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Notes from Ravens Rookie Camp

Posted on 16 June 2009 by Luke Jones

The Ravens’ newcomers have a final opportunity this week to get acclimated to the NFL before reporting to McDaniel College for training camp on July 27.

The offseason OTA schedule concludes this week with a rookie camp, allowing coaches to work more closely with the team’s six draft picks and numerous rookie free agents vying for a regular season roster spot. 

“It’s obviously a different atmosphere and tempo because the vets aren’t here,” coach John Harbaugh said.  “It’s a little slow.  We take a little more time between reps.  I don’t want to say it was more teaching, because there is a lot of teaching when the [veterans] are here, too.  But it was a little more fundamentally-oriented, a little simpler with the calls, but they did a good job.”

The rumors circulating about Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall were a hot topic at the training facility in Owings Mills.  The disgruntled receiver wants to be traded, and the receiver position is an area of concern with Derrick Mason (shoulder), Mark Clayton (foot), and Demetrius Williams (ankle) all slowed by injuries this offseason.

Earlier in the offseason, the Ravens explored a trade for Arizona wide receiver Anquan Boldin, but the Cardinals’ reported asking price of a first- and third-round pick and Boldin’s demands for a new contract proved too steep.

Marshall’s contract expires after this season, so a new deal would be needed.  The Pro Bowl receiver has grabbed 206 receptions in the last two seasons.

We’re interested in anybody that can help our team,” Harbaugh said.  “You know [Marshall] plays for the Broncos, and he’s under contract. So he’s not a guy that we’re considering or concerned with right now. We’ll just have to see what happens.”

His off-the-field issues are also a concern, including a pending misdemeanor battery charge.  Marshall has had several run-ins with the law since beginning his NFL career in 2006. 

“[A player’s] background matters,” Harbaugh said.  “We want to bring guys in here that are what we consider ‘Ravens.’ Any player that we bring in here, we’ve got to be convinced that he’s a man of integrity, a high-character guy and that our players can respect him in the locker room. That’s going to be true whether it’s in a draft or free agency or any guys we choose to re-sign. We look at that real hard because we think those are the type of people that you win with, and we’re never going to compromise on that.”

– Veteran tight ends Todd Heap and L.J. Smith have been slowed by injuries during OTAs, leaving plenty of reps for rookie Davon Drew.

The fifth-round pick, who signed a three-year contract last week, will most likely contribute on special teams but has impressed coaches with his route-running ability.  He credits Heap and Smith in helping him adjust to the NFL.

“Definitely when you’re just standing around those guys–veterans that have been doing it–that’s something that makes you want to be just like them,” Drew said.  “I look up to those guys.  Anytime I have a question or something, they help me out and sometimes when I don’t even ask them things, they just come up and give me tips or pointers.  I’m appreciative of the situation I’m in.”

– Former Maryland Terp and rookie receiver Isaiah Williams faces an uphill battle making the regular season roster, but he jumped at the chance to become a Baltimore Raven. 

Despite having discussions with other teams including the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and San Diego Chargers, the undrafted rookie signed with the Ravens only 20 minutes after the April draft ended. 

“I just felt this was the best place for me,” Williams said.  “It’s close to where I went to school, so it’s something I’m used to and real familiar with.  I love it.”

The 6-3 receiver has good speed but never lived up to lofty expectations at College Park, catching 64 passes for 902 yards and five touchdowns in his Maryland career. 

Williams has been slowed with a hamstring injury this week.

 – Be sure to join WNST tonight at The Barn at 7:00 p.m. to meet many of the Ravens rookies including Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, Lardarius Webb, and others.  It will be a great time getting to know the rookies and enjoying $1.75 Miller Lite.

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Draft Grade For The Ravens

Posted on 28 April 2009 by Neal Bortmes

Immediately following the draft I thought the Ravens did a poor job, and I was very upset with their effort for several reasons.  First I thought that Ozzie was swindled out of a fifth round pick when he traded up three spots to draft Michael Oher.  He gave up a 5th round pick to move up from 26 to 23 when the Eagles only gave up a 6th round pick to move up from 21 to 19.  The Eagles selected Jeremy Maclin, who could be a steal considering his appearance among the top 10 in most mock drafts.  According to the NFL draft pick value chart Ozzie gave up 700 pts. (pick 26) and 27.6 pts. (pick 162) for 760 pts. (pick 23) for a total gain of 32.4 pts.  While Tom Heckert the Eagles’ GM gained a total of 60.6 pts. when he traded the 21st pick (800 pts.) and 195th pick (14.4 pts.) to get the 19th pick (875 pts.).  This obvious discrepancy had me miffed for a while.  I also had wanted them to trade down to the second round to get more picks a la the Patriots (who I thought had one of the best drafts) because the best value was clearly in the top half of that round. 

