Tag Archive | "Matt Skura"

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Ravens add two running backs to fill initial practice squad

Posted on 05 September 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens emphasized depth at the running back position in completing their initial 10-man practice squad on Tuesday.

Running backs Jeremy Langford and Alex Collins, offensive lineman Matt Skura, and cornerback Tony McRae were officially inked to the developmental squad, joining wide receivers Quincy Adeboyejo, fullback Ricky Ortiz, tight end Ryan Malleck, offensive lineman Maurquice Shakir, outside linebacker Boseko Lokombo, and cornerback Reggie Porter. The first six were signed on Sunday after being cut by Baltimore and passing through waivers over the weekend.

With the Ravens having just three running backs — Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, and Buck Allen — on their 53-man roster, the additions of Langford and Collins indicate that general manager Ozzie Newsome may not be satisfied with the personnel at the position. In contrast, the Ravens abstained from signing a quarterback to their initial practice squad, another sign of their confidence that starter Joe Flacco’s back is healthy after keeping only two quarterbacks on the active roster.

Langford played the last two seasons in Chicago, rushing for a combined 737 yards for the Bears and opening the 2016 campaign as the starter before suffering an ankle injury and losing his job to rookie Jordan Howard. The 2015 fourth-round pick out of Michigan State was cut by the Bears at the end of the preseason.

Collins was a fifth-round pick for Seattle in last year’s draft and rushed for 125 yards in 11 games. The Arkansas product was waived by the Seahawks at the end of the preseason.

Skura will begin his second year on the Baltimore practice squad and was waived on Saturday despite starting all four preseason games on the Ravens offensive line this summer. The acquisitions of interior offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko presumably squeezed Skura off the 53-man roster.

An undrafted free agent from North Carolina in 2016, McRae spent this preseason with Cincinnati and was also a member of the Bengals’ practice squad last year.

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Mizzell, Skura, Matthews among final Ravens cuts to get to 53

Posted on 02 September 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens made their final subtractions to form their initial roster for the 2017 regular season without any major surprises.

Running back Taquan Mizzell, offensive lineman Matt Skura, and wide receivers Chris Matthews and Quincy Adeboyejo headlined a list of 14 cuts made to trim the preseason roster down to the 53-man limit. Baltimore also placed veteran cornerback Brandon Boykin on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.

A trio of rookie free agents — cornerback Jaylen Hill, linebacker Bam Bradley, and defensive lineman and hybrid blocking fullback and tight end Patrick Ricard — made the team, meaning the Ravens have kept at least one undrafted rookie on their 53-man roster for the 14th consecutive season. Hill and Ricard turned heads with their performance even dating back to spring workouts while Bradley made plays on defensive and special teams during the preseason and benefited from a numbers standpoint after the season-ending knee injury suffered by veteran Albert McClellan.

Mizzell led the team in both rushing and receiving in the preseason, but general manager Ozzie Newsome elected to keep only three running backs. Fellow rookie free agent Ricky Ortiz was also waived, meaning the Ravens do not have a traditional fullback on the current roster. Both would appear to be reasonable candidates to be signed to the practice squad.

Skura had started all four preseason games at left guard, but the acquisitions of offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko left him and former starting center Jeremy Zuttah on the outside looking in. The Ravens would likely be open to re-signing Skura to the practice squad for the second straight season.

Matthews had played a prominent role on special teams throughout the summer, but the Ravens elected to keep only five receivers on their roster with 2016 fourth-round pick Chris Moore receiving the nod. A rookie free agent from Mississippi, Adeboyejo turned heads with big plays early in training camp, but he dealt with a nagging knee issue as the summer continued and was unable to duplicate his success in preseason contests.

The Ravens also cut linebackers Boseko Lokombo and Donald Payne, tight end Ryan Malleck, cornerback Reggie Porter, guard Maurquice Shakir, and quarterback Josh Woodrum. A candidate for the practice squad, Woodrum earned attention for his performance in the second preseason game at Miami, but he did little to distinguish himself as a serious roster candidate in the final two exhibition contests.

