Tag Archive | "Joe Flacco"

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High expectations replace distractions for this year’s Ravens

Posted on 30 July 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A year ago at this time, the Ravens were in the midst of the most trying season in the 20-year history of the franchise with the dark cloud of the Ray Rice saga and four other player arrests hanging over their heads.

So you’ll forgive them for relishing the relative peace since three former players — Terrence Cody, Bernard Pierce, and Victor Hampton — were arrested and promptly released early this offseason. The focus was solely on football Thursday as the Ravens officially began training camp with their first full-squad practice.

“We’re happy with it, because last year, it was very uncomfortable,” veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “A lot of us [haven’t] been in that type of situation like that before, but it’s good to come into camp with no major negative storyline concerning us. We’re just ready to get after it. We’re ready to capitalize on things we did great last year and definitively get rid of some of the things we didn’t do so [well].”

This summer, the distractions have been replaced by higher-than-usual expectations for the Ravens despite parting ways with five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, starting receiver Torrey Smith, rush specialist Pernell McPhee, starting tight end Owen Daniels, and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Those losses would have many teams rebuilding and being forced to look toward the future, but general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens are equipped to deal with change immediately after consecutive draft classes that they feel really good about.

The rest of the football world has taken notice with many praising the Ravens’ deep roster and considering them a top contender to win the Super Bowl despite significant personnel changes.

“They do a great job of bringing good guys in and continuing to build the team every year,” said four-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda about the front office. “We try to get better and better. That’s what the Ravens do, and it seems like it this year again. We’re all excited to be out here.”

Of course, many questions must be answered as the Ravens try to replace the aforementioned names with players primarily in their first or second year in the NFL.

How will defensive coordinator Dean Pees mix and match to fill the massive void left behind by Ngata?

Is rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman ready to become Joe Flacco’s new deep threat?

Can new offensive coordinator Marc Tresetman pick up where Kubiak left off a year ago?

Those are just to name a few.

Head coach John Harbaugh’s team will be tested early with five of their first seven regular-season games on the road, the kind of stretch where success could put them in prime position to secure a home playoff game — or better — and failure could create a treacherous climb in the second half of the season to simply make the playoffs.

Why are the Ravens so confident in their rookies and veteran newcomers to pick up the slack left behind by departing players on an annual basis?

Six playoff appearances in the last seven years goes a long way in setting expectations for anyone walking into the building.

“They know what’s expected, because they’ve watched this team in January so much,” Harbaugh said. “I mentioned to [former Ravens linebacker and current scouting intern] Jarret Johnson last night that we’ve had some bad-ass teams around here. That’s what these guys have to understand — what the standard is.”

Even if thankful not to be dealing with the turmoil of last season, returning players — particularly the ones not involved in any off-field transgressions — can take pride in the way they handled the adversity to still go 10-6 and win a playoff game before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Perhaps that memory is one veterans will share with newcomers joining an organization with championship aspirations every year.

But for now, the Ravens are just glad to be back to the business of football with little else entering the conversation.

“When you’re in training camp, it’s tough to think about too many other things,” Flacco said. “I know we had a little bit of a distraction last year, but I thought we did a good job of putting that behind us and taking it for what it was. I guess it’s nice, but I think that [football] was our main concern last year, too.”

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2015 Ravens training camp preview: Quarterbacks

Posted on 20 July 2015 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens set to begin the 20th training camp in franchise history in less than two weeks, expectations are high for John Harbaugh’s team as they eye their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.

As veterans report to Owings Mills on July 29th and the first full-squad workout takes place the following day, we’ll examine each position group entering the summer.

