Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"

Harbaugh “very concerned” with Ravens’ off-field problems

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Harbaugh “very concerned” with Ravens’ off-field problems

Posted on 29 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens experiencing their most embarrassing offseason in recent memory, you could hardly blame head coach John Harbaugh for being happy to get his team back on the practice field.

Convening for the first week of organized team activities, the Ravens not only look to bounce back from their first non-playoff season of the Harbaugh era but now face questions about leadership and a perceived lack of control at the top with four players being arrested over the last four months. Running back Ray Rice’s domestic violence case understandably garnered the most attention, but Harbaugh seemed to be speaking to a number of individuals when asked about dealing with such a tumultuous offseason following Thursday’s practice.

In addition to Rice, wide receiver Deonte Thompson, offensive lineman Jah Reid, and rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro were all arrested this offseason to bring further humiliation to an organization regarded as one of the finest in the NFL.

“I’m very concerned, always concerned,” Harbaugh said. “We talk to those guys all the time, and I’m disappointed in some of the silliness that’s going on. Guys are young, but … it’s not like you’re your 22- and 23-year-old buddies. You’re not in the same position that they’re in. You have to grow up faster than your pals, so you can’t go home and run around with your pals and think you’re in the same place that they’re in.”

A trimmer Rice was present and participating in Thursday’s practice less than a week after his public statements that were met with much negative reaction. The 27-year-old still awaits a potential fine and suspension from commissioner Roger Goodell after he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program last week to avoid prosecution on a third-degree aggravated assault charge in the state of New Jersey.

Harbaugh wasn’t present for Rice’s media session last Friday but acknowledged he’d read the statement and said he appreciated what the running back had to say.

“When he used the term, ‘failed miserably,’ that hit home with me,” Harbaugh said. “But like all those guys, it’s what you do going forward. That’s what everybody is going to take a look at it.”

Harbaugh acknowledged an increased effort to talk about off-field problems with players this spring and left the door open to making changes in the structure of training camp in terms of curfews and the structure for veterans if necessary.

Following the news of Taliaferro’s arrest in Williamsburg, Va. earlier this week, Harbaugh took some liberty in sending a message to the 2014 fourth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina. Taliaferro was arrested for public drunkenness and destruction of property, two misdemeanor charges, after punching out the window of a taxicab.

“We’ve had some conversations since what happened, but we also ran 18 full gassers out there together on Tuesday when we got back, and it was pretty hot,” Harbaugh said. “Was that punishment? No, I was going to do the workout anyway, but I needed some company. He needed to keep up with me.”

The Ravens can only hope the off-field headaches have come to an end with the structure of the third phase of the offseason training program upon players, but the front office and coaching staff will again hold their breath at the conclusion of their mandatory minicamp on June 19, which will leave roughly five weeks of free time for players before the start of training camp in late July. This is generally the time of year in which NFL teams are most concerned with players running afoul of the law.

Asked about alcohol being a common theme in players’ off-field issues, Harbaugh took the notion of drinking responsibly in public a step further by questioning whether highly-trained professional athletes are really helping themselves or their team by going out and consuming alcohol in the first place.

“Discipline is not like a light switch,” Harbaugh said. “You can’t just walk out of this building and all of the sudden turn it off and then go back here and turn it on. Football discipline is a way of life. Football discipline, life discipline — it’s all the same thing.”

Offensive line update

Much focus will be on the revamped offensive line throughout the summer as the Ravens try to improve the league’s 29th-ranked unit from a year ago.

Acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 2015 fifth-round pick, center Jeremy Zuttah worked with the starting offense Thursday and has made a favorable impression with the coaching staff as the Ravens try to implement offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s zone-stretch blocking scheme. Zuttah is expected to replace incumbent Gino Gradkowski at the center position as Baltimore struggled up the middle last season.

“He’s smart — really smart, really mature [and] goes about his business in a mature way,” said Harbaugh about Zuttah. “I’m just very impressed with how smart he is. He’s very quick. He’s about 305, 306 pounds. He looks good physically in there. But he can move, so we’ll see. It’s going to be interesting to watch him play to see if he can prove himself.”