Outside linebacker Brennen Beyer, cornerback Robertson Daniel, and offensive tackle Stephane Nembot were all waived with injury designations.

As expected, injured cornerback Maurice Canady was included in the initial 53-man roster, a move that makes the 2016 sixth-round pick eligible for the designation to return later in the season. He underwent knee surgery early in training camp and is out indefinitely.

With starter Joe Flacco returning to practice on Saturday, the Ravens have elected to enter a season with only two quarterbacks for the eighth consecutive season.

Below is a look at the initial 53-man roster:

Quarterbacks (2): Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
Running backs (3): Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
Wide receivers (5): Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore
Tight ends (4): Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle
Offensive linemen (8): Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor, Tony Bergstrom, Luke Bowanko

Defensive linemen (8): Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
Inside linebackers (4): C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
Outside linebackers (5): Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
Cornerbacks (6): Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
Safeties (5): Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark

Specialists (3): Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on first week of training camp

Posted on 01 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winding down their opening week of training camp, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Injuries have been a story for years, but the current run since June 1 is staggering. The Ravens revamped their training program over the last two offseasons in response to having a combined 39 players on injured reserve in 2014 and 2015. They’re not turning a blind eye to this.

2. The offense has definitely fared poorly with Joe Flacco sidelined, but let’s not shortchange the defense through all the criticism for Ryan Mallett and company. The collective quarterback play has often looked inept, but this Baltimore defense has much potential. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

3. Crockett Gillmore had lofty expectations in the final year of his rookie contract, making his latest injury a disappointment for a player who showed much promise in 2015. Assuming he doesn’t make a miraculous return this season, he will have missed 31 games over the last three campaigns.

4. The award for biggest change in body type goes to Matt Judon, who looks 20 pounds lighter than he did as a rookie. Aiming to be the strong-side outside linebacker, Judon dropped weight over the summer to be better in coverage. He’s looked the part in the first few practices.

5. Don’t sleep on Matt Skura, who is a reserve center and has filled in for Marshal Yanda during full-team drills. After spending last season on the practice squad, the Duke product has a big opportunity with John Urschel retired and Nico Siragusa now out for the year.

6. I’ve counted as many as 10 different players taking reps as a punt or kick returner so far. Undrafted rookie wide receiver Tim White is a name to watch, but this appears to be a wide-open competition, which is nothing new since Jacoby Jones’ release a couple years ago.

7. The injury was lost in the wash, but the indefinite loss of Maurice Canady is a tough blow after slot cornerback Tavon Young went down for the season in the spring. Lardarius Webb has been working in the slot with veteran newcomer Brandon Boykin off to a slow start.

8. The first-round selection of Marlon Humphrey didn’t receive much enthusiasm in April, but the 21-year-old has shown impressive composure and has made plays early in his first training camp. The presence of Brandon Carr eases the immediate need, but the Alabama product has impressed.

9. Maxx Williams deserves ample time to get his football legs back under him, but he hasn’t moved particularly well so far in his return from a secretive knee surgery that had never been performed on an NFL player. The Ravens could really use contributions from their 2015 second-round pick.

10. Young pass rushers take time to develop, but Tim Williams has stood out in individual drills. His quickness is evident as he blew past a rookie offensive tackle who hadn’t even gotten out of his stance Tuesday, and he’s even gotten the best of Ronnie Stanley from time to time.

11. Rookie free agents to watch in the preseason include defensive end Patrick Ricard and cornerback Jaylen Hill as well as White. It wouldn’t shock me to see Ricard become the next undrafted defensive lineman to stick, but we still have a long way to go.

12. How rough has the first week of training camp been? Justin Tucker even missed consecutive field goal tries from 49 yards on Tuesday, something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him do in practice. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that he’ll be OK, however.

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Notes and observations from Ravens’ second week of OTAs

Posted on 02 June 2017 by Luke Jones

Ravens cornerback Tavon Young’s torn ACL Thursday was the latest reminder that the only substantial news to come from spring workouts is typically negative in nature.