July 20: Quarterbacks
July 21: Defensive line
July 22: Running backs
July 23: Linebackers
July 24: Wide receivers
July 25: Tight ends
July 26: Cornerbacks
July 27: Offensive line
July 28: Safeties
July 29: Specialists

Below is a look at the Baltimore quarterbacks:

QUARTERBACKS
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Bryn Renner, Jerry Lovelocke

Synopsis: The Ravens once again reap the benefits of having a franchise quarterback as Joe Flacco enters his eighth season. The signing of Schaub gives the Ravens their first established veteran behind Flacco since Marc Bulger was the backup during the 2010 season. Baltimore hasn’t carried three quarterbacks on its 53-man roster since the 2009 season, a trend that figures to continue this year with neither Renner nor Lovelocke being standout talents. His regular-season numbers never wow you, but Flacco fits into the exclusive group of quarterbacks capable of winning a championship that so many teams are lacking every year.

One to watch: Flacco is playing under his fourth offensive coordinator in four years and is essentially in a contract year with the sides needing to renegotiate his contract after the 2015 season. It will be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman impacts the veteran signal-caller, but there’s no reason to think Flacco won’t continue to get the job done at just 30 years of age.

One on notice: The 34-year-old Schaub’s lone season in Oakland only fueled concerns about his future after a disappointing end to his long run in Houston 2013. Truthfully, he did not impress during spring practices, consistently lacking arm strength and accuracy with his throws. His contract is guaranteed for 2015, but he’ll need a better summer to instill confidence that the Ravens won’t be in major trouble if Flacco even goes down for a relatively short period of time.

Sleeper: Lovelocke, an Edmondson graduate, is 6-foot-4 and has good arm strength and mobility, which could make him a candidate for the practice squad if he can develop his raw skills over the summer. Either way, it’s fun to root for a local kid after he had a good career at Prairie View A&M.

 

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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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Trestman bringing tweaks, passion to Ravens offense

Posted on 08 June 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Since Marc Trestman was hired in January to become the Ravens’ fourth offensive coordinator in four years, the same question has been asked over and over.

How would the offense change from a year ago when the Ravens finished eighth in the NFL in points scored and 12th in total yards in their only season under Gary Kubiak?

At the time of Trestman’s hire, head coach John Harbaugh vowed to maintain the same principles and zone-blocking schemes in the running game that worked so well in 2014 and there’s little evidence at this stage to suggest that won’t be the case. Several players have described the transition from Kubiak to Trestman as smooth, but that doesn’t mean the former Chicago Bears head coach hasn’t added a few wrinkles here and there.

“The verbiage is the same, [but] some of it’s new,” wide receiver Steve Smith said. “If you don’t listen very carefully, you can easily get tricked. It’s good; it keeps you sharp.”

Known for his fondness for the passing game for much of his coaching career, Trestman is using the shotgun formation more than Kubiak based on limited looks during voluntary organized team activities. Vertical passes, waggles, and swing passes to running backs have stood out in voluntary practices without several starters on each side of the football taking part.

The most visible departure from Kubiak might be the new coordinator’s demeanor as Trestman has taken more of a hands-on approach during practices — regularly conversing in the huddle and sometimes running downfield to congratulate players — while the former coordinator would observe and typically allow his position coaches to handle the bulk of the on-field instruction.

“I’ve always been pretty active coaching on the field in a positive way,” Trestman said. “Very passionate, outwardly emotional at the right time. Just kind of let it happen the way it does during practice and in games, but more in practice where you have a chance to move around a little bit more, be a little bit more verbal with the player. There is time to do that and to coach on the run.”

While acknowledging the season opener is more than three months away, it appears that Trestman has won over quarterback Joe Flacco, who has shown an impressive propensity to succeed with a laundry list of coordinators and quarterbacks coaches as he enters his eighth season. The 59-year-old coordinator says he’s impressed with Flacco’s “quiet confidence” on the practice field but admits the two are still getting to know each other.

Of the three practices open to media over the last couple weeks, Flacco easily had his finest performance on Monday, throwing two touchdowns to tight end Crockett Gillmore inside the red zone and a long score to rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman against cornerback Asa Jackson during 11-on-11 team drills. You could forgive the franchise quarterback for being skeptical after enjoying arguably the best regular season of his career in 2014, but his early reviews have been positive for the man who’s worked with the likes of Steve Young, Rich Gannon, and Bernie Kosar in his long coaching career.

