Tag Archive | "denver"

Jan 3, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (L) talks to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) prior to the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

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Ravens need offensive stability to survive early-season peril

Posted on 09 September 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens and their fans have annually fed off a perceived lack of respect from prognosticators and pundits.

That’s what makes the start of the 2015 season — the Ravens’ 20th in Baltimore — so unique as more than one national media outlet has picked John Harbaugh’s team to win the Super Bowl. It’s not a position in which many players are used to being despite six trips to the playoffs over the last seven years.

“That’s the kiss of death to us,” veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “You don’t want to start at the beginning of the season at the top. You want to finish the end of the season at the top. That really doesn’t mean anything to us.”

Many love how Baltimore looks on paper, but are things quite that rosy when you take a closer look at the roster? After twice holding a 14-point lead to New England in the divisional round last January, the Ravens are a chic Super Bowl pick to many, but they also lost a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, a starting wide receiver, a starting tight end, an impact pass rusher, and another offensive coordinator.

Yes, the puzzle pieces fell into place during the 2015 draft as the Ravens addressed virtually all of their positional needs on paper — there’s that phrase again — but how quickly will those young players be ready to make significant contributions, particularly on the offensive side of the ball? Relying on inexperienced players can be a dangerous proposition, especially when first-round rookie receiver Breshad Perriman missed all of training camp with a knee injury and is not expected to play in Sunday’s opener.

The preseason discussion centered around the upside of a passing game in transition, but Torrey Smith will be nowhere to be found and Owen Daniels will be lining up for the opposing side when eighth-year quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens take the field in Denver. Beyond the ageless Steve Smith, the Ravens don’t have a single receiver who made more than 24 catches a year ago and none of those options stand out as a vertical threat in Perriman’s absence. Their trio of young tight ends have a combined total of 10 catches in the NFL, which equals Dennis Pitta’s output in last year’s season opener.

No one can really know what to expect at the beginning of the season.

As if those realities weren’t unsettling enough, playing five of their first seven games on the road could mean a hell of a second-half climb to the postseason if the Ravens start slowly in 2015. Only six times in franchise history have the Ravens won more than four road games, but it will be critical for Harbaugh’s team to come out of those first seven with at least two victories away from M&T Bank Stadium to hold no worse than a 4-3 record.

The first two months won’t be easy, no matter how much you like the Ravens going into 2015.

“Who cares? Nobody cares. Nobody cares what our issues are,” said Harbaugh, citing how every team faces challenges with the schedule every year. “As a matter of fact, our opponents are looking and our enemies are looking very favorably upon our challenges, and they’re hoping that our challenges will bring us down. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Even with a franchise quarterback they have every reason to trust, the Ravens will lean heavily on the play of their offensive line, the best unit they have on either side of the football. In addition to create running lanes for 2014 Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett, the line will need to give Flacco — and his receivers and tight ends trying to create separation — plenty of time in the passing game.

More than any excitement about Perriman or second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore or any of the other young offensive players should be the continuity that the Ravens enjoy on their offensive line with all five starters and their top two reserves returning from last season. We saw in 2013 what happens to an offense with questionable playmakers when the offensive line doesn’t perform.

It wasn’t pretty.

Harbaugh can only hope the stability up front allows the Ravens to navigate the early-season peril while their young pass-catchers gain their bearings.

“I would always argue that football starts in the trenches,” Harbaugh said. “It probably ends with playmakers making plays to make the difference in the game, but if you’re not good upfront on both sides, it’s hard to overcome that. Your playmakers and your quarterback and your cover guys have to be so good, that it’s just hard to play that way. We’d always want to start and build our team inside-out.”

A strong offensive line will go a long way, but the questions will remain about the cast of young receivers and tight ends until they prove otherwise.

Drafted to replace Torrey Smith and to stretch the field, Perriman hasn’t shown the Ravens what he can do since spring workouts when the threat of contact wasn’t there. Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown were nice complementary pieces in 2014, but are either ready to fill bigger shoes? Will Michael Campanaro stay healthy enough to contribute in the slot and can the 6-foot-6 Darren Waller become a much-needed threat inside the red zone?

