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Brooks, Campanaro among early Ravens cuts on Saturday

Posted on 03 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Two members of the Ravens’ 2014 draft class headlined the early list of reported moves ahead of Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline to set the initial 53-man roster for the regular season.

Former third-round safety Terrence Brooks was waived after only two years with Baltimore and seventh-round wide receiver Michael Campanaro was placed on injured reserve with a calf injury. Brooks took part in Saturday morning’s practice and had played every snap of the final two preseason games, but he now represents the latest miss at the safety position since Super Bowl XLVII.

Injuries have been the biggest obstacle for Campanaro, a River Hill grad who played in just eight games in his first two seasons.

As expected, rookie wide receiver and former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was waived and could be re-signed to the Ravens’ practice squad. Struggling to adjust to a new role as a receiver and return specialist at the NFL level, Reynolds was limited to just one reception for two yards in four preseason games and struggled to catch punts throughout training camp.

Wide receiver Jeremy Butler was also waived despite leading the Ravens with 16 receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason. Widely believed to have played well enough to earn a roster spot, Butler wold have ranked no higher than fifth on the depth chart and did not distinguish himself as a special-teams player, making him expendable in the organization’s eyes.

With return specialist candidates Campanaro and Reynolds being cut, general manager Ozzie Newsome is considering signing veteran Devin Hester, who has worked out twice for the Ravens and took a physical on Saturday morning. The 33-year-old underwent toe surgery in January and was released by Atlanta at the start of training camp.

“He is a proven returner, both as a kick returner and a punt returner,” said Harbaugh, who declined to comment on any concerns about the four-time Pro Bowl selection’s health. “He is at the back end of his career, so you have to factor that in to your decision. That will be up to Ozzie.”

Hester holds the NFL record for most career return touchdowns and most all-time punt return scores.

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five bubble players to watch

Posted on 01 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have reached the light at the end of the preseason tunnel and conclude the summer with a trip to New Orleans on Thursday night.

Most starters — and possibly even a few key reserves — won’t play against the Saints as head coach John Harbaugh has annually shied away from using his most important players in the final preseason game, but a handful of jobs could still be on the line for those individuals on the roster bubble. After cutting their roster to 75 players earlier this week, the Ravens will make their final cuts to the 53-man limit by Saturday afternoon.

“It will be about the things that fit us and that we need,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a fine line, and in a lot of ways, it’s fine slicing for sure. We have some good choices and some tough choices, and that’s a good problem to have. That’s what we’re facing.”

While we will wait to see the 2016 debuts of veterans Steve Smith and Elvis Dumervil until the season opener on Sept. 11, wide receiver Breshad Perriman could make his preseason debut on Thursday, which would mark the first time he’s played in a game since he was in college and Central Florida played North Carolina State in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26, 2014.

The 2015 first-round pick said Tuesday that he has been fully cleared to play, but it will be up to the coaching staff to determine whether he sees action. Harbaugh said at the beginning of the week that he would like to see Perriman get some live-game reps if the training staff allowed it.

“It’s very exciting,” said Perriman, who made it clear that he wants to play against New Orleans. “I’ve been waiting for a long time. It’s finally coming.”

Thursday marks the fourth time these teams have met in the preseason — including each of the last three years — with the Ravens holding a 3-0 edge to go with their 5-1 advantage in all-time regular-season games against the Saints. Baltimore has built a 23-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Thursday night’s game against New Orleans.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider the many veteran players and starters who will likely be held out of the preseason finale due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (finger/hip), TE Maxx Williams (undisclosed), S Matt Elam (knee)
DOUBTFUL: LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle), S Kendrick Lewis (undisclosed), G John Urschel (contusion), DT Brandon Williams (undisclosed), CB Jerraud Powers (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), WR Steve Smith (Achilles), CB Shareece Wright (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: CB Maurice Canady (hamstring), RB Buck Allen (undisclosed), CB Lardarius Webb (back)

Five bubble players to watch Thursday night

LB Arthur Brown

The writing appeared to be on the wall late last year when he still couldn’t get on the field as the Ravens were playing out the string in a lost season, but the 2013 second-round pick will have a final chance to make an impression on Thursday night. In three preseason games, Brown has collected two tackles and a pass breakup, but he’s done little to distinguish himself this summer, a common theme for what was once thought to be a promising talent. With second-round rookie Kamalei Correa ahead of him on the depth chart, Brown’s time could finally be up as he doesn’t offer as much versatility as other options.

