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One-time Raven and Gilman grad still making mark in Baltimore

Posted on 05 June 2016 by Luke Jones

Strive to be the owner, not just a player.

That’s one of the key messages former Ravens linebacker and Gilman grad Brandon Copeland tries to convey when speaking to youth who are aspiring to be professional athletes. The Detroit Lions linebacker wants kids to know that their options stretch beyond the dream of playing professional football.

“Let’s set our dreams high. You know there’s a guarantee that football won’t last forever,” said Copeland, who graduated with an economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013 and interned on Wall Street. “Let’s set ourselves up so that no matter what, we’ll be able to provide the lifestyle we want for ourselves and our families.”

Fulfilling a dream to give back to his local community, Copeland will host Beyond the Basics, a free football camp open to kids in grades seven through 11 at Utz Field in Patterson Park on Saturday, July 9. Online registration is available at www.bcopeland.com with same-day registration taking place at 8:30 am before the camp takes place from 9 a.m. to noon.

In addition to traditional drills and activities you’ll find at many football camps, the day will focus on teaching young players other practice and training methods to use individually before their season begins. A speed trainer and a strength and conditioning coach will be on hand for instruction.

A group of current and former Ravens including Torrey Smith, Jameel McClain, Jeremy Butler, and Carl Davis are scheduled to attend to help out, but other volunteers include fellow Gilman products and NFL players Darius Jennings and Cyrus Jones as well as friends and former teammates of Copeland who are serving in other career fields. It is Copeland’s hope that the latter individuals can leave as big of an impression as the NFL players on hand for the camp.

“My biggest goal with the kids is we’re all in our volunteer t-shirts and having fun and playing with the kids,” said Copeland, who signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2013 but was released at the end of that preseason. “The kids are going to say, ‘Oh man, this one guy is cool. This guy must play for [some NFL team].’ Then, they’ll come to find out this guy’s a lawyer. Maybe a kid says, ‘Maybe I’ll start looking into law school a little bit.’

“My thing is giving kids role models outside of the box of [only] an NBA player or an NFL player or a professional athlete.”

In addition to the on-field activities, MedStar Orthopaedics is providing a date for campers to receive free physicals while Under Armour and Living Classrooms have also made extensive contributions.

The grandson of former Baltimore Colts defensive end Roy Hilton, Copeland provides his own inspirational story that can be a lesson to his campers. Despite spending much of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 on the practice squad of the Tennessee Titans, the 6-foot-3, 248-pound linebacker was released in September and remained unsigned for the remainder of the 2014 season. After taking part in last year’s veteran combine — which wasn’t held this offseason — Copeland was one of only two participants to make a 2015 regular-season roster and would appear in all 16 games as a reserve with the Lions last season, collecting 14 tackles and a half sack.

Though his Ivy League education left him prepared to move on from football, Copeland wasn’t ready to relinquish his dream of playing in the NFL.

“I was counted out. I was the underdog. I sat at home for a whole year unemployed,” said Copeland, who described himself as a late bloomer both physically and as a football player. “I went to the vet combine. It was my last straw. I remember the first thing they told us, ‘Most of these scouts think that they’re here for no reason.’ Fortunately, I came out of it with a few job offers. I work every single day to keep it going.

“I’m going to go home and give back and try to at least say what’s on my heart to the kids while I have this platform today.”

Unlike many camps that are open to younger ages, the 24-year-old chose to focus on junior high and high school kids who are facing more immediate pressure to make good choices for the future.

While he is using football as the fun hook to get their attention, Copeland wants kids to know there’s an entire world out there beyond what may or may not happen for them on the field over the next few years.

“They’re at a very impressionable age,” Copeland said. “They’re at the age range where you’re either setting up your life or hurting your potential. Football for me in high school was a means to an end, not the end-all, be-all. There are other things in this world besides football.”

Register online for Beyond the Basics at www.bcopeland.com

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Webb leaning on plenty of experience moving to safety

Posted on 02 June 2016 by Luke Jones

Lardarius Webb is reinventing himself entering his eighth season with the Ravens by turning back the clock on his football career.

After playing cornerback for his first seven years, the 30-year-old was moved to safety last December as it became apparent that he could no longer cover the speedier receivers on the outside. But the transition hasn’t been as dramatic as it can be for other players moving to a new position late in their careers.

“I feel like I’ve always been a safety anyway,” said Webb, who hasn’t trained any differently for the position change this offseason but acknowledged needing to study the playbook as much as he did in his first couple years in Baltimore. “I was a safety in high school and in college. I really never played corner until I got to the league. It was a pride thing. I liked playing the position; it’s a competitive edge. I like being out there playing on-on-one and competing with some of the best wide receivers throughout the game.