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Rice’s first public comments fall short with glaring omission

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Rice’s first public comments fall short with glaring omission

Posted on 23 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ray Rice was never going to win when he finally broke his silence on Friday.

Making his first public comments since a domestic incident in an Atlantic City casino in February forever changed his life, the Ravens running back wasn’t going to find words to brighten the opinions of the many who are justifiably angry and he may never improve the feelings of some. The parameters of declining to answer questions and scheduling the session on a Friday afternoon entering a holiday weekend created skepticism before Rice and his wife, Janay, ever stepped in front of cameras at the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills.

The missteps have already been picked apart, ranging from Rice fumbling with his phone to look at notes and offering an ill-suited analogy of getting up after being knocked down to his wife taking some responsibility for what happened — a public relations nightmare for a domestic violence incident — and the couple appearing distant with one another throughout the proceedings. What may have been a respectable desire to speak from the heart instead of reading a prepared statement was poorly executed as Rice has been known to occasionally ramble and speak in circles in his press conferences over the years.

But it was what he failed to say from the very beginning that ultimately doomed his first attempt to begin rebuilding his public image.

Oversight or not, Rice failed to directly and publicly apologize to his wife — the woman who sat next to him and in front of the entire world on Friday — while he expressed sorrow to others and spoke of his relationship with her growing stronger since the events of February 15. That’s not to assume the 27-year-old hasn’t apologized profusely to his wife in private, but if the goal of Friday’s event was to show his remorse and begin rehabilitating his image in the public eye, it needed to start with a direct appeal to the person impacted most by what happened at the Revel Casino.

Before apologizing to owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, or anyone else, Rice needed to show the world how much he loved the woman sitting next to him and how deeply sorry he was to her. Perhaps the intent was to present a strong and composed partnership between the two, but his lack of an immediate and personal apology to his wife at the beginning made the rest of his words ring hollow.

“As me and Janay wish we could take back 30 seconds of our life,” Rice said, “we definitely sit here today and tell you that we are better parents, we are better lovers, and we are also better friends throughout the situation. And as our families sit here today, we want to just thank you for encouraging us.”

Even with the harsh criticism over what transpired Friday, Rice is fully capable of rehabilitating his image, but that won’t happen overnight. His actions over time and how they impact his wife, family, and others close to him will be the deciding factor while his words on Friday — awkward as they were — carry little weight in the big picture.

Some may eventually forgive him and others will not, but Rice has the ability to make things right in his own life by simply following through on his vows of being a better husband, father, and role model. If he does that in the coming years, lingering criticism from the outside world won’t really matter.

The image of Rice dragging what appeared to be his unconscious fiancée from an elevator will never disappear — reports swirled on Friday afternoon that the seventh-year running back is expected to receive a multi-game suspension from the NFL — but the details about what preceded the events in that disturbing video may never fully come to light.

“There were a lot of tears shed, but me and Janay can truly say that we’re in a better place,” Rice said. “Hopefully, one day, I’ll gain back everyone’s trust to let you all know that we’re still the same people, and I’m still the same person. I really treat my job as a very special job, and I failed miserably. But I wouldn’t call myself a failure, because I’m working my way back up.”

Rice only needs to look to former teammate and close friend Ray Lewis as a notable example of rebuilding one’s image and regaining that trust.

It can be done, but his first attempt to begin that process on Friday was an obvious setback.

The other missteps were always going to be picked apart, but his failure to publicly and directly apologize to his wife from the very beginning was the colossal gaffe that will be difficult to forget.

 

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Taking a look at the 2014 Ravens roster prior to OTAs

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Taking a look at the 2014 Ravens roster prior to OTAs

Posted on 20 May 2014 by Luke Jones

With the NFL draft and rookie minicamp now in the rear-view mirror, the Ravens’ 90-man offseason roster has taken shape with a 2014 class of rookies and select veterans added to the mix over the last few months.

