Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"

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Five questions pondering Yanda, Matusz, others

Posted on 22 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 do you still enjoy seeing Marshal Yanda receive league-wide recognition? I’ve made no secret about my disdain for the annual NFL Network top 100 players list over the years, but I did enjoy seeing the four-time Pro Bowl guard appear 79th overall on this year’s version — even if he should be higher. Ozzie Newsome is in a tough spot with Yanda and Kelechi Osemele both scheduled to become free agents after the 2015 season. If you can only sign one — the Ravens believe young linemen John Urschel and Robert Myers could be starters in the near future — conventional wisdom might say to keep the younger Osemele, but would Baltimore really let the best guard in the NFL and one of the better players in franchise history leave? It isn’t an easy call as Yanda turns 31 in September, but his play has shown no signs of slowing down and he’s the leader of an offensive line that was very good in 2014.

2. Is it just me or do you think the Orioles regret not trading Brian Matusz in the spring? It’s been a difficult start for the lefty specialist, who sports a 3.77 ERA that doesn’t tell the story of just how ineffective he’s been. Matusz owns a 5.85 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) mark, is walking as many hitters per nine innings as he’s striking out (6.3), and has allowed an .864 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handed hitters, which includes 10 walks in 41 plate appearances. After a two-hour rain delay on Thursday, Matusz entered to face a lineup that sported six left-handed hitters and could have given the Orioles a lift by handling a couple innings. Instead, he labored through a 39-pitch frame by giving up two runs, three hits, and a walk. Meanwhile, right-hander Ryan Webb sports a 1.42 ERA for Cleveland after the Orioles elected to jettison him at the start of the season.

3. Is it just me or are you interested to see how John Harbaugh handles the new extra-point rule? Despite expressing my skepticism over how much the changes will really impact the game, I am intrigued to see how the Ravens coach approaches the new rules from a strategic standpoint considering he hasn’t been afraid to go against the conventional — and ultraconservative — nature of many NFL coaches as we saw with his key decision to go for it on fourth down in his own territory in Miami last season. Speaking to reporters after delivering the commencement address at Stevenson University on Thursday, Harbaugh endorsed the changes and believes they will lead to more two-point conversions, particularly when weather conditions are harsh. Of course, it certainly helps that he has one of the best kickers in the league to handle what will now become 33-yard extra points.

4. Is it just me or does Buck Showalter need to rethink the heart of the order? No, this isn’t a rant about Chris Davis striking out way too much — you don’t need me to tell you that — but it’s a look at Delmon Young, who has hit fourth in nine of the Orioles’ last 13 games. On the surface, Young’s .287 average is respectable, but his .330 slugging percentage is lower than the likes of struggling hitters such as Alejandro De Aza and Steve Pearce. Young’s lack of patience at the plate isn’t helping with only a 2.1 percent walk rate. This isn’t supposed to be a knock on Young as much as it shows how underwhelming the Orioles have been at the corner outfield spots, which has forced him to become an everyday player. Young is a better fit as a part-time player and pinch hitter, but he’s already played more innings in the field in 2015 than he did all last season, something that isn’t helping the Baltimore defense, either.

5. Is it just me or should the Ravens take a suggestion or two from the Uni Watch assessment of their uniforms? I don’t shy away from being a uniform geek as I enjoy using the “#FashionTweets” hashtag on Twitter and I generally like the Ravens’ duds, but the subtle tweaks suggested by Paul Lukas wouldn’t be bad ideas. The black pants that have become a major part of home and away uniform combinations could use a purple and white stripe on the sides similar to what we saw in 1997 (see below) before the black pants disappeared for years. More than that, I’d like to see the Ravens bring back the black and purple striped sock design worn before changing to the current — and boring — solid black ones in 2004. I admire the organization for making few uniform changes since 1999, but a couple tweaks would freshen up the look, especially if they insist on wearing black pants so often.

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BALTIMORE - DECEMBER 28:  Jamal Lewis #31 of the Baltimore Ravens leaves Dewayne Washington #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in his wake as he goes 26 yards for a first quarter touchdwon to give the Ravens a 7-0 lead over the Steelers during NFL action on December 28, 2003 at the M and T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

 

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Ravens still looking to add veteran cornerback to mix

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Nearly two weeks after addressing most of their positional needs and wants in the 2015 draft, the Ravens apparently aren’t done addressing their cornerback depth.

