Tag Archive | "Joe Flacco"

Kubiak in learning mode as much as Ravens players this spring

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Kubiak in learning mode as much as Ravens players this spring

Posted on 10 June 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens trying to revamp the NFL’s 29th-ranked offense from a year ago, the focus has fallen on quarterback Joe Flacco and his teammates trying to learn Gary Kubiak’s system this spring.

But as players try to grasp the terminology and master the precision and timing of the West Coast offense, the Ravens’ new offensive coordinator is doing plenty of his own learning during organized team activities. Kubiak spent the offseason learning as much as he could about his new personnel, but the former Houston Texans head coach is using spring practices to determine players’ strengths and weaknesses within his system.

The current objective is more about experimentation than perfection with the start of the season still three months away.

“I think that’s been my challenge right now as a coach — to watch,” Kubiak said. “I’m throwing the kitchen sink at them, and then I have to kind of watch and see what sticks and what they do best. When we come back for [training] camp, I’ll probably have to cut some things down, but they’ve been very receptive. We have plenty of time from a teaching standpoint, plenty of time on the field.”

Of course, Kubiak hasn’t started with a clean slate in terms of learning his players as he’s been reunited with wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who had a strong relationship with the coach in Houston. General manager Ozzie Newsome also added tight end Owen Daniels and running back Justin Forsett, two former Houston Texans with experience playing in Kubiak’s system.

Those players have acted as a tutoring system for the likes of wide receivers Torrey Smith and Steve Smith, tight end Dennis Pitta, and running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce as they try to grasp a new playbook.

“There are a few people in each place that kind of know the way I’ve done things and how I do things,” Kubiak said. “Jacoby has been a big asset, Owen’s been a big asset with Dennis, and Justin’s been a big asset with Ray. I think the way things got situated before we got to work has been a big positive.”

The vision of Kubiak’s West Coast attack has been evident during OTAs as the passing game has been centered around shorter routes based on timing, quite a shift from the emphasis on the vertical passing game that existed under former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in Flacco’s first five seasons. The deep ball will still be a factor with Flacco’s arm strength and speedy options such as Torrey Smith and Jones on the outside, but Steve Smith and Pitta will be the focal points in the short-to-intermediate passing game.

The 35-year-old Smith will be of particular interest during training camp as the Ravens view him as more of a possession receiver, which is a departure from his reliance on speed and playing outside throughout his career.

The timing and precision of Kubiak’s system requires quarterbacks to have exceptional footwork, making that one of the biggest points of emphasis for Flacco this spring beyond the mastery of the playbook and learning the responsibilities of every other player on the field. That focus has allowed Kubiak to develop a new appreciation for the seventh-year quarterback, who isn’t exactly known around the league for his mobility.

“I knew he had a big arm, but I had no idea how good of an athlete he is,” Kubiak said. “[He is] a very good athlete. The things we like to do, [moving] around, the zone-pass schemes that we like to run, I think fit to a lot of his strengths. We just need to continue to get better at them. But his progress and where he’s at right now, I couldn’t be happier.”

The Baltimore offense remains a work in progress with questions still surrounding the state of the offensive line as the right tackle position remains up for grabs and new center Jeremy Zuttah continues to adjust to his new surroundings. The group appears promising on paper, but offensive line coach Juan Castillo’s ability to teach Kubiak’s zone-blocking system will be scrutinized after a 2013 season that was nothing short of disastrous in terms of line play.

As Kubiak pointed out on Tuesday, plenty of time remains to work out the details — like how to handle the running back position with Rice all but guaranteed to be suspended to start the season — but the Ravens are using spring practices to mold a vision of what the offense will look like with new pieces and a new philosophy in place.

“That’s my challenge right now. Finding out what we do best and making sure I don’t overload them,” Kubiak said. “But I did think it was very important that we challenge them mentally as well as physically, especially throughout the course of OTAs. I told them that. I said, ‘Guys, I’m going to throw a lot at you. We need to go make some mistakes, but let’s go make them hard. We’ll figure it out and make sure on opening day we’re doing what we do best.’”

Tuesday practice attendance

With the Ravens in the midst of their final week of voluntary OTAs, a number of veteran players were absent from the field on Tuesday including linebackers Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Daryl Smith, defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty, and offensive linemen Eugene Monroe and Marshal Yanda.

Others missing from practice included defensive tackle Terrence Cody (hip surgery), offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf strain), and wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Jace Davis.

