Tag Archive | "Kelly Gregg"

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens receive two compensatory picks in April’s draft

Posted on 26 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With NFL owners congregating in Florida for their annual meetings this week, the league awarded 32 compensatory picks for April’s draft on Monday afternoon.

Based on last offseason’s free-agent movement, the Ravens were awarded fourth- and fifth-round compensatory picks, which will be the 130th and 169th overall selections respectively.

While the notable releases of wide receiver Derrick Mason, tight end Todd Heap, defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, and running back Willis McGahee were not taken into account, the free-agent losses of safety Dawan Landry (Jacksonville), guard Chris Chester (Washington), and cornerback Josh Wilson (Washington) factored into the Ravens receiving compensation in April’s draft after each received high-priced, long-term contracts and started 16 games with new teams.

After general manager Ozzie Newsome traded the Ravens’ fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft to Buffalo for veteran Lee Evans last August, receiving a fourth-round compensatory pick helps to ease the sting of that ill-fated move.

Under the rules of compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive picks. The number of picks a team receives is equal to the net loss of free agents up to a maximum of four. Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time, and postseason distinctions. Not every free agent lost or acquired by a club factors into the formula.

This year, the compensatory picks will be positioned within the third through seventh rounds based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost.

The Ravens have been awarded 33 compensatory picks over their 17-year history, most in the NFL during that time period. With their two fifth-round compensatory picks in 2011, they selected defensive end Pernell McPhee and cornerback Chykie Brown.

Here are the Ravens’ selections for next month’s draft:

Round 1: No. 29
Round 2: No. 60
Round 3: No. 91
Round 4: No. 130 (compensatory)
Round 5: No. 155
Round 5: No. 169 (compensatory)
Round 6: No. 186
Round 7: No. 218

Comments (1)

With free agency upon us, Ravens will lean on continued growth from within in 2012

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

With free agency upon us, Ravens will lean on continued growth from within in 2012

Posted on 12 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With the start of the new league year and free agency less than 24 hours away, you can already hear the cries if you listen carefully.

And you know exactly what I’m talking about if you pay attention to talk radio, internet message boards, and Twitter over the opening days of free agency every year.

When are the Ravens going to do something?

Why does Ozzie insist on sitting on his hands?

They’re definitely taking a step back this season.

Never were those exclamations louder than last season, an unprecedented period of free agency that coincided with the start of training camp after the 134-day lockout. General manager Ozzie Newsome waved goodbye to veterans Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Kelly Gregg, and Willis McGahee in a series of cap-saving cuts, and a number of veterans including Chris Chester, Dawan Landry, and Josh Wilson found richer contracts elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Ravens’ free-agent additions for 2011 were relatively modest over the course of the preseason, adding fullback Vonta Leach, safety Bernard Pollard, left tackle Bryant McKinnie, center Andre Gurode, and running back Ricky Williams in addition to re-signing right guard Marshal Yanda to a long-term contract. The “offseason” timetable was stunted by the lockout, but Newsome operated in the way he typically does — calculated and conservative. In fact, the most dynamic move he made — trading a fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for veteran receiver Lee Evans — turned out to be the biggest failure.

The history lesson is worth repeating as the Ravens embark on free agency for the 17th time in franchise history. Projected to have approximately $14.45 million in salary cap space (before tendering restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents), Newsome will devote much of that to retaining as many of his own free agents as he can.

Of Baltimore’s 12 unrestricted free agents, five were starters last season, meaning the Ravens could be looking at more significant roster turnover than you’d like from an AFC North championship team that was one touchdown catch from advancing to the Super Bowl.

Expecting a dramatic splash of throwing money at elite free agents such as wide receiver Vincent Jackson or outside linebacker Mario Williams is only setting yourself up for disappointment. Even in the years in which he’s had the most cap room, Newsome rarely targets the players grabbing the headlines in the opening days of free agency, instead focusing on keeping his own and laying plans for value free agents that fulfill a need without eating up precious cap room.

As was the case last season, the Ravens will look for continued growth from within to aid in their quest for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Entering the 2011 season, Terrence Cody, Ed Dickson, and Dennis Pitta were well-known draft picks from the previous season but had yet to emerge as starting-caliber players in the NFL. Even bigger question marks surrounded Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams before they became legitimate starting cornerbacks for one of the league’s top defenses. And fighting serious doubts after a poor preseason, wide receiver Torrey Smith set franchise rookie records for receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches.

Their contributions were as critical as any free-agent acquisition the Ravens made en route to a 12-4 record and their first division title in five years.

This season, the Ravens will potentially look to younger players such as defensive ends Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee, offensive lineman Jah Reid, and linebackers Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, and Albert McClellan to help fill potential voids left behind by free agents Cory Redding, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Jarret Johnson, and Jameel McClain. Of course, the Ravens will add new pieces via free agency and next month’s draft to fill some of those needs, but it’s almost a guarantee that they’ll need to lean on some combination of the aforementioned players for expanded roles in 2012.

After tendering their restricted free agents and exclusive rights players, the Ravens will be left with somewhere between $6 million and $7 million to address their own unrestricted free agents and shop the open market. It doesn’t take an economics major to realize that money will only go so far.