Speaking to season-ticket holders in a conference call Tuesday night, head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome confirmed the organization remains interested in adding a veteran cornerback. Baltimore feels comfortable with the health of starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb after both dealt with injuries last season, but the important No. 3 cornerback spot remains up for grabs with Asa Jackson, Rashaan Melvin, and fourth-round rookie Tray Walker the top contenders.

“We want to add some competition in there. Ozzie is working on that right now,” Harbaugh said. “I think Ozzie has said [that] we’re not finished there.”

After being released by New England earlier this week, veteran Kyle Arrington would appear to be a good fit at the slot cornerback position, which would take pressure off the Ravens’ younger options. Newsome did not express any specific interest in Arrington, but the 28-year-old would figure to draw plenty of interest around the NFL after collecting 39 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, and four pass breakups.

Arrington’s play declined in the second half of 2014, but the 5-foot-10 cornerback brings plenty of experience with 56 starts and nine interceptions under his belt in a six-year career. With just over $10 million in salary cap space, the Ravens will clearly have the ability to make a competitive offer for Arrington if they consider him a worthy addition.

“There are a lot of players available now that I have been on the phone talking to representatives [about],” Newsome said. “This is the time of the year where because of the draft, teams start to tweak their rosters. We’ll be on the lookout not just for additions to the secondary but for any other good players that may get released.”

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Ravens to have joint practices with Eagles in Philadelphia

Posted on 09 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — For the second straight year, the Ravens will participate in joint practices with one of their preseason opponents during this summer’s training camp.

After hosting the San Francisco 49ers for three practices following the preseason opener last summer, head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens will travel to the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia to work out for three days with the Eagles prior to their preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on Aug. 22. Harbaugh will finalize the practice schedule with Eagles head coach Chip Kelly in the near future.

Unlike last year when he was welcoming his brother to Owings Mills, Harbaugh says he isn’t very familiar with Kelly, but Jim Harbaugh — the former head coach at Stanford — coached against Kelly’s Oregon Ducks for several years in what is now known as the Pacific-12 Conference.

“We’re excited about that. We’re looking forward to it,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know Chip very well, but Jim’s always spoken real highly of him, and I obviously have great respect for him.”

The Ravens had never held practices with another team prior to last year, but they previously scrimmaged with the Washington Redskins a few times prior to the Harbaugh era. Baltimore hasn’t played the Eagles since 2012 and will host Philadelphia in the regular season next year, which would likely rule out a potential trip by the Eagles to Owings Mills next summer.

This summer will mark the first preseason game between the Ravens and the Eagles since 2011. The Interstate 95 neighbors have met 11 times in the preseason with Baltimore holding a 7-4 edge.

“We were just talking at the owners’ meetings,” said Harbaugh about his interactions with Kelly. “We were kind of wondering why we don’t play each other more in the preseason and to see if we can work something out. It looks like we’re going to be able to do that.”

Ravens studying logistics for trips out west

With two occurrences of back-to-back road games against teams out west, the Ravens continue to weigh their options over whether to stay out there to limit the number of cross-country trips in the regular season.

Nothing is set in stone, but the Ravens may remain out west after their season opener against Denver to then play at Oakland in Week 2. Baltimore also plays in San Francisco in Week 6 before traveling to Arizona for a Monday night game the following week.

“We have not made a final decision on staying out there. We’re leaning in that direction, especially the first week,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see about the second week; it’s a little bit of a longer trip. We have a couple of sleep-study doctors and time-zone doctors and things like that who we’re talking to.

“We just want to do the smartest thing, whatever it is. We’ll probably have a decision on that within two weeks, I’d say.”

Cornerback injured

After the Ravens’ well-documented injuries at cornerback during the 2014 season, the first injury of 2015 was suffered by another playing that same position.

Participating in this weekend’s rookie minicamp, free-agent cornerback Julian Wilson suffered a fractured lower leg on Friday and will miss the 2015 season. The 6-foot-2 Oklahoma product was considered an undrafted rookie to watch this summer, but he will instead spend his rookie season on injured reserve.

“He’ll be out for the year, and he’ll move on from that,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll still be with us and be a part of us. He has a lot of potential as a player, so it was disappointing in that sense.”