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Flacco offseason noise meaningless in big picture

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Flacco offseason noise meaningless in big picture

Posted on 02 June 2014 by Luke Jones

In case you haven’t heard by now, quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t organize offseason workouts with teammates and has apparently doomed the Ravens’ 2014 season almost two months before training camp begins.

At least that’s what some might have you believe as critics have used this revelation to question the seventh-year quarterback’s commitment to the organization after the worst season of his career in 2013. Or, maybe it’s just the latest example of the overkill of NFL coverage when there simply aren’t enough topics of substance to discuss in the offseason.

I’ll take some level of responsibility for the overreaction to Flacco not organizing informal workouts with teammates after I initially asked Dennis Pitta in early March if he’d talked to his best friend on the team about the tight end’s new contract and whether they planned to get together with other teammates to throw in the offseason. It was a question stemming from sheer curiosity and an effort to spice up what was otherwise a relatively mundane press conference following the announcement of Pitta’s five-year, $32 million contract five days earlier.

The reaction snowballed from there as many used Pitta’s initial response as a springboard to criticize Flacco for not eating, breathing, and sleeping football for all hours of the day and all days of the year.

Truthfully, the outcome of Flacco and his teammates refraining from getting together does nothing to significantly move the meter on where the Ravens’ fate will fall during the 2014 season. Yes, an argument could be made that it could provide a stronger rapport away from the Owings Mills facility, but the lack of any working knowledge of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system as well as an inability to contact coaches would have resulted in little tangible productivity.

Flacco must play better than he did in 2013 as the quarterback acknowledged again last week that he did a poor job of protecting the football in throwing a career-high 22 interceptions for the league’s 29th-ranked offense. Should that improvement come, it will be about putting in extensive preparation with Kubiak and taking advantage of better offensive personnel.

If he plays well in 2014, no one will remember that Flacco didn’t toss around the football with teammates at an undisclosed location in late March or early April. And if the quarterback plays poorly, heavy criticism will be there no matter what he did or didn’t do in the offseason.

In the same way that some critics squawk about veterans skipping voluntary organized team activities in the spring, these stories are only discussed when we’re more than three months away from real games being played and have little bearing on wins and losses by season’s end.

Reed back in Baltimore

Sunday was just another reminder of how good it is to see former Ravens safety Ed Reed maintain a strong relationship with Baltimore as he participated in cornerback Lardarius Webb’s charity softball game at M&T Bank Stadium.

There easily could have been hurt feelings when the Ravens allowed Reed to depart via free agency last year without even putting up a fight to keep him, but the sides remained amicable as the veteran safety returned for the visit to the White House as well as the Super Bowl ring ceremony last summer. It’s only a matter of time before the Ravens honor Reed with a one-day contract — if that’s what he wants, of course — to allow him to retire with the organization that drafted him in 2002, and we’ll see him in the organization’s Ring of Honor as soon as his playing days are over.

Many have called for the future Hall of Fame safety to retire, but there’s no reason why the 35-year-old shouldn’t try to continue playing if there’s a team who wants him and he’s healthy enough — a big question — with the nerve impingement in his neck and past hip issues. His play on the field is a far cry from what it once was as one of the greatest safeties in NFL history, but his leadership and football intelligence could still be assets for a team envisioning the right role for him at this late stage in his career.

As for Reed having a position in the Ravens organization after his playing days are over, it might be too soon to immediately hire him as an assistant coach, but the reputation he gained for mentoring young players late in his career as well as his vast knowledge for the game are talents the organization would be wise to use in some capacity.

Offensive line depth chart crowded

The development of the offensive line will continue to be a major storyline in the preseason as the Ravens decide who will be lining up at right tackle, but a simple look at the depth chart suggests some household names could be on the chopping block at the end of the summer.

The Ravens currently have 11 offensive linemen who either have extensive NFL experience or were drafted by the organization in recent years, a list that includes Eugene Monroe, Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Gino Gradkowski, Jah Reid, A.Q. Shipley, Rick Wagner, Ryan Jensen, and Will Rackley. That group does not include rookie free agent tackle James Hurst, who is held in high regard and was considered a sure draft pick by many experts before he fractured his leg in North Carolina’s bowl game in late December.

Of course, depth doesn’t mean quality depth as the Ravens will determine whether Wagner or Jensen can cut it at right tackle or elect to move Osemele from left guard to tackle and explore the possibility of a veteran like Rackley at the left guard spot. General manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh have also left open the possibility of adding another veteran tackle such as Eric Winston.