Baltimore will conduct its first of three weeks of organized team activity workouts next week before completing the offseason workout program with a mandatory three-day minicamp June 17 through June 19. Of course, the roster remains very fluid until the start of the regular season, but the Ravens now have a decent idea of the 90 players they’ll be bringing to training camp beginning in late July.

With that in mind, it’s time to take an early look at the 2014 roster, which includes plenty of mainstays as well as a number of newcomers head coach John Harbaugh hopes will make a difference in helping the Ravens rebound from their first non-playoff season of his tenure a year ago.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. As we eventually move into the preseason, I’ll provide updated looks as well as actual projections of who’s in and who’s out during the different stages of the summer.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, Keith Wenning, Nick Stephens
Skinny: The sixth-round selection of the Ball State product Wenning signals that Taylor’s time is likely short as the backup quarterback in Baltimore.
Player to watch: Wenning throws an accurate deep ball and was on the Ravens’ radar as a developmental backup option throughout the pre-draft process.
Player to worry: Taylor will need to have a strong preseason to show other teams he can at least remain a viable backup option after his rookie contract expires at the end of the 2014 campaign.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Justin Forsett, Cierre Wood, Kyle Juszczyk, Shaun Chapas
Skinny: There are still too many unknowns to determine whether the Ravens wind up having one of the deepest backfields in football or continue to have major issues running the football for the second consecutive year.
Player to watch: Taliaferro is the prototypical one-cut runner the Ravens are looking for in Gary Kubiak’s system despite outside concerns about the fourth-round pick coming from an FCS program.
Player to worry: Pierce won’t be 100 percent from offseason shoulder surgery until training camp and put forth a worse yards per carry average than Rice despite most attention falling on the three-time Pro Bowl back last year.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, Deonte Thompson, Aaron Mellette, Michael Campanaro, LaQuan Williams, Gerrard Sheppard, Jace Davis, Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Butler
Skinny: If Steve Smith experiences a renaissance in his new surroundings, this can be one of the team’s most productive units, but that might be asking too much of a 35-year-old wide receiver.
Player to watch: Mellette spent the 2013 season on injured reserve with a knee injury, but the Ravens remain high on his future as an NFL receiver.
Player to worry: Thompson will struggle to make the 53-man roster after a disappointing 2013 season and an arrest earlier this offseason that certainly didn’t put him in the organization’s good graces.

TIGHT ENDS (5)
Dennis Pitta, Owen Daniels, Crockett Gillmore, Nathan Overbay, Phillip Supernaw
Skinny: With the third-round selection of the blocking-minded Gillmore, the Ravens have no concerns at the tight end position, which often thrives in Kubiak’s system.
Player to watch: Gillmore will see plenty of opportunities as a traditional tight end in the base offense, but the Ravens like his upside as a receiver as well.
Player to worry: Overbay was a late addition to the practice squad in 2013 but couldn’t have liked the Ravens signing Supernaw, a former Texans tight end.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
Eugene Monroe, Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Gino Gradkowski, Jah Reid, A.Q. Shipley, Rick Wagner, Ryan Jensen, Will Rackley, James Hurst, Reggie Stephens, Parker Graham, David Mims, Brett Van Sloten
Skinny: Right tackle remains this unit’s biggest question mark, but Osemele returning as good as new from back surgery could be the X factor in determining how much the line improves from a disastrous 2013 season.
Player to watch: Wagner is currently projected to be the starting right tackle and the organization has more faith in him than most outsiders realize.
Player to worry: Reid has been a major disappointment as a 2011 third-round pick and could find himself off the roster by the end of the summer with the veteran Rackley being added to the mix at guard on Monday.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (13)

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Rookies try to make strong first impression with Ravens

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Rookies try to make strong first impression with Ravens

Posted on 17 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With most attention on the 2014 draft class as the Ravens gathered for their rookie minicamp this weekend, a number of former college players were trying to take advantage of what might be their only shot to catch on in the NFL.

