Tag Archive | "Eric Decosta"

bwilliams

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ravens face tough decision with Brandon Williams

Posted on 08 February 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens want Brandon Williams back, and the nose tackle would prefer to stay in Baltimore.

If only it were that simple.

Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta made it clear at the Senior Bowl last month that re-signing Williams is “a really important part of the puzzle” for the Ravens’ offseason. The fifth-year defensive lineman knows his worth — DeCosta offered him a reminder of that — but he says he won’t automatically go to the highest bidder in free agency, either.

“When you’re in Baltimore, you know what you’re getting,” Williams told WNST.net in Houston last week. “You know who you’re getting, you know who you’re dealing with, you know who your teammates are, you know who your coaches are. Going to a new team, new scheme, new plays, new playbooks, not knowing really what to expect over here. If it’s close enough to where I have to make that decision — where it comes down to that decision — I’m staying in Baltimore.

“I like Baltimore, my family is in Baltimore, my son is going to school [there], and stuff like that. I would pick that — if it’s close. If that’s the factor that makes or breaks the decision, then I’ll stay in Baltimore if it’s close.”

But where is the tipping point for each side?

Considered one of the best run-stopping nose tackles in the NFL, Williams will presumably attempt to use the five-year, $46.25 million deal — $24 million of it guaranteed — the New York Giants awarded Damon Harrison last offseason as a baseline, especially with the salary cap expected to rise again in 2017. Turning 28 later this month, Williams is unlikely to have another chance for a lucrative payday and is only a month away from having other teams vying for his services. The 2013 third-round pick didn’t imply last week that contract talks with the Ravens were ongoing, but that could certainly change at any moment.

On the flip side, how should the Ravens value Williams, who has not only been strong on the field but has been a high-character guy in the locker room and active in the community?

The beefy nose tackle is a very good player and has been a linchpin of the run defense, but the Ravens have also gone 13-19 over the last two seasons and must address a plethora of needs this winter. Giving Williams north of a $50 million contract would undoubtedly hinder the ability to improve other areas of the roster that haven’t been good enough.

If the Ravens were to lose Williams, would adding another defensive tackle even become their top priority when young options such as Michael Pierce, Carl Davis, and Willie Henry are waiting in the wings? It’s not ideal to weaken one of the roster’s biggest strengths, but Baltimore has shown a consistent ability to find talent on the defensive line through a variety of channels over the years with the undrafted Pierce being the latest example last season.

General manager Ozzie Newsome hasn’t invested big money in a defensive tackle since 2011 when he signed Haloti Ngata to a five-year, $61 million contract, but he was a better all-around player on a championship-caliber roster at the time. Losing Williams would definitely hurt, but exhausting too many resources to keep him could hurt a roster in need of playmakers on both sides of the ball.

When mired in mediocrity for the better part of four years, you can’t be afraid to be bold, which sometimes means taking a hit in the short term. If letting go of the talented nose tackle means the Ravens can bring in a high-impact wide receiver or cornerback, it’s worth it in the long run.

Williams is deserving of a big payday, but the Ravens doing whatever it takes to keep him isn’t going to magically get them over the hump in 2017. You can’t afford to be in love with your own players when your roster is in need of more than just subtle tweaks and there’s only so much salary-cap space to go around.

That’s why a deal may not make sense for either side in the end.

Even when they both want it.

Comments Off on Ravens face tough decision with Brandon Williams

ravensbrass

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Continuity still rules at top of organization for Ravens

Posted on 26 January 2017 by Luke Jones

As open positions go, the Indianapolis general manager job figured to present some appeal to Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta.

Baltimore’s bitter feelings aside, the Colts have built a nice tradition of winning over the last two decades with much of the credit going to the arrival of Peyton Manning in 1998. Indianapolis currently has a franchise quarterback in the prime of his career in Andrew Luck, something most teams with a GM opening can’t proclaim.

DeCosta obviously knows head coach Chuck Pagano, who served as a defensive assistant for the Ravens for four years.

Colts owner Jim Irsay hardly has a spotless reputation, but Bill Polian ran his football team for 14 years before the recently-fired Ryan Grigson was in charge over the last five seasons. He’s far from perfect, but there are worse — and less patient — owners for which to work.

Still, DeCosta didn’t surface among the candidates the Colts announced they’d interview despite a report earlier this week about their wish to talk to him about the job. He’s once again staying put.

Perhaps it’s a sign that the Ravens brass doesn’t perceive things to be as dire and broken as some critics do. Steve Bisciotti acknowledged in early January that “the pitchforks are out” for head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome after missing the playoffs for the third time in four years, but the Ravens owner also spent plenty of time expressing confidence in his guys and never gave the impression that 2017 was a nonnegotiable “playoffs-or-bust” scenario.