“It’s been great to work with him so far,” Flacco said during the first week of OTAs. “He’s very detailed in what he wants and how he puts things in and making sure that he teaches it in a way that everybody understands it and gets it pretty quickly. I think he’s doing a great job of motivating and getting everybody going, so it’s been good.”

While comparisons to Kubiak are inevitable, Trestman is working with a different deck of cards following the free-agent departures of wide receiver Torrey Smith and tight end Owen Daniels in the offseason. It will be up to the new coordinator to make it work with Perriman and second-round tight end Maxx Williams as important parts of the offense in their rookie season.

Both have much to learn, but Trestman thinks the Ravens have found a good one in Perriman, who is primarily working with the second offense at this point but has made big plays in practices.

“What we saw on tape is what we are getting. What we’re getting is a guy who is continually improving,” Trestman said. “He has a good understanding of the game. He’s not just a fast guy; he’s a smart guy. He is going to learn how to use technique and use patience and use other aspects of playing the position — his size, his hand speed — to get off the line of scrimmage. That’s really awesome to see that he’s a quick learner, and he’s catching the ball and making plays just like we saw him do on tape.”

Ten starters missing from Monday’s voluntary workout

The Ravens continued to be without a number of key players as 10 projected starters were not on the field on Monday.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb, linebackers Daryl Smith, Terrell Suggs, and Elvis Dumervil, offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Rick Wagner (foot), center Jeremy Zuttah (offseason hip surgery), guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele, defensive ends Chris Canty and Steven Means, and wide receivers Michael Campanaro (quadriceps) and Aldrick Robinson (knee) were absent during the session open to reporters.

After missing last Wednesday’s workout, starting cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot) was practicing and working on a limited basis. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (offseason wrist surgery) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) also continued to participate on a limited basis.

Baltimore will hold its final three voluntary OTA workouts on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday before beginning mandatory minicamp on June 16.

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Five questions pondering Flacco, Webb, Monroe, Ravens guards

Posted on 05 June 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or should the Cam Newton contract put all discussion to rest about the deal Joe Flacco received two years ago? To some degree, criticism we heard about Flacco’s contract is now being thrown Newton’s way as he received an extension that pays him an average yearly salary of $20.8 million. We spend so much time ranking quarterbacks and determining which ones are “elite” when it really comes down to a very simple question for NFL teams. Can your quarterback win you a Super Bowl with a reasonable supporting cast around him or not? If the answer is yes, you pay him — plain and simple. Of course, determining the line of demarcation is the challenge as Miami recently paying Ryan Tannehill was an example of that. In terms of average annual salary, does Newton deserve to be the fourth-highest paid quarterback in the NFL? No, but it was his turn in line and Carolina has enough reason to think he can eventually lead the Panthers to the promised land. That’s all that matters.

2. Is it just me or does the Ravens’ current guard situation remind you of the 2011 season? Most assume Baltimore will ultimately re-sign Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda while fourth-year left guard Kelechi Osemele will likely depart via free agency after this season, but I do wonder if that would be the best path for the Ravens. Yanda is a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the best guard in the NFL, but he’ll also be 31 in September. If his demands are through the roof, can you justify giving lucrative money to a player who will be approaching his mid-30s during the life of the contract? Meanwhile, Osemele turns just 26 later this month is likely to get even better over the next couple years. The situation isn’t identical, but it reminds me of 2011 when Ben Grubbs and Yanda were both scheduled to become free agents. Many thought the Ravens should sign Grubbs, but Yanda received an affordable extension that summer and the 2007 first-round pick departed the following winter. I’ll still assume that the Ravens keep Yanda, but it would be tough allowing a much younger player to depart.

