counting on Seamster to play significant minutes for the rest of the preseason.

He has good size, standing at 6’0″ and ideal to play on the outside in most defensive alignments. He could even get some minutes against the ones for the Cowboys, which could help examine his merits against the likes of one of the best wide receivers in the league in Dez Bryant.  Either way, Dallas has a prolific offense that will be a test for the rookie and determine if he is ready to be the “next man up” or if general manager Ozzie Newsome needs sort through the waiver wire for another cornerback.

Albert McClellan (Inside Linebacker)- Barry

Albert McClellanWhile Brett watches the rookies, I will be watching the veterans. McClellan has been an unheralded player for the Baltimore Ravens since he made his debut three seasons ago. After signing as an undrafted free agent out of Marshall in 2010, McClellan made the transition from college defensive end to outside linebacker, carving his niche on special teams and proving his worth to coach John Harbaugh, who has a soft spot for the special teams units. McClellan also moved to inside linebacker when Ray Lewis fell victim to a triceps injury in 2012.

At the moment, McClellan finds himself buried on the team’s depth chart. With veteran Daryl Smith and  two top draft choices in C.J. Mosley and Arthur Brown guaranteed roster spots, McClellan will battle with Josh Bynes for playing time, and possible a roster spot. In order to solidify his position, McClellan must lead a young special teams unit, and show that he can still get to the quarterback from the inside linebacker position.

Crockett Gillmore (Tight End)-Brett

Crockett GillmoreThough he did not come down with a catch in the first preseason game, expect to see more from the rookie tight end against Dallas and their porous defense. With H-back Kyle Juszczyk proving to be an assest in the passing game in week one of the preseason, the team may be switching its direction at tight end. Even though he is known more as a blocker, Gillmore may be the big target the Ravens have been looking for on third down and in the red zone.

With veteran tight end Owen Daniels under-performing at camp, the Ravens could look to save his roster spot for a thinner position. If Gillmore can prove to be a weapon in the passing game, the organization may be inclined to stick with him as the primary backup to tight end Dennis Pitta.  With only 53 men available, every roster spot becomes that much more vital; if Gillmore fulfills both roles in the running and passing game, the Ravens have a cheaper option, while adding room for another piece at a different position.

Jah Reid (Guard/Tackle)- Barry 

After another disappointing season and an offseason that included an arrest, I thought that the Jah Reid era in Baltimore had finally come to a close. Apparently, the big man has other ideas. Reid has been getting second team repetitions at right tackle behind Rick Wagner, and has shed some weight to help ease the transition to tackle. The former third round pick out of Central Florida has yet to make the leap into the starting lineup that the team expected, but appears to be getting comfortable with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and offensive line coach Juan Castillo. While I still cringe at the thought of Reid competing to be the team’s starting right tackle, the  mantra “better late than never” applies.

The expectation for Saturday night’s game against the Cowboys is for Reid to continue to play with the second team, which could amount to two full quarters and somewhere between 4-6 offensive series. If Reid has a solid game, there’s a good chance that he sees some time with the first team offense moving forward. Following last year’s week 1 debacle against Denver, where Michael Oher went down early and Wagner was forced to play, the Ravens should ensure that Reid has experience playing next to the team’s best lineman in Marshal Yanda.

 

 

Listen to Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen every Saturday morning from 9a-12p on “The Brett and Barry Show”. 

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Ravens-Cowboys preseason primer: Five players to watch

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Ravens-Cowboys preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 15 August 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will try to build on an encouraging performance in their preseason opener as they travel to Texas to take on the Dallas Cowboys in their second preseason game of the summer.

Observers were abuzz over an impressive 10-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown in the starting offense’s only work of the night against San Francisco, but the Ravens have acknowledged throughout the week that they can’t put too much stock into one possession. Even with plenty of strides already taken throughout training camp to grasp new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system, there is plenty of work remaining before the Ravens kick off the regular season against Cincinnati on Sept. 7.

“You have an opportunity to really see progress,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “You’re in a crucible, and every single day, it’s all you do. It’s wall-to-wall football. It’s morning to night. You go to sleep and you wake up, and you’re back at football. There’s no escape. There’s nowhere to hide, [and] there’s nowhere to run. It’s all football all the time, so you make progress rapidly, but you have to because you have a long way to go.”

Harbaugh confirmed starters are expected to receive more playing time against the Cowboys than they did against San Francisco, but the first units will receive their most extensive work against Washington in the third preseason game next weekend.

The Ravens are expected to continue giving running back Ray Rice first-team reps along with top backup Bernard Pierce before focusing more on the latter next week with Rice suspended for the first two games of the regular season.

