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Amid Ravens’ offensive line trials, Jensen emerging as answer at center

Posted on 12 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ask any Ravens player which teammate is most likely to get into a scuffle in training camp, and the answer would be unanimous.

It’s the man who’s helped stabilize the middle of an offensive line that’s endured more than its share of injuries this season. And after years of competing and scrapping in relative obscurity, center Ryan Jensen has been one of the Ravens’ biggest surprises in his first full season as a starter.

“He gets a little feisty; he’ll throw a helmet here and there,” inside linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “He’s a great competitor, and you want that kind of play with all your players, especially on the o-line. He’s not going to let anyone [bully] him. He’s always going to get the better end of it. Playing against him in practice, that keeps you aware.

“Even though you think he’s being a butthole, he’s actually making you better because you’re protecting yourself.”

Jensen says he takes such a description from a teammate as a compliment and quips that his red hair explains why he’s so “ornery” on the field, but such a temperament can be a challenge for a young player trying to establish himself among veteran teammates. A 2013 sixth-round pick out of Division II Colorado State-Pueblo, Jensen didn’t appear in a game as a rookie after breaking his foot early in his first training camp and was then waived at the end of the 2014 preseason, which led to him spending most of that campaign on Baltimore’s practice squad.

If those setbacks weren’t enough to make Jensen wonder if he would ever become a full-time NFL starter, the 6-foot-4, 319-pound lineman was a healthy scratch for the final nine weeks of 2016 after he’d made three fill-in starts early in the season. He’d also started six games because of injuries late in 2015, but the Ravens always seemed to end up going in a different direction whenever he’d receive a look as a starter.

“My second year when I got released, there is always a little doubt that gets put in the back of your mind,” Jensen said. “Working through that is big.”

Despite appearing to fall out of favor last season, Jensen received a $1.797 million tender as a restricted free agent in March. And after incumbent starting center Jeremy Zuttah was traded to San Francisco later that month, head coach John Harbaugh and his staff liked that Jensen had gotten bigger and stronger in the offseason. Senior offensive assistant Greg Roman and new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris wanted more size and physicality at the center position in the transition from an outside-zone blocking system to a multiple approach that would include more man blocking and downhill running.

As many continued to clamor for former New York Jets center Eric Mangold and the focus on the in-house competition remained on John Urschel before his abrupt retirement in late July, Jensen lined up as the starting center on the first day of training camp and never relinquished the job. In fact, he was the only constant on the field throughout the summer as projected starters at every other position battled injuries or were working their way back from offseason surgeries.

Jensen’s first career start at center was uneven as he helped the Ravens run for a season-high 157 yards in the season-opening win at Cincinnati, but he also committed three holding penalties, prompting critics to wonder if he could channel his aggressiveness to play with enough discipline. Since then, however, he hasn’t committed a penalty and is coming off arguably the best game of his career last Sunday in Oakland as he was graded out higher than any center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

“I feel good about my performance. I feel good about the offensive line performance,” said Jensen, who currently ranks third among centers in PFF’s grading system for 2017. “We have been meshing together really well. We have injuries and stuff like that, but we are plowing forward and we are getting there.”

Making Jensen’s emergence even more impressive has been the disruption at both guard positions. Second-year left guard Alex Lewis underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in August — and has since been replaced by James Hurst — and six-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda was lost for the year due to a broken ankle in Week 2, leaving Jensen to work with three different players at right guard since then. With Matt Skura now expected to miss action with a knee injury, the Ravens will be on their third different starting right guard in the season’s first six weeks.

Yanda’s absence in particular has forced Jensen to grow up quickly as he’s responsible for assessing the defense’s pre-snap alignment and making protection calls at the line of scrimmage.

“He is a great communicator. He’s a fine player. He’s a tough guy,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “You guys know how up front that stuff happens fast and furious. It is wicked fast, so the communication has to be there. We have been through several guys [at guard], and he has done a great job of sort of running the show there.”

An offense still trying to find its footing is also benefiting from his attitude. With so many of his offensive teammates having more reserved personalities, Jensen isn’t afraid to get in the face of an opponent, something the Ravens had lost in the offseason with the retirement of wide receiver Steve Smith.

Jensen has managed to harness his temper that was so often on display during those practice-field scuffles in Owings Mills over the last few years and is forcing the rest of the league to take notice of his play.