“You have a bad team when people are pointing fingers, and you see that with dysfunctional GMs and coaches that can’t get along and things like that, and we just don’t have that,” Bisciotti said. “I have a coach that is carrying a burden, I have a GM that is carrying a burden, and I have a quarterback that’s carrying a burden. They’re all stepping up and taking a greater percentage of the blame than they probably deserve. To me, that’s the definition of quality leadership.”

Bisciotti is a man of conviction and won’t fire people simply because the outside world is calling for it. It’s become obvious that DeCosta has a similar will after passing on plenty of chances to run other football teams over the last several years.

If DeCosta sensed the boss was on the verge of blowing things up next offseason, you’d think he would have at least wanted to explore the possibility with the Colts.

We’ll see if valuing continuity pays off for both Bisciotti and DeCosta over the next few years.

“I want my fans to know that I think John can coach better. I think Ozzie and Eric can draft better. I think Joe [Flacco] can play better,” Biscotti said earlier this month. “If all of them do it — and I think they’re capable and determined to be better — then I think next year we’re sitting here with a playoff-caliber team, and I really believe that. If you get improvement from quality people, I believe that they can collectively bring this team back to prominence.”

Birds of a feather

I wouldn’t expect many fans to be pulling for New England in Super Bowl LI anyway, but there are several former Ravens with the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.

The list is headlined by 2012 second-round pick Courtney Upshaw, who has converted from outside linebacker to the defensive line for the Falcons. Guard Chris Chester was a reliable member of the Ravens’ offensive line for the first five years of his career and started 16 games for Atlanta in his 11th season.

Of course, Matt Schaub served as the Baltimore backup in 2015 and became the first Ravens quarterback not named Flacco to start a game since Troy Smith at the end of the 2007 season. Cornerback Deji Olatoye and wide receiver Aldrick Robinson also had brief stints with the Ravens.

Falcons tight ends coach Wade Harman spent 15 years with the Ravens and was part of the coaching staffs that won Super Bowls in 2000 and 2012.

If that’s not enough, Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn is a Salisbury graduate, adding another local flavor to the mix.

Give Tucker a chance

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Ravens kicker Justin Tucker hit a 75-yard field goal during Wednesday’s Pro Bowl practice.

There was no defensive line for Tucker to kick over and the ball was on a tee, but I’d still like to see AFC head coach Andy Reid give him a chance to try one from 65 yards or longer at some point during Sunday’s Pro Bowl. It’s a meaningless game, so why not?

No love for Juszczyk

It’s bad enough that Kyle Juszczyk’s last name was misspelled on his Pro Bowl practice shirt on Wednesday, but then the fullback was left out of the dodgeball tournament, something in which he wanted to take part.

I guess fullbacks still aren’t getting the respect they deserve.

Comments Off on Continuity still rules at top of organization for Ravens

Tags: , , , , , , ,

DeCosta not among announced interviewees for Indianapolis job

Posted on 25 January 2017 by Luke Jones

Another year and the same apparent outcome involving Eric DeCosta.

After a Sports Illustrated report said Tuesday that Indianapolis was seeking permission to interview the Ravens assistant general manager, DeCosta is not among the six candidates the Colts formally announced they’d be interviewing for their general manager position. Currently at the Senior Bowl, DeCosta hadn’t commented on the initial report as of early Wednesday afternoon.

The 45-year-old has long been considered the successor to general manager Ozzie Newsome and has been with the organization for over 20 years despite countless interview requests for other general manager openings in recent offseasons. It’s believed that owner Steve Bisciotti pays DeCosta as well as some other top executives around the league.

Bisciotti has often boasted publicly that he has two general managers as DeCosta has taken on more responsibilities over the years. The 60-year-old Newsome has given no indication that he is nearing retirement when asked periodically in recent years, insisting how much he still enjoys the job.

“He has too much at stake here in his relationship with Ozzie, and Ozzie’s relationship with him is just strong,” said Bisciotti about DeCosta last January. “I commend him for his patience, because I know there are other guys that are GMs after they chose [to leave]. Because Eric wasn’t interested in the last five, six years — and he probably could’ve had 10 different jobs. But I will say that seven of those 10 [general managers] have been relieved of their duties already. I think that’s where Eric would say [he has] his patience.

“Because we promote continuity, Eric can afford to be patient.”

Unlike other opportunities that may have lacked appeal, the Colts already have a franchise quarterback in place, making it a more attractive job than the typical GM opening. Of course, DeCosta is also familiar with Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano, who worked in Baltimore from 2008-2011.