Harbaugh mum on Wells report

Asked to comment about the Ted Wells report released on the New England Patriots’ deflated footballs scandal, Harbaugh wasn’t about to take the bait.

“Our business is right here,” said Harbaugh, who declined comment and quipped that he’s been too busy to read the entire report. “This is our business right here in Baltimore. We’ll take care of our business. Thanks.”

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Ed Reed always kept everyone on their toes

Posted on 07 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The only certainty about Ed Reed over the years was to be ready for just about anything.

Announcing his retirement after 12 NFL seasons — 11 with the Ravens — and speaking to the Baltimore media, the future Hall of Fame safety tossed a few more laterals and certainly didn’t disappoint during his farewell press conference.

“This is home. Baltimore, I love the city, I love this organization,” Reed said. “I hope that I did more than I was supposed to as a Raven, bigger than any contract could ever explain as a player.”

In discussing the ceremonial one-day contract he signed with general manager Ozzie Newsome, Reed revealed that he lobbied for a three-day contract or even one more season with the Ravens. He was joking, of course.

At least we think he was.

From honestly expressing his love playing against Cleveland’s many quarterbacks to awkwardly dropping a 4-20 reference, Reed covered it all in his 45-minute press conference that also featured Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, and team president Dick Cass. He compared his early relationship with longtime teammate Ray Lewis to Mufasa and Simba from “The Lion King” and even worked in a final jab at the media for the perceived twisting of his words over the years.

It was just Ed being Ed, one of the greatest safeties in the history of the NFL and one of the most unique sports personalities Baltimore has ever seen.

Depending on the day of the week or even the hour in the day, Reed could be thoughtful or disinterested or cordial or surly with just about anyone. He was as likely to take a moment to introduce himself to a young and clueless media member covering his first training camp in Westminster as he was to grumpily walk by his closest teammates in the locker room without saying a word.

The only thing you knew about Reed — other than him being one of the best players in franchise history — was that you never knew. He liked it that way.

“I never thought about making it to the Hall of Fame,” said Reed, who is eligible for induction as soon as 2019. “I just wanted to be a great football player for my teammates. I was just studying and doing all that so that we could be our best. As everybody knows, this is a team sport, but an individual business. As an individual, I had to make sure I was taking care of my business.”

The 36-year-old says he hasn’t yet hung up his cleats despite announcing his retirement from the NFL as he continues to work out regularly and is currently busy coaching his 7-year-old son’s flag football team. Reed quipped that the latter experience doesn’t really make him want to be a coach, but he acknowledges that football is in his blood and has entertained thoughts of coaching at a higher level. This was evident late in his career when he quietly mentored the likes of Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, and Jimmy Smith while Lewis received the spotlight as the leader of the Ravens.

Despite not enjoying talking to the media for much of his career, Reed opened up on Thursday.

He shed light on his passion for helping others, which has been evident through various charitable endeavors over the years and his adoption of Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore early in his career. He spoke sincerely on the recent unrest in the city, emphasizing the need for youth to have sports and other positive avenues on which to focus beyond school.

Along with his nine Pro Bowl selections, 2004 AP Defensive Player of the Year award, and Super Bowl XLVII championship ring, Reed’s contributions in the community — here and in his home state of Louisiana — make him an easy choice to be officially inducted into the Ring of Honor on Nov. 22. Of course, a trip to Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame will follow.

“Deep commitment to the city of Baltimore,” said Cass, adding that Reed invited 26 Booker T. Washington students to every home game for over a decade in addition to the other contributions he made to the school. “The love that he felt for the city has been returned many times over by our fans and by the people in Baltimore who know that Ed is committed to the city. That deep commitment is returned to you in many ways.”

No, Reed didn’t have the storybook ending to his career in the same way Lewis did as he made the business decision to chase another payday with the Houston Texans. His final season with Houston and then the New York Jets was forgettable, but the 2002 first-round pick always moved to his own beat, even joking about his retirement as recently as April Fools’ Day last month.

Whether it was an ill-advised lateral on the field, the mixed signals about his contract and possible retirement in his later years, or the calculated and well-studied gambles that resulted in countless game-changing plays, Reed did things his way. No other player could provide you the full array of emotions in a matter of seconds, whether he was blocking a punt, recklessly flipping the ball to a teammate in heavy traffic, or intercepting a pass deep in his own end zone before sprinting the length of the field for a record-setting touchdown.

