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DAlessandris

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Ravens hire D’Alessandris to coach offensive line

Posted on 19 January 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have taken another step toward completing their coaching staff for the 2017 season.

On Thursday morning, head coach John Harbaugh announced the hiring of Joe D’Alessandris to coach the offensive line. He replaces Juan Castillo, who departed after four seasons last week to become Buffalo’s offensive line coach and run-game coordinator.

D’Alessandris is entering his 40th season in coaching and ninth in the NFL. This will mark the 38th season in which he has helped guide an offensive line.

“We had a number of very good, qualified candidates for this position, and we have the right fit with Joe,” said Harbaugh, who hired senior offensive assistant Greg Roman earlier this month to revamp the league’s 28th-ranked rushing attack. “He’s a hard-nosed, experienced coach, who is an excellent teacher. He’ll be able to work with our veterans to get the best out of them, and he’ll take our young linemen to higher levels.”

D’Alessandris last worked as the offensive line coach of the San Diego Chargers under former head coach Mike McCoy from 2013-2015. After spending the first 30 years of his career coaching at various colleges with two brief stints in the Canadian Football League, he was brought to the NFL by Chan Gailey, who initially hired D’Alessandris as his offensive line coach at Georgia Tech in 2002.

After spending two years as Kansas City’s assistant offensive line coach (2008-2009), D’Alessandris then served as Buffalo’s offensive line coach from 2010-2012.

In his first season with San Diego, the Chargers allowed the NFL’s fourth-fewest sacks and produced more than 100 rushing yards in 12 of 16 regular-season games. He was one of six coaches fired by McCoy at the end of the 2015 season.

“I feel very privileged and honored to come work with such a tremendous organization,” D’Alessandris said. “I very much look forward to the great opportunity of working for John Harbaugh and [general manager] Ozzie Newsome on an incredible staff.”

The Ravens have yet to officially fill their quarterbacks coach and secondary coach positions, but either of those jobs could still be addressed internally.

Below is a look at D’Alessandris’ coaching timeline:

Years College/Pro Team Position
1977-78 Western Carolina Graduate Assistant
1979-82 Livingston University Offensive Line
1983 Livingston University Offensive Coordinator & Offensive Line
1984-85 Memphis Offensive Line
1986-87 Tennessee-Chattanooga Offensive Coordinator & Offensive Line
1988-89 Tennessee-Chattanooga Offensive Line
1990 Ottawa (Canadian Football League) Offensive Line
1991-92 Birmingham (World League) Offensive Line
1993 Samford Offensive Line & Asst. Head Coach
1994 Texas A&M Offensive Line
1995 Memphis (Canadian Football League) Offensive Line
1996 University of Pittsburgh Offensive Line
1997-01 Duke Offensive Line
2002-07 Georgia Tech Offensive Line
2008-09 Kansas City Chiefs Assistant Offensive Line
2010-12 Buffalo Bills Offensive Line
2013-15 San Diego Chargers Offensive Line
2017 Baltimore Ravens Offensive Line

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Ravens long snapper Cox invited to Pro Bowl for second straight year

Posted on 18 January 2017 by Luke Jones

Despite missing the playoffs, the Ravens will have an even stronger presence at the Pro Bowl after long snapper Morgan Cox was added as a “need” player on Wednesday.

For the second straight season, Cox was invited to take part by Kansas City head coach Andy Reid as he continues to be viewed as one of the best long snappers in the NFL. The seven-year veteran will join kicker Justin Tucker, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and linebacker C.J. Mosley as participants while veteran guard Marshal Yanda, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, will not take part because of a shoulder injury.

“Playing in the Pro Bowl for a second time is a huge honor for me,” Cox said in a statement released by the team. “All the hard work that we put into this game is validated when you receive such an honor. I’m proud to represent a great organization like the Ravens, who are among the NFL’s best.”

Cox has snapped for two other Pro Bowl selections — Billy Cundiff in 2010 and Sam Koch last season — and will have the opportunity to play with his kicker in the Pro Bowl later this month. Tucker was named to his second Pro Bowl in late December and credited Cox’s work for making that possible.

This past season, the 2010 undrafted free agent out of Tennessee played in every game, snapping on all 80 punts, 39 field goal attempts (38 successful), and 27 extra points (all converted).

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dixon

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Reviewing Ravens’ 2016 draft class after one season

Posted on 17 January 2017 by Luke Jones

Even with two of their first three picks being non-factors as rookies, the Ravens couldn’t have been much happier with the early return on their 2016 draft compared to what they’ve seen in recent years.

Owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and head coach John Harbaugh all pointed to the 11-man class as reason for optimism despite Baltimore missing the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons. And there’s plenty of room for growth, especially with third-round defensive end Bronson Kaufusi missing the entire season with a broken ankle suffered early in training camp.

The success of first-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley was expected, but an unprecedented fourth round that included five selections could be the difference in this being the Ravens’ best draft class in several years. Three of those five players filled meaningful roles as rookies, an impressive feat for Day 3 picks.

“I think we are going to find some really good players there,” Bisciotti said. “I hope one of them turns out to be elite. I hope that we have those kind of guys. I hope Alex Lewis turns out to be as good as Kelechi Osemele was as a second-round pick, and our first indication is that he may be that good, but we will see. I hope he does not disappoint. I hope [Kenneth] Dixon does not disappoint. That is what we are hoping for — that we see that kind of growth.”

Below is a look at each of the Ravens’ 2016 draft picks after one season:

OT Ronnie Stanley
Drafted: First round (sixth overall) from Notre Dame
2016 role: Despite missing four games in October with a foot injury, Stanley started 12 games and was rated as Pro Football Focus’ best pass-blocking tackle over the final eight weeks of the regular season.
Long-term view: Considering Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden wasn’t even asked to play left tackle as a rookie, the Ravens are pleased with Stanley, who is on track to be a potential Pro Bowl pick one day.

LB Kamalei Correa
Drafted: Second round (42nd overall) from Boise State
2016 role: Correa practiced both inside and outside in training camp before seeing just 48 defensive snaps in nine games and eventually being placed on injured reserve in late December.
Long-term view: Baltimore enters the offseason viewing Correa as a limited rusher and as more of an inside backer, making the choice to pass on talents like Noah Spence and Myles Jack more questionable.

DE Bronson Kaufusi
Drafted: Third round (70th overall) from Brigham Young
2016 role: The 6-foot-6, 285-pound lineman missed most of spring workouts with a back injury and suffered a broken ankle early in training camp, which cost him the rest of his rookie season.
Long-term view: Kaufusi needed to add lower-body strength and flexibility, so it’ll be interesting to see how he projects with Lawrence Guy a free agent and Brent Urban entering the final year of a rookie deal.

CB Tavon Young
Drafted: Fourth round (104th overall) from Temple
2016 role: Despite a 5-foot-9, 177-pound frame, Young played admirably as a rookie and started the final 11 games of the season, debunking the notion that he could be no better than a slot corner in the NFL.
Long-term view: The Ravens would be wise to add a corner with better size that would at least allow Young to move inside in the nickel package, but he deserves to be in the mix for a starting role.

WR Chris Moore
Drafted: Fourth round (107th overall) from Cincinnati
2016 role: Despite seeing just 162 offensive snaps and catching only seven passes for 46 yards, Moore was a key special-teams contributor and scored two touchdowns on punt plays.
Long-term view: The 6-foot-1 receiver shows some potential as a complementary vertical threat and will be in the mix as a kick returner, but this will be an important offseason for his development.

OL Alex Lewis
Drafted: Fourth round (130th overall) from Nebraska
2016 role: Splitting time between left guard and left tackle, Lewis made eight starts and was steadily improving before missing six of the final seven games of the season with an ankle injury.
Long-term view: The clear favorite to be the starting left guard in 2017, Lewis has the potential to develop into an above-average starting guard and to be a solid left tackle backup moving forward.

DT Willie Henry
Drafted: Fourth round (132nd overall) from Michigan
2016 role: Henry did not appear in any of the Ravens’ first nine games before he was placed on injured reserve in mid-November.
Long-term view: The free-agent status of nose tackle Brandon Williams will play a big part in determining how many opportunities Henry and 2015 third-rounder Carl Davis will see in the rotation.

RB Kenneth Dixon
Drafted: Fourth round (134th overall) from Louisiana Tech
2016 role: After missing the first four games with a knee injury, Dixon steadily saw his role increase as he averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 88 attempts and had three touchdowns as Terrance West’s backup.
Long-term view: The Ravens have talked about adding another running back with high-end speed, but Dixon showed impressive toughness and is the early favorite to be the starter in 2017.