Comments Off on DeCosta not among announced interviewees for Indianapolis job

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 7.39.18 PM

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Final day could make 2016 draft class special for Ravens

Posted on 01 May 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Safe and clean summarized the Ravens’ first three selections of the 2016 draft.

First-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley, second-round outside linebacker Kamalei Correa, and third-round defensive end Bronson Kaufusi looked to be picks of good value and minimal risk in terms of health and off-field conduct, but they were hardly the big splashes that make you salivate about upside. Right or wrong, general manager Ozzie Newsome preferred that route in lieu of gambling on high-risk, high-reward prospects such as edge rusher Noah Spence or inside linebacker Myles Jack in the early rounds.

Even if they prove to be quality picks in the long run, they just weren’t exciting ones. And, frankly, the Ravens would be the first ones to tell you that they better find good players when they’re choosing so early in each of the first three rounds.

But all along, the fourth round was going to be a key to this year’s draft. The Ravens had known since March that they’d be making four selections in the round and added a fifth through a trade on Friday night.

Who was your favorite pick in the Ravens' 2016 draft class?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Five choices in the fourth round would set an NFL record, but the problem was that the Ravens hadn’t done particularly well there over the previous five drafts. Since 2011, a fourth-round list consisting of Tandon Doss, Gino Gradkowski, Christian Thompson, John Simon, Kyle Juszczyk, Brent Urban, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Za’Darius Smith, Buck Allen, and the late Tray Walker had produced a solid player or two — with a few still to be determined — but it was hardly a dynamic group.

Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta set out to change that trend on Saturday.

“I think we had a great game plan, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to nail those picks,” said DeCosta, who extensively researched the historical sequencing and tendencies of teams picking in that portion of the draft. “We’ve said it lot. This was a critical part of our draft — the fourth round. It became a mission for all of us to do the best we could and get the best players we could.

“It fell that way today. We had a bunch of players and we had a sense of who might be there in different spots. The players that we targeted, they were there. We’d go back down and wait on a guy, and he’d be there. Then, we’d go back down and wait on a guy, and he’d be there. It just came out the right way for us.”

First, the Ravens netted Temple cornerback Tavon Young, who they think can compete with veteran Kyle Arrington at the nickel position after being impressed with his work at the Senior Bowl.

Then, they took receiver Chris Moore, who averaged an impressive 22.0 yards per catch over his final two seasons at Cincinnati. With Steve Smith planning to retire after 2016, Mike Wallace potentially only around for one season, and Kamar Aiken set to become a free agent next winter, Moore is an interesting name to add to a young group of receivers headlined by 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman.

Their third fourth-round pick, Nebraska offensive tackle Alex Lewis, gives Baltimore much-needed depth with Eugene Monroe’s future with the organization in doubt and right tackle Rick Wagner set to become a free agent after 2016. At the very least, the Ravens needed an upgrade from reserve tackle James Hurst and Lewis should be able to provide that. The selection came with character risk, however, as Lewis was sentenced to 45 days in jail and two years probation for pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault when he was attending the University of Colorado, but the Ravens claim to be “very comfortable” with him after talking extensively to staff at both schools and bringing the lineman to Baltimore for a daylong visit.

The Ravens had no excuse not to know what they were getting with defensive tackle Willie Henry after he was coached by John Harbaugh’s brother Jim and former Baltimore defensive coordinator Greg Mattison at the University of Michigan. Defensive tackle wasn’t a need, but the Ravens continue to build one of the deepest young defensive fronts in the NFL.

Finally, Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon was incredibly still on the board with the 134th overall pick and was immediately labeled by some pundits as one of the biggest steals of the final day. Added to a crowded group of running backs with no clear No. 1 option, Dixon could emerge as the starter sooner rather than later and was even regarded by some experts as the second-best running back in the draft behind Ezekiel Elliot, who went as the fourth overall pick on Thursday. It’s difficult not to get excited about his big-play potential as a receiver out of the backfield when you watch his college tape.

The five picks were impressive on paper as ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay even said it may have been the best fourth round he’d ever seen from any given team.

Their fifth-round selection brought the customary small-school prospect in Grand Valley State pass rusher Matt Judon, who collected 20 sacks as the consensus best defensive player in Division II football and impressed at the scouting combine. Before automatically scoffing at the lower level of competition, Ravens fans will remember that Brandon Williams was a Division II standout at Missouri Southern State a few years ago and is now one of the best nose tackles in the NFL.

Judon felt like a worthy gamble as the 146th pick of the draft.

