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Oher practices fully, J. Jones already ruled out for Sunday’s game

Posted on 11 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Just a couple hours after proclaiming the ankle injury he suffered in the season opener to be one of the worst of his career, Ravens right tackle Michael Oher returned to the practice field on Wednesday.

The fifth-year lineman was listed as a full participant on Wednesday’s injury report, confirming reports that indicated the sprained ankle he suffered when right guard Marshal Yanda rolled into his leg was not considered serious. Oher has never missed a game in his NFL career and Wednesday’s development was a strong indication of that streak continuing on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

“It’s definitely hurting me pretty good, pretty bad, so I’m just getting a lot of treatment and trying to stay on top of it,” Oher said prior to practicing. “Hopefully, I can go Sunday. I work hard to be out there every Sunday for the team, but this is one of the worst sprains I’ve had.”

Newly-signed kick returner and No. 3 running back Shaun Draughn was on the practice field just hours after being signed by the Ravens to sure up the void they have at the kick return spot after the MCL injury sustained by wide receiver Jacoby Jones last week. Backup running back Bernard Pierce will remain in the mix on kickoffs, but the Ravens would prefer not exposing him to the regular wear and tear of the return game if possible.

As expected, defensive tackle Arthur Jones also returned to the practice field on a limited basis after missing nearly three weeks due to a viral infection. Coach John Harbaugh indicated earlier in the week that the Ravens will need to see where Jones is from a conditioning standpoint to determine whether he will return to game action in Week 2.

Wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Deonte Thompson (foot), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), and defensive tackle Brandon Williams were not practicing on Wednesday. The Pro Bowl return specialist Jones has already been ruled out for Sunday as he’s projected to miss at least a month, and it remains unlikely that the other three will be ready to play against Cleveland this Sunday.

Also absent from the field on Wednesday was rookie wide receiver Aaron Mellette, which was an interesting development after he was inactive for the season opener against Denver. The Ravens later placed Mellette on injured reserve with what was listed as a knee injury, clearing a roster spot for Draughn.

For the Cleveland Browns, rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo (lung) returned the the practice field and has been cleared for contact, meaning he could make his NFL debut in Baltimore on Sunday.

Here’s the official injury report for Wednesday:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Jacoby Jones (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DT Art Jones (illness – NFI), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Michael Oher (ankle)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Shawn Lauvao (ankle), DL Ahtyba Rubin (calf), DB T.J. Ward (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Buster Skrine (shoulder), LB Barkevious Mingo (lung), WR Travis Benjamin (thigh)

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Harbaugh unclear on status of Oher, J. Jones in short term

Posted on 09 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens coach John Harbaugh met with the media for the first time since his post-game comments in a 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos and painted a foggy picture for the two biggest injuries suffered in the Thursday defeat.

Asked to address the MCL sprain suffered by wide receiver Jacoby Jones that will reportedly keep him sidelined for four to six weeks, Harbaugh did not specify when asked if the Ravens would be looking to get the return specialist back at some point in the month of October. Jones was injured when rookie safety Brynden Trawick accidentally collided with him on a punt return in the second quarter.

“We’ll see how that goes with Jacoby,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got a sprain. I wouldn’t call it a serious type of thing, but we’ll just have to see how it goes. I would say day to day, week to week. We’ll see how fast he can come back.”

Weekend reports indicated right tackle Michael Oher’s prognosis for his right ankle sprain was more favorable than Jones’ injury, but Harbaugh wouldn’t bite on a timetable for Oher being ready to return to action, which leaves his status for Sunday’s meeting with the Cleveland Browns undetermined for now.

The Ravens were forced to use rookie Rick Wagner at right tackle in Oher’s absence against the Broncos, but they could elect to move left guard Kelechi Osemele back to tackle should Oher be sidelined for a game or two. In that scenario, Baltimore would likely insert third-year lineman Jah Reid at left guard.

“The prognosis is the same for Michael Oher [as Jones],” Harbaugh said. “Day to day, week to week.”

Harbaugh confirmed the encouraging news over the weekend of defensive tackle Arthur Jones being cleared to resume football activities following a personal health issue. Jones hasn’t practiced since playing in the team’s third preseason game on Aug. 22.

It remains to be seen how much the reported viral infection impacted his conditioning and readiness to get back on the field.

“It seems to have cleared up,” Harbaugh said. “He should be good and we’ll just have to see how ready he is to play this week. That will be the issue football-wise. We’ll just see how ready he is to play.”