In addition to working out draft picks, signed rookie free agents, and a few veterans previously on the practice squad or returning from injury, Baltimore invited 22 players to take part in rookie camp to not only fill out a full practice routine but take a look at any potential additions to the 90-man offseason roster. The most notable among them was wide receiver Jerry Rice Jr., the son of the Hall of Famer regarded by most as the greatest wideout in NFL history.

“He is a really good athlete. He doesn’t have his dad’s size, but he sure has his athleticism,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “When you watch him run, he runs a in a real similar way. And the other thing is he has that West Coast offense down. He has probably had that playbook since he was in the cradle.”

The former UCLA receiver is undersized at 5-foot-10 and caught only nine passes for the Bruins before transferring to UNLV for his senior season in which he caught 11 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, making the likelihood of the Ravens signing him a long shot. However, Rice caught several passes on Saturday and took one slant to the end zone during non-contact 11-on-11 team drills.

Of course, watching his father play for years in San Francisco made him familiar with the offensive attack the Ravens will be using under new coordinator Gary Kubiak. The 22-year-old has also dealt with living in the shadow of his father without allowing it to take away from who he is as a person.

“It’s something I’ve been born with since the beginning; I don’t know any better,” Rice said. “You can take it two ways. You can either burden yourself or take it as a challenge. I definitely take it as a challenge. Why not strive to be the greatest? You only get one chance to do this. Why not try to do your best?”

While Rice’s tryout was a feel-good story in an otherwise mundane weekend in which many of the players participating won’t even make it to the remainder of organized team activities, Harbaugh was complimentary of a number of the Ravens’ draft picks including first-round linebacker C.J. Mosley and fourth-round running back Lorenzo Taliaferro. Third-round tight end Crockett Gillmore was one of the most impressive players on the field as he showed good hands in catching several passes.

Mosley was vocal while running the defensive huddle, and most expect him to immediately start next to veteran Daryl Smith in the 3-4 base defense.

“The first impression is that he seems very comfortable in a defense,” Harbaugh said. “He understands the game very well. He’s been really well-coached, obviously, down [at Alabama]. That was a big plus coming out.”

Harbaugh made it clear that there was no time to ease the rookies into action with the draft taking place two weeks later this year.

The mental preparation of learning an NFL system understandably takes time, but the physical rigors of playing at the next level were felt by the rookies immediately, according to the head coach.

“We go right at it as much as we can,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not real football. It’s not tackling and all that, but we try to throw a bunch on them mentally and really physically as well in terms of the running. Lorenzo Taliaferro told me that he had never been so sore in his life without hitting. I said, ‘Yeah, we run a lot in the NFL.’”

Lewis-Moore ready to show he belongs

The Ravens selected Notre Dame defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore in the sixth round of the 2013 draft fully knowing that his rookie year would essentially be a redshirt season after he suffered a torn ACL in the national championship game that January, but they’re hoping to reap the fruits of that long-term investment beginning this season.

Now 16 months removed from the injury and taking part in this weekend’s rookie camp, Lewis-Moore is out to prove why he was a well-regarded NFL prospect and to find his place in the defensive line rotation.

“I don’t have to relearn too much. We’re all football players and the game comes back to us pretty quick,” said Lewis-Moore, who briefly practice on a limited basis for a three-week period last season. “The first practice, I was a little rusty with my technique, but the afternoon practice was better. It’s going to be really competitive.”

The 6-foot-4, 310-pound defensive lineman collected 40 tackles and six sacks in his senior season to help lead the Fighting Irish defense to the national championship game against Alabama.

Other veteran players taking part in rookie minicamp included tight end Matt Furstenburg, wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard, quarterback Nick Stephens, and lineman Cody Larsen, who were all members of the 2013 practice squad.

Injury report

Fourth-round defensive end Brent Urban (offseason ankle surgery) and sixth-round wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring strain) were present but did not participate in Saturday’s practice.

Third-round safety Terrence Brooks was excused from the team as he and his fiancée welcomed the birth of their son on Friday, but Harbaugh complimented the former Florida State defensive back’s work from earlier in the week.