“I remember texting [Harbaugh] and saying, ‘This kid from Grand Valley State is having a great workout,'” said DeCosta about watching Judon at the combine. “And John said, ‘I know. We’ve got to spend more time looking at this guy.’ That’s the great thing about the combine is you get a chance to see guys from all different conferences and backgrounds and levels of football competing on the same stage. He had all the skills you look for — the athletic ability, the size, and he had the production on tape [and] the ability on tape.”

But the best story of the weekend came when the Ravens tabbed Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds with their penultimate pick of the draft. Of course, it’s no sure thing that he’ll be able to make the transition to the next level as a wide receiver and return specialist, but Baltimore wouldn’t have made such a high-profile pick in the sixth round if the organization didn’t feel like he had a solid chance this summer to make the team.

Reynolds was already a household name locally after scoring an NCAA Division I record 88 touchdowns over his four years in Annapolis — amazingly breaking the record held by his new teammate Dixon — but the Ravens were impressed with the work he has already put in running routes as a receiver and working as a return specialist with former three-time Pro Bowl selection Brian Mitchell. The hope is that Reynolds could eventually turn into an effective slot receiver and returner reminiscent of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver — and Indiana quarterback — Antwaan Randle El.

The entire area will be rooting for him.

“What a great story,” Newsome said. “We were at the East-West [Shrine] game, and Eric and I were sitting there, and on Day 2 he said, ‘Are you really paying attention to Keenan Reynolds?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, he’s doing some things that are catching our eye.’ It’s just something we kept in the back of our mind. He came here for our local pro day, and he did a good job there.”

With their final pick of the 2016 draft, the Ravens added 6-foot-1 cornerback Maurice Canady out of Virginia to give them 11 selections, their highest total since 2003.

After a nondescript first two days — at least if overlooking whether the Ravens would have drafted left tackle Laremy Tunsil had it not been for the infamous marijuana video released on Twitter — the final day had some of everything for the Ravens. It brought a high number of picks, some interesting upside, an off-field risk, the addressing of needs, a Harbaugh brother connection, a small-school sleeper, and a fantastic story involving one of the best local sports role models in recent memory.

We know at least a few of these third-day picks won’t work out. That’s just the nature of the business.

But the final day’s haul carried enough intrigue to potentially turn a solid 2016 draft into a special one. All teams around the league talked about how much they liked their draft classes on Saturday, but you could sense that the Ravens were gushing a little more than usual as Newsome went as far as saying he didn’t know if he’s ever felt as good about a collection of talent. Even with some of the Ravens’ recent drafting pains, those words shouldn’t be easily dismissed when you consider his body of work over the last two decades in Baltimore.

In a few years, we’ll remember the final day of the 2016 draft having plenty of sizzle for the Ravens — at least as much as the final four rounds are capable of having. But they’ll ultimately need the substance to be there to help them get back to a championship-caliber level after a 5-11 season a year ago.

If not, the weekend will be remembered as nothing more than a missed opportunity with so many picks.

“The board came off, basically, the way we thought it would,” Newsome said. “We were able to get some good young talent to come in here and compete to make this roster. Right now, the Baltimore Ravens are a much better football team.”

Time will reveal if they really are.

Comments Off on Final day could make 2016 draft class special for Ravens

tunsil

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Options aplenty, but no perfect prospect for Ravens at No. 6

Posted on 25 April 2016 by Luke Jones

We’re a couple days away from the paralysis by analysis finally coming to an end.

As it stands, the Ravens will make their highest pick in an NFL draft since 2000 when they’ll be on the clock sixth overall. Or, they’ll trade up or down, which certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility with three first-round trades having already been consummated long before teams arrive in Chicago.

But the Ravens are guaranteed to have a shiny new toy by the time the first round concludes late Thursday night.

To no one’s surprise, general manager Ozzie Newsome and the organization have been very quiet while everyone else tries to figure out exactly what the Ravens want to do. The good news is that when you’re coming off a 5-11 season and have multiple needs, you don’t have to be too desperate for the draft board to fall a certain way.

But that doesn’t mean a perfect prospect exists, either, as months of analysis and over-analysis have proven.

Mississippi left tackle Laremy Tunsil was considered the favorite to be the No. 1 pick before Tennessee traded out of the top spot two weeks ago, but a few are now speculating that even Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley could pass him in the draft rankings despite neither having played a game since January. Even with Tunsil’s impressive physical gifts, Ravens fans salivating over the thought of him replacing the oft-injured Eugene Monroe could be looking past the lineman missing time with a knee injury, a torn bicep, a dislocated ankle, and a broken leg during his collegiate career.

