Tag Archive | "Matt Schaub"

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 12 August 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens move a step closer to beginning their 20th season in Baltimore by welcoming the New Orleans Saints to M&T Bank Stadium in their preseason opener on Thursday night.

Most starters figure to receive little more than a cameo of one or two series as head coach John Harbaugh traditionally removes most starters by the end of the first quarter. Select veterans will play less — or not at all — while younger starters could see playing time into the start of the second quarter.

“It’ll be similar. We have a way that we like to do it here,” Harbaugh said. “It’s individualized to a great extent, but it’ll be similar to what you’ve seen in the past.”

Thursday may not mean much for the likes of Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, and Terrell Suggs, but the preseason presents a critical opportunity for young players to establish themselves as trustworthy contributors and for relative unknowns to leave impressions garnering roster consideration.

With heavy competition at a number of positions, many players will be looking to shine on Thursday, but Harbaugh warns that he and his coaching staff are looking for consistency in both practices and games. There are typically few surprises in their eyes despite fans and media still trying to become familiar with the 90-man preseason roster.

“The games are big, because that’s when the lights are on,” Harbaugh said. “Rarely do you see a guy that doesn’t do anything in practice and all of a sudden it comes out, and [he] lights it up in the game. If you had a guy who did that, you’d be suspicious of that. Is this guy for real? Was it a fluke situation? It’s the guy that does it every day in practice and then goes out and does it again in the game, that’s the guy who really gets your interest.”

Thursday marks the second straight year in which the Ravens will play the Saints in the preseason after they traveled to New Orleans for the 2014 preseason finale. The teams then met again at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the regular season with Baltimore prevailing in a 34-27 final on Nov. 24, 2014.

The Ravens are 2-0 against the Saints in the all-time preseason series and 5-1 against them in their regular-season history.

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 be in question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference. The Ravens could also elect to hold out select veterans such as No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith and starting offensive linemen Jeremy Zuttah and Rick Wagner, who have not missed practice time this summer but are coming off health concerns that sidelined them in the offseason.

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

OUT: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (hip), S Terrence Brooks (knee), S Matt Elam (biceps), DE Brent Urban (biceps)
DOUBTFUL: G John Urschel (concussion), G Robert Myers (concussion), DE DeAngelo Tyson (unspecified strain)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Timmy Jernigan (foot), WR Marlon Brown (back), DE Christo Bilukidi (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: CB Lardarius Webb (hamstring), S Kendrick Lewis (leg)

Five players to watch Thursday night

CB Lardarius Webb

It’s been a rocky start to training camp for the veteran cornerback after he failed his conditioning test upon reporting to Owings Mills. The 29-year-old passed the next day and missed only the first practice, but he has looked slower in coverage and doesn’t have the same explosiveness in changing direction as he once showed. The Ravens will be patient with Webb, but the memories of the Pro Bowl-caliber player he was in 2011 continue to fade, making you wonder if Rashaan Melvin and Kyle Arrington could push for his starting job as the season progresses.

“He has to go out and play and play well and make plays and get back to that level,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “Then he’ll feel good about himself. If anybody has played any kind of ball at all, the only way to feel good about yourself is if you do something right. There’s nothing anybody can dream up for you.”

TE Crockett Gillmore

With there still being no real sign that Dennis Pitta will play this season and Maxx Williams developing slowly as most rookie tight ends do, the Ravens are going to need Gillmore to step up quickly. The organization is quietly expecting a good season from the 2014 third-round pick after he caught only 10 passes as a rookie. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound target has clearly established himself as the leader in a very young group of tight ends, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman would rest easier if Gillmore can be productive in the passing game during the preseason.

“I have high hopes for Crockett Gillmore,” Harbaugh said. “I really don’t want to shy away from that. I believe in him. I believe he’s going to be a really special player in this league. Now, it’s up to him to go do it.”