“Ryan is a confident person. I think he has always been that way,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “The thing that you see with him the most is how nasty he is on Sunday and the style that he plays with. We play football, so that’s what it’s all about.

“You need that kind of player. You love to have those guys on your side.”

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Zuttah, Reynolds, Taliaferro let go by Ravens in first wave of roster cuts

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens began trimming their roster to the NFL-mandated 53-man limit Friday with few surprises among the cuts.

Veteran center Jeremy Zuttah, oft-injured running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, and wide receiver and former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds were among the most notable names to be released as general manager Ozzie Newsome pared his active roster from 90 to 67 players. Baltimore must set its initial 53-man roster by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Re-signed by the Ravens two weeks ago after being cut by San Francisco on Aug. 9, Zuttah did not beat out new starting center Ryan Jensen and became expendable with the Friday acquisition of interior lineman Tony Bergstrom from the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional 2018 seventh-round pick. This marks the second time in less than six months that Newsome has parted ways with Zuttah as the former starter had been traded to the 49ers in March.

The undersized Zuttah was not considered to be a great fit in new senior offensive assistant Greg Roman’s blocking schemes, but the Ravens decided to bring him back for another look after guards Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa suffered season-ending injuries in training camp.

Taliaferro entered the summer atop the depth chart at the fullback position, but he never appeared comfortable at his new position and quickly fell behind undrafted free agent Ricky Ortiz and even rookie defensive lineman Patrick Ricard in the pecking order. The 2014 fourth-round pick showed promise as a rookie, but he had played in only 19 games over his first three NFL seasons because of injuries.

Despite many local fans rooting for him to succeed after a record-breaking collegiate career in Annapolis, Reynolds hasn’t progressed as quickly as the Ravens would have hoped after he spent his rookie season on the practice squad. The 2016 sixth-round pick did not record a reception in the preseason and fumbled a punt in Thursday’s preseason finale in New Orleans. It remains unclear whether the Ravens will look to re-sign him to their practice squad.

Other veterans cut on Friday included tight end Larry Donnell, running back Bobby Rainey, wide receiver Griff Whalen, quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, and cornerback Trevin Wade. The Ravens also waived offensive linemen De’Ondre Wesley, Jarell Broxton, Roubbens Joseph, Jarrod Pughsley, and Derrick Nelson, kicker Kenny Allen, long snapper Taybor Pepper, linebacker Randy Allen, wide receiver C.J. Board, and safety Otha Foster.

Lewis, Siragusa, running back Kenneth Dixon, wide receiver Tim White, cornerback Tavon Young, and linebacker Albert McClellan were all officially placed on season-ending injured reserve. Because they did not remain on the active roster through Saturday’s deadline, none of the aforementioned players are eligible to receive a designation to return later in the season.

It’s worth noting that the Ravens did not place cornerback Maurice Canady on IR yet as he remains a candidate to return later in the season from knee surgery. He would have to stay on the initial 53-man roster until Sunday to remain eligible.

Friday’s transactions leave the Ravens with 67 players on their roster, meaning they must make 14 more moves by the deadline.

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Ravens-Bills preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 25 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens defense enters Saturday’s preseason game against Buffalo having lived up to very lofty expectations through the first two exhibition contests.

First in the NFL in points per game allowed, rushing yards per game allowed, passing yards per game allowed, and total yards per game allowed, Baltimore knows preseason success doesn’t automatically translate to the regular season, but playing this well sure beats the alternative. Just ask the injury-riddled offense that has more questions than answers at this point.

“The whole idea of us going into this year was that we want to be a great defense and we want to finish,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees, whose unit struggled mightily in the final month of the 2016 season. “You have to start to finish. I would rather have a good start than a bad start and be sitting there worried about a bunch of stuff. But I’m still worried about it.

“To say it doesn’t mean anything — I think coaches tell you that — I think that is crap. You want to go out there and you want to play well every day and every week no matter who is on the field.”

Viewed as the dress rehearsal for the start of the regular season, the third preseason game typically involves starters playing the entire first half. However, with the Ravens already dealing with a plethora of injuries, the plan might be different against the Bills.

Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t offer many specifics on what to expect.

“We just have a plan for this year that we are sticking with,” Harbaugh said. “It does not really compare to any other year. You never really know. Different guys have different situations. It is more individualized probably than ever before. You play guys according to their needs.”