But, as he usually does, Newsome will make the most of it.

As the frenzy of free agency begins on Tuesday and the big names start coming off the board — possibly even a few from the Ravens’ own backyard leaving for greener pastures — remember many of the biggest factors determining how the Ravens fare in 2012 already reside in Owings Mills.

It may get ugly, with many of their unrestricted free agents not expected to return, but Newsome and the Ravens never strive to “win” the first week of free agency. They’ll look closely for that under-the-radar talent that nobody is talking about right now. And, as always, the Ravens will plan to shine during April’s draft.

By the time July arrives, they’ll address the offensive line and the linebacker position in some form as well as add a few pieces in other areas to optimize a team that was only a few tenths of a second away from going to the Super Bowl back in January.

Just remember that when you or someone else feels the urge to panic and ask if Newsome is asleep at the wheel over the next week or so.

To borrow an expression from another era and another sport here in Baltimore, it’s “The Raven Way” of doing business.

And if history is any indication, it’s worked pretty well.

Comments (3)

Grading the Ravens’ veteran acquisitions at the quarter pole

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Grading the Ravens’ veteran acquisitions at the quarter pole

Posted on 05 October 2011 by Luke Jones

In the immediate aftermath of the lockout coming to an end in late July, the hammer fell on the Baltimore Ravens as we knew them from past seasons.

Gone were established veterans Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg, and Willis McGahee in a wave of releases to create salary cap room. Key contributors such as Le’Ron McClain, Dawan Landry, Chris Chester, and Josh Wilson found homes in other NFL cities.

Fans panicked as general manager Ozzie Newsome worked methodically instead of snatching up any recognizable name from a market suddenly saturated with hundreds of veteran free agents. When the dust settled in time for the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens were not only younger but had a new batch of veteran acquisitions to aid in a potential Super Bowl run in 2011.

Follow BaltimoreLuke on Twitter

With the Ravens entering the bye week at 3-1 and atop the AFC North, an overwhelming majority of those outside additions have provided positive returns through the quarter pole of the season.

Six noteworthy veterans were acquired in the preseason as I take a stab at grading them through the first four games of the season.

WR Lee Evans (8th year)
Skinny: Despite having rapidly developed a rapport with Joe Flacco after being acquired for a fourth-round pick on Aug. 12, Evans fell victim to a left ankle injury following the Ravens’ third preseason game against the Washington Redskins. His recovery has been slow and frustrating, prompting the Ravens to sit him down the last two games after lackluster play against Pittsburgh and Tennessee in the first two games. Evans has two receptions for 45 yards and has been unable to provide the vertical threat the Ravens envisioned when they brought him to Baltimore.
First quarter grade: INCOMPLETE

RB Ricky Williams (11th year)
Skinny: Signed to fill the role of McGahee, Williams has averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry, but the veteran has lost two fumbles on only 35 touches to hurt his overall grade. It’s a concerning stat with Williams viewed as a nice change of pace to Ray Rice and an option to receive carries late in games when the Ravens are trying to protect leads. Turning the ball over is the quickest way to allow the opponent back in the game. The former Miami Dolphin has yet to score a touchdown despite many speculating he would take away Rice’s carries at the goal line.
First quarter grade: C+

S Bernard Pollard (6th year)
Skinny: The former Houston Texan was signed to bring a physical presence in the secondary after Landry signed in Jacksonville. Though not particularly strong in coverage, Pollard has been tough against the run and is a talented blitzer from his strong safety position. Pollard has just six tackles and one pass breakup but has contributed on special teams. He received his first start against the Jets last Sunday night and graded out well, which was needed after normal starter Tom Zbikowski left the game with a concussion.
First quarter grade: B

G/C Andre Gurode (10th year)
Skinny: Signed a week before the start of the regular season, Gurode was a valuable insurance policy for veteran Matt Birk at center, but the Ravens have needed the former Dallas Cowboy at left guard with Ben Grubbs missing three games with a right toe injury. Despite never playing the position in his career, Gurode has provided strong run blocking over the last two games to help stabilize the left side of the line. With Grubbs expected back after the bye week, the question becomes whether Gurode returns to a reserve role or the Ravens consider eventually using the five-time Pro Bowler at center in an effort to upgrade the line — even with Birk’s solid play to this point. Either way, Gurode’s versatility on the interior has filled the void left behind by Chester, who signed with the Washington Redskins at the start of training camp.
First quarter grade: B+

OT Bryant McKinnie (10th year)
Skinny: The Ravens certainly raised eyebrows despite the intriguing payoff when they signed McKinnie, who had been released by the Minnesota Vikings after ballooning to nearly 400 pounds during the 134-day lockout. Past questions about his character and overall work ethic made it a risky proposition to insert McKinnie at left tackle and slide Michael Oher to the right side, but the former Miami Hurricane has been a welcome addition with both his play and attitude. After not taking part in any preseason games, McKinnie thoroughly dominated James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in the Ravens’ 35-7 season-opening win over the Steelers. His play hasn’t been quite as impressive since then, struggling mightily against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, but McKinnie has stepped into the second-most important position in football (behind the quarterback) and performed admirably despite an abbreviated training camp.
First quarter grade: B+