The Ravens are hoping they are moving closer to the returns of both wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot) and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen. Harbaugh said each player could be back on the practice field soon and are not candidates to land on injured reserve.

Jensen was a sixth-round choice in April’s draft and suffered a broken foot in the first week of training camp, leading fans and media to assume he was a likely candidate for season-ending IR in his first NFL season after missing so much practice time in the summer.

“We feel like he’s going to be a player for us sooner rather than later,” Harbaugh said. “That’s why we held on to him on the [53-man roster]. We’ve got high hopes for him this year. He’s getting closer to being back.”

Harbaugh said Jensen has the ability to provide depth at both center and guard.

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Report: Oher not expected to miss significant time with ankle injury

Posted on 08 September 2013 by WNST Staff

CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora reported Saturday night that Baltimore Ravens OT Michael Oher is not expected to miss significant time because of the ankle injury that forced him to leave Thursday night’s loss to the Denver Broncos.

Oher was injured Thursday when guard Marshal Yanda rolled into his ankle. The team’s former first round pick was unable to return to the game but the CBS report says he is not expected to be out long-term. The Ravens’ next game is Sunday, September 15 against the Cleveland Browns.

After Oher left Thursday night’s game, the Ravens turned to rookie Rick Wagner at right tackle. The 5th round pick out of Wisconsin struggled the rest of the way as the Broncos were able to garner an effective pass rush against Ravens QB Joe Flacco. The Ravens had only seven offensive lineman active for the Week 1 defeat, as G/T Jah Reid was scratched before the game.

The CBS report did not say whether or not it was believed that Oher would be ready in time for the Week 2 game against Cleveland. If he is not, the Ravens could turn back to Wagner or could use Reid at LG and move second year lineman Kelechi Osemele to right tackle.

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Ravens WR J. Jones reportedly to miss 4-6 weeks, DT A. Jones cleared for activity

Posted on 07 September 2013 by Luke Jones

What was already a disappointing 49-27 season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos has proven even more costly for the Ravens as wide receiver Jacoby Jones is likely be sidelined for the next four to six weeks.

According to Pro Football Talk, Jones suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee when rookie safety Brynden Trawick accidentally collided with the return specialist as he tried to field a punt in the second quarter. Jones limped off the field before being taken to the locker room for further examination where he was ruled out for the remainder of the game.

The injury leaves the Ravens short-handed at wide receiver and in the return game as Jones was expected to play a major part in both areas. Jones caught three passes for 24 yards in the first half and was replaced by cornerback Lardarius Webb on punt returns and running back Bernard Pierce on kickoff returns.

At the end of the preseason, the Ravens waived running back Bobby Rainey, who appeared to be the team’s second-most impressive returner behind Jones. Baltimore had hoped to sign Rainey to its practice squad, but the Cleveland Browns claimed him on waivers. The Ravens also parted ways with wide receivers David Reed and Tandon Doss, who offered some abililty as return options as well.

Jones’ injury will likely create an expanded role for rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown, who was one of the few bright spots offensively against the Broncos. An undrafted free agent from the University of Georgia, Brown caught four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown.

The absence of Jones will put a strain on the Ravens’ vertical passing game as defenses normally must respect him and Torrey Smith as deep threats. Jones’ exit from Thursday’s game allowed the Denver defense to bracket coverage on Smith and shade a safety toward him to help take away the big play.

The Ravens could also look to the free-agent market for potential help in both areas. Veteran wide receiver Brandon Lloyd is still available and with Week 1 now behind the Ravens, they may sign a vested veteran without being required to guarantee his contract for the entire season.

Right tackle Michael Oher also left Thursday’s game after spraining his right ankle in the second quarter, but that injury is not believed to be as serious at this time.

In other health-related news, defensive tackle Arthur Jones wrote on his official Twitter account that he received “amazing news” related to his undisclosed illness. According to The Sun, Jones had been dealing with a viral infection but was cleared for activity with no concerns moving forward.

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Ravens lose J. Jones, Oher to injuries in first half

Posted on 06 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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The Ravens suffered significant losses to both their offense and special teams units in their embarrassing season-opening loss to the Broncos.

Return specialist and wide receiver Jacoby Jones suffered a knee injury in the second quarter while right tackle Michael Oher hurt his right ankle later in the quarter. Neither player returned to the game as the Ravens fell 49-27 to lose their first season opener in the John Harbaugh era.