Regardless of how it plays out, holdovers from recent years such as Reid, Gradkowski, and Shipley should be looking over their shoulder this summer as it’s clear there is plenty of competition in an effort to improve what was an awful line a year ago.

Elam praised

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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C.J. Mosley’s great, but Ravens’ draft class will be defined by who they take next

Posted on 09 May 2014 by johngallo

It’s a great start. But one player rarely makes for a great draft class.

It’s not surprising the Ravens took C.J. Mosley, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound inside linebacker out of the University of Ozzie Newsome, I mean Alabama.

What’s not to like: He runs a 4.63 40-yard dash and can jump 35 inches. He was one of the best linebackers available in the draft – one so good the Ravens would have picked him as high as No. 10, if you believe Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta.

“There’s no question in my mind that he’s going to be ready to play from Day 1,” Newsome, the general manager, said.

Mosley won The Butkus Award in 2013, given to the nation’s top college linebacker, after posting 108 tackles, forcing a fumble and defending five passes for the Crimson Tide.

“He’s the one guy that you can’t find anyone to say anything bad about him – how reliable, accountable and dependable he is on and off the field,” Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said.

Coach John Harbaugh agreed.

“You’re going to love him,” he said. “You’re going to love his work ethic. You’re going to love his personality. He’s going to be in here Monday ready to go to work.”

Mosley is the sixth inside linebacker on the roster, but he was simply too good to ignore.

“We know we got better as a football team because of the way C.J. plays,” Newsome said.

Yes, Baltimore should be better with Mosley, but whether the Ravens can transform from a mediocre, 8-8 team to one that makes the playoffs will be determined by who they add with their final seven picks.

The Ravens have the Nos. 48 (second round), 79, 99 (third rounds), 134, 138 (fourth rounds), 175 (fifth round) and 194 (sixth round) picks, so they have plenty of chances to fill glaring weaknesses.

Here are three areas the Ravens must address:

Offensive line: If the season started tomorrow, who would start at right tackle? Raise your hand if you had Ricky Wagner, a fifth-round pick who played in all 16 games with two starts as a rookie last year. Upgrading an offensive line that was terrible in protecting Flacco and just as bad in creating holes for Ray Rice is critical if the Ravens are going to return to the playoffs. The Ravens have been superb at picking offensive linemen in the first round. Ogden (1996) played in 11 Pro Bowls and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame, while Ben Grubbs (2007) made one. The odd man out: Oher, who never lived up to his lofty expectations and signed with the Titans during the offseason.

Options:

Rounds: 2-4: Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA, 6-4, 307; Cyrus Kouandijo, Alabama, 6-7, 332; Morgan Moses, West Virginia, 6-6, 312; Jack Mewhort, Ohio State, 6-6, 309; Antonio Richardson, Tennessee, 6-6, 236; Cameron Fleming, Stanford, 6-5, 323; Billy Turner, North Dakota State, 6-5, 315; Michael Schofield, Michigan, 6-7, 301.

Rounds 5-6: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, McGill, 6-5, 298; Justin Britt, Missouri, 6-6, 325; Seantrel Henderson, Miami, 6-7, 331; Matt Patchan, Boston College, 6-6, 302.

My pick: Richardson.

Safety: The Ravens’ bolstered the position by signing former St. Louis Ram Darian Stewart in free agency. Stewart played in 13 games (six starts) last season, when the 5-foot-11, 216-pounder made 36 tackles. The Ravens need someone to replace James Ihedigbo, who signed with Detroit during the offseason. The Ravens drafted Matt Elam in the first round last year as they try to find the next Ed Reed, a future Hall of Famer and former defensive player of the year who made eight Pro Bowls.

Options:

Rounds 2-4: Brock Vereen, Minnesota, 6-0, 199; Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin, 6-0, 211.

Rounds 5-6: Craig Loston, LSU, 6-1, 217; Vinnie Sunseri (recovering from torn ACL), Alabama, 5-11, 210; Ahmad Dixon, Baylor, 6-0, 212; Tre Boston, North Carolina, 6-0, 204.

My pick: Loston.