The Ravens coach also said that left guard Kelechi Osemele (back surgery) was participating fully in the offseason training program and that running back Bernard Pierce (shoulder surgery) should be ready to go by the start of training camp.

“[Bernard's] been allowed to move around a little bit, but we just can’t risk him falling on it right now and getting a setback,” Harbaugh said. “So, you’re probably looking at training camp for him, which shouldn’t be an issue as long as you don’t get a setback.”

Two more draft picks sign

The Ravens announced the signings of second-round defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and Urban to their rookie contracts on Saturday afternoon.

The only draft picks who remain unsigned were Mosley and Brooks despite the draft only being completed last weekend.

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Ravens’ 2014 draft may prove strong, but immediate questions remain

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Ravens’ 2014 draft may prove strong, but immediate questions remain

Posted on 11 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Assessing the Ravens’ 2014 draft now is akin to judging a gift based solely on its wrapping paper.

Only time will tell how many of their nine selections will pay dividends in 2014 and beyond. Even assistant general manager Eric DeCosta acknowledged recently that the evaluation process is as much art as it is science — and luck — with a number of variables ranging from talent and intelligence to health and work ethic determining how successful a player will be.

But the initial reaction to what the Ravens accomplished over the weekend and how it specifically relates to the 2014 season? Underwhelming and redundant.

It has little to do with questioning the quality of players they selected as much as it felt like a repeat of the 2013 draft with an overwhelming emphasis on defense — at the same positions — for a second consecutive year. After selecting a safety (Matt Elam), an inside linebacker (Arthur Brown), and a defensive tackle (Brandon Williams) with their first three picks last year, general manager Ozzie Newsome grabbed an inside linebacker (C.J. Mosley), a defensive tackle (Timmy Jernigan), and another safety (Terrence Brooks) with his first three selections over the weekend.

“You never know what kind of shape the draft is going to take,” DeCosta said Saturday evening. “We go into it blind, and this just ended up being really a draft about substance. We got guys that we think are going to be here for a long time and are going to help us win games. They’re guys in the fourth quarter that should be big-time players for us over time.”

It would be unfair to strongly doubt the talents of Mosley or Jernigan — two players viewed as top 20 talents by more than a few draft pundits — or the potential of Brooks to become defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ starting free safety as early as this coming season. But it is reasonable to question what the selections of Mosley and Jernigan mean for Brown and Williams, two players many expected to step into starting roles this season.

Of course, the Ravens would privately tell you they’ve found the eventual successors for veterans Daryl Smith, Haloti Ngata, and even Chris Canty after grabbing 5-technique defensive end Brent Urban with their first choice on Day 3 of the draft. But that doesn’t sound like dramatic improvement for this season as the Ravens try to bounce back from an 8-8 record and the first non-playoff season of the John Harbaugh era.

While no one would confuse the league’s 12th-ranked defense with the 2000 Ravens a year ago, it was the offense that was the biggest culprit that needed major reconstructive surgery this offseason.

It’s true that the Ravens have already worked to address the league’s 29th-ranked offense with the hiring of new coordinator Gary Kubiak, the free-agent additions of 35-year-old receiver Steve Smith and 31-year-old tight end Owen Daniels, and the trade for Tampa Bay center Jeremy Zuttah, but the need for a right tackle and the desire for another impact pass-catcher virtually went untouched this weekend. Yes, the Ravens will always take the best talent available, but the fact that they’ve taken only one offensive player in the first three rounds in the last two years — out of a total of seven choices — is concerning for that side of the football.

Third-round tight end Crockett Gillmore has encouraging upside, but many consider him more of a developmental prospect than someone ready to contribute this year behind Dennis Pitta and Daniels. And while the organization thinks fourth-round running back Lorenzo Taliaferro could be one of the steals of the entire draft, the 230-pound back will need to prove his accomplishments at FCS school Coastal Carolina will translate to the next level.

Are those additions enough to not just improve but dramatically improve what was an abysmal offense a year ago?