OLB Matt Judon
Drafted: Fifth round (146th overall) from Grand Valley State
2016 role: In 308 defensive snaps, the 6-foot-3, 275-pound edge rusher finished with four sacks and 27 tackles as a member of an outside linebacker rotation missing Elvis Dumervil for much of the year.
Long-term view: Judon flashed promise and leapfrogged Za’Darius Smith, but the Ravens need him to step up substantially with Terrell Suggs a year older and Dumervil a potential salary-cap casualty.

WR Keenan Reynolds
Drafted: Sixth round (182nd overall) from Navy
2016 role: The former quarterback spent the first 16 weeks of the regular season on the practice squad before the Ravens promoted him to the 53-man roster and deactivated him for the season finale.
Long-term view: The 5-foot-10 receiver has a long way to go, but the Ravens didn’t want to risk him signing a reserve-future deal elsewhere, proving they still see potential in the former Midshipmen star.

CB Maurice Canady
Drafted: Sixth round (209th overall) from Virginia
2016 role: Canady saw special-teams action in four games before a hamstring injury landed him on IR in early October.
Long-term view: A 6-foot-1, 193-pound frame makes Canady a developmental candidate as an outside cornerback, but he will be competing for a roster spot in training camp.

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tucker

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Tucker, Yanda receive 2016 PFWA honors

Posted on 16 January 2017 by Luke Jones

The honors keep coming for Ravens kicker Justin Tucker.

Already named to his second Pro Bowl and his second AP All-Pro team, the fifth-year kicker was named to the Professional Football Writers of America All-NFL team for the second time in his career. Tucker completed one of the greatest seasons ever for a kicker, going 38-for-39 on field goal attempts and remarkably making all 10 of his tries from 50 yards and beyond.

His only miss of the season came on a block in Week 14 when New England’s Shea McClellin jumped over long snapper Morgan Cox in an impressive display of athleticism.

Tucker was the only Raven named to the PFWA All-NFL squad, but six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda was voted to the PFWA All-AFC team for the fifth time in his career. Yanda continued to play at an elite level in 2016 despite a shoulder injury that cost him three games and forced him to move from his customary right guard spot to the left guard position.

The injury forced Yanda to pull out of the Pro Bowl, but the veteran lineman was also named to the second-team AP All-Pro team earlier this month.

Former Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele was also named to the PFWA All-NFL and All-AFC teams in addition to being invited to his first Pro Bowl and being named to the first-team All-Pro squad in his first season with the Oakland Raiders.

2016 PFWA ALL-NFL TEAM

Offense

QB – Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

RB – Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys; David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

WR – Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers#; Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons*

TE – Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

C – Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys

G – Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys*; Kelechi Osemele, Oakland Raiders

T – Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys#; Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns&

Defense

DE – Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans; Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders*

DT – Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams*; Damon Harrison, New York Giants

OLB – Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons; Von Miller, Denver Broncos#

MLB – Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks

CB – Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs; Aqib Talib, Denver Broncos

S – Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs*; Landon Collins, New York Giants

Special Teams

PK – Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

P – Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams*

KR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings*

PR – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

ST – Matthew Slater, New England Patriots

 

* – repeat selection from 2015

# – consecutive selections from 2014-16

& – consecutive selections from 2013-16

 

2016 PFWA ALL-AFC TEAM

Offense

QB – Tom Brady, New England Patriots#

RB – Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers, DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans

WR – Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers&; T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

TE – Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

C – Rodney Hudson, Oakland Raiders*

G – Kelechi Osemele, Oakland Raiders; Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens#

T – Donald Penn, Oakland Raiders; Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns&

Defense

DE – Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans; Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders*

DT – Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals*; Ndamukong Suh, Miami Dolphins*

OLB – Lorenzo Alexander, Buffalo Bills; Von Miller, Denver Broncos&

MLB – Dont’a Hightower, New England Patriots

CB – Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs*; Aqib Talib, Denver Broncos

S – Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs*; Devin McCourty, New England Patriots

Special Teams

PK – Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

P – Pat McAfee, Indianapolis Colts

KR – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

PR – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

ST – Matthew Slater, New England Patriots@

 

* – repeat selection from 2014

# – consecutive selections from 2014-16

& – consecutive selections from 2013-16

@ – consecutive selections from 2011-16

 

2016 PFWA ALL-NFC TEAM

Offense

QB – Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

RB – Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys; David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

WR – Odell Beckham Jr.*, New York Giants; Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons*

TE – Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers#

C – Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys

G – T.J. Lang, Green Bay Packers; Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys#

T – Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys#; Trent Williams, Washington Redskins*

Defense

DE – Cliff Avril, Seattle Seahawks; Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles

DT – Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams*; Damon Harrison, New York Giants

OLB – Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons; Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins

MLB – Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks

CB – Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants; Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals*

S – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay Packers; Landon Collins, New York Giants

Special Teams

PK – Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons

P – Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams&

KR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings*

PR – Marcus Sherels, Minnesota Vikings

ST – Dwayne Harris, New York Giants

 

* – repeat selection from 2015

# – consecutive selections from 2014-16

& – consecutive selections from 2013-16

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castillo

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Buffalo hires two assistants away from Ravens

Posted on 13 January 2017 by Luke Jones

On the same day senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach Greg Roman was hired to help revamp the running game, the Ravens said goodbye to two assistants from their coaching staff.