Running back: Rice, Bernard Pierce and Bernard Scott – that’s the Ravens’ depth chart at the position right now. If the Ravens enter the season with that Holy Trinity of Mediocrity, Flacco might have to throw until his arm falls off if the Ravens are to make a deep run in the playoffs. Rice, Pearce and Scott combined for 373 carries for 1,110 yards – an average of 2.9 yards per carry – and six touchdowns. If that happens this season, the Ravens will have a really high draft pick in 2015.

Options:

Rounds 2-4: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State, 6-0, 230; Bishop Sankey, Washington, 5-10, 209; Tre Mason, Auburn, 5-9, 207; Jeremy Hill, LSU, 6-1, 233; Andre Williams, Boston College, 5-11, 230; Terrance West, Towson, 5-9, 225; Devonta Freeman, Florida State, 5-8, 206; Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona, 5-9, 207.

Rounds 5-6: Charles Sims, West Virginia, 6-0, 214; Lache Seastrunk, Baylor, 5-10, 201; Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern, 5-9, 209; James White, Wisconsin, 5-9, 204; De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon, 5-9, 174

My pick: Thomas.

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Thyrl, Ryan envision Ravens going O-Line in first round

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Thyrl, Ryan envision Ravens going O-Line in first round

Posted on 08 May 2014 by Ryan Chell

Thyrl Nelson’s 

1st rd (17)- Taylor Lewan, OT-Michigan

Analysis: The Ravens retained their left tackle in Eugene Monroe in the off-season, but the belief is that the Ravens would run to the podium to draft Michigan OT Taylor Lewan. The belief is that he could be off the board well before Baltimore drafts, but he is a guy that has been called a “beast” by members of his Wolverine coaching staff and would start immediately at right tackle with the hopes that one day he would be the dominant left tackle of the future for the Ravens.

2nd rd (48)-Jimmie Ward, FS-Northern Illinois

Analysis: A 3-time all-MAC selection and 2013 All-American, the clear-cut 2nd FS on the board behind Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama. In 2013, he led Northern Illinois in tackles (95), interceptions (7) and pass deflections (12).  Taking Ward or another free safety would allow 2013 1st rd-pick Matt Elam to return to his more natural strong safety position and would likely relegate free agent acquisition Darian Stewart to backup duty or create a nice training camp battle.

3rd rd (79)-Jarvis Landry, WR-LSU

Analysis: Landry, who has made it known that he’s a Ravens fan, would become the first ever LSU Tiger to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens. Leaving after his junior year, he and Odell Beckham combined to be one of the better dynamic duos in a receiving corps. He finished 2013 with 77 receptions, 1,193 yards and 10 TDs. Has the ability to go up and get a ball, but is only listed at 5’11.

3rd rd (99)-Tre Mason, RB-Auburn

Analysis: Thyrl Nelson expects that the Ravens will take a RB that could be a fit in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme. Tre Mason, 5’8-207, has the build of a Ray Rice and ran in a similar offense at Auburn. A physical back with a hidden burst of speed as well.

4th rd (134)-Antonio Richardson, OT-Tennessee

Analysis: While the Ravens draft Taylor Lewan and immediately put him in the starting lineup, the Ravens like to take tackles on occasion to develop  and have a project to work on. It’s tough to not immediately start a 6’6, 336-lb tackle, but his game might be raw at the NFL level.

4th rd (138)-Zach Kerr, DT-Delaware

Analysis: The Ravens have gone down to the FCS level the last couple years to find players that might not be getting some attention from other NFL teams. Most of these players were capable of starting at the FBS level, but just weren’t getting the playing time or lost tight competitions. The Ravens are all too familiar with the University of Delaware having reached out there to draft both their quarterback, Joe Flacco and center, Gino Gradkowski. Zack Kerr, who transferred out of Maryland after Ralph Friedgen’s departure, would be expected to be a key piece in replacing Arthur Jones, who left in free agency to the Indianapolis Colts.

5th rd (175)-Tajh Boyd, QB-Clemson

Analysis: Boyd, a three-year starter for Clemson and ACC Player of the Year in 2012, has fallen down the draft boards. Or isn’t the hyped-up QB this year. He holds school records in touchdowns (107) and passing yards in 11,904, and would be a better backup option for Joe Flacco than Tyrod Taylor due to his skills as a passer. Taylor, a 6th-rd pick of the Ravens in 2011, is entering the final year of his deal and may have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff.