“But I love the safety [position]. It’s a great transition, I’m loving it. I have more control of the defense.”

He also has plenty of experience to lean on in not only new teammate and three-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle but in ex-teammate and mentor Ed Reed. From the moment he was drafted out of Nicholls State in the third round of the 2009 draft, Webb made it no secret that he idolized the future Hall of Fame safety, who is now an assistant defensive backs coach for the Buffalo Bills.

Webb quipped that he hasn’t wanted to tell Reed too much about the Ravens’ revamped secondary since the teams meet in the season opener on Sept. 11, but he remains in touch with the nine-time Pro Bowl safety and 2004 AP Defensive Player of the Year, who has advised him to prepare as much as he can mentally before anything else related to moving to safety.

“I always talk to him and watch his old film,” Webb said. “He was a different type of player — one of the greats. He was just a smart player. Me, I just want to get the hang of it first. I don’t want to be jumping stuff I shouldn’t be jumping — things that he used to do to make great plays. I just want to learn the position.”

Moving Webb to safety doesn’t come without risk as his $9.5 million salary cap figure is second to only Joe Flacco among Ravens players in 2016. Many outsiders assumed Webb would either be asked to take another pay cut from his $5.5 million base salary for 2016 or be released with one of the highest cap figures at his position in the NFL.

He’s also dealt with a number of injuries in his career, ranging from two ACL tears to a back injury that sidelined him for the better part of two months in 2014.

Questions remain about how the Ravens will cover the bigger tight ends around the league with Webb listed at just 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds and Weddle only 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, two frames better fitting the mold of the free safety position. However, new secondary coach Leslie Frazier and defensive coordinator Dean Pees are expected to show plenty of disguised looks in the secondary with Webb also sliding down to play the nickel with Kendrick Lewis then entering the game next to Weddle.

Webb has also instructed Weddle not to hold back in correcting any of his mistakes at his new position or in leading a defense that finished last in the NFL with just six interceptions and 30th in turnovers (14) last season. Still a couple weeks away from mandatory minicamp, it’s apparent that the Ravens are pleased with their top free-agent acquisition and only think he will make Webb better.

“He’s going to be big for this team. He speaks up,” Webb said. “I told him, ‘We want Eric Weddle. Don’t hold back. Don’t be quiet. We want you. If you yelled when you were with the Chargers, I want you coming out here yelling. Just be yourself. Grow the beard back, because we want the beard. If that’s who you were, grow the beard.’

“He’s growing it back. He’s being himself and we’re loving it. It was a great move.”

The Ravens hope Webb’s transition will make it two great moves at a position that’s struggled mightily since Reed’s departure after Super Bowl XLVII.

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Reynolds officially receives clearance to play for Ravens in 2016

Posted on 27 May 2016 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

It was announced today by the United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter that Ravens WR/RS Keenan Reynolds may defer his military service and will be eligible to play in the NFL in 2016.

Statement from Ravens General Manager & Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome:

“This is good news, and congratulations to Keenan on his graduation today.”

Statement from WR/RS Keenan Reynolds:

“It is a blessing to hear the news from Defense Secretary Carter today. I am truly excited to proudly serve my country while having the ability fulfill my dream of playing for the best organization in the NFL.

“I would like to thank the Navy for allowing me to represent them while taking advantage of this unique opportunity.

“I would also like to thank Mr. Bisciotti and the Ravens organization for believing in me and giving me this chance.”

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Surprise candidate surfacing for Ravens at inside linebacker?

Posted on 27 May 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — You should never read too much into what you see during spring non-contact practices, but the Ravens clearly face questions at inside linebacker after the offseason release of veteran Daryl Smith.

That’s why it was interesting to see second-round rookie Kamalei Correa taking extensive reps inside during Thursday’s voluntary workout. The Boise State product even broke up a pass intended for veteran tight end Dennis Pitta near the goal line during an 11-on-11 drill and proceeded to do pushups as punished for failing to secure the interception.

Projected by many to serve as a situational pass rusher to spell veterans Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil as a rookie, Correa could end up being an interesting candidate to compete with the likes of Zach Orr and Arthur Brown for the starting inside linebacker spot next to C.J. Mosley, who will assume Smith’s “Mike” linebacker position. Wearing Smith’s old No. 51 jersey, Correa has a 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame that would seem to fit inside if he’s able to hold up in pass coverage, the biggest unknown about his game at this point.