Offensive line coach Juan Castillo is leaving Baltimore after four seasons to become the offensive line coach and run-game coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, who hired Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to be their new head coach earlier this week. McDermott is also hiring Ravens secondary coach Leslie Frazier to be his defensive coordinator.

Both Castillo and Frazier worked with McDermott in Philadelphia as part of Andy Reid’s staff. Ironically, it was Castillo who replaced McDermott as the Eagles defensive coordinator in 2011.

Despite a public endorsement from head coach John Harbaugh last week, Castillo’s influence moving forward appeared uncertain with the hiring of Roman, who specializes in the running game and uses man, gap, and zone concepts. Castillo is known for coaching more zone blocking and had struggled to establish a productive running game in three of his four seasons in charge of the Baltimore offensive line.

The Ravens finished 26th or worse in rushing yards in 2013, 2015, and 2016 and only saw dramatic improvement in the ground game when Gary Kubiak served as the offensive coordinator in 2014.

Frazier joined Harbaugh’s staff in 2016 and revamped a secondary that had dealt with chronic communication issues in past seasons. The Ravens finished ninth in the NFL in pass defense, and that included their dramatic struggles without top cornerback Jimmy Smith over the final four games of the season.

It remains unclear how the Ravens will proceed as they must now fill their quarterbacks coach, offensive line coach, and secondary coach positions. It was announced on Thursday that former tight ends coach Richard Angulo would become the assistant offensive line coach, but Harbaugh will likely need to make an outside hire to fill Castillo’s job.

Defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt was previously in charge of the secondary before Frazier was hired after the 2015 season, making it possible that he could assume more responsibility for 2017.

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roman

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Ravens hire Roman as senior offensive assistant, tight ends coach

Posted on 12 January 2017 by Luke Jones

After vowing to make creative additions to his staff, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh officially hired former Buffalo Bills and San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman on Thursday.

Roman will hold the official title of “senior offensive assistant” while also becoming the tight ends coach. After working with the tight ends the last two seasons, Richard Angulo will now become the assistant offensive line coach.

Baltimore believes Roman will help revamp a running game that ranked 28th in rushing yards and 21st in yards per carry.

“I do not think that we are going to be successful putting the ball in the air 600-and-some times,” owner Steve Bisciotti said. “It is just not our identity, and I do not know how we got that far away from it. We did have some injuries on the [offensive] line in the middle of the year, and that may have skewed us the other way. But I want to run. I want to run the ball. I want to control the clock.”

The Ravens ran a franchise single-season low 367 times in 2016 after setting their previous low of 383 attempts under former offensive coordinator Marc Trestman in 2015. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw a career-high 672 times while eclipsing the 4,000-yard mark for the first time in his career, but he ranked just 27th in the league at just 6.42 yards per attempt.

Despite being fired as Buffalo’s offensive coordinator in September, Roman orchestrated rushing attacks that ranked fourth or better in the NFL from 2012-2015. The 44-year-old spent six years coaching under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford (2009-2010) and in San Francisco (2011-2014), a reason why he had been rumored to join John Harbaugh’s staff since the end of the regular season.

“Getting a veteran coach like Greg Roman to join our staff is a coup for the Ravens,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “He is a very sound coach and a good team player who will help us build our offense.”

Roman previously spent time with the Ravens as an offensive line assistant in Brian Billick’s final two seasons as head coach in 2006 and 2007.

NOTES: The Bills announced Thursday that guard Richie Incognito will replace Ravens guard Marshal Yanda in this year’s Pro Bowl. Yanda was named to his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl last month, but he will not play because of the left shoulder injury that forced him to move from right guard to left guard in November. … With the Chargers announcing their move to Los Angeles, Ravens safety Eric Weddle used his official Twitter account to offer his support to San Diego, the place where he played for the first nine seasons of his career. It’s no secret that the three-time Pro Bowl selection’s departure from the Chargers was a bitter one last winter. … The Ravens are now set to travel to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers in 2018 and the Rams in 2019.