6th rd (194)-Chris Davis, CB/KR-Auburn

Analysis: Nelson has the Ravens taking not only a CB, but a KR here as well. If Asa Jackson and Jacoby Jones are expected to be bigger parts of the defense and offense respectively, the Ravens would like to have other options on special teams to return the ball. Would be interesting though for the Ravens to take two Auburn players with a GM in Ozzie Newsome hailing from their Iron Brown rivals in Alabama.

Ryan’s Picks

1st rd (17)-Zack Martin, OG-OT, Notre Dame

Analysis-Reportedly, the Ravens-especially offensive line coach Juan Castillo-love Zack Martin. They love him so much-they didn’t bring him in for a visit to Owings Mills because they didn’t want to telegraph their interest in Martin-a three-year starter on the Irish offensive line. There also may be a bigger possibility that Martin is available to the Ravens at 17 as opposed to Lewan. He could be a candidate to start immediately at right tackle for the Ravens, or play left guard and swing Kelechi Osemele out to RT.

2nd rd (48)-Jimmie Ward, FS-Northern Illinois

Analysis: I agree with Thyrl that the Ravens agree they can wait and address their free safety need later in the draft. If they do pass on Clinton-Dix with the first selection, they likely will see where the market lies and circle in on Jimmie Ward quickly-maybe being forced to move up and get him.

3rd rd (79)-Martavis Bryant, WR-Clemson

Analysis-Everyone talks about Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, but junior WR Martavis Bryant, who visited Owings Mills, brings size and sure hands to the NFL level. He stands at 6’4, 211 and would pair with Marlon Brown in becoming another potential red zone target for Joe Flacco.

3rd rd (99)-Keith McGill, CB-Utah

Analysis: Like death and taxes, the Ravens drafting a CB is a given. Utah CB Keith McGill would be called upon to fill the void left by Corey Graham in free agency. Standing at 6’3, 214 lb,  he’s a more physical corner back that would pair nicely and allow CB Lardarius Webb to move inside and play the slot receiver in nickel situations. Missed the 2012 season with a shoulder injury but returned to have 12 pass breakups in 2013.

4th rd (134)-CJ Fiedorowicz; TE-Iowa

Analysis: With the Ravens need to get bigger, Iowa TE CJ Fiedorowicz stands at 6’6, 265 lb and could be an intriguing weapon for Joe Flacco to throw the ball to down the field and in the end zone. Familar with the Ravens coaching style having played under former Ravens assistant Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, he would be a nice pairing with Dennis Pitta, free agent acquisition Owen Daniels, and H-back Kyle Juszczyk. Numbers were not as impressive in the Hawkeye offense due to the ball-control tempo ran at Iowa.

4th rd (138)-Ka’Deem Carey, RB-Arizona

Analysis: Much like with Thyrl’s projection with Tre Mason, Ka’Deem Carey has the same size as Ray Rice. Could either take over for Rice or be the next Ray Rice in this offense. Had back-to-back 1800-yard seasons for the Wildcats with 41 TDs.

5th rd (175)-Preston Brown, ILB-Louisville

Analysis: Provides the Ravens with some depth at the inside linebacker after the loss of Jameel McClain to free agency. Arthur Brown and Daryl Smith will likely start for the Ravens but need backups in the team’s 3-4 scheme.

6th rd (194)-Keith Wenning, QB-Ball State

Analysis: Wenning, a four-year starter at Ball State, holds the Cardinals passing records for touchdowns (92), and set a school record for touchdowns in a season with 35 in 2013. Came to Owings Mills on an official visit, and the only MAC QBs to finish with more passing yards in their careers were Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich. Likely would spell the end of the Tyrod Taylor era in Baltimore.

 

If you missed our explanations of the projected picks, check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault!

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An important #WNSTSweet16 during an important week for the Ravens

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An important #WNSTSweet16 during an important week for the Ravens

Posted on 06 May 2014 by Luke Jones

After taking a look at the rare not-so-great draft moments in the history of the Baltimore Ravens a week ago, this week’s #WNSTSweet16 recognizes an abundance of riches in ranking the most important draft picks in franchise history.

Though recent years have produced more singles and doubles than triples and home runs as they relate to the work of general manager Ozzie Newsome and his talented front office, the Ravens’ immense success over the first 18 years of their existence should be attributed first and foremost to the draft and an ability to recognize talent to fit their vision of a winning franchise. Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said last week that luck is a significant factor in finding impact talent year after year, but a simple look at this week’s list shows that 11 of the 16 choices came in the first round, a reflection of just how rarely the Ravens have missed early in the draft.