With the injuries, some off-field concerns, and the underwhelming track record of top 10 offensive tackles making the difficult transition from college to the pros in recent years, Tunsil doesn’t quite feel like the “safe” pick many project him to be — even if he realizes his immense upside and winds up being much closer to Jonathan Ogden than Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher in his career.

Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey has the size and speed to play anywhere in the defensive backfield, but his underwhelming hands led to few game-changing plays in college and some believe his unspectacular change-of-direction skill suggests he’s better suited as a safety in the NFL, which isn’t generally what you’re looking for with the sixth overall pick.

Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa was regularly listed as the No. 1 pick in mock drafts before his stock took a dive in the pre-draft process with him lacking great straight-line speed and freakish athleticism. He’s a high-motor player and fits Baltimore’s pass-rushing need, but he doesn’t show great speed off the edge and is a little more of a question mark as a 3-4 outside linebacker than as a 4-3 defensive end.

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack is a phenomenal fit on paper and would be the cover linebacker the Ravens need to pair with C.J. Mosley, but there’s just too much noise concerning his knee to not feel nervous about picking him so early. Baltimore cannot afford to have another Breshad Perriman situation play out if the medical team has any legitimate concerns about Jack’s knee.

And that brings us to Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, who probably feels the most like a “Ravens” pick despite there being little noise about the sides having much communication in the pre-draft process. Buckner might have the lowest bust rate of any of the aforementioned names, but the 5-technique defensive end spot isn’t a major need and he may not have as much upside as the others, which is a very fair concern when you’re making your first top 10 selection in over a decade.

In short, you can poke holes in any of these prospects if you want to, which is exactly what happens over the exhausting pre-draft process.

Of course, these are the names discussed most often by the outside world as the consensus top five non-quarterbacks in this year’s draft. We can’t be sure where the Ravens stand with the likes of Stanley, Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, and Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson as any could be rated higher on Baltimore’s board than we anticipate.

After years of watching the Ravens pick toward the end of the first round — which is where you want to be — we should be reminded that there’s no such thing as a perfect prospect, no matter how high a team is choosing. If the Ravens did their homework, they’re all but guaranteed to come away with a really good starting player for years to come, barring injury. If they are really smart and lucky, they’ll turn in a card with the name of a multi-time Pro Bowl player written on it. And if Newsome and the Ravens hit the lottery jackpot as they did twice in their first ever draft 20 years ago, they’ll come away with a player who will be enshrined in Canton one day.

There isn’t a single pick they can make on Thursday that will make everyone happy. Every possible selection can make you take pause to some degree, but there may also be more than one correct answer from which to choose, which should ease concerns for Ravens fans.

As assistant general manager Eric DeCosta likes to say, the draft is more art than it is science.

With Thursday night almost upon us, the fun part is about to begin.

And the Ravens will officially take their shot at finding a game-changing player.

Comments Off on Options aplenty, but no perfect prospect for Ravens at No. 6

bosa

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Three elite defensive prospects visit Ravens on Wednesday

Posted on 07 April 2016 by Luke Jones

A day after general manager Ozzie Newsome said the Ravens still had more of their 30 allotted visits with college prospects to complete, three of the top defensive players in the 2016 draft were in town.

Ohio State edge rusher Joey Bosa, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, and Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves visited the Ravens on Wednesday, according to NFL Network. The organization also worked out Ohio State wide receivers Braxton Miller and Mike Thomas in Columbus.

Once regarded as a strong candidate to be the top overall pick, Bosa has seen his stock slip a bit after an underwhelming scouting combine performance in February, but he is still expected to be one of the first players selected. He would fit a clear need as an edge rusher and outside linebacker to complement and eventually replace Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil.

The Ravens expressed confidence Tuesday that he would be a good fit in their 3-4 defensive system that features multiple looks. In three seasons with the Buckeyes, the 6-foot-5, 269-pound Bosa accumulated 26 sacks.

“You guys can actually see him on film dropping off [into pass coverage] on occasion — the zone drop, far zones and all of that — and he looks certainly capable of doing that,” director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. “His combine workout and then his pro day workout, he showed the ability to bend. He actually, at the pro day workout, did a full  [defensive] line drill; did the whole thing in d-line drills and it was a longer workout, and they got after it. He took a blow, got some water and then jumped in the middle of the linebacker drills once they got into drops, so he definitely looked capable of doing that.

“He’s certainly a good enough athlete. He’s long, he’s rangy, he’s got enough speed. I think that he projects to either spot, 4-3 [defensive end] or 3-4 outside backer.”

Jack is regarded by some as the best athlete in the draft despite missing most of last season with a torn meniscus suffered in September. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound linebacker also played some running back in his three years at UCLA, a reflection of his unique skill set.