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weddle

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How did Ravens defense stack up at each position in 2016?

Posted on 12 January 2017 by Luke Jones

We know the sum of their parts didn’t add up to a trip to the postseason for the Ravens, but where exactly did their defensive players stack up at each position across the NFL in 2016?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl or picking postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few realistically have the time — or want to make the effort — to watch every player on every team extensively enough to develop an informed opinion.

How many times did you closely watch the offensive line of the Tennessee Titans this season?

What about the Los Angeles Rams linebackers or the San Diego Chargers cornerbacks?

That’s why I appreciate projects such as Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 and the grading efforts of Pro Football Focus. Of course, neither the NFL1000 nor PFF should be viewed as the gospel truth of evaluation and they have their limitations, but I respect the exhaustive effort to grade players across the league when so many of us watch only one team or one division on any kind of a consistent basis.

Earlier this week, we looked at the rankings for Baltimore’s offensive players.

Below is a look at where Ravens defensive players rank at their respective positions, according to those outlets:

DE Timmy Jernigan
NFL1000 ranking: 17th among 3-4 defensive ends
PFF ranking: 41st among interior defensive linemen
Skinny: The 2014 second-round pick appeared on his way to a breakout year, but he had only one sack after Week 7 and recorded one tackle over his last four games combined.

DE Lawrence Guy
NFL1000 ranking: 42nd among 3-4 defensive ends
PFF ranking: 36th among interior defensive linemen
Skinny: The 6-foot-4 lineman doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, but he’s good against the run and was a solid contributor in his first full year as a starter.

DE Brent Urban
NFL1000 ranking: 40th among 3-4 defensive ends
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The 2014 fourth-round pick saw only 150 defensive snaps this season, but his ratings suggest that more playing time should be in order in 2017.

DT Brandon Williams
NFL1000 ranking: 18th among defensive tackles
PFF ranking: 38th among interior defensive linemen
Skinny: The fourth-year nose tackle saw more double teams and wasn’t as dominant as he was in 2015, but he is still on track to receive a strong payday as a free agent.

DT Michael Pierce
NFL1000 ranking: 31st among defensive tackles
PFF ranking: 26th among interior defensive linemen
Skinny: The rookie free agent from Samford was one of the good stories of 2016 and will likely step into a starting role if Williams signs elsewhere this offseason.

OLB Terrell Suggs
NFL1000 ranking: 17th among 3-4 outside linebackers
PFF ranking: 40th among edge defenders
Skinny: The 34-year-old played with a torn biceps for much of the season and is nearing the end of his career, but he still plays the run at a high level and remained Baltimore’s best pass rusher.

OLB Za’Darius Smith
NFL1000 ranking: 36th among 3-4 outside linebackers
PFF ranking: 93rd among edge defenders
Skinny: Instead of building on an encouraging rookie campaign, Smith struggled mightily against the run and managed only one sack in a disappointing season.

OLB Elvis Dumervil
NFL1000 ranking: 41st among 3-4 outside linebackers
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher was limited to just three sacks in eight games after undergoing offseason Achilles surgery and could be a salary-cap casualty this offseason.

OLB Matt Judon
NFL1000 ranking: 42nd among 3-4 outside linebackers
PFF ranking: 83rd among edge defenders
Skinny: The Grand Valley State product flashed promise with four sacks in 308 defensive snaps, but the Ravens will be counting on him to show more consistency in 2017.

OLB Albert McClellan
NFL1000 ranking: 45th among 3-4 outside linebackers
PFF ranking: 99th among edge defenders
Skinny: McClellan sets the edge better than Smith or Judon, but the veteran is very limited as a pass rusher and in coverage and is better suited for his standout special-teams role of past years.

ILB C.J. Mosley
NFL1000 ranking: 11th
PFF ranking: 11th
Skinny: Selected to his second Pro Bowl in three years, Mosley bounced back from a shaky 2015 season and is rapidly establishing himself as one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL.

ILB Zachary Orr
NFL1000 ranking: 20th
PFF ranking: 82nd
Skinny: Orr had some tackling issues from time to time and isn’t an effective blitzer, but PFF’s ranking appears to be way too low for the man who led the Ravens in tackles this season.

CB Jimmy Smith
NFL1000 ranking: seventh
PFF ranking: 48th
Skinny: The Ravens experienced dramatic drop-off without their top corner, but he’s now missed 22 games in his career and the injury bug always seems to bite when he’s playing his best football.