Jones was injured trying to field a punt when rookie safety Brynden Trawick inexplicably ran into him in the midst of a full sprint. After limping off the field, he was taken to the locker room for further examination and was wearing street clothes on the sideline during the second half. Jones told reporters after the game that he will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging on Friday.

Oher hurt his right ankle when right guard Marshal Yanda rolled into his leg, forcing rookie fifth-round pick Rick Wagner to enter the game at right tackle. The Ravens only went with two active reserve linemen — reserve center A.Q. Shipley and Wagner — as Jah Reid and rookie Ryan Jensen were among the inactives.

 

 

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Ravens Jameel McClain Holds Annual Football Camp

Posted on 06 July 2013 by brianbower

More than 300 Maryland children joined Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain at Reisterstown Regional Park for his free annual Football & Fitness Clinic on Saturday afternoon.

McClain teamed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake for the fun filled day in effort to teach the kids football skills as well as life lessons.

“It is amazing, Julie Bates and Cedric Lowe along with Big Brothers Big Sisters always do a good job of having a great turnout. It is good to see these kids out here working instead of being in the house.” Remarked McClain when asked about the biggest camp yet by Team McClain.

Joining McClain with instructing the children through various football skills and drills were several area football coaches and Baltimore Ravens linebackers coach Don “Wink” Martindale.

The kids were thrilled when several of McClain’s teammates including Michael Oher, Arthur Jones, Bryan Hall, Terrence Cody and former Raven Dannell Ellerbe were on hand to cheer them on during the drills.

” I really believe in kids in being active. In today’s world with all these Play stations and Xboxes kids want to stay in the house so it is real important to workout. It is really great to have football camps for the kids so they can come out and get ready for their own seasons.” stated Ravens tackle Michael Oher about the importance of this football camp.

It is a very important deal that Jameel does this for the kids.” Oher added.

During McClain’s childhood there were periods of homelessness in which he, his mother and three siblings lived at a Salvation Army rescue center in Philadelphia, PA. “You’d just have nights where food was a figment of your stomach’s imagination, where you would go to bed hungry,” McClain recalled.

The day was a wonderful success for Team McClain and the many kids who not only received valuable football information but learned from one of the greatest stories in the NFL today.

Baltimore is lucky to have him not just on the field but off the field as well.

 

Follow me on Twitter @sportguyrsr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interesting post-draft roster decisions with early look at 2013 Ravens depth chart

Posted on 29 April 2013 by Luke Jones

With the 2013 NFL Draft in the rear-view mirror, general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens can now begin looking at the offseason roster with a clearer picture of what they’ll have when they travel to Denver for the Sept. 5 season opener.

Of course, there will be a few more additions or subtractions of some consequence between now and the start of training camp in late July, but any drastic changes are unlikely with the Ravens holding just under $4 million in salary cap space.

The Ravens will likely use some of that remaining cap room to address offensive tackle after only coming away with Wisconsin tackle Ricky Wagner in the fifth round of the draft. The Badgers left tackle will likely be moved inside to guard as it’s not believed that his feet are quick enough to handle the position at the next level, meaning Kelechi Osemele is still in line to be the team’s starting left tackle if the season were to begin now.

The obvious veteran still on the free-agent market is left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who has remained in touch with the Ravens this offseason but visited with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The 33-year-old McKinnie told WNST.net in a text message that the only post-draft contact he’s had from the Ravens came with run-game coordinator Juan Castillo and right tackle Michael Oher.

A CBSSports.com report said McKinnie is also scheduled to visit with the San Diego Chargers, but the 11-year veteran provided his own update on the visit with the Dolphins on Monday afternoon.

“Just finished a good day of meetings & workouts!” McKinnie wrote on his official Twitter account. “This was the gear of choice 4 2day! Nothing final…”

Even if McKinnie signs elsewhere and Osemele ultimately receives the nod to protect quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside, you’d expect the Ravens to at least add another veteran tackle since Jah Reid and Ramon Harewood would then factor heavily into the competition for the starting left guard spot. With no other additions, Oher would clearly be the replacement for Osemele in the event of an injury, but that would open a huge hole on the right side of the line.

