Tag Archive | "John Urschel"

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Ravens rookie guard Lewis in concussion protocol

Posted on 26 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lost in the final hectic minutes of the Ravens’ 19-17 win over Jacksonville on Sunday was the absence of rookie left guard Alex Lewis.

The 2016 fourth-round pick was not on the field for the final 10 offensive plays of the fourth quarter and is in the concussion protocol, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Reserve Ryan Jensen took Lewis’ place for the final three offensive drives.

“I thought he played well. Ryan goes out there, and he always gives you a spark,” Harbaugh said. “He played really well. He’s physical and played well. One of the things that we feel really good about is we have some depth in our interior offensive line.”

Lewis did not return to the game after taking a hard shot from Jaguars linebacker Dan Skuta on safety Tashaun Gipson’s interception return with less than six minutes remaining.The Nebraska product was slow to get up before leaving the field for the change of possession.

Should Lewis not be cleared to return in time for the Week 4 contest against Oakland, third-year lineman John Urschel or Jensen would be the leading candidates to start at left guard. Urschel has been listed as a full participant in practices for three weeks after suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason, but he has been inactive for the first three games.

For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus has graded Lewis 50th overall among qualified NFL guards through the first three weeks of the season. He sports a solid pass-blocking grade (26th overall) and a poor run-blocking mark (62nd overall).

The first injury report of the week will be released on Wednesday as Baltimore prepares for a home contest against the Raiders.

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buckallen

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 18 September 2016 by Luke Jones

It’s a new week, but the same list of inactives for the Ravens as they face Cleveland in their second game of the 2016 regular season.

Despite missing practices all week with a lingering ankle issue, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith was indeed active for Sunday’s game against the Browns. With five-time Pro Bowl selection Elvis Dumervil out for the second straight week, the Ravens will need Smith to serve in a pass-rushing capacity opposite veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

It will be interesting to see how many snaps Smith will play after he led all Baltimore outside linebackers in that department against Buffalo.

Third-year offensive lineman John Urschel was inactive for the second straight game after head coach John Harbaugh declared him ready to play earlier in the week. Rookie Alex Lewis will start again at left guard and appears to have secured the job until he proves incapable of handling it.

Urschel has been a full participant in practices over the last two weeks after dealing with a shoulder injury during training camp. His deactivation meant the Ravens had only two reserve offensive linemen available against Cleveland.

Running back Buck Allen was also a healthy scratch for the second straight week, creating more questions about his status once rookie Kenneth Dixon returns from a knee injury. In the last meeting with the Browns last November, Allen ran for 55 yards and caught four passes for 29 yards and a touchdown in a 33-27 win.

Despite missing Wednesday’s practice with a calf injury, wide receiver Breshad Perriman was among the actives for Sunday’s game. He participated fully in workouts the rest of the week.

Cornerback Jerraud Powers (ankle) practiced fully on Thursday and Friday, but he remained inactive after being listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week.

There were no surprises among the Cleveland inactives as the Browns prepared for their home opener.

Sunday’s referee is John Hussey.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday afternoon forecast in Cleveland calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-70s with winds up to nine miler per hour. However, the previous threat of scattered thunderstorms has disappeared.

The Ravens will wear purple jerseys with white pants while the Browns don white tops with brown pants.

Sunday marks the 35th meeting between these AFC North foes with Baltimore enjoying an overwhelming 25-9 advantage. The Ravens are 12-5 at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Jerraud Powers
RB Kenneth Dixon
CB Will Davis
RB Buck Allen
OLB Elvis Dumervil
OL John Urschel
DT Willie Henry

CLEVELAND
DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun
DB Marcus Burley
LB Scooby Wright
OL Shon Coleman
WR Jordan Payton
DL John Hughes
DL Gabe Wright

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zadariussmith

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Ravens list Z. Smith as questionable, rule out Dumervil again

Posted on 16 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Having already ruled out Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil for the second straight week, the Ravens could be without another outside linebacker in Cleveland on Sunday.

After missing his third straight practice with an ankle injury, Za’Darius Smith was listed as questionable to play in Week 2. Despite not starting in the opener against Buffalo, the 2015 fourth-round pick played 36 snaps in the Week 1 win, the most of any active outside linebacker.