FB Vonta Leach (8th year)
Skinny: After putting up with fullback Le’Ron McClain’s campaigning for more touches over the past two seasons, the Ravens brought in a throwback, human car accident of a blocking back by signing Leach to a three-year deal. The former Houston Texan has been every bit the bruiser the Ravens thought he would be, opening paths for the eighth-best rushing attack in the NFL. Despite Leach having little interest in touching the football (three career carries in eight seasons), offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has kept opposing defenses honest by occasionally using the 260-pounder in the passing game. The fullback has caught five passes for 15 yards.
First quarter grade: A

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“The Reality Check” Week 5 NFL Power Rankings

Posted on 05 October 2011 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: 30)

They’re so bad even Chad Henne didn’t want to hang around.

31. Minnesota Vikings (LW: 28)

I mean, they’re going to HAVE to start Christian Ponder at some point aren’t they?

30. Indianapolis Colts (LW: 31)

Yes, I moved them up a spot because they’ve played the Steelers and Bucs close in back to back weeks. No, I don’t really think they’re actually any good.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 29)

The fact that the Titans lost to the Jags is becoming more inexplicable every week.

28. Seattle Seahawks (LW: 27)

I will still admit that I’m a bit nervous about the Ravens’ trip to the Emerald City.

27. St. Louis Rams (LW: 25)

I don’t know WHY I’m still giving them the benefit of the doubt as a winless team, but I guess I am. They’ll accidentally win a couple NFC West games this year.

26. Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 32)

Todd Haley and Matt Cassel are fighting even during a WIN. I have to imagine Le’Ron McClain and Kelly Gregg are longing for Charm City at the moment.

25. Denver Broncos (LW: 24)

Knowshon Moreno fall off an exercise bike. Willis McGahee is still bitching about John Harbaugh. Just play Tim Tebow already.

24. Arizona Cardinals (LW: 21)

Think GM Rod Graves is experiencing a level of “buyers remorse” when it comes to how much the Cards gave up for Kevin Kolb?

23. Carolina Panthers (LW: 23)

They really shouldn’t be getting this much credit for being 1-3, but they are.

22. Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 26)

I really like AJ Green. I don’t really like Andy Dalton. But I really like AJ Green.

21. Cleveland Browns (LW: 20)

They need more Peyton Hillis. And a bunch of good players.

20. San Francisco 49ers (LW: 22)

I don’t care what their record says. They’re not as good as that.

19. Dallas Cowboys (LW: 14)

Tony Romo sucks! You know, until he does something really good at another point in the season.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 13)

Andy Reid just realized the chair in his office felt warmer than he remembered.

17. Oakland Raiders (LW: 12)

I have no idea if they’re really any good. That’s why they’re in the middle.

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mocking The 53: A Look At Roster Ahead of Preseason Finale

Posted on 30 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Baltimore Ravens travel to the Georgia Dome to meet the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night, the final opportunity for players on the roster “bubble” to impress Head Coach John Harbaugh and coordinators Cam Cameron, Chuck Pagano and Jerry Rosburg.

As I am no longer the Ravens beat reporter here at WNST I have deferred to Luke Jones for most of our coverage during Training Camp. I have had the chance to get out to 1 Winning Drive this week, so I decided I would bring back “Mocking The 53″ to get a look at how the team may trim the roster from 80 players to 53.

As I’ve explained before, the team does not have a certain number of players they keep at each position, so I have never done this breakdown by position. Instead, I offer what is more like a “power ranking” of players from 1-80.

Keep in mind, GM Ozzie Newsome is likely to make an addition or two (a veteran backup quarterback-perhaps still Marc Bulger namely) before either Saturday’s cut day or the team’s opener September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

1. DT Haloti Ngata
2. QB Joe Flacco
3. LB Terrell Suggs
4. RB Ray Rice
5. WR Anquan Boldin
6. S Ed Reed
7. LB Ray Lewis
8. G Ben Grubbs
9. G Marshal Yanda
10. CB Jimmy Smith

Whether or not Smith is a starter on September 11 is the only issue in this group. All of these guys are clearly on the team and significant contributors.

11. OT Michael Oher
12. WR Lee Evans
13. FB Vonta Leach
14. DE Cory Redding
15. P Sam Koch
16. TE Ed Dickson
17. S Bernard Pollard
18. K Billy Cundiff
19. DT Terrence Cody
20. LB Jarret Johnson

Like the first group, the players in the group above are all safely on the roster and are expected to be significant contributors.

21. CB Cary Williams
22. S Tom Zbikowski
23. C Matt Birk
24. OT Bryant McKinnie
25. CB Chris Carr
26. S Haruki Nakamura
27. TE Dennis Pitta
28. RB Ricky Williams
29. LB Jameel McClain
30. WR Torrey Smith

There’s no drama in this group either. McClain still appears to be the frontrunner for the other starting ILB job, while the team has remained steadfast in their support of Torrey Smith despite struggles. There’s a chance he’s not the third receiver on September 11, but he’s absolutely safe on the roster.