Sure, many have gushed about how third-year wide receiver Breshad Perriman has looked this spring, but the significance of Young’s injury outweighs anything else happening on the field as players practice in helmets, jerseys, and shorts. Injuries can occur whether a player is participating in voluntary organized team activities or working out on his own, but you hate seeing an important member of the defense lost for the season several weeks before training camp even begins.

The silver lining is that this unfortunate development comes more than three months before the start of the regular season, giving the Ravens ample time to evaluate and figure out what they want to do at the nickel spot. Veteran Brandon Carr and first-round pick Marlon Humphrey are outside corners and wouldn’t appear to be suited to play inside, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees and secondary coach Chris Hewitt have time to experiment with different alignments and evaluate young options like Maurice Canady, who had three interceptions in Thursday’s practice and showed some swagger playing with the first-team nickel defense after Young was helped off the field.

At 6-foot-1 and 193 pounds, Canady doesn’t look the part of a traditional slot corner, but his size would be useful inside if he can show the necessary footwork and quickness to stick with shiftier receivers. Of course, reserve safety and onetime cornerback Lardarius Webb may also fit into the nickel picture, but you’d like to be able to use him in deep center field if the Ravens have visions of being creative with new safety Tony Jefferson and using the dime package more often.

** Young wasn’t the only Ravens player to go down with an injury recently as wide receiver Michael Campanaro and defensive tackle Carl Davis were missing from Thursday’s practice.

According to head coach John Harbaugh, Campanaro will be out for “a little while” with a sprained toe. Harbaugh said that it wasn’t serious, but toe ailments are tricky for any player, let alone a slot receiver who relies on his sudden change of direction. It’s unfortunately the latest ailment for a talented player who has never been able to stay on the field for an extended period of time.

Davis, who lined up as the 3-technique defensive tackle with the starting defense last week, is dealing with a strained pectoral muscle, but Harbaugh said he will return to practice soon. In his absence, Michael Pierce was lining up at the nose with Brandon Williams moving to the 3-technique spot.

Cornerback Sheldon Price was helped inside after bumping his head during practice and was being evaluated for a concussion.

Others not participating in Thursday’s OTA included Webb, cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (concussion) and Carlos Davis (lower leg), linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley (offseason shoulder surgery), offensive linemen Marshal Yanda (offseason shoulder surgery) and Jarell Broxton, and tight ends Benjamin Watson (Achilles tendon), Max Williams (knee), and Darren Waller. Continuing to be held out of voluntary workouts, Suggs was once again in the building and has been a consistent presence in Owings Mills this spring.

** The starting offensive line displayed a new wrinkle as John Urschel worked at center and Ryan Jensen played right guard after their positions were flipped last week.

“Both of those guys are taking reps at center,” said Harbaugh, who noted that 2016 practice-squad member Matt Skura is also in the mix. “They are both going to have to play center and guard. Most of those guys inside do play all three positions. Marshal plays center. I do not know if you knew that, but he is kind of an emergency center.”

** It’s interesting to note that quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t been wearing his left knee brace in the two OTA workouts open to media after saying earlier this spring that he would continue wearing one. It may just be because these are non-contact workouts — though it’s not uncommon for an overzealous young lineman to forget that from time to time — but Flacco wore the brace for every practice that wasn’t a walk-through last season.

Thursday wasn’t the best day for the veteran signal-caller as he threw multiple interceptions. One did come on a pass bouncing off the hands of second-year wideout Chris Moore.

** Veteran running back Danny Woodhead had a good day as a receiver out of the backfield, making an impressive one-handed catch and showing good agility. The early reviews have been positive for a 32-year-old coming off a major knee injury, but durability will be a question as he’s played in just 21 games over the last three seasons.

** Lorenzo Taliaferro appears to be working exclusively as a fullback, which should help his cause to make the 53-man roster with so many tailbacks ahead of him on the depth chart. He and undrafted rookie fullback Ricky Ortiz worked off to the side from the running backs in individual drills Thursday.

** Perriman offered Humphrey a reminder of the speed he’ll see at the next level, beating the rookie cornerback inside on a slant for a short completion and blowing past the rest of the defense for a long touchdown.

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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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