Saturday marks the first time since 2003 that the Ravens and Buffalo have met in the preseason with the Bills having won two of the previous three exhibition contests. These teams met in the 2016 season opener with the Ravens winning 13-7 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Baltimore owns a 26-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

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

Most of the players ruled out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider any veterans who could be held out due to the coaching staff’s preference.

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

OUT: QB Joe Flacco (back), WR Breshad Perriman (hamstring), OT Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), CB Maurice Canady (knee), RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), OL Nico Siragusa (knee), CB Tavon Young (knee), OL Alex Lewis (shoulder), WR Tim White (thumb)
DOUBTFUL: CB Marlon Humphrey (hamstring), RB Danny Woodhead (hamstring), CB Brandon Boykin (undisclosed), OT Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), LB Donald Payne (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: G Marshal Yanda (shoulder), CB Sheldon Price (shoulder), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (knee), LB Albert McClellan (undisclosed)

Five players to watch Thursday night

LB Tim Williams

After struggling in the preseason opener against Washington, the third-round pick from Alabama showed off his pass-rushing skills against Miami with a sack and two quarterback hits. Williams has a long way to go to be an every-down linebacker, but the Ravens need players who can get to the quarterback off the edge and he can still carve out a role as a situational pass rusher.

RB Buck Allen

The third-year back looked like he’d face an uphill battle to make the roster several weeks ago, but injuries have afforded him more chances and he’s run with more urgency this summer. Though Terrance West is still projected to be the starter, senior offensive assistant Greg Roman likes to have more than one back involved in the ground game and Allen has rushed for 61 yards on 18 carries this summer.

CB Sheldon Price

Hampered by a shoulder issue for a good portion of the summer, Price is trying to solidify a spot on the 53-man roster and his 6-foot-2, 198-pound frame is ideal for an outside corner. The current absence of 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey helps Price’s case, but rookie free agent Jaylen Hill has all but locked up a job at this point, making it critical for Price to play well in the last two preseason games.

C Jeremy Zuttah

The Ravens needed depth after losing their starting left guard and two other interior options, but Zuttah must prove he can hold up in Roman’s schemes that are more downhill and physical. The fact that Zuttah was released by San Francisco five months after being traded there means he has essentially been cut twice since March and he needs to play with a chip on his shoulder if he wants to unseat Ryan Jensen.

LB Bam Bradley

The reviews for Kamalei Correa at inside linebacker have been mixed, but the Ravens don’t have many alternatives at the position. The 237-pound Bradley has more bulk than special-teams standout Patrick Onwuasor and has played well this preseason, making him one of several undrafted free agents who remain in the conversation for a spot on the 53-man roster.

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How Zuttah fits in return to Ravens offensive line remains unclear

Posted on 19 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Veteran center Jeremy Zuttah is back with the Ravens, but determining how he’ll fit into a revamped offensive line isn’t easy.

After starting all 16 games and being invited to play in the Pro Bowl as an alternate last season, the 31-year-old was traded to San Francisco in March as the Ravens wanted to get bigger and stronger at the position. But after season-ending injuries to Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa and the surprising retirement of John Urschel, the Ravens found themselves extremely thin on the interior line, prompting general manager Ozzie Newsome to re-sign his former starting center a week after he was cut by the 49ers.

No assurances have been made that Zuttah will automatically move back into the starting job he held over the last three seasons.

“The role for right now is to come out, work hard and earn playing time,” Zuttah said after his first practice back with Baltimore. “They said to go out there, compete, and we’ll see where we’re at. That’s honestly where we are.”

Head coach John Harbaugh isn’t tipping his hand, either, but he did say Zuttah would work primarily at center and probably wouldn’t be viewed as an option to start at guard beyond an “emergency” scenario. Fourth-year lineman James Hurst was listed on the latest depth chart as the first-team left guard after the news broke about Lewis undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, but he’s played left tackle in recent days with starter Ronnie Stanley sidelined with an undisclosed ailment.

With Hurst also serving as the primary backup at both tackle spots, some have speculated that the Ravens could shift Jensen to left guard to help stabilize that position and to allow Hurst to focus on left and right tackle responsibilities in practice. Former practice-squad member Matt Skura started at left guard in Thursday’s preseason win over Miami.

The third preseason game against Buffalo next Saturday will offer more clarity, but Harbaugh was content to declare a center competition between Zuttah and Jensen for now.