The organization loves the potential of tight end Maxx Williams, but even the best tight ends in the NFL such as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham didn’t break out in their rookie seasons.

The Ravens can only pray that Steve Smith fights off Father Time for a final season while Flacco develops the necessary rapport to win with the other options behind the 36-year-old wideout. If anything is certain, the Ravens should feel confident that their quarterback will help the young receivers and tight ends be as good as they can be.

It’s just unclear whether that will be good enough.

“We have guys that can do it, and it’s all about going out there and playing,” Flacco said. “That’s part of being in the NFL. Some guys are going to pop up, and you’re going to make players out of guys, and guys are going to prove that they are players. That’s just what it’s all about. It’s not about going out there and having a bunch of proven guys on your team who are all 38 years old.”

Harbaugh has reminded us on more than one occasion that Sunday is just the beginning of a long season.

The Ravens certainly look like a team that could be very dangerous in December and January, but that may not be enough in Week 1 against the Broncos, who have Super Bowl aspirations of their own. It won’t be easy on Sunday, just like it won’t be easy over the first several weeks of the season.

But Baltimore hopes it has enough offensive stability in the right places to come out of the stretch in position to make a strong second-half run.

“You put so much work into building up to the first game, the first regular season game,” Harbaugh said. “It seems like a pinnacle — it seems like an end — and you’re wondering what kind of a team you have, and you’re looking forward to seeing it. I know the fans are, and we are, too. Then, you sit back and you realize it’s just the first game. There’s going to be a whole journey after that, too, so this begins it.”

The Ravens hope that journey will end where many are predicting.

But there are plenty of questions that still need to be answered.

“You really don’t know. We can talk about how good we are all we want,” Flacco said. “That’s why I’m not really big on doing that. We have to go out there and play well.”

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Sure, there are high times in Denver but a night at Coors Field could harsh your mellow. An unkind visit to a Camden Yards clone...

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 28 Colorado

Posted on 14 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Colorado – Sure, it rained the night I attended but this wasn’t my first trip to Denver for baseball. The stadium is such a cheap and gigantic knockoff of Camden Yards that I’m surprised Peter Angelos hasn’t found a way to sue them for plagiarism or something. The team stinks. The vibe stinks. Even the neighborhood around the stadium seems to have disappeared since my visit during the glory era of the 1998 All Star Game. And, as I found out first hand, their management and ownership isn’t much either. I was very disappointed in every aspect of my trip to Coors Field. That was just during the two-hour rain delay. And then the game started…


On Sept. 8-9-10, I will be releasing an extensive essay documenting my 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit journey of 2015. You can read it and all of my work here: http://wnst.net/author/nestoraparicio/



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ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 29: Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens looks on during a pre-season game against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on August 29, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Rams beat the Ravens 24-21.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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Ravens to remain out west for both sets of back-to-back road games

Posted on 18 June 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Faced with two sets of back-to-back games out west during the 2015 regular season, the Ravens have decided to cut down on substantial travel time by remaining out west for both trips.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed his team will travel to the Bay Area following the season opener against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 13 and will remain there for the week before a Sept. 20 meeting against Oakland Raiders. The Ravens will then repeat that practice after their Oct. 18 game at San Francisco by traveling to Phoenix for the week leading up to their Monday night contest against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 26.

“We spent a little bit of time with some of the science on it,” Harbaugh said. “But really, what it came down to was a gut decision and talking to the players.”

Before the 2015 schedule was released in late April, Harbaugh and the Ravens had lobbied the NFL to play the road games against the Raiders and the 49ers in consecutive weeks in hopes of staying in the Bay Area to eliminate a cross-country flight. That request wasn’t granted, but it appeared the NFL may have done the Ravens a favor by bunching their other long-distance road games together.

Quarterback Joe Flacco was pleased that players were asked for their opinions on the matter and feels the strategy will give the Ravens a better chance during a difficult stretch of five out of seven games on the road to begin the 2015 season.

“I feel good about it. Us, as players, we’re part of that communication,” Flacco said. “John asked us and looked for input, and I’m one of the guys that was directly involved in making that decision. I’m happy about it. I think it’s going to be a good thing for us.”