 

 In the second round the Ravens selected Paul Kruger DE out of Utah.  I think he is an undersized DE for the NFL (6’4” 263 lbs.) and it appears as if he is a project due to his lack of elite speed (5 sec. 40) and elite strength (24 reps at 225).  His selection was a surprise to me considering he is going to be a 23 year old rookie with only two years of college experience (in the Mountain West).  Kruger has some character concerns having been severely stabbed at a house party last year, one to which the cops were called for other infractions only to find out about the stabbing after they arrived.  Kruger also has only one kidney having lost his due to a car accident as a child which could present significant health concerns in the future.  I thought the Ravens should have traded down to acquire more picks or possibly selected Jarron Gilbert who at 6’5” and 288 lbs. is bigger, stronger, and faster than Kruger although he is a project as well coming out of a weak football conference (WAC) too.

 

 The Ravens’ 3rd round selection had me puzzled to say the least.  Lardarius Webb is from a non-FBS school in Nicholls State and he is considered a tweener, which means that the Ravens have to basically create a position for him as he lacks the ideal size-speed ratio to play corner or safety in the NFL.  He too has character concerns which caused him to be dismissed from Southern Miss.  One would have thought the Ravens learned their lesson on lightly regarded defensive back prospects from small schools with the recent failure of David Pittman whom they selected in the third round of the 2006 draft.  My first thought was that the brain trust is more eager to prove they can successfully draft a small school DB than to make a sound third round choice.  Typically the Ravens do extremely well in the first round and later rounds (4-7), but they more often than not select busts in the second and third rounds.  D.J. Moore was still available and had a better grade according to the experts on ESPN and the NFL network as well as more production at a higher level in college.

 

 I was also surprised that the Ravens did not select a kicker in the draft considering they let Matt Stover go in the off-season.  The selection of Davon Drew was the most perplexing potential blunder because James Casey and Cornelius Ingram, players with superior measureables and production, were still on the board.  For all of these reasons I would have given the Ravens a C on Sunday night, but after a day or so I have tried to reexamine the Ravens’ effort. 

 

 Upon further review I think the Ravens did an adequate job.  Their best decision by far was to trade up to select Michael Oher, although I still think they gave up too much when compared to the Eagles deal; however New England is a shrewder trading partner than the new Browns’ front office (Mankok) so one may have to expect they would ask more in a trade.  Oher has the potential to be a rock at right tackle for years, and if he pans out he will solidify a very young and talented offensive line for the foreseeable future.  He was rated higher than 23rd on many teams’ draft boards and I saw him in the top ten in several mock drafts so they got tremendous value with his selection.

 

Kruger is still a toss-up to me but when I listened to Eric DeCosta described him on the Comcast Morning Show with Drew Forrester I had a better feeling about him.  I suppose he is a high motor guy in the mold of Michael McCrary but he still needs to gain size to be effective on the end.  His age and injury history are also concerns.  The Ravens should have moved back from the second round at that point to grab a different pass rusher such as Gilbert, Michael Johnson, or Lawrence Sidbury.  http://www.ksl.com/?nid=635&sid=6285559&autostart=y  I am still not impressed with Webb having further investigated him although Mel Kiper likened him to Bob Sanders.  If he can play as effectively as Sanders then he would be a steal but I think the David Pittman scenario is more likely.  The selection of Davon Drew still has me scratching my head in light of the talent still on the board.  Eric DeCosta mentioned in his interview that several players did not pass the Ravens’ physical so I can only hope he was explaining the reason for not taking Casey or Ingram.  If nothing else the Ravens added to their depth at DB, rush linebacker/DE, and TE.  Davon Drew could provide insurance if Quinn Sypniewski cannot recover properly from his season ending injury of last year.  http://beta.sling.com/video/show/136305/12/Draft-Prospect:-TE–Davon-Drew  Jason Phillips was a very good value pick in the fifth round as he was extremely productive for a very good defensive football team.  He should help fill the void left by the departure of Bart Scott, although he is probably a rotational player at best.  Phillips is recovering from a meniscus tear he suffered at the combine.   