OT James Hurst

The third-year offensive lineman made 13 starts in his first two years with the Ravens, but he owns the dubious distinction of being pushed back into the left knee of Joe Flacco last November, causing the season-ending injury. Even putting that moment aside, the former rookie free agent from North Carolina has frequently looked overmatched whenever he’s been on the field. With fellow rookie Alex Lewis capable of backing up new left tackle Ronnie Stanley, Hurst has also worked at guard this summer, but it doesn’t appear like there’s a roster spot for him unless an injury or two occurs.

LB Chris Carter

Carter is an interesting case as a veteran linebacker with the ability to play inside and outside and to excel on special teams. With both Albert McClellan and Zach Orr — two special-teams standouts — expected to receive more playing time on defense, Carter might be an attractive choice to help pick up the special-teams slack and ease their workloads. At the same time, the Ravens only have so much room on the roster with younger linebackers such as Correa and Matt Judon now in the picture. Carter may not find his way onto Baltimore’s 53-man roster, but he’s likely to catch on elsewhere if he doesn’t.

WR Keenan Reynolds

It’s easy to root for the former Navy quarterback and college football legend, but there just hasn’t been enough progress to like his chances to make the 53-man roster. Reynolds hasn’t shown sure hands as a returner and has struggled to gain separation when working as a receiver. Because of his status as a sixth-round pick and his immense popularity, Reynolds could still be stashed on injured reserve or signed to the practice quad to continue developing. Maybe he can still be the next Antwaan Randle El or Julian Edelman one day, but it just doesn’t look like it will happen this year.

CB Maurice Canady

A nagging hamstring injury has cost the sixth-round rookie extensive practice time this summer, but the 6-foot-1, 193-pound Canady has flashed promise as an outside corner, a spot where the Ravens are light behind starters Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright. Canady played extensively at the University of Virginia and does show more polish than the typical late-round cornerback, but Thursday will be a big opportunity to prove he’s deserving of one of the final spots on the 53-man roster. It could come down to one roster spot for either Canady or Sheldon Price, but both have had health issues this summer.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on preseason win over Carolina

Posted on 12 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens kicking off the preseason with a 22-19 win over Carolina, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Terrance West and Buck Allen combined for three touchdowns, but I was most impressed with the quickness of Kenneth Dixon, who ran for a game-high 44 yards on nine carries. He has the potential to be a home-run hitter as a change-of-pace back, which is something the Ravens need.

2. With Jerraud Powers and Kyle Arrington both struggling, I’d like to see Tavon Young and Terrence Brooks get more opportunities at the nickel. Young played sparingly, but he has shown good ball skills in practices. Brooks’ size is an intriguing option there, especially since Baltimore’s starting safeties are undersized.

3. First-round rookie Ronnie Stanley performed well in his first start, and Harbaugh made a point to praise the young left tackle’s strong desire to play despite suffering a recent injury. I wonder if that was a coincidence after ex-Raven Eugene Monroe started just 17 games over the last two years.

4. The Kaelin Clay muffed punt and John Harbaugh’s post-game comments lead you to believe the 2016 punt returner may not be on the current roster. The Ravens were right to cut Jacoby Jones two offseasons ago, but they’ve surely had their problems replacing him.

5. After a fast start to camp, Kamalei Correa had a relatively quiet night, failing to record a statistic in 21 defensive snaps. He appeared to play exclusively as an edge defender, making you wonder if Zach Orr has a bigger lead in the inside linebacker competition than we thought.

6. Entering his sixth year, linebacker Chris Carter was facing second- and third-team offensive linemen, but he showed impressive quickness off the edge and also made plays at inside linebacker. Versatility and his special-teams ability will help in his bid to win a job.

7. Speaking of edge defenders, Victor Ochi has flashed potential on more than one occasion during camp, but the rookie free agent only saw the field for seven snaps. That makes you wonder if the Ravens are trying to hide him in an effort to sneak him onto the practice squad.

8. Starting in place of Marshal Yanda, Vlad Ducasse may have been the Ravens’ most impressive offensive lineman, making terrific blocks on Dixon’s 19-yard run and Allen’s 19-yard touchdown catch. He’s not a sure bet to make the roster, but he has made 22 starts in six NFL seasons.

9. The Ravens only suited up five receivers, making it concerning that Keenan Reynolds wasn’t targeted once despite playing 29 offensive snaps. Everyone is rooting for the former Navy standout, but he remains a work in progress with a long way to go as both a punt returner and receiver.

10. Built similarly to Brandon Williams, rookie nose tackle Michael Pierce showed impressive push inside to collect three tackles and split a sack with Carter. Making the 53-man roster might appear to be a tall order, but the Samford product has definitely turned some heads.