Asked how the lengthy road trips might impact his wife, Dana, and three young sons, Flacco acknowledged she might not love the decision as much as him.

“I’m thinking that’s going to be a week off from being ‘Dad,'” said Flacco as he laughed. “She probably is going to be in for it a little bit. That’s just part of being an NFL quarterback’s wife. That’s why you’ve got to get a strong one.”

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Ravens trade Gradkowski to Denver for 2016 pick considerations

Posted on 01 April 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 7:30 p.m.)

The Ravens have traded fourth-year center Gino Gradkowski to the Denver Broncos in a transaction that also involves 2016 draft pick considerations.

Though the specific draft choices were not disclosed by either team at the time of the announcement, the Ravens will receive the Broncos’ fourth-round pick in 2016 in exchange for Gradkowski and Baltimore’s fifth-round selection, owner Steve Bisciotti confirmed in a conference call with season-ticket holders Wednesday night.

Due to a performance escalator that raised the 2012 fourth-round pick’s base salary to $1.542 million for the 2015 season, Gradkowski was expected by many to be released to save salary cap space. Instead, general manager Ozzie Newsome clears cap room while improving a 2016 draft pick.

Gradkowski had fallen behind starting center Jeremy Zuttah and 2014 fifth-round choice John Urschel on the depth chart, making the trade a good opportunity for the University of Delaware product. He started 16 games at center for the Ravens during the 2013 season, but his struggles were a significant reason why Baltimore rushed for a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry and missed the playoffs that year.

In 2014, Gradkowski appeared in only eight games and took only 10 offensive snaps all season.

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Veteran tight end Daniels follows Kubiak to Denver

Posted on 10 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens tight end Owen Daniels will reunite again with Gary Kubiak again after agreeing to a three-year contract with the Denver Broncos on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old veteran followed Kubiak to Baltimore last year after they had spent eight years together in Houston and will now catch passes from future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. The deal is worth a total of $12 million, according to The Denver Post.

Daniels’ departure leaves the Ravens lacking at the tight end position with their only healthy options with experience on the current roster being 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore and former practice-squad member Phillip Supernaw. The status of Dennis Pitta has yet to be determined for the 2015 season after he suffered a second serious hip injury in 14 months last September, but the Ravens cannot count on his availability.

In 15 games last season, Daniels caught 48 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns while serving as a reliable option for quarterback Joe Flacco. Head coach John Harbaugh expressed hope last month that Daniels would return to the Ravens.

“We’ve talked to Owen, and Owen says he wants to come back,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure that he and his agent will talk about what’s best for them financially, and every other way, but he’s very interested in coming back here.”

Of course, with the Ravens’ limited salary cap space and Daniels’ history with Kubiak, Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, and Broncos tight end coach Brian Pariani, Denver was the natural landing spot for the two-time Pro Bowl selection.

The Ravens will see Daniels in 2015 as they visit Denver during the regular season.

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Kubiak clears air on his departure from Baltimore

Posted on 20 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was introduced as the head coach of the Denver Broncos Tuesday, but took a few moments explaining his change of heart from a week ago.

After issuing a statement on Jan. 11 about his intentions to remain with the Ravens in 2015, Kubiak confirmed that the Broncos position becoming available was the only job for which he’d change his mind.

“This is a game changer. It’s as simple as that,” Kubiak said during his introductory press conference in Denver. “Those are the same words I used to coach [John] Harbaugh when we talked. This is where I got my start. This is home for me. This means so much to me.”

The overwhelming response from the Ravens to Kubiak leaving is one that lacks any animosity as the front office, staff, and players recognized his prior 20 years spent with the Broncos as a player and assistant coach. Harbaugh wasted little time finding Kubiak’s replacement by hiring former Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman on Tuesday afternoon.

Kubiak began his press conference on Tuesday by thanking the Ravens for the chance to return to his roots as a coordinator after a disappointing end to his eight-year run as the head coach of the Houston Texans.