“They are both in play. We will do whatever is best for the Ravens,” Harbaugh said. “The best players play, and the best players are the guys who play the best. That is how we do it — always have, always will. We will see how it plays out. I love competition, and I’m sure that all of those guys in there want to start.

“They have to earn it, so that is what they will try to do.”

Listed to be 19 pounds heavier than Zuttah, Jensen better fits the profile of what the Ravens wanted at the position with senior offensive assistant Greg Roman implementing a more downhill and physical brand of run-blocking schemes. Zuttah was originally acquired by the Ravens in 2014 when former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was bringing his stretch-zone blocking scheme to Baltimore.

There’s also something to be said about Jensen’s durability and performance at center this summer, which has been steady despite a carousel of players at every other position on the line.

“Even when he has had [physical issues], he has fought through them and gone out and practiced,” Harbaugh said. “He has played well in the games. He played better in this [past] game than the first game. I thought he played well in this game. He’s a motivated guy. We will see what happens.”

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Five new absences from Ravens practice after second preseason game

Posted on 19 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens returned to practice with five new absences after their preseason win over Miami on Thursday night.

Veteran running back Danny Woodhead, 2017 first-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey, wide receiver Chris Matthews, linebacker Donald Payne, and defensive back Robertson Daniel were among those missing from the field during the portion of Saturday’s workout open to reporters. All five played in the 31-7 victory over the Dolphins.

Head coach John Harbaugh said after the game that the Ravens were being cautious with Humphrey after he’d recently been dealing with a “soft tissue” injury. Humphrey took part in just six defensive snaps and three special-teams plays on Thursday, leading one to assume he aggravated the previous injury against Miami. The Alabama product missed five straight workouts with the ailment earlier this month and had only returned to practice last Saturday.

Other players missing on Saturday included quarterback Joe Flacco (back), wide receiver Breshad Perriman (hamstring), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), offensive lineman Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), and cornerbacks Brandon Boykin (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee). Harbaugh said after Thursday’s game that Flacco is not expected to return to practice this week.

The newly-signed Jeremy Zuttah was present and working a day after rejoining his former team. The veteran offensive lineman was assigned No. 64 since his old No. 53 is currently being worn by linebacker Bam Bradley.

Former Ravens tight end and Ring of Honor inductee Todd Heap was visiting practice and was greeted with a hug from former teammate Terrell Suggs.

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Ravens bring back veteran Jeremy Zuttah to boost offensive line depth

Posted on 18 August 2017 by Luke Jones

Just over five months after being traded to San Francisco, veteran offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah is returning to the Ravens.

On Friday, the sides agreed to a two-year contract worth just under $4 million in base salary and up to $6 million with incentives, according to NFL Network. Zuttah had also drawn interest from Indianapolis after being released by the 49ers last week.

The 31-year-old started 41 games at center for the Ravens from 2014-2016 and was invited to play in the Pro Bowl as an alternate last season, but he was bothered by nagging injuries over the last two years. Baltimore aimed to have a more physical presence at the center position this offseason, prompting the trade to San Francisco that included an exchange of sixth-round picks in April’s draft.

Last year, Zuttah was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 13th-best center in the NFL and was ranked 26th in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 system. It remains unclear what Zuttah’s role will be as Ryan Jensen has shown steady play as the starting center this summer, but the former’s return could push Jensen to left guard where the Ravens are trying to fill the void left by the injured Alex Lewis.

Zuttah also started 41 games at left guard early in his career with Tampa Bay.

No matter where Zuttah fits, the Ravens needed depth for the interior line after losing Lewis (shoulder) and 2017 fourth-round guard Nico Siragusa (knee) to season-ending injuries and fourth-year lineman John Urschel to retirement since the start of training camp. Baltimore started unknown third-stringer Jarrod Pughsley at right guard against Miami on Thursday night, a reflection of how thin their depth had become.

Zuttah is the second notable addition to the offensive line this month as general manager Ozzie Newsome signed veteran right tackle Austin Howard to a three-year contract on Aug. 4.

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Former Ravens center Zuttah released by San Francisco

Posted on 09 August 2017 by Luke Jones

Less than five months after being traded, former Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah has been released by San Francisco.

The 49ers chose to part ways with the 31-year-old Wednesday after it was apparent that he wasn’t going to win the starting job from incumbent Daniel Kilgore. The Ravens swapped Zuttah and their 2017 sixth-round pick for San Francisco’s 2017 sixth-round pick on March 15, a move that led to general manager Ozzie Newsome selecting Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark with the 186th overall pick in April’s draft.