CB Tavon Young
NFL1000 ranking: 72nd
PFF ranking: 30th
Skinny: The truth probably lies somewhere in between these rankings, but the rookie fourth-rounder was a pleasant surprise and looks to be no worse than a quality slot cornerback moving forward.

CB Jerraud Powers
NFL1000 ranking: 90th
PFF ranking: 70th
Skinny: Powers wilted down the stretch in coverage and against the run, which will likely prompt the Ravens to look elsewhere for depth in 2017.

CB Shareece Wright
NFL1000 ranking: 116th
PFF ranking: 80th
Skinny: After arguably being the best Ravens defensive player on the field in Week 1, Wright lost all confidence and became a frustrating liability as the season progressed.

S Eric Weddle
NFL1000 ranking: sixth among strong safeties
PFF ranking: first among all safeties
Skinny: After three years of cycling safeties in and out of the lineup, the Ravens finally found high-quality stability in the back end of the defense with Weddle’s arrival in 2016.

S Lardarius Webb
NFL1000 ranking: 10th among free safeties
PFF ranking: 16th among all safeties
Skinny: His switch from cornerback made him one of the highest-paid safeties in the league, but Webb grew into his new position after a slow start and played well in the second half of the season.

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flacco

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Ravens need better from Flacco because there’s no alternative

Posted on 11 January 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti delivered the message that quarterback Joe Flacco must improve in 2017.

But that doesn’t mean an “or else” accompanied the declaration in the same way it might for head coach John Harbaugh or even general manager Ozzie Newsome after the Ravens missed the playoffs for the third time in the last four years. Regardless of your feelings on the 10th-year quarterback, Flacco might have more job security than anyone in the organization over the next few years.

The salary-cap ramifications of his contract scheduled to run through the 2021 season make it pointless to discuss moving in a different direction at quarterback for at least two more seasons. Even cutting the soon-to-be 32-year-old after the 2018 campaign would leave $16 million in dead space on the 2019 cap.

You can try to find the next Dak Prescott on Day 3 of the 2017 draft if you’d like, but taking a quarterback any earlier only serves as a detriment to a roster needing more talent on both sides of the ball.

The Ravens’ best hope is that Flacco being another year removed from ACL reconstruction surgery on his left knee will pay major dividends in 2017. They want to see better footwork and crisper decision-making going through his progressions to improve upon a 6.42 yards per attempt average that ranked 27th in the NFL.

“We were better this year with Joe Flacco back in the lineup, but I certainly don’t think we saw the Joe Flacco that he’s capable of being,” Bisciotti said. “We’ve seen a better Joe Flacco in the past.”

Of course, Bisciotti and head coach John Harbaugh were very careful to add that the offense around Flacco needs to improve as well. The decision to retain offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has been met with much criticism, but the hope is that he can utilize a full offseason to move further away from Marc Trestman’s complex system and to try to more closely replicate elements of Gary Kubiak’s West Coast attack in which Flacco thrived in 2014.

The final 11 games of the 2016 season as well as Mornhinweg’s body of work as the quarterbacks coach over the last two seasons don’t inspire confidence, but the thought of a sixth offensive coordinator in six seasons didn’t sound so great, either. Bisciotti noted that Flacco was happy with the decision to retain Mornhinweg, which seemingly puts more pressure on the quarterback to make it work with the incumbent.

Finding more balance with a successful running game would be a good start for everyone.

General manager Ozzie Newsome confirmed the need to add another wide receiver after the retirement of Steve Smith, but it remains unclear whether that will come through free agency, trade, or the draft. Baltimore must also address its offensive line by attempting to upgrade the center position and replacing free-agent right tackle Rick Wagner should he not be retained.

For now, the Ravens are saying 2017 will bring improvement because that’s all they can really do at this early stage of the offseason. It will be interesting seeing how much Newsome can realistically accomplish with only so much cap space and 2017 draft picks falling only in the middle of each round.

“Joe is going to be better next year,” Harbaugh said. “There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to be better next year, because he is going to be healthier, because we are going to have an offense in place that we all believe in, and we are going to work on it from Day 1 with our guys healthy in training camp.”

The quarterback who helped define the legacy of Harbaugh with a historic performance in the 2012 postseason will now be counted on more than ever to prolong the head coach’s tenure in Baltimore. Yes, the front office and coaching staff need to better hold up their end of the bargain, but you can’t expect to have All-Pro talent at every position around the guy who’s taking up roughly 15 percent of a team’s total cap, either.