“We’re all laughing because the whole board was stacked toward the offense,” said Newsome at the conclusion of the third round. “But Eric has made the comment several times that we’re being contrary — everybody else in this league is drafting offensive players and we’ve been drafting defensive players. But it was stacked more toward the offensive side, but the way it fell for us, it’s been the defensive players.”

Truth be told, the Ravens are higher on second-year linemen Rick Wagner and Ryan Jensen than most assume as the former is currently projected to be the starting right tackle with the season just under four months away. But considering the albatross that was the offensive line for a franchise-worst running game a year ago, Penn State guard John Urschel being the lone lineman selected by Newsome — in the fifth round — understandably raises eyebrows.

And even after their other defensive additions, the Ravens’ decision not to draft a cornerback after the free-agent departure of Corey Graham will also put more pressure on Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson as they compete for the No. 3 corner spot.

That’s plenty of dependence on former late-round draft picks who’ve made little impact in their time with the Ravens.

“We need to give these young guys a chance,” Newsome said. “I think guys should fail on the field, so we’re going to give these guys the opportunity to fail on the field. That way we know whether they can [play] or not. But we feel real good about them. And the other aspect of that, bringing in a new set of coaches, and they’re getting a chance to put their eyes on them, and they feel good about the young guys that we drafted last year.”

That message sounds contradictory to how some now view the 2013 selections of Brown and Williams after Mosley and Jernigan were picked in this year’s draft. There’s no shame in acknowledging Mosley and Jernigan as superior prospects on their board, but it’s only natural to wonder if the Ravens feel they whiffed on last year’s class more than they lead on.

Make no mistake, the draft should always be about the long run, but that doesn’t prohibit a team from immediately improving its prospects for this season, which leaves this weekend with questions still unanswered.

The truth is the Ravens won a Super Bowl based largely on offense two years ago but have been more committed to improving the defensive side of the ball ever since. And though the defensive-minded Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl in February, the Ravens’ tireless dedication to defense doesn’t appear to mesh with what the league has become as DeCosta even pointed out over the weekend.

“We’ve added a nice influx of young defensive talent,” DeCosta said. “We’ve always been known as a team that has prided itself on defense. This is a blue-collar community, and I think they’re going to enjoy watching these guys play.”

Maybe so, but fans will also continue to hold their breath about the offense until the Ravens prove otherwise.

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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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Ravens scheduled to pick 17th overall as 2014 NFL Draft gets underway

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Ravens scheduled to pick 17th overall as 2014 NFL Draft gets underway

Posted on 08 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Slated to pick higher than they have in any draft since 2006, the Ravens enter another critical phase of the offseason with eight selections in the 2014 draft.

With clear needs at right tackle and free safety as well as the desire to improve their depth at cornerback, running back, and the defensive line, general manager Ozzie Newsome will anxiously await how the first 16 picks of the first round play out with uncertainty surrounding a group of quarterbacks with mixed reviews. The Ravens hope to see a run of signal-callers early to improve their chances of the likes of offensive tackles Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin as well as Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix being available when they’re on the clock with the 17th overall choice in the first round.

Newsome confirmed at last week’s pre-draft press conference that the Ravens have already fielded calls from teams looking to move up in the first round, and the longtime general manager has a reputation for being willing to move back to accumulate more picks. Baltimore has traded its original first-round choice for later selections in two of the last four drafts.

While most of the Ravens’ brain trust remains in Owings Mills, each of the 32 NFL clubs have representatives in New York who are responsible for delivering the selected names to league officials. Player personnel assistants Kenny Sanders and Matt Jansen are representing Baltimore in New York.

In addition to four original draft choices in this year’s draft, the Ravens were awarded four compensatory picks earlier this offseason. Compensatory picks are prohibited from being traded.

