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Ravens finish signings for 2017 draft class

Posted on 18 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With organized team activities set to begin next week, the Ravens officially have all seven of their 2017 draft picks under contract.

The organization announced the signings of third-round defensive end Chris Wormley and third-round outside linebacker Tim Williams on Thursday, nearly two weeks after first-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey and four other draft choices inked their contracts. Humphrey’s signing on May 5 was the earliest date the Ravens had signed a first-round draft choice in franchise history.

Wormley is expected to compete for the starting 5-technique defensive end spot previously held by veteran Lawrence Guy while Williams will be vying for a role as a situational pass rusher. The release of five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil leaves a huge opening in a pass-rush rotation that also included six-time Pro Bowl selection Terrell Suggs, 2015 fourth-round pick Za’Darius Smith, and 2016 fifth-round pick Matt Judon last season. Second-round outside linebacker Tyus Bowser will also factor heavily into the competition.

Having used their first four draft choices and virtually all of their free-agent resources on defensive players this offseason, the Ravens will be counting on their revamped defense to lead them back to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

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Ravens ink five 2017 draft choices, announce rookie free-agent signings

Posted on 05 May 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With their rookie minicamp taking place this weekend, the Ravens announced the signing of first-round pick Marlon Humphrey and four other 2017 draft choices on Friday.

The Alabama cornerback becomes the earliest first-round signing in the 22-year history of the franchise, but it doesn’t come as a major shock considering how inconsequential draft-pick signings have become in recent years under the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011. The earliest first-round pick to sign had previously been wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who inked his rookie deal on May 11, 2015.

The Ravens also signed second-round linebacker Tyus Bowser, fourth-round guard Nico Siragusa, fifth-round offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor, and sixth-round safety Chuck Clark. Their two third-round picks, defensive end Chris Wormley and outside linebacker Tim Williams, remained unsigned as of Friday afternoon, but both were participating in the weekend minicamp.

“Just seeing an NFL contract, a lot of it has paid off,” said Bowser about signing his rookie contract. “Being able to see that, it is so many great feelings, just knowing what you have been through and seeing that you have accomplished what your goal was.”

Baltimore also announced the signing of 16 rookie free agents on Friday: Michigan punter Kenny Allen, Arizona State wide receiver Tim White, Utah wide receiver Tim Patrick, Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell, Mississippi wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, Virginia running back Taquan Mizzell, Mississippi cornerback Carlos Davis, New Mexico safety Daniel Henry, Oregon State fullback Ricky Ortiz, Pittsburgh linebacker Bam Bradley, Stetson linebacker Donald Payne, Georgia center Brandon Kublanow, Middle Tennessee guard Maurquice Shakir, Chattanooga wide receiver C.J. Board, Maine defensive end Patrick Ricard, and Western Kentucky defensive end Omarius Bryant.

After the Ravens chose not to take a wide receiver in last weekend’s draft, it’s worth noting that four of their 16 rookie free-agent signings play that position.

The organization also announced jersey numbers for the 23 rookies currently on the roster:

2017 draft class
CB Marlon Humphrey — 29
LB Tyus Bowser — 54
DE Chris Wormley — 93
LB Tim Williams — 56
G Nico Siragusa — 65
OL Jermaine Eluemunor — 71
S Chuck Clark — 36

2017 rookie free agents
P Kenny Allen — 3
WR Tim White — 6
WR Tim Patrick — 7
QB Zach Terrell — 8
WR Quincy Adeboyejo — 18
RB Taquan Mizzell — 33
CB Carlos Davis — 38
S Daniel Henry — 40
FB Ricky Ortiz — 44
LB Bam Bradley — 53
LB Donald Payne — 58
C Brandon Kublanow — 60
G Maurquice Shakir — 76
WR C.J. Board — 83
DE Patrick Ricard — 91
DE Omarius Bryant — 95

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What to expect from each of Ravens’ seven 2017 draft picks

Posted on 30 April 2017 by Luke Jones

The picks are in for the 2017 draft, so what can we now expect from the Ravens’ seven selections?

Below is the early look at how each rookie fits:

CB Marlon Humphrey
Drafted: First round (16th overall) from Alabama
2017 projected role: One of the youngest players in the draft, Humphrey will compete with Brandon Carr for the starting job opposite Jimmy Smith and will serve as needed outside corner depth at the very least.
Long-term view: Having left other highly-touted players on the board, the Ravens better feel that Humphrey will eventually become a legitimate No. 1 cornerback. He has the size and pedigree that you like to see in a corner, but his struggles with the deep ball are something to monitor in his development.