Comments Off

I always had great Eck-spectations for my best pal and Dundalk wrestling hero Kevin Eck

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I always had great Eck-spectations for my best pal and Dundalk wrestling hero Kevin Eck

Posted on 24 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been an emotional week for me on many levels with more big news forthcoming about WNST.net and its future, so please allow me a little space today to write a very personal blog that comes from the heart.

Kevin Eck – you probably know him as the “Ring Post” guy at The Baltimore Sun — has been in my life since 1979 and for large swaths of time we were as close as any brothers could be. We met at the Games store at Eastpoint Mall (remember that place?) at an autograph signing for Billy Smith. We also both met Al Bumbry, Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan and Rich Dauer (his favorite) there on the north end of the mall during that “Magical” summer. I was a legitimate “mall rat” at Eastpoint Mall in the early 1980’s – PacMan, soaping the fountains, that sorta thing.

As Bruce Springsteen once wrote so eloquently in the E Street Band classic, Bobby Jean: “We liked the same music, we liked the same bands, we like the same clothes.” That could’ve been the story of Nestor and Kevin. Except we liked the same girls, baseball, football, basketball, rock bands and, of course, professional wrestling of the WWWF and the land of Bob Backlund and George “The Animal” Steele.

This isn’t just a story about my lifelong best pal from Holabird Junior High and Dundalk Senior High. It’s not just a media or journalist story.

It’s really about a kid from Dundalk who dreamed of working in professional wrestling and next week is embarking on a journey of a lifetime.

I can say with all of the conviction in my being that Kevin Eck ate, slept, talked, walked, learned, researched, watched, critiqued, worked in and worked out of nothing but the world of professional wrestling.

The genesis of our friendship wasn’t born of the Orioles or Colts or any rock music band like Rush — and they’re all closer to the heart of our friendship. The truth: Kevin was the only other WWWF wrestling aficionado and wrestling magazine nut when I was in the 7th grade. It was our special bond – a love of the squared circle and the work of Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Billy Graham, Greg Valentine and Andre The Giant.

So, this isn’t just about another “Dundalk boy did well” story, it’s more like a Willy Wonka kind of story with imagination .

Look, I could tell Kevin Eck stories all night. Chasing girls in the 8th grade. Attending every middle school and high school dance. Girlfriends, births, deaths, jobs, journalism, careers, wives…we’ve done it all.  Crazy weeks in Jamaica. Long weekends in Ocean City. All-night benders in Las Vegas and San Diego. You name it. World Series games, crazy cab rides that I chronicled in “Purple Reign” when Eck was the first person in Baltimore to hear the news that the Browns/Modells were moving their NFL franchise to Baltimore.

Eck and I have been around the world together and have shared our lives together. If you want to see a bunch of crazy old, embarrassing pictures I posted them all on my Facebook page here. Please feel free to fan me and I’ll try to make you laugh more often.

And there’s nothing better in life than when your friends do well. Nothing!

Especially when your oldest friends succeed and thrive and live their dreams.

Kevin Eck’s life and dream came full-circle and into the squared circle a few weeks ago when he accepted a job to work on the WWE creative team with Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and Dusty Rhodes in Greenwich, Ct. He’s packing up his family and moving to take a job a lifetime at Titan Tower.

In baseball, we’d say he got the call to “go to the show.”

And this must be what it feels like when your brother or best friend or son makes his first big-league start.

You almost want to pinch yourself for them, you know?

Our lives and our career paths have followed a similar, strange path – we’ve worked directly in the same industry as competitors for the better part of two decades and somehow have managed to keep our friendship (and that’s not always easy with two fiery personalities).

I got a job at The News American in September 1984. He soon followed.

I got a job at The Evening Sun in January 1986. He soon followed at The Sun.

I left The Sun in January 1992. He left a few years later to go to work for Ted Turner and WCW as a magazine editor in the last 1990’s and was there during a turbulent corporate time when Vince McMahon’s then-WWF empire usurped the entire industry and my pal came back from Atlanta having to start his local journalism life all over again.

Because of his immense talent and deep depth of knowledge of local sports, Kevin got his job back on the editing desk at The Sun, right back in the sports department. He began writing his passion – a little blog called “Ring Posts” a few years ago and it quickly became a viral hit. (As I told him it would be…)

So many times I talk about expertise in journalism, integrity in reporting and fairness in news judgment and I’m proud to say Kevin Eck has all of that and has for the most part been a “behind the scenes” guy at The Sun, who never had a high profile beat but has been a rock star in his department on the high schools and the dirty work that so many don’t want to do in the journalism business — editing, planning, managing people.

He’s kind of like that lunch pail rock star football player – a Jarret Johnson, Kelly Gregg kinda underrated guy. But a guy you’d never want to lose. And he’ll be the first guy in the clubhouse and the last to leave.

The Sun is taking a major hit losing a guy like Kevin Eck, especially given his deep knowledge of Baltimore sports, which I sadly never put to better use. I always thought Kevin would’ve been a star doing local sports talk radio and I told him that. But he already had a gig and one that both of us dreamed of having as kids, which is what took us into the newspaper business back in 1984.

We both watched “The Odd Couple” as kids and wanted to be Oscar Madison, truth be told.