LB Za’Darius Smith

The comparisons to Pernell McPhee began immediately after Smith was selected in the fourth round of this spring’s draft, but the Ravens need him to be able to lend a hand as a pass rusher to fill that void. Whether he lines up on the edge or is moved around in sub packages, Smith figures to pick up many of McPhee’s valuable reps in passing situations and in spelling Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. The Kentucky product still has room to improve, but he’s flashed strength and impressive quickness in his first NFL training camp and will be someone to watch throughout the month.

“He’s so gifted, he’s talented. I think he’ll do it all, honestly,” Dumervil said. “He can play the run some inside, so I don’t want to cap him. The sky is the limit for him. Whatever he can retain as a rookie, I’m sure the coaches will do a great job using him.”

WR Jeremy Butler

Fans have heard coaches, players, and media sing the praises of Butler since the spring when he seemingly caught everything thrown his way and he’s carried that over with a good start to camp. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Butler originally turned heads last summer before the Ravens took advantage of his shoulder injury to give him a “redshirt” season. With Perriman and Brown missing extensive time, Butler has received a nice share of first-team reps when the Ravens use three- or four-wide sets and he’s held his own, but now you want to see him carry over that performance against outside competition.

“Jeremy has done well. He shows some great body control going up and making plays on the sideline,” Harbaugh said. “You always look for that in a receiver. Guys that can do that are very valuable — for him and for everybody else. Other guys are making plays, too. It’s just, can you sustain it? Can you stack it from one day to the next? I know he’s going to be determined to do that.”

QB Matt Schaub

Outside observers have seen the new Ravens veteran backup struggle in the spring and summer, but Harbaugh and his coaching staff have gone out of their way to stick up for the 34-year-old whenever asked. To no surprise, there’s a dramatic drop-off in watching Schaub throw compared to Flacco, but the Ravens were drawn to his similar style of play and felt the former Houston Texans quarterback would give them a better shot to win in the event of an injury than former backup Tyrod Taylor did. Needless to say, that assessment remains up for debate based on how he’s practiced.

“There’s no concern about that,” said quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg about Schaub’s ability to fill in for Flacco if necessary. “He had the one [tough year] in Houston, and then last year in Oakland, things didn’t go quite the way [he hoped]. He’s a very good quarterback, he has an awful lot of strengths, he’s very consistent and he knows much of this offense already. He’s just an excellent leader.”

 

 

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Ravens’ depth equipped to endure disappointing Urban injury

Posted on 09 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were intrigued with defensive end Brent Urban’s upside for 2015, but a deep defensive line appears equipped to overcome his second serious injury in a little over a year.

As was the case last summer prior to Urban tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, the Ravens anticipated the 2014 fourth-round pick being an important part of the rotation with the potential to eventually move into the starting lineup. However, the presence of veterans Chris Canty, Lawrence Guy, and DeAngelo Tyson makes the injury easier to stomach despite the disappointment for the talented 6-foot-7 defensive end.

“That’s why coaches [always talk about] the next person to come up and execute and step up,” nose tackle Brandon Williams said. “We’re ready to go. We definitely wish him the best going in with his biceps and all, but the show must go on.”

A pair of offseason decisions now carry more significance in the aftermath of the Urban injury as the Ravens elected to re-sign both Canty and Guy after they hit the open market. After starting 24 games for Baltimore over the last two seasons, Canty was cut to save salary cap space this offseason before eventually being re-signed at a cheaper rate.

Some had believed the Ravens were prepared to get younger at the position before deciding to reunite with the 32-year-old. Now, they’ll need Canty to hold off Father Time a little longer after he contemplated retirement over the winter.

“Chris Canty is playing like a kid. He’s running around out there,” Harbaugh said. “I saw him chasing down a crack toss. He came under a block and was picking up his knees and chasing the thing down the line of scrimmage like he was 23 years old again. He looks good.”

Defensive line coach Clarence Brooks stresses the importance of his players being versatile enough to line up at multiple positions, but the Ravens’ biggest strength will be their sheer numbers in the trenches as there are eight linemen who project to have a reasonable chance to make the 53-man roster. The likes of Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Christo Bilukidi now see their roster chances likely improve with Urban’s injury.