Everyone — coaches, teammates, media, and fans — was just along for the ride. And even if we rarely knew what was happening, what an exciting trip it was.

“When he told me later, yes,” said Harbaugh as he laughed when asked if he always knew what Reed was thinking on the field. “I was happy to hear about it.”

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Ed Reed to officially announce retirement on Thursday

Posted on 06 May 2015 by Luke Jones

After 12 NFL seasons, nine Pro Bowls, a Defensive Player of the Year award, and a Super Bowl trophy, future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed is officially calling it a career.

The Ravens will hold a 2 p.m. press conference Thursday to announce the 36-year-old’s retirement after he did not play during the 2014 season. Reed retires as one of the best players in franchise history and holds the franchise record of 61 interceptions before finishing his NFL career ranked sixth on the all-time list.

Owner Steve Bisciotti said earlier this year that Reed would be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium as soon as he officially retired from the NFL. Always an enigmatic figure during his time in Baltimore, Reed hinted that he was retiring as an April Fools’ Day joke last month before coming to his final decision.

Counting the postseason, the 2004 AP Defensive Player of the Year scored a remarkable 14 touchdowns during his career. Not only making an impact as a ball-hawking safety, Reed is the only player in NFL history to score touchdowns off an interception, blocked punt, punt return, and fumble recovery.

The 2002 first-round pick often lived in the shadow of linebacker Ray Lewis, but Reed finally tasted championship glory in his final game with Baltimore, securing an interception in the Ravens’ 34-31 victory over San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII. Instead of retiring like Lewis, the University of Miami product elected to continue his career with the Houston Texans and the New York Jets during the 2013 season.

Reed was considered a great all-around player before suffering a nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder late in the 2007 season, an injury that hindered his tackling ability in the latter stages of his career. Despite Reed’s physical limitations, opposing quarterbacks were forced to continue to account for the game-changing free safety on every play as his preparation and knowledge of the game were second to none. When playing the Ravens, four-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady famously wrote on his wristband a telling message about Reed’s potential impact on any given game:

“Find 20 on every play.”

Reed finishes his career with 643 tackles, 64 interceptions, six sacks, 113 pass breakups, and 11 forced fumbles.

He will be eligible for induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019, one year after Lewis.

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Football a family affair for Ravens’ top picks Perriman, Williams

Posted on 04 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams will forever be linked as the first two Ravens picks of the 2015 draft, but the standout pass catchers share another connection as second-generation NFL players.

With fathers who combined to play 21 years in the NFL, Perriman and Williams have a lot to live up to in not only becoming immediate starters for the current Baltimore offense, but they’ll also try to step outside of their fathers’ NFL shadows. Brett Perriman, a standout receiver at the University of Miami, caught 525 passes and 30 touchdowns in 10 NFL seasons with New Orleans, Detroit, Kansas City, and Miami. Brian Williams spent 11 seasons as a center with the New York Giants, appearing in 129 games and making 62 starts.

Of course, a strong bloodline doesn’t guarantee success as Jarrett Payton — the son of the late Walter Payton — and Jerry Rice Jr. both went undrafted after their collegiate careers. But both Perriman and Williams hope their professional careers play out more like Peyton and Eli Manning, who have both surpassed their father’s acclaim in the NFL by wide margins.

Though not a trait the Ravens were intentionally seeking — general manager Ozzie Newsome admitted he wasn’t even aware that Williams’ father had played in the NFL before drafting the Minnesota tight end — it’s clear that the organization views the circumstance as a positive trait.

“The thing that I like about Perriman is that he has grown up around the game of football with his dad, Brett,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “He’s been around Michael Irvin, Bennie Blades, Brian Blades, and all of those guys [from Miami], so the game is not going to be too big for him.”

Breshad Perriman has already surpassed his father in terms of where he was drafted after being picked 26th overall by the Ravens. The senior Perriman was drafted by the Saints in the second round of the 1988 draft.

Brett’s greatest success came in Detroit while playing with former Ravens quarterback Scott Mitchell. Posting 1,488 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 1995 and following that with another 1,000-yard season in 1996, Brett Perriman has shared his experiences with his 21-year-old son, who was too young to remember his father’s playing days.