LB Tyus Bowser
Drafted: Second round (47th overall) from Houston
2017 projected role: With Elvis Dumervil no longer on the roster and Albert McClellan the only established veteran behind Terrell Suggs, Bowser will compete for playing time at outside linebacker.
Long-term view: He is raw, but Bowser is a terrific athlete who has experience dropping into coverage, something the Ravens like in a starting “Sam” linebacker. His pass-rushing skills need further development, but his upside is very high for someone selected in the middle of the second round.

DE Chris Wormley
Drafted: Third round (74th overall) from Michigan
2017 projected role: Wormley will have every opportunity to compete with Brent Urban and Bronson Kaufusi for the starting 5-technique defensive end spot after Lawrence Guy’s free-agent departure.
Long-term view: The Ravens should have a good read on Wormley after he played for Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor, and he has the skill set to become a dependable starter in the base defense. He would further enhance his value if he can become a productive interior rusher in passing situations.

OLB Tim Williams
Drafted: Third round (78th overall) from Alabama
2017 projected role: Williams has a long way to go to be considered an every-down player, but his pass-rushing ability off the edge should put him in the mix for situational snaps in sub packages.
Long-term view: His off-field concerns and limited experience playing the run caused his slide down the draft board, but Williams showed impressive explosiveness off the edge playing in the SEC. He may only be a one-trick pony in the NFL, but getting to the quarterback is a premium skill for any team.

G Nico Siragusa
Drafted: Fourth round (122nd overall) from San Diego State
2017 projected role: A three-year starter at left guard for the Aztecs, Siragusa has the size and power to compete for a starting job if the Ravens move Alex Lewis or even Marshal Yanda out to right tackle.
Long-term view: The Ravens have had recent success selecting Day 3 offensive linemen as both Lewis and former right tackle Rick Wagner blossomed into starters in a short period of time. Siragusa’s physicality is his strength, making him a logical fit for Greg Roman’s power running game schemes.

OT Jermaine Eluemunor
Drafted: Fifth round (159th overall) from Texas A&M
2017 projected role: Considering Eluemunor didn’t play football until high school and was only a one-year starter for the Aggies, expecting him to offer more than depth as a rookie would be ambitious.
Long-term view: The 6-foot-4, 330-pound lineman lacks experience and needs developing, but his rapid improvement from junior college player to SEC starter bodes well for his ceiling. Eluemunor has a long way to go to become an NFL starter at tackle or guard, but his physical tools make it a possibility.

S Chuck Clark
Drafted: Sixth round (186th overall) from Virginia Tech
2017 projected role: With the high-profile names ahead of him on the depth chart, Clark will be competing for a spot on the 53-man roster as a special-teams player and developmental defensive back.
Long-term view: A three-year starter for the Hokies, Clark has good instincts and is a good tackler, but little about him screams future NFL starter. With Lardarius Webb serving as the current No. 3 safety, Clark figures to have a decent chance to stick around if he can shine as a special-teams player.

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Revamped Ravens defense better live up to expectations

Posted on 29 April 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens stayed true to their board, but that doesn’t change reality after going defense with their first four picks of the 2017 draft.

This is an unbalanced roster with the heaviest lifting of the offseason now in the books. Yes, general manager Ozzie Newsome reminded us again Saturday that the Ravens aren’t done building this year’s team, but there are only so many viable free agents still out there to move the meter in any meaningful way. Right now, Baltimore has a below-average offense that’s going to be difficult to improve dramatically without some substantial improvement from players already on the roster.

The Ravens may still add Nick Mangold or bring back Anquan Boldin, but there’s a reason why they’re still out there. They’re not “Plan A” guys anymore.

Of the seven Ravens players selected in the first three rounds over the last two drafts, just one — left tackle Ronnie Stanley — was an offensive player. It’s difficult to improve on that side of the ball if you’re not spending free-agent dollars or investing early draft picks, which will make life more difficult for quarterback Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg as they will likely lean on unproven talent at wide receiver and on the offensive line.

Asked about the state of his offense after the first wave of free agency last month that included lucrative contracts for nose tackle Brandon Williams and safety Tony Jefferson and another deal for cornerback Brandon Carr, Newsome fairly pointed to the draft as the way to build the rest of the roster. But the Ravens came away with fourth-round guard prospect Nico Siragusa and fifth-round developmental right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor as their only picks for that side of the ball.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the Ravens should have reached to draft offensive players purely out of need as they did appear to get good value with their picks, but the 2017 draft being so rich in defensive talent was a reason why the offense should have been a bigger focus in free agency. The outcome is an offense that’s lost a starting wide receiver, a starting right tackle, a starting center, and a Pro Bowl fullback and has netted only 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead and two Day 3 offensive linemen.

