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Mosley beginning to make game-changing impact for Ravens defense

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Mosley beginning to make game-changing impact for Ravens defense

Posted on 06 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The highlights were few and far between for the Ravens in Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley was seemingly all over the field.

Whether he was getting lower than lead blocker Jake Doyle to blow up a fourth-and-1 run by Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw on the opening drive of the game or maneuvering through blockers to minimize the damage on several short passes, there was a certain familiarity in watching the 2014 first-round pick make plays everywhere at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was almost — almost –  reminiscent of a certain inside linebacker who famously did it better than anyone for the vaunted Baltimore defense.

Mosley has a long way to go to routinely even be mentioned in the same breath as future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, but the sheer fact that many fans and media alike watching Sunday’s game made the comparisons spoke to how well he played in Sunday’s defeat. Finishing the game with 14 tackles, an interception, a quarterback hit, and a pass breakup, Mosley at least looked the part of the rookie version of Lewis in leading the defense in tackles and making several impressive plays throughout the afternoon.

“He had three screens out there where he made the tackles pretty much single-handedly,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “The posse was coming, but he was the guy there and weaved through blockers and made tackles. He tipped passes. He had [quarterback hits]. C.J. is playing really, really well.”

Mosley’s feel for the game has been praised from the moment the Ravens selected him with the 17th overall pick of May’s draft, but his game speed only gets better each week as he leads the team in tackles through the first five games of his NFL career. No, the University of Alabama product is not a finished product as he was beaten in coverage by tight end Dwayne Allen for a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but Mosley has quickly justified why general manager Ozzie Newsome elected to draft another inside linebacker with an early-round pick after taking Arthur Brown in the second round a year ago.

For a defense in transition and in need of game-changing youth with five key members of the front seven over the age of 30, Mosley appeared to be playing at a faster speed that everyone else on the field attempting to slow the Indianapolis offense.

“It’s all about knowing what you have to do, doing your job, and watching film,” Mosley said. “When you know what you’re doing, you can play fast like that.”

The Baltimore defense is still finding its way this season, trying to get more from its aging pass rush while also dealing with health issues and deficiencies in the secondary. Investing a plethora of high draft picks on the defensive side of the ball in recent years, the Ravens have seen mixed results with only Jimmy Smith emerging as a consistent game-changing player to this point.

It appears that Mosley is on his way to joining the top cornerback in that category, which is good news with perennial Pro Bowl players Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata nearing the end of their run as standout players. Coaches and teammates view Mosley as the kind of player who will never be satisfied with reaching a certain level of play, always expecting more from himself.

It’s a mindset that sounds awfully familiar as well.

“He’s not a guy that’s going to sit there and say, ‘OK, I had a couple good games, and I’ve arrived,’” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to want to stack that success and build a body of work up behind him. And that’s probably why he’s as good as he is right now. That’s how he looks at it.”

Having already impressed veteran teammates by cracking the top of the depth chart next to fellow inside linebacker Daryl Smith early in training camp, Mosley has been everything the Ravens expected as a three-down player only getting better as he gains more experience.

The Ravens’ overall play in Indianapolis was forgettable as they dropped their first road game of the season, but it was a standout performance by the rookie that will be remembered. And his showing against the Colts had teammates feeling the urgency to step up their own game to match him.

“I think he played phenomenal. We’ve all got to catch up to him,” Suggs said after Sunday’s loss. “He was out there making a lot of plays. We knew the kid was special coming in, and that’s why we brought him in and Ozzie drafted him. He had a hell of a day [Sunday].”

 

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 3

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 3

Posted on 16 September 2014 by Luke Jones

Every week, we’ll take a look at which Ravens players’ stock is rising and falling …

STOCK RISING

Justin Forsett
Skinny: Even though Bernard Pierce received most of the workload against Pittsburgh, you still get the sense that Forsett is more comfortable running in a zone-blocking system and the veteran is superior to Pierce in pass protection. His size and age make you think he’ll continue to be the complementary back in the Baltimore running game, but Forsett has already provided a nice return on a one-year contract that garnered little attention in the offseason.

Kelechi Osemele
Skinny: Any lingering concerns about the left guard’s ability to return from last season’s back surgery have been quelled after Osemele turned in an All-Pro performance against Cincinnati in Week 1. A key to offensive improvement in 2014 was better play from the interior line and Osemele, Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, and center Jeremy Zuttah have received the highest grades of anyone on the offense, according to Pro Football Focus.

Brandon Williams
Skinny: Though limited to only nine defensive snaps against Pittsburgh because the Ravens used their nickel package for most of the game, Williams has done exactly what the Ravens have asked of him by disrupting run plays with a good push at the line of scrimmage. The second-year nose tackle has even put a little heat on the quarterback in the rare opportunities he’s had to play in passing situations. 