Fullback is another interesting position to watch after the Ravens drafted Harvard fullback Kyle Juszczyk with their second fourth-round pick on Saturday. All things being equal, you wouldn’t expect the rookie to supplant three-time Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, but the veteran’s hefty cap figure puts him at the top of the list of potential cuts should an opportunity to add a pricier veteran arise between now and the start of the season.

Newsome was asked following the conclusion of the draft what Jusczcyk’s selection meant for Leach’s future, but the Ravens executive didn’t exactly provide a guarantee that Leach would be opening running lanes for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce in 2013. Baltimore won’t cut Leach for the sake of simply saving $3 million in cap space, but if they need more cap space to address another need such tackle or wide receiver, the Ravens won’t hesitate to give Jusczcyk the starting job.

“We want to make decisions based on how guys perform out on the football field,” Newsome said. “We’re going to get Kyle in here, and the thing we like about Kyle other than his ability to play on the offensive side is we expect him to be a very good special-teams contributor. Could there be a place for both of them? Yes, there could be, because as John and I try to put our 53-man squad together, we want to keep the best 53 players.”

Troubled inside linebacker Rolando McClain remains with the Ravens as of Monday afternoon, but you have to wonder how much shorter his leash became after the selection of Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown. Considering the Ravens traded up in the second round to select Brown in fear of another team taking him before their scheduled pick at 62nd overall, you’d expect that coach John Harbaugh envisions him to be a starter from Day 1.

To this point, the Ravens have said all the polite things about McClain’s latest arrest on April 21 and his right to due process, but the need to keep an average player with such baggage diminished greatly after adding one of the top inside linebackers in this year’s draft class. You have to wonder if McClain will even make it to training camp at this point, or whether he’ll be able to keep himself out of trouble between now and then.

“He is one of the 90,” Newsome said on the final day of the draft. “We’re going to make the determination, starting Sunday, who we think is going to be on our top 53. We’ll start making those decisions. It’s going to be some tough decisions, but as of right now, Rolando is still a part of our football team.”

Below is an all-too-early look at the 2013 depth chart, which doesn’t include undrafted rookie free agents until the full list is officially announced by the Ravens. High draft picks such as Matt Elam and Brown are viewed more favorably than lower-round selections like Ryan Jensen and Aaron Mellette in terms of where they rank on the current depth chart. In many cases, roster holdovers from previous seasons have been given the nod over rookies with the full understanding that some — if not many — will be supplanted.

Teams are allowed to have a maximum of 90 players on their offseason roster.

Projected post-draft 2013 depth chart

Offense
QB: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, Caleb Hanie
RB: Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Anthony Allen, Bobby Rainey, Damien Berry, Lonyae Miller
FB: Vonta Leach, Kyle Juszczyk
WR: Torrey Smith, David Reed, LaQuan Williams, Aaron Mellette
WR: Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, Tommy Streeter, Tori Gurley
TE: Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Alex Silvestro
LT: Kelechi Osemele
LG: Jah Reid, Ramon Harewood, Antoine McClain
C: Gino Gradkowski, Ryan Jensen, Reggie Stephens
RG: Marshal Yanda, Ricky Wagner, Jack Cornell
RT: Michael Oher, David Mims

Defense
DE: Chris Canty, Pernell McPhee, DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore
NT: Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody, Brandon Williams
DT: Arthur Jones, Marcus Spears, Swanson Miller
Rush: Terrell Suggs, John Simon, Michael McAdoo
Will: Arthur Brown, Rolando McClain, Albert McClellan, D.J. Bryant
Mike: Jameel McClain, Josh Bynes, Bryan Hall, Nigel Carr
Sam: Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Adrian Hamilton, Spencer Adkins
LCB: Lardarius Webb, Chykie Brown, Chris Johnson, Marc Anthony
SS: Matt Elam, James Ihedigbo, Christian Thompson
FS: Michael Huff, Emanuel Cook, Omar Brown, Anthony Levine
RCB: Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, Asa Jackson

Special Teams
K: Justin Tucker
P: Sam Koch
LS: Morgan Cox
KR: Jacoby Jones, David Reed, Deonte Thompson
PR: Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, Lardarius Webb

 

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Bring Back B-Mac

Posted on 29 April 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

 

When it comes to the relationship between the Ravens and left tackle Bryant McKinnie, there’s a lot of water under the bridge, and it’s probably fair to guess that neither side is feeling a whole lot of trust in or loyalty to the other. That, said, it’s becoming more and more clear with each passing day of the NFL off-season that McKinnie and the Ravens need each other.