Harbaugh didn’t give any indication that the Ravens would actively seek defensive line help after losing Urban, who has yet to play in even a preseason game in an injury-riddled start to his career. The group’s ceiling is likely lower without Urban, but the Ravens defensive line remains in good shape.

“We’re really deep in the [defensive] line, so I like the guys we have,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a deep group, and I’m really confident those guys will step up.”

Receiver concerns continue

The Ravens could be inching closer to getting rookie Breshad Perriman and the 6-foot-5 Marlon Brown back from injuries, but they continue to be hamstrung at the wide receiver position in the meantime.

In addition to the pair being sidelined, veteran starter Steve Smith was excused from Saturday’s practice due to a family matter and Kamar Aiken was given the day off due to being “fatigued,” according to Harbaugh.

With Baltimore’s top four receivers missing from the workout, Jeremy Butler, Michael Campanaro, and Darren Waller took most of the reps with the starting offense. Overall, the trio struggled to get consistent separation when competing against the starting defense.

The receiver absences created an opportunity for under-the-radar wideouts to make a statement, and rookie free agent DeAndre Carter caught a touchdown pass from backup Matt Schaub with cornerback Cassius Vaughn in coverage. Meanwhile, former Washington Redskin Aldrick Robinson was the opposite of impressive, dropping several passes over the course of the afternoon.

Harbaugh wouldn’t rule out Perriman for the preseason opener just yet, but it appears highly unlikely that the first-round pick will be ready to play on Thursday with only one partial practice under his belt to this point in the summer.

Meanwhile, Brown appears closer to returning as Harbaugh said his back is feeling better, but the Ravens are still waiting for his hamstring to improve, meaning he is unlikely to play against New Orleans, either.

Mosley in coverage

One of the more encouraging developments early in the summer has been the improved pass coverage from second-year inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.

In what was an otherwise standout Pro Bowl season as a rookie, Mosley struggled in pass coverage a year ago, but he’s been much sharper covering tight ends and running backs so far in training camp.

Early in Saturday’s practice, Mosley broke perfectly on a Joe Flacco throw to Crockett Gillmore in the flat, intercepting the pass from the starting quarterback. However, the starting tight end got the best of Mosley later in practice, catching a touchdown during an 11-on-11 red-zone period.

Injury report

In addition to their top four receivers being absent, the Ravens were without offensive linemen John Urschel (concussion) and Robert Myers (concussion), cornerback Tray Walker (hamstring), and linebacker Zach Thompson (undisclosed) due to injuries on Saturday. Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) both observed parts of practice while remaining on the physically unable to perform list.

Tyson missed his second straight practice, but Harbaugh said he was unsure of there being an injury, adding that “something must have cropped up.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith and right guard Marshal Yanda were given the day off, according to Harbaugh.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele (foot) suited up to practice before leaving the field early in the session. He missed two days of practice after being stepped on during Wednesday’s workout. Tight end Maxx Williams practiced for a brief time after sitting out Friday, but he was still feeling the effects of being poked in the eye on Thursday.

With Yanda and Osemele both absent, Ryan Jense and Jah Reid worked as the first-team guards.

Free safety Kendrick Lewis tweaked his leg early on Saturday and observed the rest of practice from the sideline, an indication that the injury was unlikely to be serious.

Cornerback Chris Greenwood (hamstring) returned to practice.

Suggs on Schaub

Saturday was another difficult day for Schaub, who was repeatedly off-target with a number of throws.

At one point in practice, veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs took notice of Schaub’s errant passing before finally yelling, “Hey, Matt, your guys are the guys in purple!”

The offense dons purple jerseys while defensive players wear white during practices.

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Aiken making most of chances and other early Ravens observations

Posted on 03 August 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens continue to have high hopes for rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman, but Kamar Aiken has made the most of his early opportunities in training camp.

Already expected to share starting reps with Perriman opposite veteran Steve Smith this summer, Aiken has caught mostly everything thrown his way, including impressive catches on consecutive Matt Schaub passes thrown behind him during Saturday’s workout. Aiken may not impress you with his speed, but all he needs is a hint of daylight to make plays, an encouraging trait for an NFL wide receiver.