Smith was not listed on the injury report last week after missing the final two preseason games with an ankle sprain. It remains unclear whether he aggravated the previous injury or hurt the opposite ankle against the Bills.

“I really don’t know,” head coach John Harbaugh said early Friday afternoon. “I don’t remember. The injury report will be out later.”

Dumervil hasn’t practiced since suffering a setback in his return from offseason foot surgery last month. The 32-year-old said Thursday that he’s improving and getting closer to a return, but he still offered no timetable for when he might be ready to play.

With Dumervil out and Smith in danger of missing Sunday’s game, the Ravens may need to lean more heavily on rookie linebackers Matt Judon and Kamalei Correa. Judon saw only 13 defensive snaps against Buffalo while Correa, the team’s second-round pick, only played on special teams in the season opener.

“They’ve both done a tremendous job and have demonstrated that they can play in this league,” Harbaugh said. “That’s an ongoing process, and whatever opportunities they get, we’ll be expecting them to make the most of it. We’re going out there as a team to go win the football game.”

The Ravens also listed wide receiver Breshad Perriman (calf), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (thigh), cornerback Jerraud Powers (ankle), and guard John Urschel (shoulder) as questionable. All four were full participants in practice on Thursday and Friday, leading you to believe they should all be healthy enough to play against the Browns.

Perriman missed Wednesday’s practice, but he returned the following day and told reporters that he was feeling good and expecting to play in Week 2.

As expected, rookie running back Kenneth Dixon was ruled out as he continues to recover from a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee sustained in the third preseason game on Aug. 27. At the time of the injury, he was expected to miss roughly four weeks of action.

Meanwhile, the Browns did not have a single player absent from practice on Thursday or Friday and didn’t list anyone on their final game status injury report. Defensive backs Marcus Burley (groin) and Derrick Kindred (ankle) were limited in practices early in the week, but the NFL eliminated the “probable” label on the injury report, likely explaining why they weren’t listed in the game status report.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Hussey.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast in Cleveland is calling for a 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms, temperatures reaching the mid-70s, and winds up to 10 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report for Sunday’s game:

BALTIMORE
OUT: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Breshad Perriman (calf), CB Jerraud Powers (ankle), LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle), G John Urschel (shoulder)

CLEVELAND
No one listed

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Perriman sidelined from Ravens practice with calf injury

Posted on 14 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens receiver Breshad Perriman made his long-awaited NFL debut on Sunday, but the 2015 first-round pick was one of six players missing from Wednesday’s practice.

The 23-year-old was listed with a calf issue on the first injury report of the week after head coach John Harbaugh declined to comment on his absence. The injury is considered minor, according to an ESPN report.

Perriman played 21 snaps and made a 35-yard reception in the 13-7 win over Buffalo and appeared to be fine in the post-game locker room, but his absence reignites the questions about his ability to stay on the field. After missing his entire rookie season with a right knee injury, the second-year wideout missed most of summer training camp with a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee sustained in June and only returned to play in the preseason finale.

Other players sidelined as the Ravens continued preparations for this weekend’s trip to Cleveland included linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot), C.J. Mosley (thigh), and Za’Darius Smith (ankle), center Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury), and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee). Considering how much time he missed throughout the summer after undergoing offseason foot surgery, Dumervil appears to be in real jeopardy of missing his second straight game to start the regular season.

Smith missed the final two weeks of the preseason with an ankle injury, but it remains unclear whether he suffered a setback. He was not listed on the injury report last week and played 36 snaps against Buffalo.

Mosley downplayed the significance of his thigh injury and isn’t considered a question mark for Sunday’s game.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Mosley said. “I just have to make sure I don’t go out there and make anything worse. I’ll be out there [Thursday].”

Third-year offensive lineman John Urschel was a full participant on Wednesday after being inactive for the season opener. He practiced fully all last week after missing a large portion of the preseason with a shoulder injury.

Veteran cornerback Jerraud Powers made his return to practice on a limited basis after missing the opening game. He had been sidelined since suffering an ankle injury on Aug. 20.