The Ravens struggled in pass coverage at the inside linebacker position, which would make Jack an ideal fit next to C.J. Mosley with veteran Daryl Smith now in Tampa Bay.

“He’s a great athlete,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “He only played in a few games this year because of the injury, but he’s a guy that can do a lot of different things. I think, athletically, he can cover probably as well as most guys you’ll ever see at the linebacker position. He’s gifted that way. He’s a little bit undersized, [but] he’s a good run defender. He’s an excellent blitzer. He’s a guy that can do a lot of different things.”

Though not linked to the Ravens as frequently as Bosa and Jack in many mock drafts, Hargreaves is regarded as the best defensive back in the draft behind Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey, who is expected to be one of the first two or three players selected. In a perfect world, the organization would like to add an impact cornerback to compete with Shareece Wright for the starting job opposite Jimmy Smith, and Hargreaves would fit that description.

He lacks ideal height at only 5-foot-10, but the Ravens are drawn to other intangibles beyond his 10 interceptions and 27 pass breakups in his three seasons with the Gators.

“He’s got really good ball skills. He can play the ball in contested situations,” Hortiz said. “He’s a really good athlete and he’s a coach’s son. His father coached at Miami, South Florida — I think he’s at Arkansas now. The kid has grown up around ball, he’s been on the field down at the [University of Miami] since he was a toddler, probably doing backpedaling transitions. He’s very schooled, and you can see it in his play. Athletic kid, he understands fundamentals of the position, he’s got instincts.

“Yes, he’s a little undersized — everyone wants a six-foot, 6-foot-1 corner — but, he’s certainly fast enough and his instincts and ball skills make up for his lack of size.”

The Ravens pick sixth overall in this month’s draft, which would be their highest selection since 2000.

Comments Off on Three elite defensive prospects visit Ravens on Wednesday

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 11.09.05 AM

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens must hit home run in this year’s draft

Posted on 06 April 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — When you draft two future Hall of Fame players with the first two picks in franchise history, the standard is going to be impossible to live up to.

But that didn’t stop general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens from coming very close for the better part of the next decade. After Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis in that franchise-defining 1996 draft came Peter Boulware, Chris McAlister, Jamal Lewis, Todd Heap, Ed Reed (another future Hall of Famer), Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Ben Grubbs in first rounds over the next 11 years, all of them Pro Bowl selections.

Sure, there were a couple misses along the way, but you simply expected the Ravens to find a Pro Bowl player in the first round of the draft every year. Those emphatic early hits began to dissipate, however, and Baltimore has seen just one first-round pick — C.J. Mosley in 2014 — make the Pro Bowl since 2008.

The previous home runs and triples have been replaced by more singles and doubles — and a few more strikeouts — in recent years, which are still better than other teams in the NFL, but that decline came into focus this past year when a lack of playmakers and a rash of injuries led to a 5-11 season.

“If you look at [recent] drafts compared to ’96 to 2004, I would say that they didn’t measure up to those drafts,” Newsome said. “From ’96 to 2004, we drafted three Hall of Famers, but I will also say that during that time early on when you’re picking in the top 10 of the draft, you have a chance to be a lot more successful than it is when you’re picking anywhere from 20 to 32, which [are] the positions that we’ve been in.

“But I would say it was not up to my standards.”

Newsome’s point is fair as the Ravens have been a victim of their own success in that way after making the postseason 10 times in the last 16 years. They haven’t picked in even the first half of the first round in a decade and the sixth overall pick in this month’s draft will be the organization’s earliest since 2000.

As much as the Ravens were blessed to be able to land Hall of Fame talent when they took Ray Lewis 26th overall in 1996 and Reed 24th in 2002, the final 10 picks of the first round and the early second round typically aren’t littered with All-Pro talent everywhere you look. As if Lewis and Reed weren’t enough, the Ravens also found future Pro Bowl selections in Heap and Grubbs very late in the first round, but such success shouldn’t fool anyone into assuming you should find a Pro Bowl player that late every single year.

Yes, there have been some ugly first- and second-round picks in recent drafts as Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, Matt Elam, and Arthur Brown immediately come to mind, but other maligned choices such as Michael Oher and Courtney Upshaw were still more positive than not — even if they weren’t Pro Bowl players.

The drafts haven’t been all bad as Pernell McPhee, Brandon Williams, Crockett Gillmore, and Rick Wagner have been impressive middle-round finds over the last five years, but they just need to be better, especially in the early rounds. Recent drafts have been solid — for the most part — but rarely special.