“First off, I want to thank the Baltimore Ravens,” Kubiak said. “That was extremely important to me. It’s been a heck of year for [me], and without that organization giving me an opportunity about this time last year, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I really want to thank Steve [Bisciotti], Ozzie [Newsome], John, the players, and the organization.”

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Gase interviews for Ravens offensive coordinator job

Posted on 19 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens wasted little time in officially beginning the process to replace offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak by interviewing Denver assistant Adam Gase Monday night.

Serving as the Broncos offensive coordinator in each of the last two years, Gase traveled to Baltimore to meet with head coach John Harbaugh before the Ravens staff traveled to Arizona to coach the Pro Bowl this week. Though interest has been lukewarm for Gase in trying to become a head coach this offseason, Jacksonville and several other teams have courted the 36-year-old to become their offensive coordinator.

Gase has come highly recommended by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning as he helped orchestrate the NFL’s top-ranked offense in 2013 and No. 4 unit in 2014. However, some have questioned how much of Gase’s success should be attributed to working with a Hall of Fame quarterback who has essentially run his own offense in Denver.

After spending time as an offensive assistant with the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, Gase was hired by then-coach Josh McDaniels to join the Broncos staff in 2009 and was retained by John Fox when he was hired in 2011. As a quarterbacks coach, Gase was credited for getting enough production out of quarterback Tim Tebow to get the Broncos to the playoffs in 2011 before Manning arrived on the scene the following year.

The hiring of Gase would likely bring a shift in offensive philosophy as he is known for an up-tempo, pass-happy style that differs from Kubiak’s West Coast offense that worked so well in Baltimore this past season. However, Gase adapted to a more run-oriented attack in the second half of 2014 when Manning struggled through the final weeks of the season with a quadriceps injury, leading you to believe his system can be more balanced.

A certain amount of mystery remains over how successful Gase can be as an offensive coordinator without Manning — or his many offensive weapons in Denver — but his credentials are impressive for someone who didn’t even play college football, let alone compete in the NFL. He began his coaching career as an undergraduate at Michigan State helping out coach Nick Saban, who then took Gase with him to Louisiana State as a graduate and recruiting assistant. Given general manager Ozzie Newsome’s relationship with the current Alabama coach, you can assume the Ravens have done their homework on a man regarded as one of the finest young offensive minds in the NFL.

Should the Ravens decide Gase is the right choice to replace Kubiak, they may need to move quickly given the interest he’s drawn from other teams and the high number of offensive coordinator jobs that remain unfilled around the league.

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Dennison, Shanahan headline list of potential Kubiak replacements

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Gary Kubiak remains the offensive coordinator for now, but the Ravens can read the writing on the wall.

With the 53-year-old off to Denver to interview for the Broncos’ vacant head coaching position on Sunday, head coach John Harbaugh has to think Kubiak won’t be able to pass on the opportunity to return to the organization with which he spent 20 years as a player and assistant coach. It was always going to take a unique opportunity to entice Kubiak to leave the Ravens, and that’s exactly what was presented when the Broncos parted ways with head coach John Fox less than 24 hours after Kubiak announced his intentions to stay in Baltimore.

Assuming Kubiak is on the way out in taking his dream job, where will the Ravens turn to find their fourth offensive coordinator in the last four years?

With quarterback Joe Flacco arguably having the finest regular season of his career and the Ravens setting franchise records for points scored and total yards, continuity is ideal and no one would provide more of it than quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison being promoted to offensive coordinator. It won’t be an easy sell as his ties to Kubiak and Denver are strong and many expect him to be the top candidate to serve as the new Broncos offensive coordinator if Kubiak is hired.

But Harbaugh should sell the 56-year-old Dennison on the idea of escaping Kubiak’s shadow to establish himself as a potential head coaching candidate. Instead of going to Denver and facing an uncertain situation with Peyton Manning on his last legs or even having to start over with a new quarterback, Dennison knows he could continue working with Flacco — with whom he shares a good relationship — and an offensive line that’s a perfect fit for the zone-blocking schemes he would continue to employ.