Meanwhile, the WWE is getting a rock star – someone who is so dedicated to wrestling that it honestly baffled all of our friends, especially when it became apparent through his mom taping every single episode of every single match on VHS tapes for the better part of 25 years.

Kevin Eck has watched as much wrestling as Mel Kiper Jr. has watched college football tape.

Seriously…

This summer, as a hobby, I took it upon myself to work on one project outside of direct WNST sales and development business and that’s been collecting all of my pictures, memorabilia and boxes o’memories to use on my Facebook page and in an upcoming reality TV show I’m participating in with a friend. (I can’t tell you more about it until they let me.)

Two weeks ago, at the bottom of a box, I found this gem of a memory.

And even though it happened on July 25, 1981, I remember it pretty well. Kevin and I were crashing at his Mom’s house and we began working on a project to quietly unseat Vince McMahon from his kingdom by publishing our own Pro Wrestling magazine. We were gonna make millions with this partnership venture.

His mom Shirley, who has struggled with her health lately and was like a second mother to me, was the only person we knew who could type so she was our typesetter and we had to go to the library to make copies and we planned to sell them for 25 cents.

Kevin and I worked all night to make the inaugural (and only) edition of Wrestling, Inc. with Dusty Rhodes on the cover.

That was 30 years ago last month. I don’t think Kevin has missed a WWE wrestling match since 1981.

Other than Dave Meltzer and perhaps Alex Marvez, my pal Kevin Eck is as expert about all things professional wrestling as anyone on the planet outside of Vince McMahon himself.

There’s not much Kevin Eck doesn’t know about pro wrestling, except now he’ll be on the inside of the WWE kingdom helping put on the show and make it better.

He’s off to the WWE to make a difference to follow his dream.

He loved The Baltimore Sun. He loves Baltimore sports and has quietly dedicated his life to it the way I did.

I was the loud boisterous pal. He was always the quiet one in the shadows.

I traveled the world, got syndicated, did my thing and he was always so supportive – like a brother – through all of my victories and challenges.

Kevin did the family thing, came back home to Baltimore to be a factor at his dream job in The Sun sports department and now he’s gotten the job of a lifetime at WWE and one that he’s richly deserving of and one where he’ll thrive and be the best in the world.

You should follow him. You should root for him.

I’m so proud of him and so happy for him that I could explode.

I just wanted to brag on my pal, spread his great news and tell him “good luck” in the most public way that I can because I’m proud of how his hard work has paid off for him.

And I have a feeling I’ll be watching a lot more WWE and SmackDown in 2012 and pining away for the days of Lord Alfred Hayes and Captain Lou Albano.

And if somehow they could only bring Bruno Sammartino back into the ring for one night at the old Civic Center!

Comments Off

Ravens-Chiefs Preseason Primer: What to watch tonight

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Chiefs Preseason Primer: What to watch tonight

Posted on 18 August 2011 by Luke Jones

***Join us in the Purple Haze live chat beginning at 7:30 p.m. as WNST.net brings you live coverage from M&T Bank Stadium. For the quickest updates and analysis, follow WNST on Twitter and be sure to subscribe to the WNST Text Service.***

Playing their preseason home opener on Friday night, the Ravens envision a better showing against the Kansas City Chiefs after a lackluster effort in Philadelphia last week.

Coach John Harbaugh said starters will play well into the second quarter, a higher workload than you’ll typically find in the second preseason game, in an effort to accelerate the development of a young offense with question marks along the offensive line. With starting lineman Matt Birk (knee surgery) and Marshal Yanda (back spams) current sidelined, the Ravens will use Bryan Mattison at center, Oniel Cousins at right guard, and rookie Jah Reid at tackle — an uncomfortable proposition for quarterback Joe Flacco.

Follow BaltimoreLuke on Twitter

Friday will also mark the preseason debuts for newly-acquired veterans Ricky Williams and Lee Evans. Williams had only practiced once prior to the opener against the Eagles, and the Ravens traded a fourth-round pick to Buffalo to bring the veteran wideout Evans to Baltimore a day after the Ravens’ 13-6 loss last week.

The Ravens will also welcome three former players back to Baltimore as defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, fullback Le’Ron McClain, and offensive tackle Jared Gaither all signed with the Chiefs after spending multiple years in Baltimore. Gregg was released to create salary cap space while McClain and Gaither departed as unrestricted free agents.

Series history

The Ravens and Kansas City have never met in the preseason, but Baltimore’s 30-7 thrashing over the Chiefs in the Wild Card round last year will be fresh on everyone’s mind.

However, the Chiefs hold a slight advantage in the regular season series, 3-2. Kansas City won the first three meetings between the two AFC teams before the Ravens earned victories in 2006 and 2009.

Kansas City connections

In addition to the three former Ravens now on the Kansas City roster, there are several other links between the two teams.

Safety Bernard Pollard began his NFL career with the Chiefs after being selected by them in the second round of the 2006 draft. He played three seasons in Kansas City, accumulating 189 tackles, three interceptions, and one sack before being released prior to the start of the 2009 season.

Chiefs receiver Terrance Copper played two games for the Ravens in the 2008 season, Harbaugh’s first season as head coach. On the flip side, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff spent time during the 2008 offseason on the Kansas City roster.