 

It’s not as though the Ravens failure to land a starting left tackle in the draft should be a surprise to anyone. Sitting with the 32nd pick overall makes it tough to put together the type of package that could get a team into a position to land a tackle in whom they could have a lot of faith right away. That may have been even truer in this year’s draft where the top tackles were flying off the board in spots usually reserved for quarterbacks and franchise changing play makers.

The debate over where Joe Flacco fits in the hierarchy of NFL quarterback talent has been raging since Flacco’s first season in the league, and a Super Bowl MVP and a $100 million contract have only helped to add fuel to the arguments on both sides.

Clearly Flacco’s regular season statistics don’t measure up against the NFL’s “best of the best” at the QB position. On the other side of the argument however, throughout his career Flacco has seen at least a 40% turnover on his offensive line each year, and substantial turnover at the receiver position too. Chemistry certainly means something when formulating a complex NFL passing offense, and the Ravens haven’t prioritized fostering chemistry for their young franchise QB.

Ironically, it was a shake up on the offensive line to begin the playoffs that, perhaps more than any other factor, set the tone for the Ravens successful run to a Super Bowl title last season. The promotion of McKinnie to the starting left tackle improved the offensive line exponentially by moving Michael Oher to right tackle where he was an upgrade over Kelechi Osemele, and by moving the displaced Osemele to the left guard where he too was an upgrade over the revolving door of “answers” the Ravens had fielded at that spot throughout the regular season. Understandably, any move at left tackle for the Ravens that involves Oher moving from right tackle and/or Osemele moving from left guard will be seen as taking multiple steps back. The retirement of center Matt Birk only serves to compound those concerns.

Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has earned the trust of the fans, and reinforced that trust this off-season with a number of “game changing” acquisitions. After experiencing a substantial defection/exile of talent in the early stages of the off-season, redemption came quickly for the Ravens GM via the additions of a number of talented veterans. Unfortunately for the Ravens new $100 million man Flacco, all of those pick-ups came on the defensive side of the ball.

The secondary market has typically been good to the Ravens and to Ozzie Newsome. Every year as players find their way to new locations through free agency and the draft, a number of other players become displaced by those acquisitions. The Ravens have been good at finding serviceable, even high level talent on this secondary market, especially during the Joe Flacco / John Harbaugh era. With the number of left tackles available in free agency and early in the draft it seemed logical to wait and see what kind of secondary tackle market might develop. Now that the dust has settled though, outside of Roger Saffold (Rams) and maybe King Dunlap (Eagles), the secondary market on left tackles doesn’t look quite as promising as one might have hoped. And let’s face it, if Saffold and Dunlap were sure things their teams probably wouldn’t have been so anxious to replace them.

The market for McKinnie has been slow to non-existent too, so it appears that the time has come for the Ravens and McKinnie to swallow a bit of pride and find their ways back to one another. It doesn’t seem that either have any better options. Then the Ravens can focus on the business of trying to find a 2nd and/or 3rd receiver candidate that’ll hopefully provide more upside than TJ Houshmandzadeh or Lee Evans…unless they believe that Tandon Doss is more ready to break out than he’s shown to this point in his NFL career.

Here’s a quick look at the Ravens revolving door of pass blockers and pass catchers during the Joe Flacco era:

LT: 08-Gaither, 09- Gaither, 10 – Oher, 11 – McKinnie, 12 – Oher, 12 (PO) – McKinnie 13 – ?

LG: 08- Grubbs, 09- Grubbs, 10- Grubbs, 11- Grubbs/ Gurode, 12 – Harewood, Reid, 12 (PO) – Osemele, 13 – ?

C: 08- Brown, 09- Birk, 10- Birk, 11- Birk, 12 – Birk, 13 – Gradkowski

RG: 08- Chester/Yanda, 09- Chester/Yanda, 10- Chester, 11- Yanda, 12 – Yanda, 13 – Yanda

RT: 08- Adam Terry/ Willie Anderson (TE), 09- Oher, 10- Yanda, 11-Oher, 12 – Osemele, 12 (PO) – Oher, 13 – ?

FB: 08- Neal, 09- McClain, 10- McClain, 11- Leach, 12 – Leach, 13 – Leach?