Which side of the ball had its coordinator fired again last year?

Like it or not, the Ravens prioritized building a great defense above anything else this offseason. The unit collapsed down the stretch in 2016, but the primary cause of that was the absence of No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith as John Harbaugh’s team went 2-5 in games in which he missed meaningful time.

When Smith was on the field, the Ravens had a strong defense despite an underwhelming pass rush. And even with the resources used in both free agency and the draft to revamp the secondary and the pass rush, Smith’s availability remains arguably the biggest key for defensive success.

On paper, the Ravens defense does look better than the 2016 edition, but it will need to be great — possibly even special — to justify the use of so many resources and to make up for an offense with a ton of question marks. Taking that kind of a leap is no sure thing, especially in the modern NFL that is geared toward offense.

Will some combination of the pass-rushing group of Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser, and Tim Williams be ready to step up with Terrell Suggs set to turn 35 in October and Elvis Dumervil no longer on the roster? Is first-round rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey going to be ready to play at a high level if Smith goes down again for some period of time? Can Kamalei Correa hold down the inside linebacker spot vacated by the retired Zach Orr? Will defensive coordinator Dean Pees use so many new pieces effectively and maximize their versatility?

The excitement for the defense is understandable with so much youth and potential at every level, but remember there isn’t a 25-year-old Ray Lewis leading this group before waxing nostalgic about replicating the 2000 Ravens. Even if we’re looking for a more contemporary comparison — it’s a different game than it was nearly two decades ago — the 2015 Denver Broncos had a generational talent in Von Miller and two 1,000-yard receivers on the other side of the ball.

A winning blueprint leaning so heavily on defense is very difficult to execute.

But it’s where the Ravens find themselves after free agency and the draft.

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Back to the future – recap of Baltimore Ravens 2017 NFL Draft

Posted on 29 April 2017 by Dennis Koulatsos

After the Baltimore Ravens selected Chuck Clark with their last selection in the 6th round of the 2017 NFL draft, the vision that the front office and scouting staff had for the 2017 season began to come into focus.  Clark – a defensive back from Virginia Tech – was one of 5 picks for the defense versus 2 for the offense.  In fact Joe Flacco, Marty Mornhinweg and company had to wait until day 3 of the draft before hearing an offensive player’s name called.

Based on Joe Flacco’s performance last year, his penchant for the untimely turnover, coupled with the defense’s inability to hold a 4th quarter lead in 4 November and December games, led to the defensive windfall. It looks to me that they will try to do all they can to “Dilferize” the offense, limiting turnovers, and relying on the defense and special teams to win games.  They will put a premium on field position, and they will scrap the zone blocking scheme for one that is of the  power blocking hat on hat variety.

Justin Tucker will take over the role that Matt Stover had in 2000.  The 4 defensive players (the Ravens took 5 but I do not expect Chuck Clark to make the team) will have to have an immediate impact, as will newly signed free agents Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr.  Of course this defense will not be anywhere near as good as the historically good 2000 version was, but it should be dramatically better than last year’s which couldn’t hold a lead.

Georgia’s Tuys Bowser (2nd round pick) and Alabama’s Tim Williams (3rd round pick) will both get opportunities to rush QBs from the edge, while Michigan’s Chris Wormley will see playing time at defensive tackle as a 5-technique end (lines up on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle).  First round pick Marlon Humphrey will see get some valuable time early in the season, in case Jimmy Smith’s legs do not hold up as has been the case the past two years.

The Ravens also selected guard Nico Siragusa (absolutely no relation to Tony – although how great is it going to be to yell “Goooooooose” at M&T Bank once again:) a huge guard out of San Diego State in the 3rd round, and fellow guard Jermaine Eluemunor out of Texas A&M.  Eluemunor was told he was going to compete for the right tackle position, presumably against holdovers De’Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot and James Hurst.

Siragusa in particular is very intriguing.  He is a mauling guard who excels at pulling and blowing up defenders are the line of scrimmage as well as turning up field.  The fingerprints of new run coordinator Greg Roman are already evident. This team will employ a similar power running scheme that the 49ers used effectively back in 2012, when they played the Ravens in the Super Bowl.  It is a scheme that allows offensive linemen to pin their ears back and fire off of the ball.

The key is going to be who’s going to start on the offensive line and how quickly it comes together. Perhaps the Ravens will sign former Jet Nick Mangold to anchor that line from the center position, or maybe former Duke center Matt Skura – with one year in an NFL weight room – has progressed enough to man the position.