Meanwhile, the Browns only had one player missing from their Wednesday workout as nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas was given the day off.

Below is the full Wednesday injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Breshad Perriman (calf), LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jerraud Powers (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OL John Urschel (shoulder)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Joe Thomas (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Marcus Burley (groin), DB Derrick Kindred (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G John Greco (back), WR Terrelle Pryor (shoulder)

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pitta

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Several notable players back at practice as Ravens prepare for final cuts

Posted on 03 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens counting down the final hours before trimming their roster to the league-mandated 53-man limit, they welcomed back several notable players to the practice field on Saturday morning.

Tight ends Dennis Pitta and Maxx Williams, nose tackle Brandon Williams, guard John Urschel, and safety Kendrick Lewis were all present and working after lengthy absences due to various injuries. Pitta hadn’t practiced since breaking a finger in a scuffle with rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa on Aug. 1.

“He looked fine today,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Certainly, he has to get his timing back and work the rust off, if you want to use that term, and get going. He’s back today, and he’ll be back all next week, and I expect him to be ready to go.”

Meanwhile, Brandon Williams had been sidelined since getting banged up in the second preseason game on Aug. 20. Urschel, Lewis, and Maxx Williams had been missing since suffering injuries in the Aug. 11 preseason opener.

The Ravens were again without outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot surgery), who also missed Tuesday’s practice and did not appear in the preseason. That looks to at least be a mild concern with the season opener only a week away and Dumervil not having logged much practice time this summer.

“It’s all in the doctors’ hands and Elvis’ hands,” Harbaugh said. “He came off the [physically unable to perform list], and he worked a couple of days. I really don’t have an answer for that. It just depends how it progresses and how it feels. When he’s cleared to practice fully, he will be out there.

“I support him practicing fully; it won’t be until he is ready.”

Other players missing from Saturday morning’s session included wide receivers Chris Matthews and Michael Campanaro, offensive linemen Ryan Jensen and De’Ondre Wesley, cornerbacks Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, and Carrington Byndom, linebackers Victor Ochi and Za’Darius Smith (ankle), defensive tackle Carl Davis (ankle), safety Matt Elam (knee), and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee).

After The Sun reported that defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore had been waived, the 2013 sixth-round pick was not on the practice field, but the Ravens hadn’t announced an official move. Offensive lineman Blaine Clausell was present and working despite his agent, Brett Tessler, announcing that he’d been waived by the organization.

The absences of “bubble players” such as Campanaro, Matthews, and Ochi were notable ahead of Saturday’s 4 p.m. roster deadline, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean they’ve been cut, either.

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pittanew

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Sixteen Ravens players remain sidelined for Tuesday’s practice

Posted on 16 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Moving closer to their second preseason game against Indianapolis on Saturday, the Ravens continue to be without an extensive list of players in practice.

Sixteen players were absent from the field on Tuesday morning, a list that included wide receiver Chris Matthews (soft tissue), tight ends Dennis Pitta (finger), Daniel Brown, and Maxx Williams, offensive linemen John Urschel and Rick Wagner, defensive backs Kendrick Lewis, Kyle Arrington (head), Sheldon Price, Sam Brown, and Tavon Young (hamstring), and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle). Wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles tendon) and Breshad Perriman (knee), linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

According to head coach John Harbaugh, Urschel is dealing with a contusion and hasn’t participated in practice since starting at left guard in the preseason opener, but the injury is not a long-term concern. Wagner participated in Monday’s practice without incident, making it likely that he was receiving a veteran day off.

Veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs was present and participating for the second straight day in his return to the field after an 11-month absence from of a torn Achilles tendon.

“A lot of the plan is based on how he feels about it,” Harbaugh said. “Here’s a guy that has played 13 years in the National Football League. He knows what he needs. He did more than he did yesterday, and he’ll do more tomorrow than he did today.”

Wide receiver Chris Moore (foot) was practicing for the first time since July 29. His return is good news after the rookie had turned heads with his play-making ability over the first couple days of training camp.

With Perriman still recovering from a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, a healthy Moore becomes a more intriguing deep threat to complement veteran Mike Wallace.