Zuttah was scheduled to make $3.5 million in base salary for the 2017 season.

Baltimore’s decision to trade Zuttah was more about his underwhelming play in 2016 and the desire to get bigger and stronger at the position than about his salary, but the organization didn’t add a veteran center in the offseason and lost fourth-year interior lineman John Urschel to his surprising retirement at the start of training camp.

It’s unclear if the Ravens would be interested in re-signing Zuttah at a lower salary for depth with Ryan Jensen currently slated to start at center. In addition to Urschel’s retirement, the Ravens lost fourth-round rookie guard Nico Siragusa to a season-ending knee injury in training camp, leaving former practice-squad member Matt Skura as their top reserve interior lineman behind Jensen and starting guards Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis.

Zuttah has started 117 games in his NFL career and was added to the Pro Bowl as an alternate last season, but nagging injuries contributed to a decline in his play over the last two seasons. He started 41 games at center in his three seasons with the Ravens.

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Offensive line

Posted on 26 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning this week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Quarterbacks
Defensive line
Running backs
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers
Linebackers
Tight ends
Safeties

OFFENSIVE LINE

Projected depth chart:
LT – Ronnie Stanley, De’Ondre Wesley, Roubbens Joseph
LG – Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa, Jarell Broxton, Maurquice Shakir
C – John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, Matt Skura, Brandon Kublanow
RG – Marshal Yanda, Jermaine Eluemunor, Jarrod Pughsley
RT – James Hurst, Stephane Nembot

Why to be impressed: Even with a shoulder injury that forced him to move to the opposite side last season, the 32-year-old Yanda remained the standard at the guard position in today’s NFL and is Baltimore’s best offensive player. Stanley graded as Pro Football Focus’ most efficient pass blocker among rookie offensive tackles and is poised to be even better in his second year.

Why to be concerned: The Ravens lost above-average right tackle Rick Wagner in free agency and traded starting center Jeremy Zuttah without adding a veteran at either position or selecting an offensive lineman before Day 3 of April’s draft. As promising as Stanley and Lewis are, the pair missed a total of 10 games as rookies and are now being counted as the surest things the Ravens have beyond Yanda.

2017 outlook: The hiring of senior offensive assistant Greg Roman and new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris shouldn’t be overlooked, but the three options who worked at center this spring were all behind the maligned Zuttah on the depth chart last year and Hurst has never come close to proving himself as an acceptable NFL starter. This is easily the Ravens’ biggest concern entering training camp.

Prediction: Yanda will make his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl, but at least one of Baltimore’s Week 1 starters on the offensive line isn’t currently on the roster.

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Ravens offense waits as defense receives substantial facelift

Posted on 23 March 2017 by Luke Jones

During Brandon Carr’s press conference this week, Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees was recalling how he’d sent a text message to John Harbaugh after the latest defensive signing was made when the head coach interjected.

“I got a text from Marty [Mornhinweg], too, by the way,” said Harbaugh about his offensive coordinator. “He thought it was a good signing, too — just for the record. We’ve got some work to do over there, too.”

That’s an understatement as general manager Ozzie Newsome has spent lucrative dollars and most of his salary-cap space to revamp a defense that still finished in the top 10 of most significant statistical categories last season despite its well-documented problems down the stretch. Meanwhile, an offense that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in virtually everything in 2016 has last four starters and has added only 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead, who is an intriguing talent but coming off a major knee injury.

Some have attempted to skew the 2016 narrative by pointing to a 27-point scoring output and the late defensive collapse in Pittsburgh on Christmas Day as justification for focusing on the defense this offseason, but that anecdotal evidence clouds the truth. The offense played at a high level only a few times all year while the defense — flawed as it was when cornerback Jimmy Smith wasn’t on the field — was the bigger reason why the Ravens were still in contention in Week 16. That’s not to say that improvements weren’t warranted on the defensive side — which still could use another edge rusher — but the offense was summarily broken all year and has only gotten worse since the season finale in Cincinnati. You can certainly be excited about the re-signing of nose tackle Brandon Williams and the additions of safety Tony Jefferson and Carr, but it’s fair to ask if some of those resources might have been better served addressing the offense.