 

 

 

I really think the steal of the Ravens’ draft has to be Cedric Peerman.  Peerman had a very good season for a terrible Virginia team last year, he is also said to be one of Al Groh’s favorite players and a high character guy.  He has some injury concerns but is a tough runner who had the fastest 40 time at the combine of any RB.  I think even with the Ravens’ depth at RB he will make the team.  The Ravens’ draft has been made stronger by their additions of rookie free agents. http://video.yahoo.com/watch/4853302/12935650

 

 

 

 

Their signing of Eron Riley is particularly intriguing because he has very similar measurables to Heyward-Bey, as he is taller (6’3” compared to 6’1 5/8”) and almost as fast with a 4.3 second 40 time.  Riley does need to add bulk and gain strength, but he also had more receptions (61 to 42) and TD’s (8 to 5) than Heyward-Bey last year on an arguably worse football team in the same conference.  The second excellent pick-up was obviously Graham Gano as the reining Lou Groza award winner he lead the nation in field goals per game (2.18) as well as leading all kickers in points per game (9.5), and his 5 made field goals from beyond 50 yards were the most last year.  He will compete with Steve Hauschka to be the starting kicker; however he could also serve as a backup punter having also punted for Florida State last year.  He is believed to be the only punter ever to be named the MVP of a bowl game when he was named the Most Valuable Player in the Champs Sports Bowl.  http://rivals.yahoo.com/video/recruiting-football/Graham-Gano-Cantonment-28523  http://video.yahoo.com/watch/4853301/12935654  

 

 

The Ravens were able to address their needs for a place kicker and a speedy wideout through free agency so in retrospect I think the Ravens earned a solid B from me.  They traded up to get Michael Oher which was a fantastic move and they were still able to recoup another pick.  I know that the Ravens’ front office has far more experience scouting and selecting players than I do but if you are still reading this blog than you care about my opinion as well, plus the draft is so much fun because of the debate it creates.  As always only time will tell how the Ravens fared in this year’s draft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How the draft shapes the current roster

Posted on 27 April 2009 by Luke Jones

We’re exactly three months away from rookies and quarterbacks reporting to McDaniel College in Westminster for the start of training camp.  With the 2009 NFL Draft complete and the names of undrafted free agent signings beginning to leak, we will start to get a better idea of how the training camp roster will look.

Much can change between now and July 27, but here is a look at the Ravens’ selections and how they affect the competition at their respective positions.  Listed in parentheses is the projected number of players kept at the position.  Since undrafted free-agent signings are not officially announced until minicamp, I have excluded them from the current breakdown.

Round 1 (23rd overall):  Michael Oher (Mississippi), OT

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4)

Locks:  Jared Gaither, Michael Oher

Bubble:  Willie Anderson, Adam Terry, Oniel Cousins

Longshot:  Joe Reitz, Tre Stallings

Analysis:  The selection of Michael Oher immediately transforms offensive tackle from a position of weakness to one of depth.  Gaither is firmly entrenched on the left side, so the real battle will take place on the right side between Anderson and Oher.

While Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta currently envision Anderson as a mentor for the rookie, he could be released to clear cap room if the Ravens pursue other veteran free agents that could be released before training camp.  Cutting Anderson would reportedly clear close to $3 million from the cap.

If Anderson remains on the team, Terry and Cousins would figure to battle for the last tackle spot.  Terry has the edge in experience, but Cousins can play both guard and tackle and was the team’s third round pick last year.  He is raw but promising.

*****

Round 2 (57th overall):  Paul Kruger (Utah), OLB/DE

Round 5 (137th overall):  Jason Phillips (TCU), ILB

LINEBACKER (8 or 9)

Locks:  Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson, Tavares Gooden, Paul Kruger, Jason Phillips, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Jameel McClain

Bubble:  Antwan Barnes, Edgar Jones

Longshot:  Prescott Burgess

Analysis:  Though the Ravens hope Kruger can put on the necessary weight to eventually move to defensive end when Trevor Pryce retires, he will likely be a hybrid-rush end in his rookie season.