“Have we drafted a ton of Pro Bowlers? No, we haven’t, but I’m proud of the players we’ve drafted,” said assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, who cited the big free-agent money other teams have spent on Ravens picks such as McPhee, Torrey Smith, Arthur Jones, and Kelechi Osemele in the last few offseasons. “I think we’ll get back to being a really good team soon. I’m not going to stress out about it.

“Can we do better in certain instances? Of course we can. You’re dealing with human emotion people, but I think our scouts and coaches have done a really good job. I think we’ll get back to prominence.”

If serious contention is in the cards for 2016, the Ravens need to hit a couple long balls and triples, not just with the sixth overall pick but with their six other selections in the top 134 spots. A successful draft isn’t only about the first round as Newsome has shown in finding Pro Bowl-caliber players and starters in the middle and late rounds over the years.

Expecting the Ravens to find their next future Hall of Famer later this month would be unfair, but they do need to find the next pillar around which to build. If it isn’t a Ray Lewis, Ogden, or Reed, drafting the next Suggs, Ngata, or Jamal Lewis is a reasonable expectation when picking so early.

DeCosta acknowledged Tuesday that the money in Vegas would be on the Ravens taking a defensive player with the sixth pick as there are five or six “elite” ones in his mind, but the executive also said there are three or four offensive players who might be the best fit depending on how the first five picks play out in a few weeks.

Whether it’s a player like Jalen Ramsey of Florida State unexpectedly falling into their laps or a regular mock-draft target such as Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, UCLA’s Myles Jack, Oregon’s DeForest Buckner, or Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley or even another name being discussed less frequently such as running back Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State, the Ravens must come away with a special talent.

They need to find the next player who will one day be in the Ring of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium.

That would go a long way in not only helping them bounce back from a 5-11 season, but such a player would be a good step in preventing the Ravens from being back in this position for another 16 years.

Comments Off on Ravens must hit home run in this year’s draft

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 8.28.17 PM

Tags: , , , , ,

DeCosta reportedly staying put once again

Posted on 06 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Eric DeCosta has once again decided to stay put with the Ravens.

Despite Tennessee requesting to interview Ozzie Newsome’s right-hand man for their general manager position, DeCosta has declined the opportunity, according to NFL Network. The 44-year-old assistant general manager is already the appointed successor to Newsome and is paid as well as some general managers around the league.

Some had wondered if the Titans possessing young quarterback Marcus Mariota and the No. 1 pick in April’s draft would tempt DeCosta enough to at least take an interview. However, the ownership questions surrounding Tennessee were a clear deterrent.

DeCosta has declined NFL teams’ inquiries on a near-annual basis, citing his affinity for the Ravens and his wife being from the area as prime reasons to stay. Of course, it also helps to have the general manager job waiting whenever the 59-year-old Newsome decides to call it quits.

But you do wonder if the longtime Ravens executive will be able to wait much longer.

Comments Off on DeCosta reportedly staying put once again

FullSizeRender(3)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Puzzle pieces impressively fall into place for Ravens’ 2015 draft

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The smiles on the faces of the Ravens decision-makers said it all at the conclusion of the 2015 NFL draft.

Entering the three-day event with 10 scheduled picks and an extensive grocery list of positions to address, general manager Ozzie Newsome was able to put a check mark next to nearly every item by the time Saturday evening rolled around. The Ravens may have stayed true to their draft board, but it’s difficult to recall a time when it aligned so closely with their biggest needs and wants.

“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “I think, just in terms of if we had imagined this draft beforehand, we’d be very, very excited. We got it, and it looks great on paper. But hopefully, it looks good in person as well.”

Seven weeks after waving goodbye to Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, Haloti Ngata, and Pernell McPhee, the Ravens said hello to wide receiver Breshad Perriman, tight end Maxx Williams, defensive tackle Carl Davis, and defensive end Za’Darius Smith with their first four draft picks. It’s a sequence of selections that would make you think the Ravens were drafting solely for need if not for the fact that all four prospects were projected to be taken earlier in the draft by many pundits.

Newsome followed that by adding a cornerback (Tray Walker) and a running back (Buck Allen) — two other positions of need in most minds — before finally building more offensive depth with tight end Nick Boyle, guard Robert Myers, and wide receiver Darren Waller.

Who was your favorite Ravens pick in the 2015 draft?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Time will tell how well these nine players pan out — history tells us at least a couple won’t — but it’s difficult not to be impressed with the manner in which the Ravens worked. Newsome only pulled off one trade to do it, forfeiting one of three fifth-round picks to move up three spots in the second round to take the consensus top tight end in Williams.