With Perriman missing three straight practices due to a minor knee injury, Aiken has looked the part of a starting-caliber wide receiver in this very early stage of camp. I’ve heard more than one person compare Aiken’s skill set to that of Anquan Boldin, which is unfair but it shows how much the Ravens like the young 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver.

Aiken has also developed a really strong rapport with Joe Flacco, which always helps in any competition.

* Speaking of wide receivers, the Ravens could have an interesting decision on their hands with sixth-round rookie Darren Waller.

Upon being drafted, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Waller was certainly viewed as a project after playing in Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack at Georgia Tech, but he shows better route-running ability than you’d expect and looks like a promising red-zone target. It would be a stretch to expect him to play an extensive role as a rookie, but his jump-ball ability might be too appealing to pass up.

In a perfect world, the Ravens would probably like to stash Waller on the practice squad since they have an extensive list of young receivers in camp. But a strong preseason might make him difficult to hide, which could force the organization to keep him on the 53-man roster or find a way to stash him on injured reserve as teams around the league are known to do with developmental players from time to time.

* The Ravens lacked quality depth at cornerback long before a slew of injuries turned a problem into a full-blown crisis in 2014, but the state of the position is much improved a year later.

It goes without saying that Baltimore needs starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb to stay healthy, but the addition of veteran Kyle Arrington and the presence of young corners such as Rashaan Melvin, Tray Walker, and Quinton Pointer make the Ravens better equipped to endure some health issues than they were a year ago.

Despite his reputation for being a cornerback who should strictly operate in the slot, Arrington has performed well in outside coverage, which could allow defensive coordinator Dean Pees to use Webb at the nickel spot where he’s excelled in the past. The Ravens could also use the 6-foot-2 Melvin — who they really like despite his poor showing against Tom Brady in the playoffs — outside if they’re matching up against an opponent with taller wide receivers.

It’s a far cry from a year ago when the Ravens were hoping that the combination of Asa Jackson and ex-Raven Chykie Brown would be enough depth behind Webb and Smith. Now, Jackson is firmly on the bubble with other young cornerbacks showing intriguing upside.

* It probably should come as no surprise after registering 41 receptions out of the backfield in his final season at USC, but rookie running back Buck Allen looks very smooth catching the football in Marc Trestman’s offensive system.

He has made some rookie mistakes, but Allen should find a way to get on the field in some passing situations if he can improve his pass blocking. A simple look at Matt Forte’s numbers over the last two years in Chicago shows how much Trestman likes throwing to running backs, so Allen would appear to be a good fit as a backup and potentially a starter down the road.

Justin Forsett is the clear starter, but the Ravens appear to have two viable options behind him in Allen and second-year running back Lorenzo Taliaferro.

* The depth along the defensive line was no secret entering training camp, but it’s remarkable to see how many NFL-caliber players are competing in this unit.

Expected to start with Haloti Ngata now in Detroit, Timmy Jernigan showed much ability as a pass rusher last year, but he’s played the run effectively early on in camp, even getting the best of the great Marshal Yanda on more than one occasion. He and rookie Carl Davis should eventually form a potent 1-2 punch at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot once occupied by Ngata.

Defensive end Brent Urban has returned from last year’s season-ending knee injury and looks like someone who could wreak havoc in sub packages and even push for Chris Canty’s starting job before the season is over.

The Ravens believe they have 10 defensive linemen in camp who are all capable of playing in the NFL, which will lead to some interesting decisions at the end of the summer.

* Rookie tight end Maxx Williams has looked better in the first week of training camp than he did in the spring, but he still has a lot of work to do to beat out Crockett Gillmore for the starting job.

Gillmore has gotten bigger and has shown improved ability as a receiver while continuing to be a superior blocker. In contrast, Williams needs to get stronger and hasn’t matured physically as he just turned 21 this spring.