11. After calling plays from the upstairs booth the last few seasons, defensive coordinator Dean Pees was on the sideline during Thursday’s game. It will be interesting to hear his rationale for the change and whether it will carry over to the regular season.

12. The fans’ reaction to Michael Phelps winning his 22nd Olympic gold medal on Thursday night was hardly surprising, but the enthusiasm shown by players watching the replay of the race on the video board was a memorable moment late in a pedestrian preseason game.

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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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Ten Ravens thoughts on first week of training camp

Posted on 02 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens approaching the end of their first week of training camp, I’ve offered 10 early thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Ravens have numerous injury questions, but Joe Flacco is looking less and less like one. Other than the brace on his left knee, you’d never know he’s eight months removed from surgery. He’s moving and throwing like he always did and says he’s not even thinking about the knee.

2. Everyone is rooting for Keenan Reynolds to make an impact after his brilliant career at Navy, but he’s a substantial work in progress. It’s still very early, but he hasn’t played with much confidence and has dropped more passes and kicks than you’d like to see even in practices.

3. With other running backs currently sidelined, Terrance West is taking advantage of the reps and has looked the part of a motivated young player vying for a significant role in the offense. West has shed 15 pounds from last season and is noticeably more explosive running the football.

4. After missing spring workouts to have the screws removed from his right foot, Jimmy Smith has had a quiet start. He hasn’t practiced poorly, but he’s still working his way back to full strength. The defense sorely needs him to return to his pre-surgery 2014 form this season.

5. An understated need in 2016 will be for Za’Darius Smith to become an impact player. He looks comfortable in pass coverage and has shown good pass-rush ability. If he can handle responsibilities formerly held by Pernell McPhee and Courtney Upshaw, less pressure falls on Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.

6. Though Jerraud Powers remains the favorite to play slot cornerback in sub packages, rookie Tavon Young has displayed good ball skills and has shown good aggression in coverage. He also looked smooth and fast returning a kickoff at Monday’s stadium practice. He’s someone to watch in the preseason.

7. Much has been written about Kamalei Correa competing to start at inside linebacker next to C.J. Mosley, but he plays with an edge, evident by the skirmishes on Monday. The Ravens need more attitude and higher-end talent, and Correa has a chance to bring both to the defense.

8. It’s unclear how much time he’ll miss, but it was a shame to see rookie receiver Chris Moore walking with his left foot in a boot on Monday. It was only a couple practices, but his acceleration going after the deep ball reminds a little bit of Torrey Smith.

9. It was interesting to see Justin Tucker repeatedly pop kickoffs into the air that landed inside the 5-yard line on Monday. With touchbacks on kickoffs moving to the 25, John Harbaugh said this offseason that the Ravens could alter their approach instead of just booting it through the end zone.

10. Crockett Gillmore has a rare combination of size and quickness that is fun to watch, but you wonder if his physical style of play will continue hindering his durability. He’s already had quite a few injuries in two-plus years with a hamstring strain the latest ailment to sideline him.

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Reynolds officially receives clearance to play for Ravens in 2016

Posted on 27 May 2016 by WNST Staff


It was announced today by the United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter that Ravens WR/RS Keenan Reynolds may defer his military service and will be eligible to play in the NFL in 2016.

Statement from Ravens General Manager & Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome:

“This is good news, and congratulations to Keenan on his graduation today.”

Statement from WR/RS Keenan Reynolds:

“It is a blessing to hear the news from Defense Secretary Carter today. I am truly excited to proudly serve my country while having the ability fulfill my dream of playing for the best organization in the NFL.

“I would like to thank the Navy for allowing me to represent them while taking advantage of this unique opportunity.

“I would also like to thank Mr. Bisciotti and the Ravens organization for believing in me and giving me this chance.”

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Ravens receiver Reynolds granted permission from Navy to play

Posted on 13 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Ravens wide receiver Keenan Reynolds has received permission to play in the NFL this season.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said on The Dan Patrick Show Friday morning that the former Navy quarterback will serve in the Navy Reserves, allowing him to begin his NFL career in Baltimore immediately. Naval Academy graduates are required to serve a five-year active term in the military upon completing school, but Mabus indicated last week that Reynolds would likely be approved to play football like New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona was a year ago.

Baltimore’s sixth-round pick in last month’s draft, Reynolds is expected to compete for the Ravens’ return specialist job as well as at the wide receiver position. He scored more touchdowns than anyone in NCAA Division I history over his four years in Annapolis.

Mabus also confirmed that Cardona, a 2015 fifth-round pick, would be allowed to continue his playing career with the Patriots in 2016 after appearing in all 16 games as a rookie.