“They all need to learn all the positions, and I think K.C. has inside linebacker traits,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who noted that the “Will” linebacker spot has outside backer characteristics. “He played it in college quite a bit. They moved him around at Boise. The more he can do, the better. We’re definitely going to look at him, and you have Albert [McClellan] that can play the different [linebacker] spots.

“We’ll look at different guys at different spots for sure.”

It’s worth noting that Mosley wasn’t present for Thursday’s workout, but neither were Suggs and Dumervil, which would lead you to assume Correa would have spent more time at either outside position if the Ravens weren’t serious about evaluating him as an inside linebacker. This all could mean nothing in even a couple weeks, but Correa’s development will definitely be worth monitoring as the Ravens desperately need to get faster and more athletic on the defensive side of the ball.

Injuries won’t help bubble players

Neither wide receiver Michael Campanaro nor running back Trent Richardson are locks to make the 53-man roster, so it’s disappointing for both to be sidelined with injuries — even for spring workouts.

Harbaugh has been outspoken in the past about Campanaro’s inability to stay on the field, but the coach took a more empathetic tone in discussing the latest injury — a “tweaked” calf suffered a couple weeks ago. The 2014 seventh-round pick has been limited to eight games in his first two seasons.

“There will be a time when he will get past this stuff,” Harbaugh said. “This stuff will stop happening and hopefully it’s training camp. That’s what we’re hoping for him. The guy works tremendously hard and was in phenomenal shape, and we’re still expecting really good things from him.”

Meanwhile, Richardson faces an uphill climb to resurrect his career as he will compete with Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Terrance West for what figures to be three or four roster spots at the most.

Much was made about the former first-round pick’s efforts to lose weight and get in better shape before the Ravens signed him this spring, but Harbaugh apparently wants to see more from the Alabama product. He could only observe Thursday’s workout after injuring his hamstring last week.

“I think the workload and the amount of work it takes to be a world-class conditioned athlete is something that he’s working on right now,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what he needs to understand and that’s where he needs to get himself. When he gets himself there, he’s got talent. It will be fun. I’m very certain he’ll get there and when he does we’ll be able to evaluate him.”

Jernigan number change

Despite being a Florida State product, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan interestingly changed his jersey number to honor a former University of Miami legend.

The 2014 second-round pick is now wearing No. 99, a nod to Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. Veteran Chris Canty had worn the number most recently while Jernigan donned No. 97 in his first two seasons.

“Nasty, ferocious, he came every play,” said Jernigan about his appreciation for Sapp’s career. “You definitely knew he was there and when he made a play. Another thing, he played down in Florida, too, so he was definitely one of the greats from our state.”

The admiration may not be mutual, however, as Sapp tweeted to the Ravens asking how he could stop this. It’s unclear whether this was more of a playful jab at someone from a rival Florida school or that the cantankerous Sapp has a serious — and, frankly, inexplicable — objection.

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Pitta, Perriman among players Ravens pleased to have back

Posted on 27 May 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A familiar face and a much-hyped talent were back on the practice field as the Ravens held their first organized team activity open to the media on Thursday.

As anticipated, veteran tight end Dennis Pitta and 2015 first-round receiver Breshad Perriman were both present and working during a voluntary practice session that included 73 members of the 90-man offseason roster. While Pitta is attempting to resurrect his career after two devastating right hip injuries that have limited him to seven games since Super Bowl XLVII, Perriman wants to prove he is fully recovered from a right knee injury that cost him his entire rookie season.

Both were in good spirits after Thursday’s practice.

“I feel good. I don’t have really any lingering issues, and nothing that I’m worried about,” said Pitta, who spent last season on the physically unable to perform list and hasn’t played in a game since Sept. 21, 2014. “I’m encouraged by how I feel and how I’m moving and excited to hopefully get back playing to the level that I was.”

It’s been a difficult offseason for Perriman that goes beyond his longer-than-expected recovery from a partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament suffered during the first full-squad training camp practice last July. In addition to being a close friend of cornerback Tray Walker — who tragically died from injuries sustained in a motorbike accident in March – Perriman nearly lost his father and former NFL receiver Brett Perriman after he reportedly suffered a brain aneurysm this spring.

The 22-year-old isn’t taking anything for granted after a difficult first year in the NFL and is excited to prove why the Ravens selected him with the 26th overall pick of the 2015 draft.

“I feel like a kid in a candy store, so I’m very happy,” said Perriman, who revealed that his knee finally started feeling right again a couple months ago. “I don’t even think about it anymore. I feel great.”