Bisciotti hopes a healthy knee and a healthy mind will make all the difference for his high-priced quarterback who’s now facing more scrutiny than ever.

“Is the recovery from what everybody else says that they are not back completely, did that mess with his mind?” Bisciotti said. “Did that mess with his timing, his accuracy? I think it did. … I think that it really comes down to that Joe is going to have to prove that he is back and he is better.”

If Flacco doesn’t, we’ll likely see changes at this time next year.

And it would then be up to a new regime to try to make it work with the high-priced quarterback.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following season-ending press conference

Posted on 11 January 2017 by Luke Jones

With the annual “State of the Ravens” press conference having taken place on Tuesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Steve Bisciotti acknowledged the “pitchforks” from the outside world and expects improvement, but he spent a great deal of time defending both Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh. The Ravens owner may not be happy, but he still trusts his guys — at least for now.

2. I’m nitpicking over semantics, but Newsome saying the Ravens need a “complementary” receiver is interesting when they don’t have a clear-cut primary one. I suppose they could technically label Mike Wallace as the No. 1 guy after a 1,000-yard season, but they need a very good “1a” then.

3. I fully agree with the Ravens’ desire to keep Terrell Suggs for the 2017 season. His $6.95 million salary cap figure isn’t outrageous, and the 34-year-old is still an above-average player who brings valuable leadership. The challenge will be providing him enough help at the position.

4. I wasn’t surprised to hear Elvis Dumervil’s uncertain status mentioned, but Shareece Wright can’t be feeling good about his future in Baltimore. You never want the owner mentioning you by name in saying you “set us back.” Ouch.

5. Asked about fans’ disenchantment with Harbaugh’s decision to retain Marty Mornhinweg, Bisciotti bluntly stated that his quarterback “seems happy with it.” That’s a fine endorsement, but Mornhinweg didn’t exactly net good results as Flacco’s quarterbacks coach the last two years, either.

6. The Ravens brass rightly pointed to the 2016 rookie class as reason for optimism. Another return similar to that in the 2017 draft will leave the roster in much better shape moving forward.

7. I didn’t think anyone could still defend the Anquan Boldin trade four years later, but Bisciotti went out of his way to mention it, saying the 2013 Ravens were no worse off with the players they were able to acquire as a result. Just admit you screwed up, guys.

8. I understand that the Ravens have made stadium improvements and haven’t raised ticket prices in four years, but Dick Cass couldn’t have felt good delivering the news of a likely increase for 2017 after missing the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in over a decade.

9. Bisciotti downplayed the notion that the Ravens need to get younger, but the proof will be in how many veterans become cap casualties this offseason. Dumervil, Dennis Pitta, and Lardarius Webb are still useful players, but they’re on the wrong side of 30 and expensive at their current salaries.

10. The Ravens owner using the word “bewilderment” to describe his feelings watching a once-strong defense falter late in the season was spot on. Bisciotti expressed confidence moving forward, but that’s an honest expression that should stick in the backs of the minds of Dean Pees and the defensive staff.

11. As it is the case every year, adding depth in the secondary is a priority, but the Ravens haven’t selected a cornerback in the first three rounds of the draft since 2011 and try to band-aid the problem with cheap veteran castoffs. You get what you pay for.

12. There’s a fine line between continuity and complacency. I respect Bisciotti’s conviction in believing in his guys, but much needs go right this offseason to convince me that this football team is truly moving in the right direction.

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How did Ravens offense stack up at each position in 2016?

Posted on 09 January 2017 by Luke Jones

We know the sum of their parts didn’t add up to a trip to the postseason for the Ravens, but where exactly did their offensive players stack up at each position across the NFL in 2016?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl or picking postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few realistically have the time — or want to make the effort — to watch every player on every team extensively enough to develop an informed opinion.

How many times did you closely watch the offensive line of the Tennessee Titans this season?

What about the Los Angeles Rams linebackers or the San Diego Chargers cornerbacks?

That’s why I appreciate projects such as Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 and the grading efforts of Pro Football Focus. Of course, neither the NFL1000 nor PFF should be viewed as the gospel truth of evaluation and they have their limitations, but I respect the exhaustive effort to grade players across the league when so many of us watch only one team or one division on any kind of a consistent basis.