“He’s made some plays down the field, but he’s also shown route-running ability and shown willingness to block,” Harbaugh said. “We have to get him back on track. Now we have to get him back out there. He was in individual [drills] today. We have to build on that. He is a rookie. He has a lot of work to do to be ready to do that, but he has potential.”

There were several special visitors at Tuesday’s practice, ranging from former Ravens Rob Burnett and Matt Stover to former New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. Former Pro Bowl kicker David Akers was also present and will work with the Baltimore kickers for a few days, according to Harbaugh.

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Ravens unveil first depth chart ahead of preseason opener

Posted on 05 August 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens unveiled their first depth chart of the summer with very few surprises in relation to what we’ve witnessed in training camp so far.

The depth chart reflects players currently on the physically unable to perform list, which explains why the likes of Steve Smith, Terrell Suggs, and Elvis Dumervil are listed at the end of their position groups. In most cases, reserve players behind the projected starters are listed by seniority.

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The listed starting offensive line is exactly what we’ve seen at most practices in the spring and summer with rookie first-round tackle Ronnie Stanley set to protect Joe Flacco’s blindside and third-year lineman John Urschel still the favorite to take Kelechi Osemele’s old left guard spot.

Of course, the wide receiver position is difficult to project with Smith and 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman still on the PUP list, but Michael Campanaro has practiced well while staying healthy so far, making a strong case to see time in the slot. Maxx Williams being listed fourth among the tight ends reflects how deep that position is.

Buck Allen is listed as the primary backup to Justin Forsett at running back, but Terrance West can further improve his case for a bigger role if he can build on an impressive training camp with good showings in the preseason.

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With Suggs and Dumervil still absent, Za’Darius Smith and Albert McClellan have handled starting outside linebacker duties in training camp. It will be interesting to see if McClellan remains at the “Sam” linebacker spot when Dumervil and Suggs return or whether Smith will slide over to that spot. The Ravens would like to see Dumervil return to his previous role as a situational pass rusher, but it’s unclear if Suggs will still be a three-down linebacker coming back from his second Achilles injury in four years.

The Ravens are listing veteran Zach Orr ahead of rookie Kamalei Correa as the starting weak-side inside linebacker, but the 2016 second-round pick has received more reps with the base defense during training camp. The nickel package has featured Orr entering at inside linebacker with Correa shifting to the edge.

Veteran Kyle Arrington is currently ahead of Will Davis and rookie Tavon Young on the depth chart, but that appears to be a nod to the veteran more than a reflection of what we’ve seen during camp.

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As for special teams, Kaelin Clay is the early leader to be the return specialist, but Campanaro remains in the mix as the Ravens try to keep him healthy. Former Navy star and sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds has struggled to consistently catch punts and has a lot of ground to make up over the next few weeks. Young has shown impressive speed as a potential kick returner.

It’s important not to read too much into the first depth chart, especially once moving past the first and second units. The depth chart is composed by the Ravens’ public relations staff, but it is based on practice and game reps, giving fans and media a worthwhile snapshot.

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More questions than answers for Ravens entering training camp

Posted on 20 July 2016 by Luke Jones

We’re finally a week away from the curtain rising on the 2016 Ravens.

Sure, we caught a brief glimpse during last month’s mandatory minicamp, but how much could we really learn from non-contact practices that didn’t even include the starting quarterback, their No. 1 receiver, the starting outside linebackers, the top cornerback, and their 2015 first-round pick?

Trying to rebound from the worst season of the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens are hoping for better health after a team-record 21 players finished 2015 on injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list. They believe the free-agent additions of safety Eric Weddle, tight end Benjamin Watson, and wide receiver Mike Wallace and the continuing development of young players will provide the upside to return to the playoffs after failing to qualify in two of the last three years.

With a pedigree that includes two Super Bowl championships, four division titles, and 10 playoff appearances in the last 16 years, the Ravens bouncing back from a 5-11 campaign to once again become an AFC contender in 2016 would hardly be shocking. But there are more questions to ask than answers to offer as players report to Owings Mills over the next week.