“For me looking up to him when I was a child, I kind of wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Breshad Perriman said. “Once I created a great passion for the game, I wanted to make a name for myself. I’m slowly doing that, and I feel like there’s no one else better to celebrate that with.”

Similar to his new teammate, Maxx Williams was only five when his father retired from football, but it was actually his mother, Rochelle, who taught him how to catch. She and Brian Williams also attended the University of Minnesota where she played volleyball and he was a future first-round pick for the Gophers. Maxx’s grandfather was a quarterback at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1959 before choosing to go to medical school.

Such a bloodline would make you wonder if complacency would be a problem, but the 2015 second-round pick exceeded expectations at Minnesota where he made 25 receptions for 417 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman and was named a finalist for the John Mackey Award last year after catching 36 passes for 569 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore.

With some already touting the 6-foot-4, 250-pound target as an offensive rookie of the year candidate, what advice did Williams’ father offer him about life in the NFL?

“You have to earn respect,” the 21-year-old tight end said. “You have to go in, shut your mouth, and go to work every day and earn the respect of your teammates and show who you are, because now you’re at the highest level where no matter what, everyone’s the best there is.”

Having dealt with the reality of trying to escape their fathers’ shadow for most of their lives, Perriman and Williams will have a better idea of what to expect as they prepare for their first minicamp later this week. With the Ravens needing both to fill significant roles as rookies, their bloodlines and mentors figure to help along the way.

Now playing in an organization that values family — beginning with head coach John Harbaugh who grew up the son of a longtime college coach and regularly has his father around the training facility — Perriman and Williams should fit right in despite high expectations. The former didn’t wait long to find another tie to his father’s NFL career when he met the inspirational O.J. Brigance on Friday.

“I don’t think he really knew the O.J. story, and he went in and Breshad was great,” Harbaugh said. “O.J. was talking through his machine, and he said, ‘I played with your dad in Miami,’ and Breshad was like, ‘Wow!’ They played together in 1997, I think it was. Another amazing connection.”

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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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With many needs, Newsome, Ravens need to strike gold in 2015 draft

Posted on 30 April 2015 by Luke Jones

I’m intrigued and, frankly, surprised as the Ravens are only hours away from the 2015 draft.

No one should doubt the ability of general manager Ozzie Newsome to find talent in this year’s draft class — especially with 10 scheduled selections — but can you recall a year in recent memory in which the Ravens have had so many needs?

Wide receiver and tight end are the positions most glaring, but Baltimore also can’t afford to make the same mistake two years in a row by failing to add a No. 3 cornerback behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, two players with injury history. That’s not counting the list of wants that includes a running back, an edge pass rusher, a safety, a run-stopping defensive tackle, and an interior offensive lineman.

A lot of holes to fill, no matter how well you evaluate talent.

As you’d expect, the Ravens will stay true to their draft board, creating an abundance of possibilities as they’re not scheduled to pick until 26th overall in the first round.

“We’ll value the board,” Newsome said earlier this month. “We’ll watch it very closely, and as we get close to our pick if there’s somebody that we really covet, then we’ll [move up] and get him. If not, we’ll just value all the guys that are available to us.”

All along, I expected the Ravens to swap a pick or two for a veteran player as they did last spring with the acquisition of starting center Jeremy Zuttah and two years ago with the in-season acquisition of starting left tackle Eugene Monroe. Of course, a move of that sort could still be in the works during the draft or even in the days after with the Ravens once again projected to net multiple compensatory picks next year.

But the Ravens appear too vulnerable at more than one spot, which is not a position you want to be in if you truly want to draft the best player available while minimizing the number of holes on your roster entering training camp.

“It would be really helpful for us to do that,” said head coach John Harbaugh last month about the desire to make more additions before the draft. “Obviously, the more you can add before the draft, it takes pressure off of the draft to chase a position need. The more we can do that, obviously, the better off we’ll be.”

The Ravens have signed safety Kendrick Lewis and backup quarterback Matt Schaub as their only notable additions of the offseason while they’ve lost defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, wide receiver Torrey Smith, rush specialist Pernell McPhee, tight end Owen Daniels, safety Darian Stewart, and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Wednesday’s ESPN report of Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett being on the trading block creates natural speculation that the Ravens could be in the mix. New Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is obviously familiar with the 28-year-old, who had the best seasons of his NFL career playing under the former Bears head coach.