Other players coming off injuries who were present and working on Thursday included running backs Justin Forsett (arm) and Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), tight end Crockett Gillmore (shoulder), center Jeremy Zuttah (pectoral), and cornerback Will Davis (knee).

Head coach John Harbaugh revealed two new injuries to players as receiver Michael Campanaro is currently out with a calf injury while running back Trent Richardson injured his hamstring last week. Other players not practicing for injury-related reasons included quarterback Joe Flacco (knee), cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot), linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles), wide receiver Steve Smith (Achilles), running back Kenneth Dixon (hamstring), and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (back).

Suggs was working out in the Ravens’ Owings Mills training complex this week, according to Harbaugh. Not expected to be ready to practice until training camp, Flacco observed part of Thursday’s workout from the sideline and continues to rehab his surgically-repaired left knee.

Other veterans absent from the voluntary practice were linebackers Elvis Dumervil and C.J. Mosley, left tackle Eugene Monroe, right guard Marshal Yanda, and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore. Harbaugh said Mosley was dealing with a “personal issue” on Thursday while rookie return specialist and receiver Keenan Reynolds was absent as he graduated from the Naval Academy.

With the Ravens forfeiting three OTA days next week due to a violation of the collective bargaining agreement during their rookie camp earlier this month, players will not return to the practice field until the week of June 6.

“We’ll adjust, we’ll figure out ways to get our work done for sure,” said Harbaugh, who took sole responsibility for having rookies and first-year players illegally dressed in pads for a practice earlier this month. “In some ways, maybe the rest will be good for us. That’s kind of the way I look at it.”

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Ray Rice speaks to Ravens rookies on Wednesday

Posted on 26 May 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Former running back Ray Rice was back with the Ravens on Wednesday.

Less than two years after having his contract terminated when TMZ released video of an elevator incident in which he struck his then-fiancée and present wife, Rice returned to the team’s Owings Mills facility to share his story with rookie players as part of the Ravens’ player engagement program.

The 29-year-old has not played in the NFL since his release on Sept. 8, 2014.

“Our 27 sessions to our rookies, through our player engagement program, review and teach life management and life lessons,” the organization said in a statement. “Ray Rice, who played for the Ravens from 2008 until 2014, delivered an important message that included his story, both the good and the bad. He clearly had the attention of our rookies.”

Owner Steve Bisciotti said shortly after Rice’s release that he could still envision the three-time Pro Bowl selection having a future role with the organization, but most wouldn’t have expected him to return to the building so soon — even for a one-time speaking opportunity.

Head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome are among the members of the organization who have continued to speak fondly of Rice long after the domestic violence incident that sparked one of the most unflattering periods in franchise history.

“I believe in my heart that Ray would be a great addition to us when it comes to trying to steer these guys from what they’re saying, young men to grown men,” Bisciotti said on Sept. 22, 2014. “We’re not starting with a fresh product. We’re starting with 22-year-olds. They’re grown men, so they’re going to make mistakes. And I would hope that Ray would be a great asset to us down the road, or any other team or any other organization.”

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Defensive position battles to watch for Ravens at start of OTAs

Posted on 25 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are holding their first organized team activities this week and with them come plenty of questions as on-field preparations begin for the 2016 season.

Few conclusions can be drawn from the voluntary workouts that will be conducted without a number of veterans, but the practices will provide an early look at some players returning from injuries as well as rookies competing with established NFL talent for the first time. Thursday’s workout will be open to media to conclude the first week.

Coming off their worst season in nearly a decade, the Ravens have plenty of jobs up for grabs on both sides of the ball.

After examining the offensive battles on Tuesday, below is a look at the top defensive competitions:

1. Inside linebacker

The candidates: Zach Orr, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan

The reality: It remains to be seen whether Ozzie Newsome will add a veteran after cutting Daryl Smith, but Orr saw 142 defensive snaps and replaced Smith on passing downs late in the 2015 season. Brown is a 2013 second-round pick, but he’s been a non-factor in three seasons and has a ton to prove this summer. A special-teams ace, McClellan provides depth but probably isn’t a serious contender to start.

2. Cornerback

The candidates: Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Will Davis, Kyle Arrington, Tavon Young

The reality: We know Jimmy Smith will start at one cornerback spot, but how the Ravens will line up at the other outside spot and in the nickel remains to be seen. Wright is the early favorite to start in the base defense after receiving $4.76 million guaranteed, but Powers brings extensive starting experience to Baltimore and can play outside and inside. Davis and Young are interesting names to watch this summer.