Chiefs defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant played defensive end for the Ravens in their inaugural season of 1996 after spending the first six years of his career in Cleveland.

Kansas City tackle Branden Albert (Glen Burnie) and receivers coach Richie Anderson (Sandy Springs) are Maryland natives.

And perhaps the most interesting connection is Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli’s former role as the pro personnel coordinator for the Ravens in 1996. Pioli moved to Baltimore from Cleveland, where he worked as a personnel assistant for the Browns for four seasons.

Injury report

Yanda (back spasms) will not play after missing five straight days of practice this week, though Harbaugh is hopeful the guard can return for next week’s game against Washington. Birk has been sidelined since the first full week of camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

Cornerback Chris Carr missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday after straining his hamstring in Monday’s workout, leaving his status against the Chiefs in doubt.

Others not expected to play include receiver James Hardy (hamstring), running back Damien Berry (leg), and defensive back Marcus Paschal.

Receiver David Reed missed practice on Wednesday after being activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list at the beginning of the week.

Veteran cornerback Domonique Foxworth has increased his workload in practice in recent days as he continues to work his way back from the ACL injury that wiped out his entire 2010 season. The former Maryland star has worked with the second team while rookie Jimmy Smith and third-year player Cary Williams took reps with the starting defense. Foxworth did not play in the preseason opener.

7 Players to Watch

1. WR Lee Evans – Friday night’s game will mark one week since the Ravens acquired Evans from the Bills. The eighth-year veteran stepped into the starting lineup on his first day of practice, but Evans still needs to develop timing with Flacco. The former Wisconsin Badger has shown impressive speed in practice, including a fly route on Monday that caused Carr to pull up lame.

Comments Off

Ravens-Eagles Preseason Primer: What to watch in tonight’s opener

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Eagles Preseason Primer: What to watch in tonight’s opener

Posted on 10 August 2011 by Luke Jones

***Join us in the Purple Haze live chat beginning at 7:30 p.m. as WNST.net brings you live coverage from the preseason opener in Philadelphia. For the quickest updates and analysis, follow WNST on Twitter and be sure to subscribe to the WNST Text Service.***

Nearly seven months after the Ravens walked off the field after suffering a gut-wrenching loss to Pittsburgh in the AFC divisional playoffs, Baltimore begins preseason action on Thursday night looking noticeably different.

And younger.

After waving goodbye to veterans Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Willis McGahee, and Kelly Gregg and watching a number of others depart via free agency, the Ravens find themselves in transition, getting younger while still hoping to maintain their Super Bowl aspirations. However, questions at several positions including wide receiver, tight end, right tackle, and backup quarterback as well as the pass rush remain unanswered.

Couple those uncertainties with a 134-day lockout that eliminated off-season workouts and the typically mundane preseason opener appears to carry extra significance — depending on who you talk to, at least. With a young offense trying to find a new identity in the passing game, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron labeled this first preseason game as more important than any other year he could remember. On the other hand, new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said his veteran-laden defense will just “go out and play.”

Follow BaltimoreLuke on Twitter

The final score will inevitably be forgotten in a matter of weeks, but the Ravens view the meeting with the revamped Eagles as a good indicator to evaluate how much work needs to be done before the season opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11. Key veterans such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, and Terrell Suggs figure to play little more than a series while other starters will see more extensive time through the first quarter or two.

“It’s hard to say a preseason game is ‘big’ big,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s big for a lot of guys. Is it going to be big for the team? Well, it’s big in the sense of, ‘Where are we?’ I think that’s going to be very important for us. It’s going to be very interesting to see where we’re at.”

With the Eagles signing the likes of cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive end Cullen Jenkins, running back Ronnie Brown, and defensive end Jason Babin, the Ravens will get a decent picture of where they stand after two weeks of training camp. Regardless of the outcome, however, viewers will fight the urge to overreact to what happens at Lincoln Financial Field — good or bad.

Series history

Thursday will mark the 12th time the Ravens have been scheduled to meet Philadelphia in the preseason, holding a 7-3 all-time mark in August. The last time the teams met in Philadelphia was 2004 when Terrell Owens caught an 81-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb on the Eagles’ first offensive play from scrimmage. The most recent preseason meeting, however, was a 29-3 victory for Baltimore in 2007.

The Eagles were involved in the most unique (infamous?) moment in the preseason history of the Ravens when unsafe turf conditions at Veterans Stadium forced the 2001 preseason opener to be canceled. That night of embarrassing events was documented in the premiere season of HBO’s Hard Knocks.

In games that actually count, the Ravens are 1-1-1 all-time against Philadelphia, with their victory coming in a 36-7 drubbing at M&T Bank Stadium in 2008.

Coaching connections

Harbaugh coached 10 seasons as a member of the Eagles staff, serving nine campaigns as the special teams coordinator and his final season as the secondary coach under Andy Reid. The Ravens head coach returns to Philadelphia for the first time since taking the helm in Baltimore in January 2008.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know if I know where the visiting locker room is. It’ll be my first time in the visiting locker room. I fully expect to be cheered rabidly when I walk out onto the field. (laughing) I’ll be highly disappointed if that doesn’t happen.”