3. Is it just me or should Lardarius Webb and Eugene Monroe be attending voluntary organized team activities after injury-plagued campaigns last season? Any veteran player has the right to skip voluntary spring practices, but I can’t help but think the Ravens aren’t thrilled to see Webb and Monroe missing OTA workouts — at least the ones that have been open to media thus far. Counting the playoffs, injuries forced Monroe to miss seven starts last season and the left tackle’s contract is structured in a way that the Ravens could release him next offseason if they’re not thrilled with his performance, as was the case last year. Meanwhile, Webb may have restructured his current contract this offseason, but Baltimore could easily cut the veteran cornerback next winter if his play doesn’t improve substantially from 2014. It’s one thing for established veterans to skip spring workouts, but those with question marks from the previous year are taking a chance to further fall out of good graces when they’re not around in the spring.

4. Is it just me or could a healthy Brent Urban be a difference-maker for a revamped defensive line? Much attention has been paid to the interior part of the line following the trade of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, but the 5-technique defensive end spot is a position of interest as veteran Chris Canty was cut and re-signed at a cheaper rate earlier this year. Canty has been mostly solid in his two years with Baltimore, but he will also be 33 in November and contemplated retirement this past winter. Urban has been quite active during spring workouts and appears fully recovered from last summer’s knee injury. Not only could he challenge Canty for his starting spot, but the 6-foot-7 University of Virginia product could be an intriguing option to replace Pernell McPhee as an interior pass rusher on third down. Urban will need to prove himself this summer, but it was no secret that the 2014 fourth-round pick was going to be a big part of the rotation as a rookie. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a key contributor for the Ravens’ front this season.

5. Is it just me or are the Ravens getting more than enough love this offseason? I’ve made no secret about how impressed I was with general manager Ozzie Newsome’s work in the 2015 draft and the savvy signing of slot cornerback Kyle Arrington last month, but I was surprised to see Sports Illustrated’s Peter King list the Ravens first in his preseason power rankings. Looking at it objectively, Ravens fans would be incensed if Pittsburgh were ranked No. 1 after losing a starting wide receiver, a starting tight end, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, an impact pass rusher, and a good offensive coordinator. Make no mistake, I expect the Ravens to be a playoff team in 2015 and they could very well be poised to make a championship run if wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams are ready to make meaningful contributions as rookies. Everything the Ravens have done looks strong on paper, but that doesn’t always mean it comes to fruition on the field as quickly as you’d like, especially when relying on unproven players. For the fans who like to play the disrespect card in terms of how the national media views their team, King is taking a leap of faith to put Baltimore at the top of the list.

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Five questions pondering Machado, Harbaugh, Lough, others

Posted on 29 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Orioles or Ravens (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or does Manny Machado need to be careful not to develop a reputation as a hothead with umpires? The talented 22-year-old was ejected in the eighth inning of Thursday’s doubleheader after throwing his bat down in disgust upon being called out on a check-swing attempt. Machado said he wasn’t concerned about already having three career ejections, stating that “there’s going to be more where that came from.” Of course, this comes a year after the infamous bat-throwing incident that fetched him a five-game suspension and drew the ire of teammates and fans. The sky’s the limit for Machado, but there has to be some concern about his tendency to lose his temper, which includes him often throwing his helmet or bat after unsuccessful trips at the plate. With situations like this, I’m often reminded of Cal Ripken telling the story of how veteran teammate Ken Singleton once scolded him as a rookie for throwing his helmet, simply saying, “We don’t do that here.” Perhaps someone needs to have that conversation with Machado if it hasn’t happened already.

2. Is it just me or did John Harbaugh react too harshly to questions on Thursday about another offensive coordinator impacting Joe Flacco? The Ravens coach was in no mood to address queries about having his fourth coordinator in four years, going on the defensive and saying it was “irrelevant” and a non-story the media was trying to create. Anyone paying attention over the last few years understands the circumstances that led to coordinator changes and wouldn’t criticize the Ravens for any of them, but it clearly is a challenge for a franchise quarterback and an offense to experience that much change in a short period of time. It’s a testament to Flacco that he’s worked so well with so many different coaches and it’s a credit to the organization for finding individuals who have made enough of an impact in Baltimore to earn head coaching gigs elsewhere. The Ravens feel confident that success will continue under a talented offensive mind in Marc Trestman, so I’m not sure why the head coach took such exception to being asked about another change.