“We’re not done putting this team together right now,” said Newsome, adding that they had already begun the process of signing rookie free agents. “It’s still maybe four months before we have to play Denver [in the season opener]. As a personnel staff, we’re still going to be mining for players to make our roster to make us better.”

Of course, no draft is perfect as the fourth-round selection of Walker, a lesser-known player from FCS school Texas Southern, could be considered a reach with many projecting him as a late-round pick or priority free agent. His 6-foot-2, 191-pound frame is impressive for a corner, but he’s unlikely to quell concerns about the depth behind starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

Then again, Walker’s performance at the College Gridiron Showcase game as well as his private workout with cornerbacks coach Matt Weiss left the Ravens very impressed, making you wonder if they’ve uncovered the latest diamond in the rough. Unsurprisingly, Newsome wouldn’t rule out the possibility of making other additions when he was inevitably asked about a secondary that endured a mountain of injuries in 2014.

The selection of two tight ends confirmed what we’ve known all offseason about the Ravens not counting on the return of veteran Dennis Pitta, who reiterated last week that he hopes to play again despite two serious right hip injuries in two years. Baltimore wasn’t going to forgo the opportunity to add the best tight end in the draft as well as Boyle, a physical blocking tight end from Delaware.

If Pitta can make his way back to the field at some point, a position of clear weakness before the draft could ultimately become of the Ravens’ biggest strengths. Having too many tight ends would be a good problem to have in the West Coast offense that will continue to be used by new offensive Marc Trestman.

“I still don’t know what’s going to happen with [Pitta],” Newsome said. “But Maxx Williams was way ahead of anybody that we had on the board when we picked him, and Boyle was the same way. We have a very tight end-friendly offense, so having one or two is not enough.

As always, the Ravens weren’t only drafting for 2015 as the selection of Myers provides insurance behind guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele, who are both set to become free agents next offseason. And while Baltimore hopes Perriman becomes an immediate starter and the eventual No. 1 receiver, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Waller is an intriguing project to keep an eye on during training camp as the 204th overall pick and final Ravens selection of this year’s draft.

Beyond giving two thumbs up for addressing virtually every need and want on their list — safety and kick returner were the only real positions of interest to go untouched — you don’t grade a draft immediately after its conclusion despite the many who will try to. Three or four years from now, Newsome and the Ravens might look at this weekend fondly or they could cringe with regret.

The value and names are impressive on paper, but now these draft picks — along with a batch of rookie free agents to follow — must show how it translates on the field.

“Our needs and the types of things that are going to make our team better — specifically by position or by the type of player and where they were strategically found — I just thought it was masterful,” said Harbaugh in summarizing this year’s draft. “It’s a big success. Now we have to turn these guys into a football team.”

Comments (1)

maxx

Tags: , , , ,

Ravens move up to take Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams

Posted on 01 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome wasted no time addressing another major need as he selected Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams with the 55th overall pick of the 2015 draft.

A day after drafting Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman in the first round, Newsome traded his original second-round pick (58th overall) and a fifth-round pick (158th overall) to move ahead of Pittsburgh — also coveting a tight end — to grab the talented Williams. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound target was the top tight end in the draft after making 61 receptions for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Golden Gophers.

Williams said he tries to emulate the play of Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and has also drawn comparisons to former Ravens tight end Todd Heap from many talent evaluators.

“I told everyone I was trying to be a starter right away,” Williams said in a conference call with the Baltimore media. “You have to have your goals and what you want to go for, and that’s what I want. I want to be a starter. I want to go in and prove that I can make a difference and help win a championship.”

An impressive playmaker as a receiver, Williams needs to work on his blocking ability, but his skill set is a critical addition due to the uncertainty regarding Dennis Pitta’s future and the free-agent departure of Owen Daniels. Second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore is more of a blocking-minded option at the position, making Williams the perfect fit for the Ravens’ West Coast offense.

Before running the 40-yard dash in an underwhelming 4.78 seconds at the NFL scouting combine in February, Williams was considered a surefire candidate to be taken in the first round, but the Ravens were ecstatic to see him linger long enough in the second to move up to grab him. Seventy-seven percent of Williams’ 36 receptions went for either a first down or a touchdown during the 2014 season.

“Quite honestly, I never dreamed that he would be there for us even in that range of players,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “We thought he’d be gone. We thought conceivably in the first round, but definitely [in the] top 40 picks in the draft. We were happy to get him.”

Williams is a second-generation NFL player as his father Brian enjoyed an 11-year career as a center for the New York Giants. His grandfather Robert played quarterback at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1959, but he elected to instead go to medical school.

Comments Off on Ravens move up to take Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams