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Pitta, Perriman among players Ravens pleased to have back

Posted on 27 May 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A familiar face and a much-hyped talent were back on the practice field as the Ravens held their first organized team activity open to the media on Thursday.

As anticipated, veteran tight end Dennis Pitta and 2015 first-round receiver Breshad Perriman were both present and working during a voluntary practice session that included 73 members of the 90-man offseason roster. While Pitta is attempting to resurrect his career after two devastating right hip injuries that have limited him to seven games since Super Bowl XLVII, Perriman wants to prove he is fully recovered from a right knee injury that cost him his entire rookie season.

Both were in good spirits after Thursday’s practice.

“I feel good. I don’t have really any lingering issues, and nothing that I’m worried about,” said Pitta, who spent last season on the physically unable to perform list and hasn’t played in a game since Sept. 21, 2014. “I’m encouraged by how I feel and how I’m moving and excited to hopefully get back playing to the level that I was.”

It’s been a difficult offseason for Perriman that goes beyond his longer-than-expected recovery from a partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament suffered during the first full-squad training camp practice last July. In addition to being a close friend of cornerback Tray Walker — who tragically died from injuries sustained in a motorbike accident in March – Perriman nearly lost his father and former NFL receiver Brett Perriman after he reportedly suffered a brain aneurysm this spring.

The 22-year-old isn’t taking anything for granted after a difficult first year in the NFL and is excited to prove why the Ravens selected him with the 26th overall pick of the 2015 draft.

“I feel like a kid in a candy store, so I’m very happy,” said Perriman, who revealed that his knee finally started feeling right again a couple months ago. “I don’t even think about it anymore. I feel great.”

Other players coming off injuries who were present and working on Thursday included running backs Justin Forsett (arm) and Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), tight end Crockett Gillmore (shoulder), center Jeremy Zuttah (pectoral), and cornerback Will Davis (knee).

Head coach John Harbaugh revealed two new injuries to players as receiver Michael Campanaro is currently out with a calf injury while running back Trent Richardson injured his hamstring last week. Other players not practicing for injury-related reasons included quarterback Joe Flacco (knee), cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot), linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles), wide receiver Steve Smith (Achilles), running back Kenneth Dixon (hamstring), and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (back).

Suggs was working out in the Ravens’ Owings Mills training complex this week, according to Harbaugh. Not expected to be ready to practice until training camp, Flacco observed part of Thursday’s workout from the sideline and continues to rehab his surgically-repaired left knee.

Other veterans absent from the voluntary practice were linebackers Elvis Dumervil and C.J. Mosley, left tackle Eugene Monroe, right guard Marshal Yanda, and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore. Harbaugh said Mosley was dealing with a “personal issue” on Thursday while rookie return specialist and receiver Keenan Reynolds was absent as he graduated from the Naval Academy.

With the Ravens forfeiting three OTA days next week due to a violation of the collective bargaining agreement during their rookie camp earlier this month, players will not return to the practice field until the week of June 6.

“We’ll adjust, we’ll figure out ways to get our work done for sure,” said Harbaugh, who took sole responsibility for having rookies and first-year players illegally dressed in pads for a practice earlier this month. “In some ways, maybe the rest will be good for us. That’s kind of the way I look at it.”

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Defensive position battles to watch for Ravens at start of OTAs

Posted on 25 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are holding their first organized team activities this week and with them come plenty of questions as on-field preparations begin for the 2016 season.

Few conclusions can be drawn from the voluntary workouts that will be conducted without a number of veterans, but the practices will provide an early look at some players returning from injuries as well as rookies competing with established NFL talent for the first time. Thursday’s workout will be open to media to conclude the first week.

Coming off their worst season in nearly a decade, the Ravens have plenty of jobs up for grabs on both sides of the ball.

After examining the offensive battles on Tuesday, below is a look at the top defensive competitions:

1. Inside linebacker

The candidates: Zach Orr, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan

The reality: It remains to be seen whether Ozzie Newsome will add a veteran after cutting Daryl Smith, but Orr saw 142 defensive snaps and replaced Smith on passing downs late in the 2015 season. Brown is a 2013 second-round pick, but he’s been a non-factor in three seasons and has a ton to prove this summer. A special-teams ace, McClellan provides depth but probably isn’t a serious contender to start.

2. Cornerback

The candidates: Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Will Davis, Kyle Arrington, Tavon Young

The reality: We know Jimmy Smith will start at one cornerback spot, but how the Ravens will line up at the other outside spot and in the nickel remains to be seen. Wright is the early favorite to start in the base defense after receiving $4.76 million guaranteed, but Powers brings extensive starting experience to Baltimore and can play outside and inside. Davis and Young are interesting names to watch this summer.

3. Defensive end

The candidates: Lawrence Guy, Bronson Kaufusi, Brent Urban

The reality: The Ravens don’t appear too concerned over replacing veteran Chris Canty as Guy has been solid when asked to fill in over the last two seasons. However, Kaufusi brings potential as this year’s third-round pick out of Brigham Young. This could be a make-or-break year for Urban, who finally got on the field in the second half of last season but has battled too many injuries going back to college.

4. Outside linebacker

The candidates: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Kamalei Correa, Matt Judon

The reality: We know Suggs and Dumervil own pedigrees as Pro Bowl talents, but how will that ultimately translate in 2016? It’s tough to say whether Suggs can still be an every-down rush linebacker coming off his second Achilles injury in four years, and we know Dumervil’s rush ability was optimized sharing snaps with Courtney Upshaw in 2013 and 2014. Smith is the favorite to take Upshaw’s early-down Sam linebacker role, but Correa and Judon offer intriguing upside as rookie pass rushers.

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Offensive position battles aplenty for Ravens at start of OTAs

Posted on 24 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are holding their first organized team activities this week and with them come plenty of questions as on-field preparations begin for the 2016 season.

Few conclusions can be drawn from the voluntary workouts that will be conducted without a number of veterans, but the practices will provide an early look at some players returning from injuries as well as rookies competing with established NFL talent for the first time. Thursday’s workout will be open to media to conclude the first week.

Coming off their worst season in nearly a decade, the Ravens have plenty of jobs up for grabs on both sides of the ball.

Here is a look at the top offensive competitions:

1. Left tackle

The candidates: Eugene Monroe, Ronnie Stanley

The reality: With Monroe continuing his crusade for medical marijuana in Las Vegas this week, the rookie first-round pick Stanley should receive extensive opportunities at left tackle. If he proves to be more than ready to handle the job, general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh can feel better about the possibility of letting the oft-injured Monroe go and saving $6.5 million in salary.

2. Left guard

The candidates: Ronnie Stanley, John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, Vlad Ducasse Alex Lewis

The reality: This spot is directly tied to left tackle as Stanley would appear to be the slam-dunk choice to start should the Ravens keep Monroe for 2016. If Stanley plays tackle, the other four will compete for Kelechi Osemele’s old spot with Ducasse holding the experience edge with 22 career NFL starts, but both Urschel and Jensen have fared well at guard when given the chance to play there in the past.

3. Running back

The candidates: Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Trent Richardson

The reality: The veteran Forsett is the early favorite to start, but the size of this list reflects how wide open this competition could be. There is plenty of depth, but the question will be whether there is enough high-impact talent to make the running game thrive and not just a collection of No. 2 and No. 3 backs. At the very least, Allen and Dixon give Joe Flacco two attractive options as receivers out of the backfield.

4. Tight end

The candidates: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta

The reality: All eyes will be on Pitta — with fingers crossed — as he is serious about returning to action, but it’s impossible to know what kind of player he can be after two serious hip injuries. Is the veteran newcomer Watson the favorite to start after a career year in New Orleans or will Gillmore build on his encouraging 2015? The 2015 second-rounder Williams could also be ready to take a big step forward.

5. Wide receiver

The candidates: Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman

The reality: We don’t figure to get a look at Smith until training camp, but Perriman will be intriguing to watch after missing his rookie season with a knee injury. Perriman and Wallace are better speed complements to Smith’s skill set, but it would be unwise to overlook Aiken after his 2015 campaign. The next tier of receivers that includes rookies Chris Moore and Keenan Reynolds, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Chris Matthews, and Daniel Brown will be competing for the last couple roster spots.

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Thirteen Ravens thoughts counting down to OTAs

Posted on 20 May 2016 by Luke Jones

With organized team activities set to begin next week, I’ve offered 13 Ravens-related thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Ozzie Newsome was pleased with last month’s draft, but a key to 2016 will be the number of rookies making an immediate impact instead of merely serving as inventory for the future. That answer could be the difference in getting back to the playoffs or not after a down season.

2. The free-agent signing of Jerraud Powers last week brought a much-needed veteran to the cornerback mix, but I still can’t help but look at that group with concern — particularly on the outside — unless the pass rush is dramatically better, especially with Jimmy Smith coming off another foot procedure.

3. Inside linebacker reminds me of right tackle in 2014 and tight end last season before Rick Wagner and Crockett Gillmore emerged. My early money is on Zach Orr starting. I can’t buy Arthur Brown being the guy after he didn’t even play down the stretch of a lost 2015 season.

4. I’m curious to know how Lardarius Webb is preparing physically to move to safety after seven seasons a cornerback. It’s no secret that Eric Weddle isn’t the biggest guy, but Webb was listed at just 182 pounds last year. Who is going to cover the big, athletic tight ends?

5. Like anyone, I have questions about Steve Smith returning from a torn Achilles tendon at age 37, but I’m intrigued to see what he has in store for us. The Ravens can’t just assume greatness, but I won’t be surprised if he still provides plenty in his final season.

6. There’s merit to the medical marijuana cause Eugene Monroe is championing, but his scheduled appearance on a panel in Las Vegas in the middle of the first week of OTAs isn’t the best look for a player at a position where a 2016 first-round pick is breathing down his neck.

7. We probably won’t see him until next month’s mandatory minicamp, but I’m very curious to hear from Terrell Suggs. Where is he physically after tearing his Achilles tendon in the 2015 opener? Perhaps more importantly, where is he mentally entering his 14th season?

8. It wasn’t surprising to hear Kenneth Dixon say he tries to emulate Marshall Faulk as a running back. Watching his college highlights reminds you of Faulk or Ricky Watters as a receiver. The Ravens would love for him to be even a respectable fraction of either of those former greats.

9. Much focus will be on second-round rookie Kamalei Correa, but the Ravens need Za’Darius Smith to be able to step into Courtney Upshaw’s old role to allow Elvis Dumervil to be a situational rusher. Their willingness to let Upshaw go for peanuts in free agency reflects their confidence in Smith.

10. The Ravens having competition at wide receiver is nothing new, but there is better talent at the top of the depth chart this year. Marlon Brown already being let go reflects that reality when he was competing for the No. 3 wideout job only a year ago.

11. We’re all rooting for Dennis Pitta to stay healthy, but it’s fair to ask if he’s even one of Baltimore’s best three tight ends now. He’s played a total of seven games in three seasons and will be 31. Is he still explosive enough after two major hip injuries?

12. The fourth-round selection of Michigan defensive tackle Willie Henry reiterated how forgotten Carl Davis was by the end of his rookie season. The 2015 third-rounder provided the biggest impact of any rookie early on before hitting the wall and seeing just 17 defensive snaps over the final six games.

13. John Harbaugh deserves the chance to tell his story regarding players illegally wearing pads during rookie camp, but the current collective bargaining agreement has been in place since 2011. Even if they sincerely didn’t know the rules, it’s hard to imagine the Ravens hadn’t thought of doing this before.

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A Flacco surfaces on practice field for Ravens

Posted on 07 May 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco won’t be ready until training camp and wouldn’t have been anywhere near the practice field for Ravens rookie camp anyway, but the family was still represented on Saturday.

Continuing to pursue an NFL career after brief opportunities with San Diego and Jacksonville, tight end Mike Flacco, the younger brother of the Super Bowl XLVII MVP, was a tryout participant for Baltimore this weekend. The Ravens have a very deep group of tight ends on their offseason roster, but the 29-year-old can’t help but think about having the opportunity to catch passes from his older brother.

“That’d be a dream if I could make it that long,” said Mike Flacco, who played his college football at New Haven. “Just day by day and try to give it all I’ve got.”

Of course, this weekend’s tryout isn’t Mike Flacco’s only link to Baltimore sports as he was drafted by the Orioles in the 31st round of the 2009 draft out of CCBC-Catonsville. Primarily a first baseman, he advanced as high as Double-A Bowie before being traded to the Boston Red Sox and electing to retire from professional baseball in 2013 with a career .253 average.

In 2013 with Division II New Haven, Mike Flacco caught 30 passes for 591 yards and nine touchdowns. He was signed by the Chargers the following spring but cut at the end of the 2014 preseason. The Jaguars then signed him to their practice squad in October 2014, but he only stuck with that organization for a few weeks.

The 6-foot-5, 251-pound tight end has only received a few tryouts since then, but he isn’t ready to give up on the possibility of a football career just yet.

“It’s been long. It’s been all over the place,” said Mike Flacco about his athletic endeavors. “Unfortunately, I’ve never quite gotten to the point where I want to yet. You just push and if it happens, it happens. If not, I’ll go back to school and I’ll be happy.”

He has been pursuing a degree in chemical engineering at Villanova.

His chances of receiving an extended look with the Ravens beyond this weekend are remote, but that didn’t stop him from showing off some athletic ability on Saturday as he caught a long pass in 1-on-1 drills and made a few other receptions during the practice session.

“It’s been great. Mike is a great kid,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He does move a little bit like Joe. The body mechanics, a little bit, are similar, so it’s fun to watch.”

Two draft picks sidelined

Third-round defensive end Bronson Kaufusi was the only member of Baltimore’s 2016 draft class not on the field during Saturday’s practice open to media.

“Bronson tweaked his back a little bit yesterday,” Harbaugh said. “He was out here yesterday practicing, did a good job, and strained his lower back a little. He’s not practicing today.”

Fourth-round running back Kenneth Dixon only observed Saturday’s practice as he continues to deal with a hamstring issue stemming from his March pro day.

Harbaugh also announced that fullback Trevon Pendleton, a tryout player from Michigan State, suffered a broken foot on Friday.

No joint training camp practices this year

Harbaugh confirmed that the Ravens would not have any joint practices with another team this summer.

Baltimore hosted San Francisco in Owings Mills two years ago and traveled to Philadelphia to practice against the Eagles ahead of their preseason meeting last August.

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Final day could make 2016 draft class special for Ravens

Posted on 01 May 2016 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The entire area will be rooting for him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time will reveal if they really are.

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Five things to know about Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley

Posted on 29 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Ravens first-round draft pick Ronnie Stanley was introduced to the media in Owings Mills on Friday.

Below are five things to know about the new left tackle:

1. He knows he has big shoes to fill.

The first offensive lineman drafted in the top 10 by the Ravens since 1996, Stanley didn’t shy away from expectations when asked about the standard set in Baltimore by Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden.

“That’s definitely what I want to be,” said Stanley, who added that he tries to model his play after Dallas left tackle Tyron Smith. “Jonathan Ogden has definitely set the bar, especially being part of the same organization he is. But he set the bar for the whole league. He’s a legend. He’s a Hall of Famer, and he’s probably the best tackle to ever do it.”

Stanley was just two years old when the Ravens selected Ogden with the first pick in franchise history.

2. His offensive line coach at Notre Dame is close with John Harbaugh.

Harbaugh acknowledged Thursday that Harry Hiestand is one of his “very best friends” in coaching after they worked together at the University of Cincinnati over 20 years ago.

That means not only did the Ravens get a better idea of what the left tackle is about as both a person and a player, but Stanley heard plenty about his new coach from Hiestand.

“He told me he’s a hard coach and he wants to win,” Stanley said. “He’s a competitor, and that’s exactly how I am as a person. I couldn’t be happier.”

3. He’ll see a familiar face lining up against him in practice.

Stanley became the sixth Notre Dame player to be drafted by Baltimore, joining Anthony Weaver (2002), Javin Hunter (2002), Gerome Sapp (2003), Tom Zbikowski (2008), and Kapron Lewis-Moore (2013).

Lewis-Moore was a senior defensive captain for the Fighting Irish in 2012 when Stanley was a freshman who saw action in two games as a reserve. The newest Raven’s first collegiate action came against Navy in a game played in Ireland.

4. He credits his basketball career for his exceptional footwork as an offensive lineman.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman was a member of three state champion basketball teams in high school and even received playing time as a freshman. He also played high-level AAU basketball in the summer and could have been a Division I basketball player, according to his coach.