To be clear, we know the start of the season is more than five months away, and Newsome and the Ravens are aware that they still have much work to do on that side of the ball. But with the first and second waves of free agency now in the books, Baltimore has fewer remaining channels — with the draft being the biggest one — to not only replace departed starters but find ways to markedly improve the offense. Of course, the margin for error is smaller without a dynamic offensive playmaker on which to lean.

Harbaugh sent a loud signal that the Ravens want to get back to running the ball at a high level by hiring senior offensive assistant and ground-game guru Greg Roman, but they need the horses in the trenches to do it. Otherwise, the offense will inevitably revert to Joe Flacco throwing more than 40 times per game, and we’ve seen how that’s worked out since Super Bowl XLVII.

The biggest objective must be to address the offensive line after the departure of right tackle Rick Wagner and the trade of center Jeremy Zuttah to San Francisco. Whether you believe Detroit overpaid for Wagner or not, replacing an above-average right tackle without meaningful drop-off will be very difficult unless new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris has a trick up his sleeve.

Moving on from the underwhelming Zuttah wasn’t shocking, but they have to replace him with someone better or at least as good. There’s been little chatter about former New York Jet Nick Mangold to this point, and even if the Ravens eye a draft prospect such as Ethan Pocic from LSU, there are no guarantees of landing him in the second or third round. The Ravens could consider an internal candidate, but neither John Urschel nor Ryan Jensen inspire much confidence after their respective 2016 campaigns.

Finding a fullback to replace 2016 Pro Bowl selection Kyle Juszczyk shouldn’t be too difficult, but — like with Wagner — it may not be easy to do it without some drop-off.

Then, there’s wide receiver, that position we’ve discussed this time of year on an annual basis.

Baltimore lost its top two possessions receivers in Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken and elected not to sign any free-agent wideouts from a top tier that included Alshon Jeffery and Terrelle Pryor. Perhaps the next Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, or Smith will be acquired in the coming weeks, but one can only look to 2013 and 2015 as recent examples of the Ravens being underprepared at that position and it hurting them substantially. Even looking past the organization’s poor track record with drafting receivers, relying heavily on a rookie wideout is a risky proposition for any team.

You might be willing to give the Ravens the benefit of the doubt along the offensive line — after all, Wagner was mostly an unknown three years ago — but skepticism at wide receiver is justified, whether it’s March or September.

It’s been interesting to see how the offseason has played out to this point, starting with Harbaugh’s decision to retain Mornhinweg as his offensive coordinator despite showing little improvement taking over for the fired Marc Trestman. The team’s brass spoke at length at the season-ending press conference about needing to do whatever it takes to help Flacco play better in 2017, but a below-average offense from a year ago is currently standing at a net loss, putting heavy pressure on the front office and scouting department to nail next month’s draft and to find an under-the-radar free agent or two while also hoping that internal options take significant steps forward.

Otherwise, the Ravens will be needing a 2000-like performance from its revamped defense to have a real shot at getting back to the playoffs in 2017.

Yes, there’s plenty of time left, but many boxes remain unchecked.

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Ravens own seven selections in first 186 picks of 2017 draft

Posted on 17 March 2017 by Luke Jones

Having completed the Jeremy Zuttah trade with San Francisco that included the exchange of 2017 sixth-round picks, the Ravens now own seven selections in the first 186 picks of April’s draft.

After an encouraging early return from his 2016 draft, general manager Ozzie Newsome hopes to find similar success this year to help Baltimore return to the postseason for the first time since 2014. The Ravens own only one compensatory pick — a third-round selection — but this is the first year in which those picks may be traded.

Their original 2017 seventh-round pick belongs to Los Angeles as a result of the trade for wide receiver Chris Givens two years ago. Barring any maneuvering, the Ravens’ seven selections would be their fewest in a draft since 2010.

Below is a look at where the Ravens are scheduled to pick:

Round 1: 16th overall
Round 2: 47th overall
Round 3: 78th overall
Round 3: 99th overall (compensatory)
Round 4: 122nd overall
Round 5: 159th overall
Round 6: 186th overall (from San Francisco)

Just for fun, here’s a look at past players selected by the Ravens at each of those slots (or as close as possible) over the years:

16th overall: LB C.J. Mosley (17th), 2014
47th overall: DT Timmy Jernigan (48th), 2014
78th overall: RB Musa Smith (77th), 2003
99th overall: OL Oniel Cousins, 2008
122nd overall: LB Za’Darius Smith, 2015
159th overall: FB Justin Green (158th), 2005
186th overall: LB Adalius Thomas, 2000

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