3. Is it just me or is now the time to give David Lough an extended look in the outfield? With Alejandro De Aza designated for assignment on Wednesday, it creates more opportunities for other Orioles outfielders, but Lough has received far fewer chances than Delmon Young, Travis Snider, and Steve Pearce this season. He hasn’t started consecutive games all year, but Lough does provide strong defense and speed, two assets the other outfielders who currently aren’t thriving at the plate lack. Truthfully, I don’t think Lough is an everyday player, but it can’t be easy to produce when you receive roughly one start per week and feel like you have to get three hits are you’ll be right back on the bench the next night. It might not be a bad idea for manager Buck Showalter to start Lough every day — at least against right-handed starters — for two or three weeks for a final assessment to determine whether he can be a starting player. If he doesn’t take advantage, the Orioles shouldn’t hesitate to move on from Lough if they want to explore other options in the outfield.

4. Is it just me or is criticism for established NFL veterans skipping voluntary organized team activities absurd? Yes, rookies and veterans on shaky footing are only hurting themselves by skipping OTAs, but entrenched veterans should not feel obligated to attend voluntary workouts. Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady was the latest to suffer a season-ending knee injury in a voluntary workout this week. I realize injuries can happen at any point, but why put yourself in harm’s way if you don’t feel the need to? This notion would be much different if NFL players had guaranteed contracts, but do you think the Broncos will hesitate cutting Clady next year when he’s coming off a major knee injury and is scheduled to make $9.5 million if they feel it will help their salary cap situation? Loyalty is a two-way street, but NFL teams typically take up the entire road in these matters. Of course, players can’t do anything about the lack of guaranteed contracts until it’s time for the next collective bargaining agreement, but that doesn’t mean they need to show up for voluntary workouts.

5. Is it just me or are the Orioles benefiting from their best pitching depth in a long time? Not that they were all great in Thursday’s doubleheader, but rookies Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, and Oliver Drake combined to pitch 12 of the 18 innings as the Orioles split with the Chicago White Sox. With all attention paid to the Orioles’ top six starting candidates and a crowded veteran bullpen this spring, it’s been refreshing to see pitchers come up from Triple-A Norfolk while Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman are currently on the 15-day disabled list. With Norris, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O’Day, and Tommy Hunter all scheduled to become free agents this offseason, the Orioles will likely have some opportunities available in both the rotation and bullpen for 2016, and that doesn’t seem like a bad thing with the contributions they’ve received from young pitchers so far. Of course, it’s also worth noting that pitching prospect Dylan Bundy will be out of options next year and will need to be on the 25-man roster, giving the Orioles more incentive to want to see him in Baltimore at some point later this season. Bundy is currently dealing with right shoulder tendinitis.

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Five Ravens questions for start of 2015 OTAs

Posted on 27 May 2015 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens officially begin their organized team activities on Wednesday, below are five questions for this still-early stage of 2015:

1. How is Joe Flacco adjusting to his fourth offensive coordinator in four seasons?

The franchise quarterback’s early reviews of Marc Trestman have been positive, but it has to be frustrating to now be working with a different coordinator for a fourth straight season. Fortunately, Trestman has a good reputation for working with quarterbacks and intends to maintain many of the principles used in Gary Kubiak’s system, which allowed Flacco to have arguably the best regular season of his career. If the veteran weren’t entering his eighth season, this would be a bigger concern, but the 2008 first-round pick has proven he can work with just about anyone over the years.

2. Which players will be healthy enough to participate?

There is an extensive list of players coming off season-ending injuries or offseason surgeries including tight end Dennis Pitta (hip), cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (foot) and Asa Jackson (knee), linebacker C.J. Mosley (wrist surgery), right tackle Rick Wagner (foot), center Jeremy Zuttah (hip surgery), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), and safety Terrence Brooks (knee). Many of these players figure to at least be limited during OTAs. Not counting the uncertainty surrounding Pitta, Brooks appears to be the furthest away as the Ravens have said he’ll likely begin the year on the physically unable to perform list.