RB: 08- McGahee/McClain, 09- Rice/McGahee, 10- Rice/McGahee, 11- Rice/Williams, 12 – Rice/Pierce

TE: 08- Heap/Anderson 09- Heap, 10- Heap/Dickson, 11- Dickson/Pitta, 12 – Pitta/Dickson, 13 – Pitta/Dickson

WR1: 08- Mason, 09- Mason, 10- Mason/Boldin , 11- Boldin, 12 – Boldin, 13 – Smith

WR2: 08- Clayton, 09- Clayton, 10- Mason/Boldin, 11- T. Smith, 12 – Smith, 13 – Jones

WR3: 08- Williams, 09- Clayton, 10- Houshmandzadeh, 11- Evans/L.Williams?, 12 – Jones, 13 – Doss?

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Ravens conclude draft with two major concerns remaining

Posted on 27 April 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens appeared to accomplish a great deal by the conclusion of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Frankly, to evaluate a draft as good or bad immediately after it takes place is a pointless endeavor, but you can look at a team’s list of needs entering the annual event to determine how successful an organization was in addressing those positions. Whether those picks ultimately work out or not won’t be known for a few years in many cases.

General manager Ozzie Newsome did what he set out to do after stating just a few days after the Super Bowl that the Ravens needed to get stronger up the middle defensively. With their first three picks of the draft, the Ravens selected Florida safety Matt Elam, Kansas State inside linebacker Arthur Brown, and Missouri Southern State defensive tackle Brandon Williams to add to the middle of defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ unit.

Baltimore added more depth to its front seven with the selections of defensive ends John Simon (Ohio State) and Kapron Lewis-Moore (Notre Dame), though the latter is currently recovering from a torn ACL sustained in the BCS national title game. The Ravens added interior offensive line depth with the additions of Wisconsin’s Ricky Wagner and Ryan Jensen of Colorado State-Pueblo. A cornerback was drafted with California’s Marc Anthony, reinforcing Newsome’s proclamation before the draft that you can never have too many despite the Ravens already having quality depth at the positon.

The Ravens found their fullback of the future in Harvard’s Kyle Juszczyk, who may even push veteran Vonta Leach off the roster should Newsome decide the team needs an extra $3 million in cap space to address other areas. Juszczyk isn’t the same punishing blocker that Leach is, but he could serve in an H-back capacity with his impressive ability as a receiver out of the backfield.

Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, director of college scouting Joe Hortiz, and head coach John Harbaugh deserve praise for addressing many of the needs created by a plethora of free-agent departures, difficult releases, and retirements made earlier this offseason.

But the fact that the Ravens were unable to significantly address two of their most glaring questions, left tackle and wide receiver, is one that cannot be dismissed. The fifth-round selection Wagner played left tackle for the Badgers, but he isn’t considered quick enough for the position at the next level and the Ravens have already said they view him as more of a guard. Seventh-round receiver Aaron Mellette posted big-time numbers at FCS school Elon, but to say he’s any better the other young receivers currently in the mix on the roster would be a stretch.

Protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside and providing him another trustworthy receiving target are two obligations that remain unfulfilled, which is concerning when most looked to the draft as the primary avenue to address them. As Newsome said in the Ravens’ post-draft press conference on Sunday evening, much could still change between now and the start of the season on Sept. 5.

As it relates to those two positions, many will certainly hope so.

“If you look at our history, we picked up Willie Anderson a week before our first game,” Newsome said. “We picked up Bryant McKinnie before the last preseason game. It’s so fluid. We don’t know what’s going to happen between now and then, so everything has to remain fluid.”

In fairness to the Ravens’ brass, the possibility of adding anything more than a project at left tackle was never going to be easy when picking at the end of each round as the Super Bowl champion. The top three left tackle prospects in this year’s draft were gone in the first four picks of the first round and the tier of tackles — including Florida State’s Menelik Watson and Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Terron Armstead — that was available to the Ravens didn’t stack up as favorably as the defensive selections of Elam and Brown in the first two rounds.

The Ravens said before the draft that second-year lineman Kelechi Osemele would be their starting left tackle if the season were to begin today and it appears nothing’s changed in that regard. Of course, the absence of a new tackle prospect will reignite desires for Baltimore to re-sign the veteran McKinnie to at least serve as an insurance policy for Osemele.

The only other obvious option out there appears to be the exploration of a trade for Kansas City’s franchise player Branden Albert, who sees the writing on the wall after the Chiefs took Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher with the first overall pick. However, the Chiefs’ asking price for Albert won’t be cheap and the 28-year-old seeks an expensive long-term contract.