What about this roster truly makes the Ravens brass rest easy at night?

Coming back from the first significant injury of his career, Joe Flacco is a franchise quarterback capable of playing at a championship level, even if his regular-season numbers don’t always reflect that. Coaches will need to be smart with him less than eight months removed from major knee surgery, but it’s comforting to know that the 31-year-old will be back on the field for the first day of training camp.

The Ravens offense has the best guard in football in Marshal Yanda and veteran starters at center and right tackle as well as arguably the deepest collection of tight ends in the NFL. The defense has one of the NFL’s best nose tackles, a 2015 Pro Bowl outside linebacker, a young inside linebacker who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, and a three-time Pro Bowl safety in Weddle, who should bring more leadership and order to a volatile secondary.

Baltimore has an elite trio of specialists in kicker Justin Tucker, punter Sam Koch, and long snapper Morgan Cox, who have all been to Pro Bowls and have signed long-term contracts over the last 12 months.

The talent and potential strengths don’t end there, but the serious questions begin at this point.

What can we reasonably expect from Steve Smith and Terrell Suggs coming back from Achilles tendon injuries?

It’s been a difficult recovery for the veteran receiver, who originally intended to make 2015 his last season. Doubting Smith’s heart and determination is foolish, but we know Father Time is undefeated, making it fair to question whether the 37-year-old can play close to the level he did prior to last year’s injury when he was still a No.1 option.

The little we’ve seen from Suggs since his injury last September includes a traffic-related arrest in Arizona in March and a guest appearance on HBO’s Ballers in which he played himself getting into a scrap with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character. Set to turn 34 in October, the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker has been working out at the team’s facility in Owings Mills, but his conditioning and explosiveness will be scrutinized after his second Achilles injury in a four-year period. A substantially-diminished Suggs puts even more pressure on fellow veteran Elvis Dumervil as well as unproven options such as Za’Darius Smith and Kamalei Correa as pass rushers.

Will a second foot procedure allow Jimmy Smith to recapture his No. 1 cornerback form?

The 28-year-old had the screws removed from his surgically-repaired right foot this spring after he was still experiencing soreness from the 2014 Lisfranc procedure. The Ravens paid him handsomely last spring to be a difference-making presence in the secondary and need him to be the player he was in 2013 and 2014 if this defense is going to take a significant step forward this season.

What’s the reality with the Breshad Perriman injury?

It was great news that Dr. James Andrews didn’t recommend full ACL reconstruction surgery for Perriman in June, but the fact that he still prescribed a stem-cell injection makes you wonder about the healing process and stability of his left knee. The young receiver missed his entire rookie year with a right knee injury originally considered to be minor, so you hope this isn’t a cruel repeat of 2015.

For a team in desperate need of dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball, Perriman may possess more upside than anyone on the roster if he can just stay on the field.

The questions go beyond players coming off injuries.

Even if 2016 first-round pick Ronnie Stanley proves to be more like Jonathan Ogden and less like the many who have tried to replace the Hall of Fame left tackle over the last decade, how confident can the organization honestly feel about a rookie and a new starter at left guard — projected to be John Urschel — protecting the blindside of a quarterback coming off a serious knee injury?

Baltimore has a collection of talented running backs, but is there truly a No. 1 guy in the bunch?

Who is going to play inside linebacker next to Mosley?

Is the rest of the defensive backfield ready to build on its second-half improvement from last year to be more of a force under new secondary coach Leslie Frazier?

Who might step forward to make a difference in the return game?

Finally and perhaps most importantly, are there at least a couple of young players ready to step forward to become special?

The Ravens have solid-to-good football players; they need more great ones.

All teams face questions this time of year, but there are more than usual for Baltimore entering 2016. It’s understandable after a 5-11 season that fell apart even before the injuries piled up at a record level.

We’ll soon get to see what’s behind the curtain.

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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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osemele

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Ranking the Ravens’ offensive needs for 2016

Posted on 21 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Trying to assess the 2015 Ravens offense isn’t easy.