Jeremy Zuttah
Skinny: His pass blocking hasn’t stood out, but Zuttah’s ability to get a strong push off the line of scrimmage has been evident on inside run plays through the first two weeks of the season. Sunday will mark his first road game with the Ravens, which will be a test in terms of making the proper protection calls with crowd noise being a factor, but it’s difficult not to be pleased with the sizable upgrade Zuttah has provided over last year’s starter Gino Gradkowski. 

STOCK FALLING

Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson
Skinny: These two are grouped together, because it’s apparent there will still be significant concern at the No. 3 cornerback position when Lardarius Webb does return. Brown is still too vulnerable in coverage on the outside while Jackson has missed several tackles from the nickel spot, factors that prompted the Ravens to use safety Matt Elam at the nickel position against Pittsburgh. It remains to be seen whether Jackson will be cleared to return Sunday from last week’s concussion.

Kyle Juszczyk
Skinny: The second-year fullback looked like he would carve out a nice role in the passing game based on his preseason play, but Juszczyk has been limited to just 43 snaps in two games and has been targeted only once as a receiver out of the backfield. Even more concerning has been his vulnerability as a lead blocker as he hasn’t been able to generate much of a push to create space for Pierce or Forsett to maneuver behind him. 

Daryl Smith
Skinny: His first season in Baltimore was a pleasant surprise, but the 32-year-old veteran’s struggles against the run late last season have carried over in the first two games of 2014 as he has struggled to shed blocks to make tackles closer to the line of scrimmage. Smith’s biggest strength is in pass coverage, but you do wonder if the Ravens’ inside linebackers will wear down against the run as the year goes on with the light C.J. Mosley playing next to the veteran in the starting defense. 

Marlon Brown
Skinny: One of the few bright spots in a horrendous offense last year, the second-year receiver has all but disappeared in Gary Kubiak’s system after seeing just three offensive snaps against the Steelers a week after being targeted only once. Drop-off was to be expected with Steve Smith, Owen Daniels, and a fully-healthy Dennis Pitta now in the mix, but the 6-foot-4 receiver struggled to grasp the offense over the summer and hasn’t even been a factor in the red zone through the first two games.

 

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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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Daryl Smith returns to field as Ravens take practice to Annapolis

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Daryl Smith returns to field as Ravens take practice to Annapolis

Posted on 04 August 2014 by Luke Jones

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Taking training camp on the road to the Naval Academy for their final full practice before their preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens saw inside linebacker Daryl Smith return to action Monday night.

The 32-year-old had been sidelined with a groin injury for the last five days of practice but worked on a limited basis as the Ravens practiced in helmets, shells, and shorts. With Smith having not practiced in a week, it remains unclear whether coach John Harbaugh will want the veteran to play in Thursday’s preseason game. In the Harbaugh era, veteran starters have typically played no more than a couple series in the first preseason game.

“We’re kind of in a standard plan right now, as far as that [goes],” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know exactly the number of plays yet, but it won’t be anything we haven’t done in the past.”

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (back), offensive lineman Will Rackley (concussion symptoms), rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (ribs), and defensive back Marrio Norman (undisclosed) did not participate in Monday’s practice. Webb has all but been ruled out for the first two preseason games and hasn’t practiced since July 25.

The Ravens breathed a sigh of relief with cornerback Jimmy Smith being back on the practice field after appearing to tweak his lower back Sunday and sitting out in obvious discomfort during the second half of the workout. Smith downplayed any concerns about his back following Monday’s practice.

“I’ll be ready to go whenever the time is [here],” he said.

Defensive tackle Terrence Cody remains on the active physically unable to perform list and isn’t expected to return to the practice field for at least a couple more weeks, according to Harbaugh.

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Jernigan returns to practice as Pitta, Dumervil sit out

Posted on 03 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have dealt with an array of injuries on the defensive side of the ball early in training camp but saw rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan return to the field on Sunday afternoon.

The second-round pick had been sidelined with back spasms since leaving the field Wednesday on the same play that saw rookie defensive end Brent Urban suffer a season-ending knee injury. Jernigan told head coach John Harbaugh a couple days ago he vowed to be ready to play in the preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night.

“They just eased me back in. I’ll be ready to go on Thursday,” Jernigan said after working on a limited basis Sunday. “I don’t want to miss any games. [There were] no setbacks. They just want me to be cautious.”

Harbaugh gave a day off to tight end Dennis Pitta and linebacker Elvis Dumervil as neither veteran was present for the start of Sunday’s practice but later came outside to observe.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (back), linebacker Daryl Smith (groin), offensive lineman Will Rackley (concussion), and wide receiver Michael Campanaro (ribs) were also absent. Harbaugh told reporters Saturday that Webb is likely to miss the first two preseason games as he continues to deal with lower back spasms.