Even if new run-game coordinator and highly-respective offensive line guru Juan Castillo believes Osemele is capable of handling the left tackle spot, it’s difficult to imagine the Ravens not bringing in another tackle to at least compete. Newsome didn’t sound too concerned when asked about the potential need to add a veteran, however.

“We’ll get the chance to roll the ball out there this week,” Newsome said. “You just can’t go against each other. We’ll have somebody lined up at left tackle.”

Replacing the production of veteran Anquan Boldin was another need many viewed as a priority for the Ravens and the organization praised the depth of the position in this year’s draft. As a result, most assumed the Ravens would come away with a wideout at some point during the first two days of the draft, but a receiver’s name wasn’t called by the Ravens until Mellette was announced as the 238th overall pick of the draft.

The outcome was similar to last year when the Ravens did not choose Tommy Streeter until the sixth round. Once again, Newsome remained true to the board this year, even as several well-regarded receivers appeared to slide more than many experts thought they would on Day 3.

Of course, the Ravens were also able to sign wide receiver Jacoby Jones after last year’s draft and the speedy return specialist also served as an upgrade at the No.3 receiver spot. It’s possible a similar scenario will play out when teams around the league readjust their depth charts with a new batch of rookies joining the fold.

“Were there receivers in every round that we considered? Yes,” Newsome said. “Did one receiver get taken when we were set to take the guy? No, that did not happen at that point. As far as [Mellette], when we got to that point in the draft, he was our highest-rated guy and that’s why we decided to take him.”

The 6-foot-3, 217-pound Mellette was wildly productive in his career at Elon, catching a remarkable 210 passes and 30 touchdowns over his final two collegiate seasons. His 4.54-second 40-time suggests he may have enough speed to complement his impressive size, but to consider him to be anything more than a long-term project would be too ambitious.

The Ravens have thrown out many compliments for the likes of Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, and David Reed as it pertains to the slot receiver spot, but to expect any of the aforementioned names to step up in a dramatic way to replace Boldin’s production is asking to be disappointed. Maybe Mellette or Streeter can be a diamond in the rough, but there were reasons why so many teams — including the Ravens multiple times — passed on these tall and speedy receivers.

For now, the burden falls heavily on Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta as well as Flacco to overcome the absence of the safety net Boldin provided when the vertical passing game was struggling.

As they will at the offensive tackle position, the Ravens will keep their eyes open to other teams potentially releasing veteran receivers or dangling them in trades as a result of what they fetched in this weekend’s draft. Newsome has used future draft picks to acquire veterans before and certainly wouldn’t hesitate if the right opportunity were to come along.

Perhaps another veteran receiver or left tackle drops into the Ravens’ lap between now and the start of the season, but it’s impossible not to feel uneasy about each position with the draft now coming and going.

And as good as this draft might ultimately end up being in other areas, it did very little to answer those two major questions.

 

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Osemele earning serious consideration as Ravens left tackle

Posted on 16 April 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Many have debated how the Ravens should handle their left tackle position as they continue preparations for the 2013 season, but a new favorite was mentioned during Tuesday’s pre-draft press conference in Owings Mills.

Coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the offseason that second-year lineman Kelechi Osemele would receive consideration at left tackle after splitting his rookie season between right tackle and left guard, but general manager Ozzie Newsome provided the most definitive assessment we’ve heard yet regarding Osemele’s standing in the race. Veteran Bryant McKinnie remains an unrestricted free agent, but the Ravens are expected to wait and see how next week’s draft plays out before making a decision on the 33-year-old.

However, Osemele — and not former left tackle Michael Oher — appears to have the inside track at the position should the Ravens pass on McKinnie and fail to come away with a tackle in the draft. The Iowa State product started at left tackle for three years in college and was an All-Big 12 selection at the position.

“He could potentially be our left tackle, too. I think we are very open,” Newsome said. “Like I said, the dialogue has been very good with [McKinnie] from my standpoint, and I think John would echo the same thing. If we had to line up today with the group that we have, I think John told [owner] Steve Bisciotti that K.O. would probably get that opportunity.”

McKinnie has received interest from New Orleans and San Diego as well as the Ravens during the offseason, but no talks have progressed beyond the preliminary stages with any of the aforementioned teams.

Harbaugh spoke to McKinnie on the phone a few weeks ago to see if the tackle was staying in shape and to express his desire for the veteran to return to Baltimore for a third season.