It’s important to reiterate this week’s list covers the most important — not necessarily the best — draft picks as certain selections came at critical junctures for a franchise that already boasts two Super Bowl championships in its young history. A simple question to ask in determining a draft pick’s importance was, “How critical was this player to winning a championship or at least enjoying an extended run of success?”

Cracking the top five is no easy task as the Ravens already claim one Hall of Fame player selected with their first ever draft pick while two other first-round choices are slam dunks for Canton in the not-so-distant future.

Without further ado, I present the #WNSTSweet16 Most Important Draft Picks in Ravens History:

Continue to next page for No. 16

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Ravens pleased with early turnout for offseason program

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Ravens pleased with early turnout for offseason program

Posted on 22 April 2014 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With players returning to Owings Mills this week to officially begin preparations for the 2014 season, the Ravens are pleased with the early turnout for the first phase of the offseason training program.

Strength and conditioning coach Bob Rogucki said attendance was “high” for the first two days of voluntary workouts with quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, wide receivers Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, and Jacoby Jones, tight end Owen Daniels, inside linebackers Daryl Smith and Arthur Brown, cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith, and safety Matt Elam among the many players who were present. The first two weeks of the program focus solely on strength training and conditioning four days a week, but there is less time to ease players back into the routine under the current collective bargaining agreement that pushed back the starting date for the offseason training program.

Players were given the task of completing six 300-yard runs as a baseline for their conditioning and are focusing on strengthening their necks in the early stages of the program in addition to traditional weight training.

“Anybody that comes into this program, our expectations are always going to be high for them,” said Rogucki, now in his seventh year with the organization. “If we don’t start pressing that button today then three weeks from now, they aren’t going to be ready. Our expectations are always high and, right now, we’re pleased with what they’re doing.”

Despite a tumultuous offseason that included an indictment for aggravated assault, Rice has been present for workouts and received a positive review from the Ravens training staff. Reports indicated earlier this offseason that Rice had lost weight after head coach John Harbaugh said the seventh-year running back was too heavy in a career-worst season that included a Week 2 hip injury that hampered him for much of the year.

Rice’s pending legal case may still compromise his availability for the 2014 season, but his commitment to improve on the field hasn’t gone unnoticed. The 27-year-old rushed for a career-low 660 yards and averaged just 3.1 yards per carry while weighing in the neighborhood of 225 pounds last year.

The Ravens would like him to be at least 15 pounds lighter this season.

“He’s doing some things differently as far as his diet and so forth,” Rogucki said. “He told me he has a handle on it. He looks good. Whatever he did from the end of the season until now, he’s in a good position right now.”

Starting left guard Kelechi Osemele continues to make excellent progress after undergoing back surgery last fall and is expected to participate in organized team activities and minicamp practices.

Though workouts are officially voluntary, Rogucki and the rest of the coaching staff conveyed a clear message from the point players returned to the building.

“Every time they come in, they’re going to do more weight or more reps without bells and whistles,” Rogucki said. “There’s a lot of programs out there that have bells and whistles. In order to survive in this league, you’ve got to lift and you’ve got to lift heavy. That’s the bottom line. You’ve got to run and you’ve got to run fast. You’ve got to condition and you’ve got to condition long.

“There are no other answers but that to survive. It’s a collision out there. It’s a car crash every time they hit.”

 

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An Easter Sweet 16 of treats that were better than candy in the basket

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An Easter Sweet 16 of treats that were better than candy in the basket

Posted on 14 April 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

This one will be worthy of some bar room arguments this week but I was entrusted with identifying the 16 greatest games in Baltimore sports history. Passion. Drama. Great finishes. Memorable action on the field of play.

I wrote down a list of 30 great games and seeded them based on the significance of the outcome and the level of activity in the games and came up with a WNST.net Sweet 16 lost full of memories but not all them had happy endings.

Hey, a great game is a great game. All of these left me feeling like I got my monies worth.

Feel free to feedback below or via Twitter, Facebook or email (nasty@wnst.net).

 

16. Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens (Dec. 8, 2013)

It will take some more time to know how distance treats this recent classic, but it’s hard to top the only snow game in the franchise’s history going back and forth with five touchdowns in the final 2:05 of a 29-26 win for the Ravens over the Vikings. “Will we ever see another game like that again?” head coach John Harbaugh said. The answer to that is probably “no.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Harbaugh says Rice, fiancée to attend couples seminar

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Harbaugh says Rice, fiancée to attend couples seminar

Posted on 05 March 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — While they await a court date regarding an alleged domestic altercation that occurred in Atlantic City last month, Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancée plan to attend a couples seminar to work out their issues.