There is no timetable for Rackley to return to the practice field after he suffered a concussion early in camp.

“For me, it’s just, ‘Is he ready to go or not?’” Harbaugh said. “With those concussion symptoms, they say he’s getting better and then he’s worse again. I don’t know.”

Defensive tackle Terrence Cody remains on the active physically unable to perform list as he works his way back from offseason hip surgery. Harbaugh told reporters it’s unlikely that Cody will be ready to begin practicing in the next couple weeks.

The Ravens worked out in full pads on Sunday and will travel to Annapolis to practice at the Naval Academy Monday night.

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D. Smith, Webb remain sidelined while Monroe, J. Smith sit out Friday’s practice

Posted on 01 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continued to be without a number of key veterans as left tackle Eugene Monroe and cornerback Jimmy Smith joined linebacker Daryl Smith and cornerback Lardarius Webb as non-participants during Friday’s practice.

It remains unclear whether Monroe or Jimmy Smith were dealing with injuries or were simply given a day off to rest as the Ravens worked in helmets, shells, and shorts. Webb continues to be sidelined with lower back spasms that first surfaced last Friday while Daryl Smith has been sidelined for three straight practices with a groin injury not considered to be serious.

Wide receiver Steve Smith was on the field but not taking part in practice as the Ravens appear to be holding back the 35-year-old from working too hard while he continues to impress this summer.

Offensive lineman Will Rackley (concussion) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (back spasms) were once again absent, and defensive tackle Terrence Cody remains on the physically unable to perform list following offseason hip surgery. Defensive end Brent Urban hasn’t officially been placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Wednesday.

Rookie wide receiver Jeremy Butler returned to the practice field after Thursday’s absence due to a groin strain. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, linebacker Terrell Suggs, and running back Justin Forsett all returned to practice after being awarded Thursday off by head coach John Harbaugh.

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens concerned about injury to DL Urban

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens concerned about injury to DL Urban

Posted on 30 July 2014 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens returned to practice Wednesday after their first off day of Training Camp for 2014.

The session was short for two rookie defensive linemen, both of whom were injured on the same play. DL Brent Urban had to be carted off the field after suffering an injury to his right knee. Urban was pancaked on the play by OL Jah Reid and appeared to suffer the injury during the course of the block. Away from that block, DL Tim Jernigan was also hurt-he limped off the field appearing to have injured his back.

Head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the injury to Jernigan, saying he “looks fine” after practice. The news did not appear to be as good for the team’s fifth round pick out of Virginia, as Harbaugh said the team was “a little more concerned about” the knee injury.

“We’re going to have to see, he’s going to get a MRI tonight” Harbaugh added. “We’ll just hope and pray for the best on that one.”

Center Jeremy Zuttah was also banged up during the course of practice but did not have to leave the session and Harbaugh also declared his injury as “fine”.

DL Chris Canty returned to the practice field Wednesday after missing Monday night’s public practice at M&T Bank Stadium for family reasons. OL Parker Graham also returned to the practice field after missing the last few sessions with a groin injury.

Two new Ravens were not on the practice field Wednesday. LB Albert McClellan did not participate in the session, he had battled a lower body issue during Monday night’s practice that had forced him to limp off the field at one point. LB Daryl Smith also did not participate in practice for unknown reasons. With Smith out, Josh Bynes took a number of the first team reps next to first round pick C.J. Mosley.

Three other players remained away from the practice field Wednesday. OL Will Rackley (head) remained out, as did CB Lardarius Webb (back/neck). The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday Webb had “no structural damage” and was instead dealing with a muscular issue.

With Webb out, CB Chykie Brown appeared to get the majority of first team reps-CB Asa Jackson had seemed to receive more of the first team reps in the previous two practices.

DL Terrence Cody (hip) also did not participate, remaining on the Active Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

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Ravens awarded four compensatory picks at Owner’s Meetings

Posted on 24 March 2014 by WNST Staff

Last year’s off-season after the Super Bowl was painful for Ravens fans, but now the team is being rewarded for its troubles and patience in free agency.

At the NFL Owner Meetings today in Orlando, the Baltimore Ravens learned more about their off-season approach in May as they received the league maximum number of compensatory picks possible for free agent losses.

The team received a third (99th overall),  two fourth-round (134th, 138 overall), and a fifth-round pick (175th overall).

The picks were rewarded for the losses of DE Paul Kruger (Cleveland), MLB Dannell Ellerbe (Miami), CB Cary Williams (Philadelphia), and FS Ed Reed (Houston) in free agency.