“I’ve had conversations with his agent prior to today,” Newsome said. “I have a good relationship with his agent Michael George. John and [run game coordinator Juan Castillo] have both been in communication with Bryant. It is a process with Bryant. Could we open up our first game this year – wherever that is, whenever it is – and he be our left tackle? He potentially could be.”

The Ravens are extremely unlikely to see any of the top three tackle prospects — Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, Eric Fisher of Central Michigan, and Lane Johnson of Oklahoma — available when they pick at No. 32, but assistant general manager Eric DeCosta mentioned several other intriguing tackle prospects to watch, including Florida State’s Menelik Watson, Kent State’s Brian Winters, Syracuse’s Justin Pugh, Wisconsin’s Ricky Wagner, and Terron Armstead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Newsome downplays Alabama connection with newcomer McClain

Asked about the signing of troubled inside linebacker Rolando McClain and his Alabama roots, Newsome made a very clear assessment of why the Ravens signed the former Oakland Raider, who was released earlier this month.

Awarded only a one-year deal with a base salary of $700,000 and no guaranteed money, McClain appears to be a favorite to start in the Ravens’ 3-4 base defense, but the 23-year-old will need to prove he’s overcome his off-field problems and character flaws that led to Oakland deciding to absorb roughly $11 million in dead money on their 2013 salary cap just to be rid of him.

“Rolando is just getting an opportunity to come and make our 53-man squad,” Newsome said. “That’s it.”

Director of college scouting Joe Hortiz was the first person Newsome consulted in weighing the possibility of signing the young linebacker. Ironically enough, Hortiz attended Auburn, the Crimson Tide’s biggest rival.

Newsome’s conversations with Hortiz coupled with the strong infrastructure of the Baltimore locker room made McClain a realistic fit with minimum risk. If McClain doesn’t fall in line, the Ravens can release him with no financial ramifications.

“He is coming here just to be a part of this football team,” Newsome said. “I think the guys in the locker room will be able to provide him with the proper guidance that he needs as to the way John wants his football team and his football players to be.”

Webb, J. McClain on track for returns

Harbaugh offered positive outlooks on the respective recoveries of cornerback Lardarius Webb and linebacker Jameel McClain as the Ravens began their voluntary offseason workout program on Monday.

Webb tore the ACL in his right knee last Oct. 14, an injury that landed him on season-ending injured reserve, but the cornerback is expected to be fully recovered by the start of training camp.

“He looks really good. He should be ready to roll [for] training camp, it looks like,” Harbaugh said. “We are going to make sure we don’t have a setback. That’s the most important thing.”

McClain’s status remains trickier as he hasn’t been officially cleared to return to the field after suffering a spinal cord contusion on Dec. 9 of last season. The sixth-year linebacker and the Ravens have remained optimistic over his long-term prognosis and how it relates to his career.

His return would give defensive coordinator Dean Pees a pair of McClains at inside linebacker.

“It’s nothing but positive from the doctors about Jameel,” Harbaugh said. “He’s in training mode. He’s actually going to head out for a week to Los Angeles. There’s a certain type of trainer out there that he’s going to work with for a week out there. That will be important for him. It’s just a healing process.

“There’s a certain type of a bruise that happens that caused his issue, but it’s going away on schedule. We don’t know for sure, but I’m approaching it as if Jameel is going to be out there for us, and it looks like he has a good chance to do that – a really good chance of doing that.”

McPhee on the move

The Ravens revealed earlier this offseason that defensive lineman Bryan Hall was switching to inside linebacker and defensive end Pernell McPhee will experience a more subtle position change.

After bulking up last offseason to become a three-down defensive end in a 3-4 system, McPhee was limited with knee, thigh, and groin injuries. Harbaugh and his staff would like to use McPhee in more of a pass-rush specialist role for 2013.

“We’re kind of a hybrid, 4-3, 3-4 team, so we’re going to emphasize Pernell a little bit more at outside linebacker in Terrell Suggs’ spot and see how he does out there,” Harbaugh said. “But, he’ll still bounce. He’s an outside linebacker that can play defensive end, and he’ll be a defensive end/pass rusher in our even fronts, in our pass-rush scheme.”

The move to rush linebacker will likely require McPhee to lose a considerable amount of weight, which could ease some of the strain on his problematic knees. The third-year defensive lineman is also recovering from offseason groin surgery.

 

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