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Reynolds reaches out to enemy lines for NFL advice

Posted on 06 May 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Before the draft, new Ravens wide receiver Keenan Reynolds sought advice from a former NFL player who understood the transition he’s currently going through.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers great Hines Ward began his career at the University of Georgia playing quarterback and running back before finally excelling at the wide receiver position. And after racking up 1,000 catches and more than 12,000 receiving yards in 14 NFL seasons, Ward was a valuable source of information for Reynolds.

After being drafted by the Ravens in the sixth round of last weekend’s draft, however, the former Navy quarterback knew he might receive flak for fraternizing with a former member of Baltimore’s AFC North rival.

“I know that’s like a cardinal sin in this building,” said Reynolds as he laughed. “We got to talk before the draft — to ease anybody’s mind. I talked to him, because in his college experience, he did play wide receiver, but he also played quarterback [and] running back. He was all over the place, so he had to adjust to the new role of being a permanent wide receiver. He gave me some tips and tricks and things to work on to perfect my craft.”

The Ravens have already said that they envision Reynolds as a slot receiver and a contributor in the return game. Though making it clear that he’s willing to play anywhere to succeed at the NFL level, the 21-year-old acknowledged it has been an adjustment realizing he would no longer be a quarterback after setting the FBS record with 4,559 rushing yards at the position.

In fact, Reynolds didn’t even learn that he’d work as a running back at the East-West Shrine until reading an article listing him at the running back position.

“When I got invited to the Shrine game, I saw that I wasn’t a quarterback anymore, and I was like, ‘Well, this is fun,'” said Reynolds, who scored more touchdowns than anyone in NCAA Division I history. “I was like, ‘This is an opportunity to pursue the dream at the next level,’ and I’m embracing it with everything I can. [There have] been several guys that have come before me that have been able to make the transition successfully, so I’ve been trying to model my game after them, talk to them, and just hear what they have to say.”

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Reynolds has worked extensively with former Pro Bowl selection Brian Mitchell to learn the finer points of the return game. He wouldn’t be the first college quarterback to succeed as an NFL return specialist as Antwaan Randle El did it for the Steelers and New England’s Julian Edelman has thrived as both a receiver and returner more recently.

Reynolds even thinks his experience running the triple-option offense at Navy will better prepare him for his new role as a return specialist.

“I think there are some similar traits that you have to have on that level as a punt returner,” Reynolds said. “You have to be able to make quick decisions; you have to be quick in tight spaces, make a move and make somebody miss. Every day in practice, anytime we ran an inside run as a quarterback, we were making the safety miss, making the safety miss. That was something that coaches always ingrained in the quarterback’s head.

“Making that first guy miss and trying to make a play is what I was doing for the last four years.”

The Ravens love Reynolds’ character and athleticism, but he knows the transition won’t be easy as he’ll be competing with a deep group of receivers who have many more years of experience playing the position than he does.

But if his career at Navy was any indication, Reynolds will embrace the opportunity to succeed at the next level. He certainly doesn’t plan on allowing his work ethic to be questioned along the way.

“Every position has a technique that you have to perfect,” Reynolds said. “Guys have spent 10 [or] 15 years perfecting these techniques, and I’m a newborn in this position. I just have to work extremely hard — twice as hard as the next man — to get used to the position [and] get better at the technique.”

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What to expect from each of Ravens’ 2016 draft picks

Posted on 01 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The picks are in for the 2016 draft, so what should we expect from each of the Ravens’ 11 selections?

Below is an early look at how each rookie fits this coming season and in the future:

OT Ronnie Stanley
Drafted: First round (sixth overall) from Notre Dame
2016 projected role: The Ravens have sent plenty of mixed signals regarding the future of Eugene Monroe over the last several months, but Stanley will start at either left tackle or left guard.
Long-term view: It’s conceivable that the Ravens keep Monroe around for one more season, but the fact that they drafted two offensive tackles makes you think they’re in position to cut him and save $6.5 million in base salary for 2016. The expectation is that Stanley can be their left tackle for the next decade.

OLB Kamalei Correa
Drafted: Second round (42nd overall) from Boise State
2016 projected role: With Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Za’Darius Smith all ahead of him on the depth chart, Correa will likely serve as a situational edge rusher and special-teams contributor.
Long-term view: The 245-pound edge defender will need to get stronger for an every-down role and to consistently wreak havoc in the pocket, but he will use his speed to try to blow by slower linemen. The Ravens wouldn’t have used a second-round if they didn’t think he can be an eventual successor to Suggs.