In addition to Harbaugh’s Philadelphia ties, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery visits a place fond to his heart. Having played in Philadelphia from 1977 through 1984, Montgomery holds the franchise’s career mark for rushing yards (6,538) and rushing attempts (1,465) as well as the Eagles’ single-season rushing record (1,512 in 1979).

Montgomery will be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in November.

On the opposing side, Eagles linebackers coach Mike Caldwell played linebacker for the Ravens in their inaugural season in 1996.

Local flavor

Inside linebacker Jameel McClain is a Philadelphia native while quarterback Joe Flacco hails from nearby Audubon, N.J.

Flacco will have plenty of family and friends in attendance despite their past loyalties to the Eagles.

“I hope they’re rooting for Ravens,” the fourth-year quarterback said. “I know they’re all Eagles fans, but when they have to make a decision, I hope they make the right one. (laughter) But yeah, they’re crazy about their Eagles in South Jersey. I mean, I’m not going to convert all of South Jersey, hopefully just the people I know. I’ve got to remind them, ‘Hey, I got you the tickets, so you’ve got to root for us.’”

Though he recently landed on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles tendon, Eagles defensive end Victor Abiamiri was born in Baltimore and attended Gilman.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was born in Philadelphia in 1960 before moving with his family to Baltimore a year later.

Injury report

Tight end Ed Dickson (hamstring), cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin), center Matt Birk (knee surgery), offensive tackle Ramon Harewood (active PUP – knees), and receiver David Reed (active PUP – wrist) will not play. Smith has returned to practice on a limited basis after missing four days last week, but the Ravens are taking extra precaution with the talented first-round pick.

Others not expected to play include newly-signed running back Ricky Williams, long snapper Morgan Cox (knee), defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), receiver James Hardy (hamstring), and running back Matt Lawrence (undisclosed). Williams only has one practice under his belt since signing a two-year deal with the Ravens while Cox and McKinney only came off the active PUP list to begin practicing this week.

Domonique Foxworth missed consecutive practices on Monday and Tuesday, leaving his status for Thursday in doubt. The former Maryland cornerback has battled soreness and “ups and downs” throughout the off-season in rehabbing a surgically-repaired torn ACL that caused him to miss the entire 2010 season.

7 Players to Watch

1. TE Dennis Pitta – With Dickson sitting out the preseason opener with a hamstring injury, Pitta will get the start at tight end and the early opportunity to distinguish himself in the passing attack. The 6-foot-4 product from BYU has drawn comparisons to Todd Heap in his overall makeup, but production is another story entirely. Pitta made just one catch for one yard in his rookie season.

Comments Off

Tags: , , ,

Le’Ron McClain in NFL Free Agency: “Kansas City…Kansas City..Here I Come!”

Posted on 03 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens welcomed in their new fullback earlier in the week in Vonta Leach; it was only inevitable that they said goodbye to their old one in Le’Ron McClain.

That happened finally Wednesday afternoon, as Le’Ron McClain signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs to lead-block for RB Jamaal Charles.

He is the second Raven to run out to the Chiefs in less than a week, joining Ravens DT Kelly Gregg who also signed a one-year deal last Saturday.

It was a given that McClain would not return given his contract demands, demand to carry the football, and already having a fullback on the roster.

However, Gregg and McClain will return to Baltimore on Aug 19th in Week 2 of NFL preseason, so it will not be the last time Ravens fans will get to see the two in M&T Bank Stadium.

Be sure to follow WNST on Twitter for your best Ravens news and be sure to sign up for our text service by sending “WNST” to 68255! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Live from Owings Mills: Ravens lose Gregg; but Carr is parked in Baltimore

Posted on 30 July 2011 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens continued their trend of 3-hour practices at Owings Mills on Saturday watching yet another member of their 2010 squad find his way to another NFL team, as defensive tackle Kelly Gregg signed a one-year with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Gregg, 34, was one of the Ravens’ four big cuts last week (Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Willis McGahee and Gregg) and after McGahee reportedly signed a contract with the Denver Broncos yesterday, Gregg becomes the second of them to find another team, and another to join the AFC West.

Gregg was in high spirits last week when he talked with WNST’s own Glenn Clark, but it was indicated today that Gregg never received a contract offer from the Ravens.

The Ravens must have felt like if Gregg’s wait for a new deal would be extended, they might be inclined to go as low as possible to bring him back to Owings Mills.

Gregg signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs and will immediately compete for the nose tackle position out in Kansas City.

LB Jarret Johnson, who is in his ninth season, spent most of that time around Kelly. He talked with him over the phone several days ago, and while he hoped Gregg would come back, Johnson said both and he Gregg knew the writing was on the wall.

“I think he kind of expected it,” Johnson said, “but I know he wanted to be here obviously. But, it’s a tough situation, and you get to that stage in your career when the front office has to make moves. We’re all going to be there one day.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh used a classic movie line to discuss the departure of Gregg.

“Kansas City just gave him an offer-I guess you could say-’an offer he couldn’t refuse’.”

Ravens keep their Carr

However, the wait didn’t last as long as you might expect, but the move the Ravens made wasn’t a big of a splash and still only brought one of their own back into the mix.