Rice and Janay Palmer were arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence following the incident at an Atlantic City casino. A court summons said they struck each other with their hands and that Rice rendered his fiancée unconscious.

The Ravens continue to gather information about the altercation and general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged at last month’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that the portion of the surveillance video released by TMZ didn’t look good, but the general manager said that he feels positive about Rice’s side of the story.

“I’ve talked to Ray a lot, and [I have] really nothing to add other than what’s been said already,” coach John Harbaugh said at a Wednesday press conference to announce tight end Dennis Pitta’s new five-year, $32 million contract. “The facts will determine the consequences, and we’ll see where it goes. I haven’t seen anything different, just like you haven’t seen anything different.

“Ray has told me his side of it, and everything that we’ve seen so far is very consistent with what he’s said. There’s nothing he’s said that hasn’t turned out to be the case. I know Ray is going to spend a week at a seminar-type of thing as a couples-type deal. He’s doing everything he can to do what he needs to do and make things right.”

The original court date was canceled last month and has yet to be rescheduled after Atlantic City police turned the case over to the prosecutor’s office for further review in determining whether additional or different charges needed to be filed.

Flacco, receivers plan to get to work

With Pitta now locked up for the next five years as a critical contributor in the passing game, the 28-year-old now plans to get together with quarterback Joe Flacco and the other wide receivers under contract to begin working prior to the start of the offseason program and organized team activities.

Pitta said he likes what he’s seen of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system and wants to put in extra time working with Flacco and his other teammates in trying to jump-start a passing game that ranked 18th in the NFL last season.

“We’ve talked about it, and it’s nothing set in stone right now,” Pitta said. “I know that’s something Joe wants to get done. He wants to be able to meet with us and kind of get on the same page and go over some of the new things that we’re going to be doing. I’m sure we’ll get that ironed out in the next few weeks.”

NFL teams with returning head coaches may begin their offseason programs on April 21.

Pitta supports Jimmy Graham’s franchise tag grievance

After much discussion of possibly receiving the franchise tag before agreeing to a long-term deal last week, Pitta empathized with New Orleans’s Jimmy Graham, who is filing a grievance with the league over being designated  at the tight end position as the Saints’ franchise player.

Graham took a majority of his snaps lined up out wide and in the slot last season and contends that he should be viewed as a wide receiver, which would mean receiving a tender of $12.132 million instead of the $7.053 million specified for the tight end position. Pitta could have made a similar argument after lining up in the slot on 79.7 percent of his snaps last season.

“I think he’s been a top producer in this league, certainly on his team, [and] led his team in catches, yards, touchdowns,” Pitta said. “Why all of a sudden, because he’s labeled as a tight end, does that devalue his stock? I think it’s something that he should challenge because it’s not right that he can catch more touchdowns and more yards than maybe someone who is classified as a wide receiver, yet because he has that tight end label, now all of a sudden his value is cut in half.”

Not following in Flacco’s footsteps

After being asked whether he’d celebrate his new contract in a similar manner to how Flacco commemorated his record-setting $120.6 million deal last offseason, Pitta made it clear that his best friend on the team will still be taking care of the bill when they meet for dinner.

“I probably won’t go to McDonald’s after this,” said Pitta, laughing as he recalled Flacco’s highly-publicized first meal after officially signing a nine-figure contract. “No, I didn’t get Joe Flacco money, so he will still be paying for dinners.”

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How far must the Ravens go to keep Pitta?

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How far must the Ravens go to keep Pitta?

Posted on 18 February 2014 by Luke Jones

With linebacker Terrell Suggs’ long-term future secure and the Ravens gaining an additional $4.6 million in cap space in the process, they now turn their attention to the next biggest items on the offseason agenda.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe and tight end Dennis Pitta are the top priorities, and the ability to work out agreements for both unrestricted free agents is aided by the Ravens holding just under $16 million in salary cap room after Suggs’ contract extension. However, with the start of free agency on March 11 only three weeks away, it becomes more and more difficult to persuade a pending free agent to agree on your terms as he sees the benefit of a wide-open market in full focus.