Williams will have his opportunities to make plays in the passing game — he made a nice catch on a sideline pass on Saturday as safety Bryden Trawick bounced off him — but he may not be ready to be an every-down player as a rookie. The good news is Gillmore appears poised to take on a much larger role in his second season.

* Schaub has had his moments here and there, but there’s a dramatic drop-off watching him throw compared to Flacco, only confirming that the Ravens will pray that their franchise quarterback remains healthy.

The idea behind signing Schaub was that the offense wouldn’t need to change dramatically in the event of a Flacco injury compared to when Tyrod Tayor was the backup, but his physical tools just aren’t at a level where he needs them to be. In contrast, the Ravens may have been able to steal a win or two with the element of surprise in unleashing Taylor in the right situation at any point over the last few years.

You hope it’s a moot point and that Flacco continues his streak of never missing a game, but Schaub hasn’t inspired much confidence with his play in practices.

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2015 Ravens training camp preview: Quarterbacks

Posted on 20 July 2015 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens set to begin the 20th training camp in franchise history in less than two weeks, expectations are high for John Harbaugh’s team as they eye their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.

As veterans report to Owings Mills on July 29th and the first full-squad workout takes place the following day, we’ll examine each position group entering the summer.

July 20: Quarterbacks
July 21: Defensive line
July 22: Running backs
July 23: Linebackers
July 24: Wide receivers
July 25: Tight ends
July 26: Cornerbacks
July 27: Offensive line
July 28: Safeties
July 29: Specialists

Below is a look at the Baltimore quarterbacks:

QUARTERBACKS
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Bryn Renner, Jerry Lovelocke

Synopsis: The Ravens once again reap the benefits of having a franchise quarterback as Joe Flacco enters his eighth season. The signing of Schaub gives the Ravens their first established veteran behind Flacco since Marc Bulger was the backup during the 2010 season. Baltimore hasn’t carried three quarterbacks on its 53-man roster since the 2009 season, a trend that figures to continue this year with neither Renner nor Lovelocke being standout talents. His regular-season numbers never wow you, but Flacco fits into the exclusive group of quarterbacks capable of winning a championship that so many teams are lacking every year.

One to watch: Flacco is playing under his fourth offensive coordinator in four years and is essentially in a contract year with the sides needing to renegotiate his contract after the 2015 season. It will be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman impacts the veteran signal-caller, but there’s no reason to think Flacco won’t continue to get the job done at just 30 years of age.

One on notice: The 34-year-old Schaub’s lone season in Oakland only fueled concerns about his future after a disappointing end to his long run in Houston 2013. Truthfully, he did not impress during spring practices, consistently lacking arm strength and accuracy with his throws. His contract is guaranteed for 2015, but he’ll need a better summer to instill confidence that the Ravens won’t be in major trouble if Flacco even goes down for a relatively short period of time.

Sleeper: Lovelocke, an Edmondson graduate, is 6-foot-4 and has good arm strength and mobility, which could make him a candidate for the practice squad if he can develop his raw skills over the summer. Either way, it’s fun to root for a local kid after he had a good career at Prairie View A&M.

 

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Which free-agent newcomer will bring biggest impact to Ravens?

Posted on 01 July 2015 by Luke Jones

Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens

As usual, the Ravens weren’t big movers and shakers in the free-agent market this offseason, but general manager Ozzie Newsome did pick his spots to augment the roster with veteran talent.

Looking to improve the secondary as well as replace backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Ravens made three key veteran signings they hope will pay dividends during the 2015 season.

Below is a look at each one as you can vote in our poll and comment below on which signing will pay the biggest dividends for the Ravens:

Which Ravens' free-agent newcomer will make the biggest impact this season?

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S Kendrick Lewis
Age: 27
Contract: Three years, $5.4 million
Synopsis: The former Texans safety was part of a game of musical safeties in the AFC this offseason as ex-Raven Darian Stewart signed with Denver and former Bronco Rahim Moore landed with Houston. Considering their issues at safety last year, the Ravens hope Lewis can play an effective deep center field after the likes of Stewart and Terrence Brooks allowed too many balls to go over their head. During spring workouts, Lewis consistently worked with the starting defense while Will Hill and Matt Elam rotated at the other safety spot. Of their three biggest free-agent signings, the Ole Miss product projects to receive the most playing time as defensive coordinator Dean Pees would like him to provide an upgrade over Stewart, who underwhelmed for much of the 2014 season.