Phillips will provide depth at inside linebacker after the departure of Bart Scott.  The Ravens envision him eventually becoming the replacement for Lewis in the starting lineup in a few years.  In the mean time, he will push Gooden for playing time at the other inside spot.

Despite showing much promise in his first two seasons, Barnes will need to show more versatility to make the 53-man roster.  He has great speed off the edge but fell behind McClain in the rotation last season.  Jones will be moved back to linebacker with the signing of L.J. Smith and selection of Davon Drew at tight end.  He must continue to contribute heavily on special teams to stay on the roster.

Burgess appears to be a longshot with the drafting of Phillips.  As always, special teams play will figure heavily in deciding the final spot or two.

*****

Round 3 (88th overall):  Lardarius Webb (Nicholls State), CB

CORNERBACK (6)

Lock:  Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, Samari Rolle, Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb

Bubble:  Frank Walker, Derrick Martin

Longshot:  Anwar Phillips, Evan Oglesby

Analysis:  The selection of Lardarius Webb further increases the likelihood of Walker being cut to clear cap room in case a veteran free agent shakes loose at another position.  Releasing Walker would reportedly save $1.6 million against the cap.

Martin missed most of last season with a shoulder injury but showed promise in 2007, making three starts and grabbing two interceptions.  He would be a cheaper alternative to Walker.

Phillips and Oglesby do not figure to seriously challenge for a roster spot after the signings of Foxworth and Carr pushed them further down the depth chart.

The team could elect to keep an extra corner if they view Carr or Webb as a primary returner over Yamon Figurs.

*****

Round 5 (149th overall):  Davon Drew (East Carolina), TE

TIGHT END (3)

Lock:  Todd Heap, L.J. Smith

Bubble:  Davon Drew, Quinn Sypniewski

Longshot:  Isaac Smolko, Edgar Jones

Analysis:  Heap and Smith are obviously safe, so the real battle will be between Drew and Sypniewski.  The Ravens like Drew’s potential, as he’s only spent a few seasons as a tight end.  He could eventually develop into an H-back in the offense.  Sypniewski showed promise in his first two seasons but missed all of last season with a knee injury.

Jones will have to make the team as a linebacker and special teams contributor.  Smolko will be little more than training camp depth.

*****

Round 6 (185th overall):  Cedric Peerman (Virginia), RB

RUNNING BACK (4 or 5)

Lock:  Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, Cedric Peerman

Bubble:  None

Longshot:  Matt Lawrence, Jalen Parmele

Analysis:  McClain figures to play more regularly at fullback in 2009, but he will still get carries in short-yardage situations and the fourth-quarter jumbo formation.  Peerman provides more depth at running back, allowing Cam Cameron to move McClain back to the more traditional fullback spot.

The team has reportedly signed undrafted free agent Jason Cook, Oher’s teammate at Ole Miss and described as a traditional power fullback.  Veteran Lorenzo Neal does not fit in the team’s current plans, but that could change in August.

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Review of the Ravens 2009 draft

Posted on 27 April 2009 by Jerry Reinhardt

Some thoughts on the Ravens 2009 draft. I think they had a very good draft. I’d give it a B+/A-. I believe in the Ravens’ philosophy of “Best Player Available.” It would’ve been nice to get a blazing fast receiver. If Ozzie thinks we had better talent on the roster already, I’ll stick with him. We added depth, versatility, and some players who could strengthen our special teams.

#23: Michael Oher, Ole Miss OT Ht: 6-5 Wt: 309. Going into the 2008 college season, he was ranked as the #1 or #2 OT for the 2009 draft. Some scouts thought he didn’t have a great senior season. Depending on which draft guide/guru you read, he dropped to between the 4th and 7th rated tackle. He was an All American in 2008 and 3 time All SEC. He is a big, strong, athletic, and aggressive. He has a nice wing span to wall of the DE or a blitzing LB. The 2 knocks against him were: he will he trouble learning the playbook and he doesn’t always finish off his and blocks.