Ravens’ 2014 draft choices
Round 1 – 17th overall pick
Round 2 – 48th overall pick
Round 3 – 79th overall pick
Round 3 – 99th overall pick (compensatory)
Round 4 – 134th overall pick (compensatory)
Round 4 – 138th overall pick (compensatory)
Round 5 – 175th overall pick (compensatory)
Round 6 – 194th overall pick

Follow WNST on Twitter for live updates and analysis from Owings Mills throughout the weekend.

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NFL Draft: Who will the Ravens take 17th overall?

Posted on 02 May 2014 by johngallo

In less than a week, we’ll know.

We’ll know who’s the Ravens’ first pick in the draft, a player who history says should be Pro Bowl-level good.

Of the Ravens’ 18 all-time first-round picks, 10 have gone on to make at least one Pro Bowl. The 10 players have been selected to 51 Pro Bowls as a group, led by Ray Lewis’ 13 and Jonathan Ogden’s 11.

But recent history paints another picture: The Ravens’ past four first-round picks – safety Matt Elam (2013), cornerback Jimmy Smith (2011), tackle Michael Oher (2009) and quarterback Joe Flacco (2008) – have yet to make a Pro Bowl. Flacco, however, is a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, which in my book – or whatever one you are reading – is more valuable than making a Pro Bowl.

The Ravens are picking at No. 17, which represents their highest pick since taking Flacco at No. 18 in 2008 – and all he did was turn into a $100 million dollar man with a Super Bowl ring.

The Ravens, clearly, have needs after going 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the first time in the John Harbaugh Era. But this year, the Ravens’ needs are much more glaring.

The media’s projection regarding who will be the next Raven is all over the place. While some agree on the position, they don’t agree on the player. How many different names have you seen linked to the Ravens at No. 17?

Harbaugh basically said the Ravens want to add a good person at every position. Really, like what was he going to say – that the Ravens were looking to enter training camp with gaping holes and a roster that includes mediocre draft picks?

“It’s important to add a running back, but we’ve got some other spots, too. It’s important to add an offensive lineman, a wide receiver, a tight end and some depth at quarterback. It’s important to add a safety, a corner, inside backer and a defensive tackle,” Harbaugh said at pre-draft press conference. “So, that’s where I’m at right now.”

Which is where, exactly?

Harbaugh and the Ravens have a list of guys they’re targeting, but they are not sharing.

I am.

Here are three guys I’d love to see don a Ravens cap after hugging Commissioner Roger Goodell in New York City on May 8.

No. 1: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Height/weight: 6-foot-7, 309 pounds

What he did at the NFL Combine: Raise his draft stock considerably. His.4.87 time in the 40-yard dash, 30.5-inch vertical jump. 117-inch broad jump and 7.39-second three-cone drill all ranked in the top four among offensive linemen. He proved at the combine – and as a four-year starter at the University of Michigan – he has the speed to play in the NFL. However, his 39 reps of lifting 225 pounds tied for 11th with Notre Dame’s Zack Martin, well behind the 42 reps put up by North Carolina’s Russell Bodine. But it’s easier to improve a players’ strength compared to speed.

Why he’s a great fit for the Ravens: Quickly: 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.

No. 2: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Measurements: 5-11, 199

What he did at the NFL Combine: Enough to justify being a first-round pick. His 4.51 in the 40-yard dash tied for 13th in his position, well behind the 4.37 put up by Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, who is regarded as the draft’s best defensive back. But Dennard’s best work was on the field, where he was an All-American and Jim Thorpe (nations best DB) winner at Michigan State who took away the receiver he covered.

Why he’s a great fit for the Ravens: The loss of Corey Graham creates a void in the secondary, as the Ravens need to address safety and defensive back. Dennard’s physical ability and toughness make him too good to pass up if he slides to the Ravens. With Dennard, the question could be, is he the next Chris McAlister, a three-time Pro Bowler the Ravens took in 1999, or the next Jimmy Smith?

No. 3: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Measurements: 5-11, 207

What he did at the NFL Combine: Show he’s one of the strongest safeties in the draft, which makes him attractive to the Ravens since they need a complement to the speedy Matt Elam. Pryor’s 18 reps of 225 pounds tied for fourth at his position, well behind Brock Vereen’s 25, but Pryor is faster than Vereen. Pryor’s 4.58 in the 40-yard dash tied for eighth among safeties, well behind Florida State’s Terrence Brooks, who ran a blistering, 4.42.