Because the Ravens did not sign any unrestricted free agents in the 2013 off-season, the team was not docked any picks from their total.

DE Elvis Dumervil, DL Chris Canty, DL Marcus Spears, S Michael Huff, and MLB Daryl Smith were all signed after teams cut them or late into training camp.

All-in-all, the Ravens will have eight picks as their disposal in May.

Follow all your Ravens news on @WNST on Twitter! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Sports!

 

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Ravens re-sign linebacker Daryl Smith to four-year contract

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Ravens re-sign linebacker Daryl Smith to four-year contract

Posted on 14 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Linebacker Daryl Smith received quite the present on his 32nd birthday in the form of a new four-year contract to remain with the Ravens.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the 32-year-old agreed to a deal worth $16.1 million to remain with the same defense he led in tackles last season while taking over the position occupied by future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.

Smith signed a one-year deal, $1.125 million deal that included an additional $1 million in playing-time incentives after he was limited to just two games in his ninth and final season in Jacksonville where he started his career. An early-June addition to the roster, the veteran went on to collect 123 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions to lead a defense that finished 12th in total yards and points allowed in 2013.

“I knew it was a one-year deal, but I was hoping I could come in and prove I could still play and I could still do this for a while,” Smith said in a team statement. “You really don’t know at the time. But as the season progressed, I felt better with the team and how I played, and I definitely wanted to be back.”

The sides had remained in negotiations for a couple weeks but struggled to close the gap as other veteran inside linebackers such as the 30-year-old D’Qwell Jackson and Karlos Dansby, 32, found deals averaging in the neighborhood of $5.5 million to $6 million per season. However, the market seemed to dry up inside linebackers as Smith elected to remain in Baltimore.

Smith becomes the fourth key player the Ravens have re-signed over the last two weeks, joining tight end Dennis Pitta, left tackle Eugene Monroe, and wide receiver Jacoby Jones. The Ravens also were hosting veteran wide receiver Steve Smith on a free-agent visit on Friday, adding to the excitement of the day.

“There are a lot of smiles around the building today after we got a commitment from Daryl Smith to stay a Raven,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a released statement. “He fills a need for us at a high level. Just look at his production last season, plus he gave us leadership and maturity. He’s tough, he’s consistent, he’s intelligent, and he brings his lunch pail to work every day.”

Stronger in pass coverage than against the run last year, Smith is expected to be paired with 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown in the Ravens’ 3-4 base defense with Josh Bynes serving as the primary backup. Smith and Brown should be a formidable duo in pass coverage, but questions will remain about their ability against the run as the veteran struggled to shed blocks last season and the 23-year-old Brown is trying to gain upper-body strength after being listed at a light 235 pounds during his rookie year.

The 6-2, 248-pound linebacker was one of only three NFL defensive players — the others being Lavonte David and Karlos Dansby — to post at least 100 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions in 2013. Smith has tallied 100 tackles in eight of his 10 professional seasons.

Smith was originally a second-round pick from Georgia Tech in the 2004 NFL draft.

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Ravens now turn to others after locking up Monroe

Posted on 11 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Having accomplished their primary goals of locking up left tackle Eugene Monroe and tight end Dennis Pitta, the Ravens may now turn their attention toward other needs as the first day of free agency concluded on Tuesday.

Signing Monroe to a five-year, $37.5 million contract to clear up their left tackle picture for the long haul, the Ravens still hope to re-sign inside linebacker Daryl Smith despite the sides reportedly not being close to an agreement at the start of free agency. However, the recent signings of two other veteran linebackers have established a reasonable idea of Smith’s price tag.

Indianapolis signed former Browns standout D’Qwell Jackson, 30, to a four-year, $22 million contract last week, and Cleveland responded by inking the 32-year-old Karlos Dansby to a four-year, $24 million deal on Tuesday. The 31-year-old Smith would have good reason to ask for a similar deal after a strong first season with the Ravens in which he excelled in pass coverage and admirably occupied Ray Lewis’ former inside linebacker position.

The Ravens will need to decide if Smith is worthy of a deal approaching $5 million to $6 million per season, but they could make the decision to pass on the veteran’s services in favor of the draft or being able to find a value free agent like last offseason when they were able to sign Smith on a cheap one-year deal at the start of the summer. Baltimore is already penciling in 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown as the starting weakside inside linebacker while Josh Bynes also brings starting experience to the unit.

Baltimore remains interested in wide receiver Jacoby Jones, but the Pro Bowl return specialist is scheduled to visit the New York Giants, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

Corey Graham is another player the Ravens would like to retain at the right price, but the No. 3 cornerback is exploring the market for the best opportunity to start and will visit the Washington Redskins and other visits could be in place, a source told WNST.net.

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