Even if you weren’t always pleased with his play-calling and the lack of commitment to the running game, new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman was without his franchise quarterback, two of his top three wide receivers, his starting running back, his starting center, his starting left tackle, and his starting tight end for large chunks of the season. In some ways, you have to be impressed that the Ravens finished 14th in total offense, but finishing 25th in points per game (20.5) reflects how much they lacked playmakers.

How can you fairly judge Trestman’s work with a starting offense in the second half of the season that resembled one you’d see in the fourth preseason game?

The good news is that the Ravens will begin consecutive seasons with the same offensive coordinator for the first time since Cam Cameron’s five-year run that concluded in 2012. That continuity will be critical with Joe Flacco spending the offseason rehabbing from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee.

With free agency set to begin in less than two months — March 9 at 4 p.m. — and the draft set for April 28-30, the Ravens are currently evaluating their biggest needs in all three phases of the game. In the first of a three-part series — with defense and special teams to follow — I offer my thoughts on the offensive side of the football and rank the positions of greatest need.

1. Left tackle

Considering Eugene Monroe is under contract for three more years, some could still argue that receiver is a bigger need, but surely no position on either side of the ball is more complicated right now for the Ravens.

I’m not completely convinced that Monroe is a goner since Kelechi Osemele will be an unrestricted free agent and the former’s release would leave $6.6 million in dead money on a salary cap that is already way too tight. Monroe’s performance over the last two years certainly doesn’t reflect the five-year, $37.5 million contract he was awarded, but his play has mostly still been solid when he has been on the field.

Can you count on Monroe to stay healthy after starting just 16 games over the last two years? Is the organization simply finished with him after he reportedly refused a simple restructure of his contract last offseason?

Osemele figures to be in high demand as either a guard or a left tackle, making it difficult to predict whether the Ravens can be a serious contender to sign him. Their best strategy might be to keep Monroe until the 2016 draft when they could potentially come away with a top left tackle such as Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick and then part ways with the veteran. If it’s not a first-round talent, perhaps the Ravens draft a tackle in the second or third round and ride the roller coaster with Monroe for one more season.

2. Wide receiver

It’s a broken record at this position, but it was reassuring for Ravens fans to hear general manager Ozzie Newsome say at the season-ending press conference that he needs to add at least one more receiver.

There’s no reason to think Baltimore wouldn’t keep restricted free agent Kamar Aiken, but he is the group’s only fully-known commodity at the moment. No one doubts Steve Smith’s determination to return from an Achilles injury at age 37, but you can’t just bank on him being his old self, either. And even if the Ravens are confident that 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman will be 100 percent for the offseason conditioning program, he has yet to complete as much as a full-contact practice in the NFL.

The Ravens averaged a league-worst 10.4 yards per catch in 2015, reflecting their inability to stretch the field with any success. Perriman can still be viewed as the primary option to provide that skill next season, but Newsome can’t be without a backup plan this time around.

Whether it’s a free agent or a pick in the first three or four rounds of this spring’s draft, the Ravens need another speed receiver with upside to add to the passing game for 2016.

3. Reserve offensive tackle

This is a need that will be based on what the Ravens ultimately do at left tackle, but they probably shouldn’t count on James Hurst as the primary backup tackle, especially if Monroe is retained.

The former undrafted free agent from North Carolina is a hard worker and a favorite of offensive line coach Juan Castillo, but he graded 78th out of 81 qualified offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus and was simply overwhelmed for large stretches of playing time. He was also the one who fell into Flacco’s left knee to cause the season-ending injury against St. Louis on Nov. 22.

Starting right tackle Rick Wagner will also be an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season, so the Ravens need to be prepared to address that position a year from now.

Undrafted free agent De’Ondre Wesley finished the season on the 53-man roster, but it’s unclear whether he would be ready to step into a primary backup tackle role next year.

4. Reserve interior lineman

John Urschel is projected to take Osemele’s place as the starting left guard in 2016, but the Ravens would probably like to add another interior lineman to the roster mix if they can.

Reserve guard Ryan Jensen played well when Osemele moved to left tackle, but the organization lost rookies Kaleb Johnson and Robert Myers to other teams late in the season. Adding another interior lineman in the late rounds of the draft to develop for the future would make sense.

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