Is he now the best basketball player on the Ravens roster?

“I don’t know,” said Stanley as he smiled. “I haven’t met everyone.”

5. He and Orioles outfielder Joey Rickard both attended Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas.

Stanley says he didn’t know Baltimore’s other popular rookie athlete in high school, but it’s interesting that their paths now cross a few years later and more than 2,000 miles away from Las Vegas.

“I honestly didn’t know it at the time, but I saw it over on Twitter,” said Stanley, who is two years younger than Rickard. “I was very happy to hear that we’re representing in both sports in this great city.”

Stanley becomes the third Gorman product to be an active NFL player, joining Tennessee running back DeMarco Murray and Pittsburgh tight end Xavier Grimble.

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Writing on wall clear for Monroe after Ravens tab Stanley?

Posted on 29 April 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens weren’t ready to publicly anoint first-round pick Ronnie Stanley as their starting left tackle moments after making him their earliest selection since the 2000 draft.

But you rarely take an offensive lineman that high without any other intention, especially when your incumbent left tackle has started just 17 games over the last two seasons.

“I think it’ll pan out the way it pans out,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who left open the possibility of Stanley playing left guard like Jonathan Ogden did as a rookie in 1996. “Good coaches, we love competition. I say we throw them all in there and let them compete and may the best man win, and we’ll see who that is.”

The question remains whether incumbent left tackle Eugene Monroe will be a part of that competition as it’s no secret that the Ravens have been disappointed with his inability to stay on the field over the last two seasons after they gave him a five-year, $37.5 million contract in 2014. The organization has also distanced itself from his offseason campaigning for medical marijuana use in the NFL.

Asked if Monroe still factored into the Ravens’ plans for the 2016 season, general manager Ozzie Newsome would only comment on his current status recovering from December shoulder surgery and not about what would happen when he’s cleared to play.

“Right now, Eugene is still under medical care,” said Newsome, who has offered tepid endorsements of Monroe throughout the offseason. “He’s still working with the trainers on a daily basis. Up until he becomes a healthy football player, he’s like [Terrell] Suggs and Steve Smith and Joe [Flacco] and those guys. They’re under medical care right now.”

With Monroe scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary and to carry an $8.7 million salary cap figure in 2016, the Ravens would save $2.1 million in cap space by cutting him now and leaving $6.6 million in dead money for 2016 or they could designate him as a post-June 1 release to save $6.5 million on this year’s cap and push $4.4 million in dead money to next season.

Should they release Monroe, the Ravens would probably be in the market for more tackle depth because that would still leave James Hurst as the primary backup to Stanley and starting right tackle Rick Wagner, who will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season. It was Hurst who was pushed into quarterback Joe Flacco’s left knee, resulting in his season-ending injury last November.

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Stanley pick solid despite feeling like bummer for Ravens

Posted on 29 April 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — All signs point to first-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley being a rock-solid pick for the Ravens.

A three-year starter at Notre Dame, the 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman had been linked to the Ravens as an option throughout the pre-draft process and head coach John Harbaugh has a lengthy relationship with Fighting Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. The debate will continue whether general manager Ozzie Newsome passed on a superior talent in Mississippi left tackle Laremy Tunsil, but you could hardly blame the Ravens if they did shy away from the latter’s off-field baggage that was on display to the entire world via social media on Thursday night.

Some draft pundits considered Stanley the better prospect anyway and the Ravens apparently agreed.

“Our scouts get a lot of information,” said general manager Ozzie Newsome when asked if the released Twitter video of Tunsil smoking from a bong influenced his decision. “When things happen, a lot of the time we’re not surprised. We took the best player, the player that was rated the highest on the board at that point. But I cannot neglect the importance of the work that our scouts do in the fall and in the spring getting information for us.”

You can understand the Ravens’ desire to move on from incumbent left tackle Eugene Monroe as he’s been held to just 17 starts over the last two years and appears more interested in medical marijuana advocacy than football these days. It’s also never a bad idea to emphasize protecting the blindside of your franchise quarterback coming back from a serious left knee injury.

But the night still felt like a bummer.

Maybe it’s because the Ravens unsuccessfully attempted to trade up to take Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey before he was claimed by Jacksonville just a pick before they were on the clock. Top pass-rushing target Joey Bosa also came off the board immediately after the two quarterbacks were taken with the first two picks of the night.