Below is a look at where Ravens offensive players rank at their respective positions, according to those outlets:

QB Joe Flacco
NFL1000 ranking: 27th
PFF ranking: 26th
Skinny: These kinds of sites have rarely been kind to the veteran over the years (Football Outsiders also ranked him 29th), but Flacco must be better in 2017 if the Ravens are to return to the playoffs.

RB Terrance West
NFL1000 ranking: 38th
PFF ranking: 12th
Skinny: West may not be a game-changing back, but he did enough to establish himself as a regular contributor in an NFL backfield after his career was at a crossroads just a year ago.

RB Kenneth Dixon
NFL1000 ranking: 39th
PFF ranking: 23rd
Skinny: The 2016 fourth-round pick was trending upward late in the season and displays impressive toughness for a 212-pound back, making him the early favorite to be the starter in 2017.

FB Kyle Juszczyk
NFL1000 ranking: first
PFF ranking: first
Skinny: You can debate how much value a fullback brings to an offense in today’s NFL, but there was apparently no arguing over who was the best all-around talent at the position in 2016.

WR Steve Smith
NFL1000 ranking: 20th
PFF ranking: 37th
Skinny: The 37-year-old didn’t catch as many passes or finish with as many receiving yards as Mike Wallace, but replacing the retired Smith is clearly one of the top challenges of the offseason.

WR Mike Wallace
NFL1000 ranking: 24th
PFF ranking: 42nd
Skinny: The speedy Wallace profiles best as a No. 2 wideout, but the Ravens couldn’t have asked for much more from the 30-year-old as he posted his first 1,000-yard campaign since 2011.

WR Breshad Perriman
NFL1000 ranking: 78th
PFF ranking: 88th
Skinny: The 2015 first-round pick flashed at times, but these sites agree with the consensus opinion that the Ravens can’t count on the inconsistent Perriman to step into a starting role in 2017.

WR Kamar Aiken
NFL1000 ranking: 102nd
PFF ranking: 95th
Skinny: Targeted 77 fewer times than he was in 2015, Aiken didn’t receive enough opportunities, but he didn’t always take advantage of those chances, either, and is a likely departure via free agency.

TE Dennis Pitta
NFL1000 ranking: 16th
PFF ranking: 50th
Skinny: The fact that Pitta caught more passes than any tight end and was ranked so low by both outlets reflects a yards per catch (8.5) average that was 55th of 56 players with 60 or more receptions.

TE Crockett Gillmore
NFL1000 ranking: 45th
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The 2014 third-round pick showed exciting potential in 2015, but he’s played in just seven of Baltimore’s last 20 regular-season games because of various injuries.

TE Darren Waller
NFL1000 ranking: 75th
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The Ravens have quite an inventory of tight ends — all with baggage — but Waller has the most upside if the former receiver puts in the work and continues learning the finer points of the position.

TE Nick Boyle
NFL1000 ranking: 85th
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The Delaware product looks like a reliable blocker as a No. 2 or No. 3 tight end, but two performance-enhancing drug suspensions in two years make him difficult to trust in the long run.

LT Ronnie Stanley
NFL1000 ranking: 19th among left tackles
PFF ranking: 25th among all offensive tackles
Skinny: A four-game absence due to a foot injury disrupted an encouraging rookie season, but Stanley allowed only one sack over his final eight games and made PFF’s top 25 players under age 25 list.

RT Rick Wagner
NFL1000 ranking: 21st among right tackles
PFF ranking: 19th among all offensive tackles
Skinny: Wagner isn’t a Pro Bowl talent, but the Ravens would be wise to retain his rock-solid services if the free-agent bidding doesn’t get out of hand this offseason.

G Marshal Yanda
NFL1000 ranking: first among all guards
PFF ranking: first among all guards
Skinny: It’s amazing that Yanda continued to play at an elite level after a left shoulder injury eventually forced him to move from right guard to the left side, but he’s just a special player.

G Alex Lewis
NFL1000 ranking: 35th among all guards
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: Switching between tackle and guard so frequently in the first half of the season hurt the rookie’s development, but Lewis was settling in nicely at left guard before his Week 10 ankle injury.

G Vladimir Ducasse
NFL1000 ranking: 47th among all guards
PFF ranking: 59th
Skinny: Re-signed to the roster in October, the 29-year-old played the way you’d realistically expect him to and shouldn’t be viewed as anything more than veteran depth if he were to be re-signed.

C Jeremy Zuttah
NFL1000 ranking: 26th
PFF ranking: 13th
Skinny: Though PFF graded Zuttah as a slightly above-average center in 2016, the Ravens believe upgrading this position is a major key to improving their below-average offense next season.

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