Armed with more than $10 million in cap space and needing a tight end, the Ravens might be willing and able to give Bennett the new contract he reportedly desires if they can pull off a trade. If possible, it would be wise to eliminate one of their biggest needs, especially at a position that’s thin in this year’s draft.

Otherwise, Newsome will need to be at his best — while having the board really cooperate — to address the Ravens’ biggest needs while also satisfying a few wants over the next three days.

 

 

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Five questions pondering Forsett, Orioles corner outfielders, others

Posted on 24 April 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 are we once again too quick to doubt Justin Forsett? I understand skepticism about a running back who will turn 30 in October and is coming off a career season, but there’s too much discussion about finding his replacement considering the Ravens still don’t know who will be starting at a wide receiver spot or at tight end. Yes, it will be a tall order for Forsett to duplicate his 5.4 yards per carry average from 2014, but we are still talking about a back who averaged 4.9 yards per carry in his career prior to last season and has less wear and tear on his body than the typical player his age. For those who wanted to give the offensive line most of the credit for Forsett’s dream season, why is Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley that attractive in the first round then? It makes sense for the Ravens to look at the running back position in the middle rounds, but I’ll be underwhelmed if a running back is the pick at 26th overall next Thursday night.

2. Is it just me or has Steve Pearce been buried too quickly? Make no mistake, the great story of the 2014 season is off to an awful start with a .507 on-base plus slugging percentage in 52 plate appearances, but I’m surprised to see manager Buck Showalter only give him one start in the last five games. It made sense to keep the red-hot Jimmy Paredes in the lineup, but I’m not sure why Alejandro De Aza (prior to Thursday night) and Chris Davis were automatically penciled into the lineup over that time. I said throughout the winter that asking Pearce to duplicate his .930 OPS from last season would be too much, but it’s not a good look for the organization to have him on the bench this early after he was often mentioned as a reason why money wasn’t spent to retain Nick Markakis or Nelson Cruz.

3. Is it just me or did Jimmy Smith’s injury history play a large part in the Ravens re-signing the cornerback now? It’s fair to acknowledge the risk in investing $21 million guaranteed in a player who’s missed 17 games over his first four seasons, but that played into general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens retaining Smith at a reasonable cost. A simple look at the $25.5 million guaranteed that the Philadelphia Eagles gave free agent Byron Maxwell — the former Seattle cornerback with all of 17 career starts — last month made it obvious Smith could have commanded much more on the open market next offseason. But it made sense for both sides to gain some long-term security as the Ravens couldn’t afford to let their top cornerback walk and Smith couldn’t risk a slow start coming back from a foot injury to hinder his market value. The Ravens will now keep their fingers crossed that this deal works out better than the 2012 extension they gave to Lardarius Webb.

4. Is it just me or are the Orioles’ issues at the corner outfield spots making you pay attention to Nolan Reimold in the minors? I don’t expect the 31-year-old to be the answer, but watching De Aza, Travis Snider, and David Lough make such cringe-worthy fundamental mistakes over the last week has me concerned about the corner outfield positions. Reimold has followed up his excellent spring with an unspectacular start at Triple-A Norfolk (.250/.333/.393), but he’s drawn seven walks and hit his second homer of the season on Thursday. Those numbers aren’t exactly beating down the door for a promotion, but the aforementioned names aren’t undisputed everyday players, either. It’s wishful thinking, but Reimold’s plate discipline and speed could eventually warrant a shot in the leadoff spot, which has produced more strikeouts and fewer walks than any other slot in the order for the Orioles.

5. Is it just me or did John Harbaugh provide some much-needed common sense and historical context in his essay about football? Kudos to the Ravens head coach for this impassioned piece about a game that’s increasingly under attack in the 21st century. Harbaugh struck a fine balance in acknowledging real concerns about the game that must be addressed while reminding us of the redeeming qualities of football that we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss or eliminate. Perhaps it’s the fact that I played nine years of football growing up and still maintain friendships with former teammates going all the way back to elementary school, but research, historical context, and thoughtfulness are more constructive than the fear-mongering we too often see about so many issues facing society. As Harbaugh wrote, the game needs to improve, but let’s not ignore the values it has taught many of us along the way.

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