I love this pick. The Ravens had him listed as the 12th best player in the draft. We got him at #23 which makes this a great value pick. Although he isn’t a WR, Oher is the upgrade in the passing game we were looking for. He won’t need the TE or RB to stay in and help him with pass protection. We can now send 3 or 4 receivers out into the pattern. With his strength and push he will improve an already strong running game.

He will upgrade the RT position when he takes over from Willie Anderson. Let them go into training camp and battle it out to see who wins the starting job. If Oher wins, we can renegotiate Anderson’s contract or cut him to add cap space.

#57: Paul Kruger, Utah LB/DE Ht: 6-4.5 Wt: 265. He recorded 10.5 sacks as a 2 year starter. He is a hard worker, quick, and plays with an attitude. He is this year’s version Jared Johnson. The plan is to develop him into a starter. He will be used as a situational pass rusher, on special teams,  and work his way into the LB/DE mix. I heard a short snippet on the news that we may bulk him up and make him a full time DE

Another quick LB/DE with an attitude to go after Big Ben, Carson, Peyton, and Brady! Make them run for their lives. You can never have too much talent in the trenches. The first two picks were about strengthening our lines and we did.

#88: Ladarius Webb, Nicholls St CB Ht: 5-9.5 Wt: 179. He was the fastest CB in the draft, 4.4 in the 40. He is supposed to be one of the most instinctive DB’s in the draft. He had 7 Int & 15 PBU in his 2 years at Nicholls St .He plays smart football and was the leader of their secondary. He was a tremendous kick returner also. He is the only player in NCAA history to win his conference’s Offensive, Defensive, and Special Teams player of the week during his junior year. He transferred to Nicholls St after being dismissed from the team at Southern Miss. He says he no longer hangs with the people who got him dismissed. He is a developmental player who adds more depth at CB. We can use him on as a backup returner, a gunner on kickoffs, and in the dime package. Hopefully, we can develop him into a starter.

137: Jason Phillips, TCU LB Ht: 6-.0.5 Wt: 239. . I think this could be a steal pick. The more I read and hear about him, the more I like him. Another smart, strong, and fast football player to add into the mix! There will be a debate about his size and whether he should play as an ILB or OLB. He has a motor that’s always going and he never stops hustling. Get him into camp and figure out a way to utilize his talents. He could help on special teams and add some depth and heart at LB.

149: Davon Drew East Carolina, TE Ht: 6-3.5 Wt: 256. He is an athletic pass catching TE with nice size and soft hands. He is an above average blocker but not strong enough to dominate at the point of attack. He is quick but not fast. A possible practice squad player who can be developed.

185: Cedric Peerman, UVA RB Ht: 5-9.5 Wt: 216. I really like this pick also. When he was healthy, he seemed to always have a big game against the Terps. He is a strong, tough, and hard to tackle. He waits for the whole to develop and follows his blocks. He has nice hands and catches the ball out of the backfield with the best in the nation. He could help us on special teams and at RB. If he cannot help out on special teams, he may have trouble making the team with a stacked backfield. Another possible practice squad player who can be developed.

I think Ozzie did a nice job with this group but we won’t know for 3 or 4 years. We will probably see a few Undrafted FA WR signed in the next few days. I think one reason we didn’t take a WR in the draft is because of Ray Rice. I can see Cam Cameron expanding his role as a flanker or in the slot on 3rd down. Also, if Demetrius Williams can finally stay healthy, he could be the speedy WR we didn’t draft.

The 3rd stage of the draft is happening now. The Ravens have always had success finding and signing undrafted players who fit our system. They are working the phone lines now trying to sign these players. If we can sign and develop one or two of these diamonds in the rough, our 2009 draft would be an A/A+

Finally, I think the other AFC North teams had good drafts also. Everyone filled needs and got great value on some of their picks. Cleveland added a lot of talent and depth by trading back and stockpiling picks. Alex Mack will anchor the middle of their line for many years. Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi give them 2 young talented receivers. Cincinnati’s draft could be boom or bust. Rey Maualuga and Chase Coffman were great value picks. If Andre Smith and Michael Johnson live up to their potential, this was a great draft. If not, they gambled and lost, and will still be the Bungles. Pittsburgh added more depth to a talented team. Evander Hood and Kraig Urbik are linemen that fit into the Steelers’ system.

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