DE Bronson Kaufusi
Drafted: Third round (70th overall) from Brigham Young
2016 projected role: The 6-foot-6, 285-pound defensive end figures to be a part of the rotation at the 5-technique spot and will likely compete with Lawrence Guy and Brent Urban for the starting job.
Long-term view: An opposing coach labeled Kaufusi a “modern-day Goliath” last year and the Ravens hope he can be a starter and an interior rusher in passing situations. Ozzie Newsome passed on the chance to draft DeForest Buckner in the first round, so Kaufusi’s development will be worth watching.

CB Tavon Young
Drafted: Fourth round (104th overall) from Temple
2016 projected role: After impressing the Ravens at the Senior Bowl, Young enters the mix with a chance to compete with veteran Kyle Arrington at the nickel spot and to contribute on special teams.
Long-term view: Young was a feisty competitor in college who started games in all four of his years with the Owls, but the 5-foot-9, 185-pound defensive back doesn’t project to be much more than a slot corner. The Ravens hope he shows more than recent mid-round picks such as Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown.

WR Chris Moore
Drafted: Fourth round (107th overall) from Cincinnati
2016 projected role: The 6-foot-1 wideout will compete for playing time in four-wide sets, but he is more likely to contribute on special teams if he’s to be active on Sundays as a rookie.
Long-term view: With Steve Smith and Mike Wallace potentially only in Baltimore for the coming season and Kamar Aiken set to become a free agent after 2016, Moore provides another deep-ball option to go with 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman. In a perfect world, both Perriman and Moore take major steps in 2016 and the Ravens re-sign Aiken as the possession receiver for 2017 and beyond.

OT Alex Lewis
Drafted: Fourth round (130th overall) from Nebraska
2016 projected role: His role will largely depend on what happens with Monroe and Stanley, but Lewis should have every chance to unseat third-year lineman James Hurst as the top reserve tackle.
Long-term view: With Monroe on his way out sooner or later and right tackle Rick Wagner scheduled to hit the free-agent market after 2016, Lewis could find himself competing for a starting role next year. Despite questions about his quickness, he has a shot to be a starting right tackle or a starting guard.

DT Willie Henry
Drafted: Fourth round (132nd overall) from Michigan
2016 projected role: It won’t be easy for Henry to crack the defensive line rotation, but his explosiveness and ability as a rusher could put him in the mix as an interior lineman in passing situations.
Long-term view: Henry brings versatility to the defensive line, but he didn’t show great awareness and consistency as a run defender at Michigan, making you wonder if he’s suited to be more of a third-down player. If Brandon Williams departs as a free agent after 2016, Henry could quickly see a larger role.

RB Kenneth Dixon
Drafted: Fourth round (134th overall) from Louisiana Tech
2016 projected role: His dynamic ability as a receiver out of the backfield will quickly put him in the offensive mix as a rookie, and he could challenge for the starting role sooner rather than later.
Long-term view: Dixon has the track record and skill set to rise above the other Baltimore running backs who may all be best suited to be No. 2 options. However, the 5-10, 215-pound back carried the ball 801 times in his college career, making you wonder if that could limit his shelf life at the NFL level.

OLB Matt Judon
Drafted: Fifth round (146th overall) from Grand Valley State
2016 projected role: Making the adjustment from the Division II level won’t be easy, but Judon could eventually work his way into a situational pass rusher role and contribute on special teams as a rookie.
Long-term view: The Ravens loved how he tested at the scouting combine and hope he will be the next Division II product to excel for them, but there will be a learning curve to develop more sophisticated pass-rush moves against better competition. This pick has plenty of upside, but patience will be the key.

WR Keenan Reynolds
Drafted: Sixth round (182nd overall) from Navy
2016 projected role: The record-setting Midshipmen quarterback will practice as a receiver, but his best chance of making the roster and contributing as a rookie will probably come as a return specialist.
Long-term view: The Ravens hope his athleticism can translate to the receiver position with visions of him working effectively out of the slot and being able to run a variety of plays. His 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame isn’t ideal for the NFL, but other college quarterbacks of similar build such as Antwaan Randle El and Julian Edelman made quick transitions to the NFL and you shouldn’t doubt Reynolds’ work ethic.

CB Maurice Canady
Drafted: Sixth round (209th overall) from Virginia
2016 projected role: The 6-foot-1, 195-pound defensive back had a disappointing senior season at Virginia, but he will have a chance to compete for a roster spot in a light group of cornerbacks.
Long-term view: Canady struggled to defend the deep ball and will need to play with more confidence than he did toward the end of his collegiate career. His best bet to stick with the Ravens and eventually develop into a contributor might come as a member of the practice squad.

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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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