As contract talks remain far apart with both players, the Ravens have until March 3 to decide whether they want to place the franchise tag on an unrestricted free agent, but such an option appears too expensive for Monroe as the tag for an offensive lineman is projected to be a hefty $11.1 million for the 2014 season and he simply isn’t regarded as one of the best left tackles in the NFL. That leaves Baltimore with the decision of whether to use the designation on Pitta with the 2014 franchise tag projected to be $6.7 million for a tight end.

Such an option would appear to make sense if the sides couldn’t agree and the Ravens were unsure of Pitta’s worth or the fifth-year tight end simply wanted to reestablish his value after a serious hip injury limited him to just four games last season.

If only it were that simple.

Few have paid closer attention to the showdown between New Orleans and All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham than the Ravens as New Orleans is prepared to use the franchise tag on Drew Brees’ top pass-catching target who collected more than 1,215 yards and 16 touchdown catches last season. As a threat who lines up in the slot and out wide more often than as a traditional tight end, Graham is expected to contest that he should be tagged as a wide receiver, which carries a tender that’s $4.8 million more than the anticipated tight end figure in 2014.

While Pitta isn’t at Graham’s level in terms of production, he can easily file a similar grievance after he lined up in the slot on 79.7 percent of his routes last season, according to Pro Football Focus. And while many have argued that the tight end position is simply evolving — with the 6-foot-7 Graham as transcendent as anybody — the collective bargaining agreement makes it clear that a franchise player is to be tendered at the position “at which [he] participated in the most plays during the prior league year.”

In the same way that they prefer not to tag Monroe because he isn’t a top-five tackle in the league, the Ravens can’t risk the possibility of needing to tie an $11.5 million commitment to Pitta. Of course, Baltimore found itself in a similar position with Suggs years ago when he argued that he should be viewed as a defensive end before the sides eventually split the difference in the franchise tag costs for a defensive end compared to a linebacker.

But even a compromised figure of just over $9 million would eat up much of the Ravens’ available cap space in an offseason in which they have a plethora of needs on both sides of the football after the first non-playoff season of the John Harbaugh era.

And Pitta’s agent, Justin Schulman, is aware of that reality as talks continue.

There’s no disputing Pitta’s importance to the offense as one of Joe Flacco’s favorite weapons over the last couple years, but quantifying that on a relatively small sample size is problematic for a player who will turn 29 in June. His best year came in 2012 as his 61 catches ranked ninth among tight ends and his 669 receiving yards were 11th. Pitta has 61 additional catches for 575 yards in his three other seasons combined in Baltimore.

Prior to his devastating hip injury last July, Pitta was expected to fill an expanded role out of the slot to ease the pain of Anquan Boldin’s departure, but the Ravens were never able to see that come to fruition with him missing more than four months of action. At the very least, Pitta was able to prove he was healthy enough to continue his career at a high level after playing in the final four games of the season and recording 20 catches.

With the uncertainty surrounding the price of the franchise tag and Pitta’s absence being an obvious detriment to the offense last season, are the Ravens being backed into a corner from a negotiating standpoint?

Even if Pitta’s representation would have a difficult time making the argument that he deserves to be paid in the same stratosphere as talents such as Graham or New England’s Rob Gronkowski, hefty contracts handed out to non-elite tight ends such as Jared Cook ($16 million guaranteed), Zach Miller ($13 million guaranteed), and Marcedes Lewis ($12.85 million guaranteed) in recent years certainly won’t help general manager Ozzie Newsome. The top tight ends in the league generally have an average salary of $7 million per season over the course of their contract, but it always comes down to how much guaranteed money a team is willing to hand over.

After Cook secured $16 million in guaranteed money last offseason — which included a $5 million signing bonus and three years of guaranteed salary — it isn’t farfetched that Pitta could be looking for guaranteed money approaching the $20 million range.

His production and talents indicate that he should be paid as a top-10 tight end, but his leverage with the franchise tag and what’s still viewed by some as untapped potential may drive the cost much higher than the Ravens would prefer to go.

The clock is ticking on not only the decision to use the tag but the possibility of Pitta hitting the open market with the organization already declaring the need to add an impact wide receiver to an offense that ranked 29th in the NFL last year.

The Ravens can’t afford to lose their starting tight end.

But whether they can afford him without making sacrifices elsewhere remains to be seen.

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Mason approves of Kubiak hire: “It will benefit Joe”

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Mason approves of Kubiak hire: “It will benefit Joe”

Posted on 27 January 2014 by WNST Audio

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