“Normally, in the second preseason game you get a quarter, maybe a little more than a quarter,” Harbaugh said. “Some of that will be individualized for different players; we’ll have some play counts for a few guys, including Joe [Flacco] and some of the defensive players. We’ll see how it goes, but basically, about a quarter is what you’re looking at — maybe more. It could get close to a half; it could even be a half for some of the starters.”

Saturday will be the first preseason meeting between the Ravens and the Cowboys, but Baltimore owns the 4-0 edge in the regular season and will be making its first visit to AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Ravens are 43-29 all-time in the preseason and have a 16-9 preseason mark in the Harbaugh era.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Saturday night’s game against Dallas.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is not expected to play in the second preseason game as he’s been sidelined with a lower back injury since July 25.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: CB Lardarius Webb (back), G Will Rackley (head), DT Terrence Cody (hip), DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles tendon), DE Brent Urban (knee)
DOUBTFUL: CB Asa Jackson (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Owen Daniels (unspecified)
PROBABLE: LB Daryl Smith (groin), S Brynden Trawick (back), OL Ryan Jensen (leg)

Five players to watch Saturday night

1. C Jeremy Zuttah

While many pointed to the success of right tackle Rick Wagner in the first preseason game, the new Baltimore center appeared to make calls at the line successfully as the starting offense ran the ball effectively and protected Flacco. Zuttah isn’t dramatically bigger than 2013 starter Gino Gradkowski, but he’s held up well physically as a run blocker and in pass protection. The offensive line will remain under heavy scrutiny through the early portion of the series, but the reviews for Zuttah have been positive and the overall concern at the center position last year at this time appears to be a distant memory.

“The thing about Jeremy, he is a professional in every way,” offensive line coach Juan Castillo said. “He is smart, and he studies the game. For him, too, it’s a different technique, and he’s been working very hard at the fundamentals and trying to do the things the way we do it here in Baltimore.”

2. S Terrence Brooks

It was no secret that Brooks was lagging behind in the competition at free safety due to concerns with him grasping the intricacies of the defense, but injuries to Webb and Jackson at the cornerback position have prompted the Ravens to take a look at the Florida State product in the nickel spot, a position he played with the Seminoles. The shift is more of a reflection on how shallow the cornerback depth is at this point, but Brooks may find the nickel and dime packages as his best chance to see the field for meaningful defensive snaps to start his rookie season.

“Everybody is an option right now. We’re just trying to find guys,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees on the No. 3 cornerback spot. “We’re moving guys around a little bit. We have two more games to experiment with where we want to put guys and see where they fit getting ready for the season. The first two games are [about] playing everybody [to] see what we have, and then after that, we have to start honing in. But we’ll move a bunch of guys around. Terrence is playing well; he’s playing hard. He’s a multi-position guy like all of our guys really are. It’s a possibility.”

3. WR Kamar Aiken

The 2013 practice squad member has turned plenty of heads and certainly took advantage of his opportunity in the preseason opener with four catches for 46 yards on six targets and 29 offensive snaps. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound wideout appears to be competing closely with Deonte Thompson for a potential roster spot, but Aiken has outplayed the incumbent member of the 53-man roster and can further improve his chances by building on what he did against the 49ers. Of course, special-teams contributions will play a major part in determining whether Aiken finds himself on the active roster.

“He is explosive and he’s big,” offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “I tell you, in all my years in the league, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen as competitive a situation as we have at receiver right now. I would have no chance telling John [Harbaugh] which five or six I would want right now, and that’s a good thing as a coach.”

4. DL DeAngelo Tyson

The 2012 seventh-round pick has been a steady member of the defensive line rotation in his first two seasons, but season-ending injuries to young defensive ends Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore may force the Ravens to use Tyson more exclusively at the 5-technique spot to spell veteran Chris Canty. The University of Georgia product can play multiple spots on the defensive line, so it will be a blow to their overall versatility in the trenches if Pees must use Tyson outside, but his presence has become much more important with the overall depth taking a hit this summer.

“The next guy will be up, and we’ll find a way to do it,” said Harbaugh about the injuries to Urban and Lewis-Moore. “There are always going to be injuries. You adapt, you adjust and you fill out your positions.”

5. TE Crockett Gillmore

The Ravens insist the veteran tight end Daniels isn’t injured, but it’s clear there are some physical concerns with him missing two straight practices following an off-day and not showing great separation while running routes in practices. These factors could open the door for Gillmore to receive more opportunities with the starting offense against Dallas and beyond. It’s been an inconsistent summer for the Colorado State product as a blocker and as a receiver, but that’s to be expected from a third-round pick who will be counted on to be used to some degree with neither Daniels nor starter Dennis Pitta considered particularly strong blockers.

“Crockett is a good football player,” Pitta said earlier this summer. “He’s a tough kid and he’s big and physical and a great blocker at the point of attack. I think that’s what stood out the most this early on. He’s going to be a valuable asset for this offense moving forward.”


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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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