The Ravens have enough running backs to get the job done. Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West, Buck Allen, Ken Dixon and Stephen Houston are all solid between the tackles, and Danny Woodhead offers the team a great change of pace back as well as a third down threat. This scheme also requires a fullback that’s very much an anvil, and currently they don’t have one on the roster.  Moving TE Nick Boyle (6’4, 265 pounds) may be an option, but look for the Ravens to be very active in the undrafted free agent market for a couple of stout blocking fullbacks.

In the NFL if you run the ball effectively, if you don’t turn it over, and if you have a great defense and special teams you will win a lot more than you lose. It is a formula that worked in 2000 and it looks like the Ravens brass are hedging their bets that it will also work in 2017.

I was also thinking about titling this blog “Saving Joe Flacco from himself.”  That’s what the Cowboys did with Tony Romo a few years ago.  They put a huge offensive line around him, and then they had DeMarco Murray run in excess of 400 times behind it.  The end result was a 12-4 record, and after three successive 8-8 seasons they finally made the playoffs.

Joe Flacco does not need to put the ball up 40-50 times a game.  That’s a formula for disaster.  The Ravens need to run the ball effectively.  This way the safeties come up in the box, the cornerbacks come closer to the line of scrimmage, and then Flacco can do some serious damage.  Plus he’s always been a “chunk” quarterback.  He has a big arm and he is not wired for a West Coast offense.  He excels when the Ravens are running the ball effectively (as they did in 2102 with Ray Rice), where he can plant his feet and let if fly downfield.

The last thing is that the Ravens final roster is nowhere near complete.  There will be the June 1 cuts, and there will be several veteran players available that can help the team. No need to panic at this time that there are no clear starters at inside linebacker next to CJ Mosley, or at right tackle and center.  The Ravens will address all of those needs well before the pre-season commences.

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Ravens choose depth, upside over immediate need by picking Humphrey

Posted on 28 April 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — For years, the Ravens didn’t invest much in the cornerback position.

Since taking Jimmy Smith in the first round of the 2011 draft, Baltimore hadn’t selected a corner before the fourth round in five consecutive drafts, instead going with late-round projects and cheap veteran band-aids to fill out the depth chart behind the injury-prone Smith and a declining Lardarius Webb. The strategy resulted in the secondary remaining an annual weakness as the likes of Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson, Kyle Arrington, Jerraud Powers, and Shareece Wright were asked to fill meaningful roles at one time or another.

That’s why I can’t be too critical of general manager Ozzie Newsome’s decision to take Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey with the 16th overall pick of the 2017 draft on Thursday night. At six feet and 197 pounds, Humphrey’s upside as an outside corner is obvious as he’s only 20 years old and played at a high level for the best program in the nation over the last two seasons. But talent evaluators acknowledge his raw technique and struggles defending the deep ball with a few even wondering if he’s better suited to play safety at the next level. That’s not exactly a dream endorsement for your newly-branded first-round cornerback.

In other words, it’s far from a sure thing that Humphrey will be a starter in 2017, especially with the free-agent acquisition of reliable veteran Brandon Carr last month. There would be no shame in that, of course, as plenty of talented cornerbacks didn’t start as rookies.

There’s no disputing that the secondary is loaded, but did the Ravens maximize their value when you consider their bigger needs and the other highly-rated prospects who remained on the board?

If we’re sticking with Newsome’s Alabama connection alone, defensive end Jonathan Allen and inside linebacker Reuben Foster would have been slam-dunk Week 1 starters and tight end O.J. Howard could have been a much-needed play-maker for quarterback Joe Flacco. Pass rushers such as Takkarist McKinley, Taco Charlton, Charles Harris, and T.J. Watt were also on the board.

Of course, the top three wide receivers were snatched up long before the Ravens were on the clock, but the offensive line also has major holes to be filled.

Would they have been better served grabbing a talent at one of these other positions and waiting to take a cornerback with this draft considered so deep at the position?

Newsome acknowledged Thursday night that the Ravens took calls from teams wanting to move up to the 16th spot, but the proposed returns weren’t appealing enough for him to make a deal. Humphrey was certainly a consensus first-round pick, but it may not have been out of the question to still land him later in the round while picking up an extra pick or two to use in a deep draft.

When the Ravens had better overall rosters five or six years ago, the addition of Humphrey would have been praised as a luxury pick with huge upside. But a team needing immediate help at multiple positions may not feel a great impact from him in his rookie season, putting even more pressure on Newsome to nail his three Day 2 picks.

Humphrey may prove to be a terrific cornerback, but the Ravens drafted for depth and upside instead of filling a more pressing need. It’s an interesting choice for a franchise at a crossroads after missing the playoffs in three of the last four years.

Time will tell whether it works out.

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