CB Chris Carr announced on his Twitter feed (@Triplcarr) that he had re-signed with the Ravens about midway through Saturday’s practice.

“Well, bmore. I’m backkkkk,” Carr said on Twitter. “Very excited to finish my career here.”

The fifth-year man out of Boise State who has played for both the Titans and the Raiders previously, returns to the Ravens and will likely be immediately placed back in his comfortable nickel corner position behind starters Domonique Foxworth and rookie Jimmy Smith.

Carr, who registered 61 tackles and 2 INTs last season in 16 games of work, played well last season in an expanded role.

The New York Jets and longtime defensive coordinator Rex Ryan had expressed interest in Carr, but fortunately for the Ravens, Carr is back in Baltimore.

“I’m very excited,” Harbaugh said. “This is something that we had hoped to do certainly with Josh or Chris-one of those two guys. They were both highly sought after, and Chris is a really great fit for us because he’s so versatile.”

Carr expressed that same enthusiasm.

“Thanks to all the support,” Carr tweeted. “I love it here in bmore and I love everything about being a Raven.”

The deal is reportedly four years in length, and Harbaugh was quick to say that he got what he deserved.

“I know he talked about wanting to be a starter, and we certainly consider him a starter. He is getting starter money.”

Harbaugh said they would have been happy to bring in any veteran corner back. They’re even more excited that it’s one of their own who knows the system.

“You can’t have enough corners,” Harbaugh said. “Ozzie said it, and it’s true. You have to be able to cover the quick passes, and those passes are covered one-on-one. There is just no way around it.”

Fullback Dicussion

The Ravens are still probably in need of a veteran fullback to replace the likes of LeRon McClain, who is a free agent.

The “veteran” on the roster-Jason McKie, who joined the team midway through the season last year, returned to practice Friday after suffering what appeared to be a serious leg injury on the first day on camp. He was again out for Saturday’s session and appeared like what happened on Wednesday was nothing more than a scare.

Reports however did surface on Wednesday that the market for McClain may be heating up out in Oakland, and the other fullback that has been linked to the Ravens, Texans FA FB Vonta Leach, has been given a bigger contract offer by his home team in an effort to retain his services.

Leach may be asking for a contract similar to that of former Raven Ovie Mughelli, who signed a six year, 18 million dollar contract with five million guaranteed back in 2007. If that is the case, the Ravens will probably decline his services to go with a cheaper option at the position.

Practice Notes

  • Safety Ed Reed was in attendance for today’s practice, but did not participate in drills.  Safety Nate Williams lined up at safety in Reed’s absence.
  • WR/KR David Reed, T Ramon Harewood, DT Brandon McKinney, G Ben Grubbs all did not participate in practice as they remain on the PUP list. Others who did not participate in today’s practice include WR Hakeem Moore (Towson), T Andre Ramsey, C Ryan Bartholomew, WR Terrell Zachary also did not practice. Bartholomew was not present.
  • With Grubbs on PUP and Yanda not able to suit up until the league year begins, the two guards lining up with the first team unit were rookie free agent Justin Boren and Brady Bond, who spent time on the practice squad last year. Boren lined up at LG next to Michael Oher, and Bond lined up at RG next to Jah Reid.
  • Reid said at the podium afterward that he is getting used to the speed of the game, and that he took several good licks from the defense. When asked who delivered the hits, Reid said he couldn’t remember, but that it was “one of those linebackers.”
  • The receivers certainly did their part in Saturday’s practice, as both Torrey Smith and James Hardy got looks with the first team unit opposite Anquan Boldin. Torrey Smith caught a fade route late in practice over his fellow draft pick in CB Jimmy Smith, and those two have been competing back and forth day-by-day in practice. Torrey after practice said that their competing will be an institution in Baltimore for years to come, he thinks. “He got me a couple times at the line today, so we can go back and forth for years. I’ll wear mine, and he can wear his.”
  • James Hardy offers an intriguing scenario to the Ravens. Everyone keeps talking about how the Ravens need to get a big WR who can go up and get the ball. Hardy-a former 2nd round pick of the Bills and stands at 6’5”, 220, could be that guy. But fundamental mistakes-including letting the opposing CB jump in front of his routes at times during Saturday’s practice, might deflate that suggestion. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron at one point ripped into Hardy, yelling “Get in front of his face! We have to win our one-on-one battles gentleman! They’ll be double-teaming us on the other side, and we won’t be able to do anything!”
  • Tyrod Taylor-who got much of the second and third looks on the day, started out inaccurate with his throws, either missing the receiver completely or not allowing the ballcatcher to get the ball in stride.  He did make a nice 30-yard throw along the sidelines to Justin Harper over CB Josh Victorian, but it will be interesting to see how his progression comes along each day in camp.
  • LB Jason Phillips did a great job in pass coverage hovering over the running back, and even delivered a bone-crushing hit on RB Matt Lawrence in the hole that was probably the biggest and loudest of the day. At the same time though, he also missed some tackles on outside sweeps.

Hear from John Harbaugh, Torrey Smith, Jah Reid, WR coach Jim Hostler, and LB Jarret Johnson in the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault!

Comments Off