QB Matt Schaub
Age: 34
Contract: One year, $2 million
Synopsis: The Ravens and their fans pray that the only impact Schaub makes will come in the meeting room and on the practice field as a source of knowledge and experience to aid franchise quarterback Joe Flacco. You never want to draw too many conclusions from spring practices, but the former Texans quarterback didn’t inspire much confidence based on his play as he struggled to connect with receivers consistently and threw too many interceptions. If Schaub sees extensive playing time, it clearly means something has gone horribly wrong for the Ravens during the 2015 season. Baltimore invested real money in a backup quarterback for the first time since 2010, but I’m not convinced that Schaub will give them a much better chance to win if he needs to play than Taylor did the last couple seasons.

CB Kyle Arrington
Age: 28
Contract: Three years, $7 million
Synopsis: With the Ravens’ extensive injuries at the cornerback position a year ago, Newsome couldn’t afford to go into the 2015 campaign without an established veteran to go with Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb in the nickel defense. The former New England cornerback is very solid defending the slot and allows Pees to keep Webb on the outside. This signing takes pressure off the likes of fourth-round rookie Tray Walker, Rashaan Melvin, and Asa Jackson on the depth chart, but the key to the secondary’s success will be the ability of Smith and Webb to stay on the field. Arrington will have to perform and isn’t a great fit playing outside, but the Ravens paid a very reasonable price when you remember some of the bloated contracts given to free-agent corners at the start of free agency.

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Five questions pondering Schaub, Orioles bullpen, Flaherty

Posted on 12 June 2015 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of BaltimoreRavens.com)

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or could the Orioles be in good position to pull off a trade at this year’s deadline? Much will depend on the next few weeks with a starting rotation currently battling health issues with Miguel Gonzalez on the disabled list and inconsistency from Chris Tillman and Bud Norris, but the depth could be there to orchestrate a trade to make a push for a second straight division title. The ability to trade Alejandro De Aza freed the remainder of his $5 million salary from the books and Norris and Wei-Yin Chen will both be free agents at the end of the season, making it desirable to at least explore what they might be able to fetch for one of them. Of course, this is assuming the Orioles would feel comfortable with Kevin Gausman being back in the rotation as the 24-year-old is still being stretched out as a starter in the minors. It’s no secret that the corner outfield situation is less than ideal, but Dan Duquette has shown a willingness to make in-season deals to try to help his club over the last couple seasons and there appears to be the cash and assets available to do it again.

2. Is it just me or have the early reviews of new Ravens quarterback Matt Schaub not been encouraging? I’m the last person to put much stock into what we see at organized team activities in the spring, but it hasn’t been a strong start for the 33-year-old backup, who has been intercepted frequently and has made too many errant passes in workouts open to media. This wouldn’t be too much of a concern until you remember how poorly Schaub played in his final season in Houston and last year when he was beaten out by rookie Derek Carr in Oakland. Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of the signing after years of pumping little money into the backup spot, but I figured Schaub would at least provide a decent upgrade from Tyrod Taylor at the backup position. It’s still very early, but I’m not convinced he will give the Ravens any more of a chance to win than Taylor should Flacco go down with an injury this season.

3. Is it just me or is Ryan Flaherty putting together a fine season after years of criticism? The utility infielder has been a target for many fans who tire of the Orioles’ micromanaging of their roster in recent years, but he is hitting a very respectable .260 with an .801 on-base plus slugging percentage in 90 plate appearances this season. Buck Showalter has valued the 28-year-old’s ability to play above-average defense at several spots over the last few years, but it’s been nice to see his offense catch up to his work in the field. In fact, had Jonathan Schoop not gotten off to such a strong start at the plate before hurting his right knee in mid-April, you wonder how many might be clamoring for Flaherty to remain the starting second baseman even after the 23-year-old returns. Make no mistake, Schoop is the future at the position, but Flaherty has done a fine job solidifying his place as the Orioles’ utility man despite missing a month with a groin issue this year.