Why he’s a great fit for the Ravens: Because the Ravens need someone to fill the huge shoes of future Hall of Famer Ed Reed, a former defensive player of the year and eight-time Pro Bowler. Reed was an absolute steal when the Ravens selected him 24th overall in 2002. Pryor could immediately replace James Ihedigbo, who signed with Detroit during the offseason.

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Ravens begin voluntary conditioning program on Monday

Posted on 21 April 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens officially returned to work Monday to begin preparations for the 2014 season.

Harbaugh and his staff, which includes new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and several other newcomers, began the first phase of the workout program on April 21. This portion is limited to two weeks of conditioning and strength training as well as physical rehabilitation. Many notable players and young players alike have been present on the first day in past offseasons.

“Good morning y’all!” wide receiver Torrey Smith wrote on his official Twitter account. “Thankful for another day of life and the opportunity to be back with the team.”

The second phase of the offseason schedule covers the next three weeks of the program. On-field workouts that include individual player instruction and drills as well as a practice conducted on a “separate” basis are permitted, but no live contact or team offense against defense drills are permitted.

The final phase of the offseason program consists of the next four weeks. During this period, teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or OTAs. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are allowed.

Besides the obvious physical preparations for the 2014 season as the Ravens try to make it back to the playoffs after a disappointing 8-8 season, this spring will be critical from a learning standpoint as players try to adopt Kubiak’s West Coast offensive scheme. Of course, the offseason training program will allow new free-agent additions such as wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels to get to know their new surroundings and teammates.

Nearly all workouts are considered “voluntary” by definition, but it’s privately expected that players attend regularly. In recent years, Harbaugh has praised his players for their attendance for offseason workouts.

The league’s collective bargaining agreement permits one mandatory minicamp for veteran players, which may occur during the third phase of the offseason. New head coaches are allowed to hold an additional voluntary minicamp for veterans.

Each club may also conduct a rookie football development program for a period of seven weeks, which may begin on May 12. During this period, no activities may be held on weekends except one post-draft rookie minicamp, which may be conducted on either the first or second weekend following the draft.

The date of the post-draft rookie minicamp will be released at a later date.

Here is the Ravens’ 2014 offseason training program schedule that was released earlier this month by the NFL:

First Day: April 21
OTA Offseason Workouts: May 28-30, June 3-5, June 9-10, June 12-13
Mandatory Minicamp: June 17-19

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Ravens, 49ers to hold joint practices in preseason

Posted on 19 April 2014 by Luke Jones

As if a rematch of Super Bowl XLVII in the Ravens’ preseason opener wasn’t enough, head coach John Harbaugh will welcome brother Jim and the San Francisco 49ers for a series of training camp practices in Baltimore.

The Ravens and 49ers will meet at M&T Bank Stadium on Aug. 7 to kick off the preseason schedule before the teams meet for four days of practices in Baltimore. The teams will hold a light practice at the stadium the day after the game followed by three days of joint practices at the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills.

“I called Jim about a month ago and asked him if he wanted to do it, and I wasn’t really sure if he’d want to,” Harbaugh told the team’s official website on Friday. “And he was like, ‘Absolutely. Let’s do it.’”

One of the annual themes of training camp is players growing weary of going up against their own teammates, so the decision to invite the 49ers to practice with the Ravens figures to break up the monotony of the summer. Former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin will certainly be familiar returning to the training facility at which he spent three seasons.

It will be interesting to see how the brothers interact with one another while their teams prepare for the 2014 season, and their father, Jack Harbaugh, is expected to be present for the practice sessions.

“He’s going to be the unofficial, official,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to be in charge of breaking up all fights – different brotherly scuffles. If we start rolling around on the field my dad is going to have to jump in I guess. It’s going to be fantastic. We just can’t wait to do it.”

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