3. Will promising slot receiver Michael Campanaro stay healthy?

There has been plenty of offseason hype about the potential of the 2014 seventh-round pick, but head coach John Harbaugh has said over and over that Campanaro needs to prove he can consistently stay on the field and that will begin this spring. Catching seven passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in four games, Campanaro shows promises as both a slot receiver and a punt returner, but hamstring issues plagued him throughout his rookie season. If he wants to make his mark in a crowded group of wide receivers, the 5-foot-9 Campanaro simply staying healthy this spring would be a good start.

4. What will Terrell Suggs have to say about Haloti Ngata being traded?

The silence from the 13th-year linebacker has been deafening as it relates to the departure of longtime teammate Haloti Ngata, whose locker was next to Suggs’ at the Ravens’ Owings Mills training complex. This isn’t to suggest that Suggs and the organization are on poor terms, but you do wonder how it went over in his mind to see Ozzie Newsome deal one of the best players in team history for two mid-round picks. Of course, the 32-year-old understands it’s a business after signing a team-friendly extension a year ago, but it will still be interesting to hear what he has to say about Ngata no longer being in purple.

5. Which veterans will not participate?

We’ll likely have to wait until next month’s mandatory minicamp to hear from Suggs as the Ravens generally have a handful of veterans who skip the voluntary OTAs. The most interesting name to monitor will be four-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, who is entering the final year of a five-year contract. The Ravens want to sign him to an extension, but no deal was close as of a couple weeks ago. Some fans and media will take exception to any veterans skipping OTAs, but their attendance simply doesn’t mean that much to the overall outcome of the 2015 season when it’s all said and done.

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Ravens national scout Douglas takes job with Chicago

Posted on 15 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Photo courtesy of the Ravens

Joe Douglas isn’t a household name for most Ravens fans, but his work has been critical to the organization’s success over the last 15 years.

The national scout accepted a job with the Chicago Bears to become their college scouting director, a position currently held by Joe Hortiz in Baltimore. Douglas joined the Ravens in 2000 and famously filled the role of “The Turk” — the man who informed players that they were about to be cut — when their training camp was profiled in HBO’s “Hard Knocks” in 2001.

Despite remaining in the background during his time with the Ravens, Douglas was largely responsible in scouting and recommending Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco, who was selected with the 18th pick of the 2008 draft and went on to become the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XLVII. The scout was also instrumental in the evaluation of Rutgers running back Ray Rice, who was drafted in the second round that same year.

Douglas was promoted to the role of national scout following the 2012 draft after he previously served as Southeast area scout from 2009-2011. He also played a key role in facilitating the signing of undrafted free agents, an area in which the Ravens have excelled for years.

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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.

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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.”

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Ravens bring food, support to west Baltimore

Posted on 30 April 2015 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)

After many players spoke out against the violence in Baltimore earlier this week, the Ravens brought support and supplies to the west Baltimore area on Thursday morning.

Head coach John Harbaugh, former Ravens linebackers Ray Lewis and O.J. Brigance, and quarterback Joe Flacco were part of a group of 55 players and 30 organization volunteers. The group visited two elementary schools as well as Frederick Douglass High School, where Lewis gave an impassioned speech to students.

“We have an opportunity to change Baltimore,” said Lewis as CNN brought live coverage of his words. “If you want to make real change, be the example of change.”

Lewis elected to forgo his normal ESPN duties covering the NFL draft in Chicago in order to remain in Baltimore to offer support in such a trying time. Due to the citywide curfew, the Ravens were forced to cancel their Thursday night draft party at M&T Bank Stadium earlier this week.

It was hardly surprising, but the Ravens’ arrival in the community hit hardest by Monday’s rioting was the latest example to help justify the overwhelming support they’ve received from Baltimore and its fans for the last two decades.

 

 

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