4. Is it just me or is this season critical for the Ravens’ 2013 draft class? There’s no sugarcoating how disappointing Matt Elam and Arthur Brown have been in their first two seasons, making this a “make or break” year for both. Elam will be competing with Will Hill for the starting strong safety job while Brown needs to have a strong camp to simply avoid being cut after playing less in his second year than he did as a rookie. Beyond those two, this year looms large for Kyle Juszczyk, who will need to prove he can produce in offensive coordinator Marc Trestman’s system that didn’t prominently feature a fullback in Chicago. It also figures to be an important year for 2013 sixth-round defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore after he missed his first two seasons with injuries. The selections of defensive tackle Brandon Williams in the third round and right tackle Rick Wagner in the fifth were terrific, but you can’t give a draft two thumbs up when you whiff so badly in the first two rounds.

5. Is it just me or are the Orioles in ideal position with their bullpen? Baltimore figured to have a good back of the pen with closer Zach Britton and setup man Darren O’Day, but the Orioles have been able to distribute the workload in an encouraging manner so far. A big difference with this year’s pen compared to previous seasons is its improved ability to strike out opposing hitters as Orioles relievers rank fourth in the American League in strikeouts and are averaging 9.2 per nine innings. The bullpen averaged just 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 2014, 8.1 in 2013, and 7.5 in 2012. Strikeouts certainly aren’t everything, but there’s no disputing how helpful they can be when a reliever is summoned to escape a tough jam. On the open market, strikeouts are expensive — it’s the biggest reason ex-Oriole Andrew Miller received a four-year, $36 million contract — so it’s extremely beneficial when you can find inexpensive arms like Brad Brach (11.4 strikeouts per nine) and Chaz Roe (10.5 strikeouts per nine) who are able to miss so many bats. Though needed in the rotation at the moment, rookie Mike Wright figures to be another candidate who could settle into a bullpen role at some point this year.

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Ravens do about-face with backup quarterback philosophy

Posted on 31 March 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:45 p.m.)

Despite the annual cries from fans about former backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, it wasn’t difficult to figure out the Ravens’ philosophy behind starter Joe Flacco over the last four seasons.

That’s what made the decision to sign veteran Matt Schaub to a one-year deal reportedly worth up to $3 million (Pro Football Talk reports that he’ll receive $2 million in base money) somewhat surprising. It’s not as much an argument over whether Schaub is a better option than Taylor or 2014 sixth-round pick Keith Wenning, but the price is steep for a team with major holes to fill and just over $8 million in cap space before Tuesday’s signing.

In going with Taylor, a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft, the Ravens invested a total of $2.145 million over the last four seasons, which isn’t a fact to overlook for an organization that’s right up against the salary cap on an annual basis. General manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh likely knew they would be sunk if Taylor had needed to play extensively at any point over the last four years, but they were willing to gamble — while benefiting from using cap resources elsewhere — that they’d survive if the ever-durable Flacco had gotten hurt for only a game or two.

They knew a season would have been lost anyway had Flacco suffered a long-term injury, a reality that doesn’t change with Schaub behind him.

Now, they could pay the 2004 third-round pick more this year than the total amount given to Taylor over the last four seasons. It’s easy to argue that Schaub gives the Ravens a better chance to win in a short-term situation than Taylor or Wenning, but little about his play over the last two years suggests winning with the 33-year-old is a great bet, either.

Flacco’s streak of never missing a start won’t last forever, but it’s not reason to change how you view the backup spot. And if he does get hurt and you’re unhappy with your backup, there’s usually a quarterback or two on the street or on another team’s practice squad who you might be able to sign like Houston did with Case Keenum last season.