It doesn’t hurt for Harbaugh to remind Dennison that — assuming Kubiak takes the Denver job — the last two Ravens offensive coordinators will have become head coaches after only one full season on the job. It would be a unique opportunity to establish himself as someone other than Kubiak’s right-hand man.

The Ravens would be promoting a man with plenty of experience as an NFL offensive coordinator as he served in that capacity under Mike Shanahan in Denver from 2006-2008 and with Kubiak in Houston from 2010-2013.

The biggest key for the Ravens maintaining the offensive momentum created in 2014 will be finding a coordinator whose system fits well with the methods the offensive line employed after a disastrous 2013 campaign. Dennison wouldn’t figure to change too much if he does remain in Baltimore and appears to be the only viable in-house candidate as tight ends coach Brian Pariani has just one year of experience as an offensive coordinator at the collegiate level and it came with a 2005 Syracuse team that went 1-10.

If Dennison does head to Denver to become Kubiak’s offensive coordinator, the Ravens could take another long look at Kyle Shanahan, whom they interviewed last offseason when Jim Caldwell left to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions. His ties to Kubiak also make him a candidate to wind up as the Broncos offensive coordinator, but he left a positive impression with the Ravens last year and could jump at the chance to work with Flacco and such a solid offensive line.

His post-2013 dismissal as part of his father’s staff in Washington was difficult and he had to work with mediocre quarterback play in Cleveland as the Browns offensive coordinator this past year, but Shanahan ran successful offenses in Houston as well as in Robert Griffin’s rookie season in 2012. The 35-year-old is perceived by some as having a bigger ego than his résumé justifies, but his offensive philosophies would figure to mesh well with what Kubiak and Dennison started in 2014.

Of course, the Ravens face key personnel decisions with running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Torrey Smith, and tight end Owen Daniels becoming free agents and the future of tight end Dennis Pitta unclear, but they’d like to avoid blowing up the foundation established in 2014.

If Kubiak does leave, persuading Dennison to stay or bringing in Shanahan appear to be the best ways to continue building in the same direction.

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Kubiak reportedly set to interview with Denver this weekend

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Luke Jones

After a few days of uncertainty, it appears Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will listen to what the Denver Broncos have to say.

Kubiak is expected to interview with the Broncos for their head coaching vacancy this weekend, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Despite publicly stating his intentions to remain with the Ravens before the Broncos parted ways with head coach John Fox on Monday, Kubiak spent 20 years in the Denver organization as a player and assistant coach, making it unsurprising that he would at least discuss the opening with general manager John Elway.

Kubiak is considered the clear favorite for the job if he wants it.

In other news, ESPN reports that Detroit Lions defensive coordinator and former Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Denver job. Austin was originally scheduled to interview Friday, but he has also been linked to the Atlanta Falcons head job.

Should Kubiak take the Broncos job, it will be interesting to see how much the Ravens press to keep quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani. Many assume Dennison would depart to become Kubiak’s offensive coordinator in Denver, but the Ravens could try to entice him with a promotion to remain with the organization after working well with quarterback Joe Flacco.

Dennison has previous experience as the offensive coordinator under Kubiak in Houston and has also coached special teams and the offensive line, making him a suitable replacement if the Ravens can persuade him to stay.

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Denver submits request to interview Kubiak for head coach

Posted on 15 January 2015 by Luke Jones

To no one’s surprise the Denver Broncos have formally asked for permission to interview Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak for their head coaching vacancy.

Now we wait to see if Kubiak accepts. The 53-year-old spent 20 years in the Broncos organization as a player and assistant coach and remains close with general manager John Elway, whom he backed up at quarterback for nine years.

Per NFL Network, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was expected to discuss Kubiak’s plans on Thursday morning, but the organization will not stand in his way if he wants to meet with the Broncos. Kubiak issued a statement through the Ravens Sunday night that he would not pursue any head coaching positions, but that stance may have changed once the Broncos and former head coach John Fox officially parted ways on Monday.

“If a coach gets a chance to be a head coach in this league, you’ve got to be happy for him,” Harbaugh said on Tuesday. “I don’t know if anything else will come up — I haven’t heard of anything along those lines — but if something comes up, we’ll just have to deal with it.”

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