It’s fair to wonder whether the Ravens could have traded down a few spots and still tabbed Stanley while picking up an additional pick or two, but the opportunity didn’t come to fruition — Newsome said he didn’t receive a single call while Baltimore was on the clock — and it’s not as though the 22-year-old tackle was viewed as unworthy of a top 10 choice.

Drafting Stanley may have been the prudent move, but the organization still had to use its earliest pick since 2000 at a position where they invested a five-year, $37.5 million contract — $17.5 million of it guaranteed — just two years ago. It still feels more like fixing a mistake than dramatically improving your football team, even if Stanley can adjust more quickly to the NFL than other top 10 left tackles who have struggled in recent years.

“When you watch his maturation throughout his career and his ability to adapt to the different things they do, you just feel confident in his ability to be able to pick things up,” said director of college scouting Joe Hortiz about Stanley coming out of Notre Dame. “They run a multiple offense, they do a lot of different things, and they change it up in the middle of the games and series of what they’re doing. [Stanley] really adjusts well. I think from intelligence, maturity, and the way he’s grown, he gives you confidence going forward.”

If we’re being completely honest, left tackle just isn’t a pick that will fire up a fan base whose team is coming off a rare losing season and needs more playmakers on both sides of the ball.

But that’s when the Ravens will remind you that they were in a similar position 20 years ago when they took a left tackle out of UCLA named Jonathan Ogden, who was far from the most exciting choice for a team in a new city. It proved to be a home-run decision, of course, and the organization has been trying to find the 2013 Hall of Fame inductee’s long-term replacement since his retirement after the 2007 season.

Jared Gaither, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, and Monroe all proved to be no better than temporary placeholders. The Ravens hope they’ve finally found their long-term solution in Stanley.

To expect him to be another Ogden would be unfair, but he needs to be a player the Ravens can pencil in at left tackle and not have to worry about for a long time if this is to be a successful pick at sixth overall. At the very least, you hope Stanley can be closer to Ogden than Oher, who didn’t cut it at left tackle despite being a first-round pick in 2009.

“We’re going to have high expectations for him, but it’s going to be up to him to get the job done,” Harbaugh said. “He has to win the job just like anybody else would have to.”

No, Stanley may not have been the best-case scenario for the Ravens, but they think he can finally anchor the position that was the least of the franchise’s worries for more than a decade and has now been a headache for nearly as long now.

That’s a long-term outcome that would easily outweigh any lingering disappointment from Thursday night.

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Ravens begin 2016 voluntary offseason workout program

Posted on 18 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens

Taking another step toward putting a difficult 2015 season behind them, the Ravens opened their voluntary offseason workout program in Owings Mills on Monday.

The opening phase of the nine-week program lasts two weeks and is limited to strength and conditioning work as well as physical rehabilitation. Coaches are not permitted to lead players in on-field workouts during this first part of the offseason program.

This part of the offseason program is strictly voluntary, but most players beyond select veterans are expected to attend regularly.

The Ravens will provide media access on Tuesday, but photos and video released by the team showed a large number of players in attendance on the first day including three-time Pro Bowl safety and veteran newcomer Eric Weddle, newly-signed running back Trent Richardson, quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Ryan Mallett, wide receiver Breshad Perriman, defensive backs Jimmy Smith, Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks and Kendrick Lewis, linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Arthur Brown, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and tight ends Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams and Dennis Pitta.

A video also showed Perriman taking part in running drills, a positive sign for his still-unclear status after he missed his entire rookie season with a partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

The second phase of the program lasts three weeks and consists of on-field workouts that may include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practice as long as the offense and defense do not work against each other. No live contact is permitted.

The final phase of the program lasts four weeks and permits teams to conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity (OTAs), which are voluntary. No live contact is permitted, but teams may conduct 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills.

Teams are also allowed to hold one mandatory minicamp for all veteran players during that final phase of the offseason program.

Earlier this month, the NFL released the following dates for the Ravens’ OTA and mandatory minicamp schedule, but these have later been adjusted in the past:

First day of voluntary workouts: April 18
OTA offseason workouts: May 24-26, June 1-3, June 6-9
Mandatory minicamp: June 14-16

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