The last time the Ravens had this much experience at the backup quarterback spot was when they paid Marc Bulger $3.8 million for a 2010 season in which he didn’t take a snap, but that was also an uncapped year in the NFL. With Baltimore continuing to run Gary Kubiak’s version of the West Coast offense under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman this season, Schaub will provide experience and insight in the classroom after spending seven years in Houston under Kubiak.

But are those benefits of a veteran backup as critical for Flacco now as he enters his eighth NFL season?

To maximize its salary cap, teams with franchise quarterbacks should be looking to find the cheapest possible backup who offers a chance to win if the starter goes down for a couple games. No team in today’s NFL is winning a Super Bowl with the backup needing to play extensively, so what’s the real return in paying a lot for a backup who ends up receiving a lot of action? Maybe an 8-8 season and a worse draft pick for the efforts.

Schaub’s signing is a clear signal that the Ravens have little faith in Wenning, but the move still appears rash with 10 picks in this year’s draft, a number of other positional needs, and more than five months to go before the season starts.

It’s easy to argue that the 12th-year veteran is a better option than Taylor or Wenning, but is the return really worth the steeper investment?

The Ravens hope they won’t have to find out.

 

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Ravens sign veteran quarterback Schaub

Posted on 31 March 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Tuesday, 6:15 p.m.)

Eyeing a replacement for former backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Ravens have found their man in 12th-year veteran Matt Schaub.

On Tuesday afternoon, the sides agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million. The contract includes $2 million in base pay and another $1 million that can be earned in incentives, according to Pro Football Talk.

The 33-year-old visited with the Ravens after head coach John Harbaugh said last week that they would like to upgrade the backup spot behind starter Joe Flacco. Schaub provides the most experienced backup the organization has had since Marc Bulger in 2010.

The New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons had also shown interest in Schaub and his decision was expected to come this week. The 2004 third-round pick out of the University of Virginia began his career in Atlanta.

After spending seven years in Houston with Gary Kubiak, Schaub is familiar with the Ravens’ current version of the West Coast offense that will be overseen by new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.

Schaub is coming off his lone season in Oakland in which he was beaten out by rookie Derek Carr and released earlier this month. Appearing in 11 games, Schaub attempted only 10 passes, completing five for 57 yards and throwing two interceptions. In his final year with the Texans in 2013, Schaub posted a 73.0 passer rating and threw 14 interceptions before he was benched.

The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback has a career 89.5 passer rating with 130 touchdown passes, but his struggles and elbow issues over the last couple seasons make you wonder how much he has left in tank as even a backup option.

Cost was considered a big question with Schaub as the organization hadn’t invested much in its backup quarterback position in recent years. The Ravens had just over $8 million in salary cap space, but they also invested a sixth-round pick in quarterback Keith Wenning last season before he spent the entire year on the practice squad.

After serving as Flacco’s backup for the last four years, Taylor signed a three-year, $3.35 million deal with the Buffalo Bills earlier this month.

 

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Texans

Posted on 24 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 30-9 win over the Houston Texans Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Lardarius Webb tackles Andre Johnson after -1 yard catch on 3rd & 3 at Baltimore 11 (1st quarter)

4. Torrey Smith 24 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 7 (3rd quarter)

3. Torrey Smith 48 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 13 (3rd quarter)

2. Daryl Smith intercepts Matt Schaub pass intended for Owen Daniels, returns 37 yards for TD (2nd quarter)

1. Tandon Doss returns Shane Lechler punt 82 yards for TD (2nd quarter)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game-Ravens/Texans

Posted on 23 October 2012 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans Sunday at Reliant Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Glover Quin intercepts Joe Flacco after Whitney Mercilus tip (2nd quarter)

4. Whitney Mercilus downs Donnie Jones punt at Ravens’ 3 yard line (1st quarter)

3. Joe Flacco pass intended for Anquan Boldin incomplete on 3rd & 5 (2nd down)

2. Connor Barwin sacks Joe Flacco in endzone for safety (1st quarter)

1. Jonathan Joseph 52 yard TD return of Joe Flacco interception after JJ Watt tip (2nd quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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