3. Defensive end

The candidates: Lawrence Guy, Bronson Kaufusi, Brent Urban

The reality: The Ravens don’t appear too concerned over replacing veteran Chris Canty as Guy has been solid when asked to fill in over the last two seasons. However, Kaufusi brings potential as this year’s third-round pick out of Brigham Young. This could be a make-or-break year for Urban, who finally got on the field in the second half of last season but has battled too many injuries going back to college.

4. Outside linebacker

The candidates: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Kamalei Correa, Matt Judon

The reality: We know Suggs and Dumervil own pedigrees as Pro Bowl talents, but how will that ultimately translate in 2016? It’s tough to say whether Suggs can still be an every-down rush linebacker coming off his second Achilles injury in four years, and we know Dumervil’s rush ability was optimized sharing snaps with Courtney Upshaw in 2013 and 2014. Smith is the favorite to take Upshaw’s early-down Sam linebacker role, but Correa and Judon offer intriguing upside as rookie pass rushers.

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Offensive position battles aplenty for Ravens at start of OTAs

Posted on 24 May 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are holding their first organized team activities this week and with them come plenty of questions as on-field preparations begin for the 2016 season.

Few conclusions can be drawn from the voluntary workouts that will be conducted without a number of veterans, but the practices will provide an early look at some players returning from injuries as well as rookies competing with established NFL talent for the first time. Thursday’s workout will be open to media to conclude the first week.

Coming off their worst season in nearly a decade, the Ravens have plenty of jobs up for grabs on both sides of the ball.

Here is a look at the top offensive competitions:

1. Left tackle

The candidates: Eugene Monroe, Ronnie Stanley

The reality: With Monroe continuing his crusade for medical marijuana in Las Vegas this week, the rookie first-round pick Stanley should receive extensive opportunities at left tackle. If he proves to be more than ready to handle the job, general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh can feel better about the possibility of letting the oft-injured Monroe go and saving $6.5 million in salary.

2. Left guard

The candidates: Ronnie Stanley, John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, Vlad Ducasse Alex Lewis

The reality: This spot is directly tied to left tackle as Stanley would appear to be the slam-dunk choice to start should the Ravens keep Monroe for 2016. If Stanley plays tackle, the other four will compete for Kelechi Osemele’s old spot with Ducasse holding the experience edge with 22 career NFL starts, but both Urschel and Jensen have fared well at guard when given the chance to play there in the past.

3. Running back

The candidates: Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Trent Richardson

The reality: The veteran Forsett is the early favorite to start, but the size of this list reflects how wide open this competition could be. There is plenty of depth, but the question will be whether there is enough high-impact talent to make the running game thrive and not just a collection of No. 2 and No. 3 backs. At the very least, Allen and Dixon give Joe Flacco two attractive options as receivers out of the backfield.

4. Tight end

The candidates: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta

The reality: All eyes will be on Pitta — with fingers crossed — as he is serious about returning to action, but it’s impossible to know what kind of player he can be after two serious hip injuries. Is the veteran newcomer Watson the favorite to start after a career year in New Orleans or will Gillmore build on his encouraging 2015? The 2015 second-rounder Williams could also be ready to take a big step forward.

5. Wide receiver

The candidates: Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman

The reality: We don’t figure to get a look at Smith until training camp, but Perriman will be intriguing to watch after missing his rookie season with a knee injury. Perriman and Wallace are better speed complements to Smith’s skill set, but it would be unwise to overlook Aiken after his 2015 campaign. The next tier of receivers that includes rookies Chris Moore and Keenan Reynolds, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Chris Matthews, and Daniel Brown will be competing for the last couple roster spots.

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Thirteen Ravens thoughts counting down to OTAs

Posted on 20 May 2016 by Luke Jones

With organized team activities set to begin next week, I’ve offered 13 Ravens-related thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Ozzie Newsome was pleased with last month’s draft, but a key to 2016 will be the number of rookies making an immediate impact instead of merely serving as inventory for the future. That answer could be the difference in getting back to the playoffs or not after a down season.

2. The free-agent signing of Jerraud Powers last week brought a much-needed veteran to the cornerback mix, but I still can’t help but look at that group with concern — particularly on the outside — unless the pass rush is dramatically better, especially with Jimmy Smith coming off another foot procedure.

3. Inside linebacker reminds me of right tackle in 2014 and tight end last season before Rick Wagner and Crockett Gillmore emerged. My early money is on Zach Orr starting. I can’t buy Arthur Brown being the guy after he didn’t even play down the stretch of a lost 2015 season.

4. I’m curious to know how Lardarius Webb is preparing physically to move to safety after seven seasons a cornerback. It’s no secret that Eric Weddle isn’t the biggest guy, but Webb was listed at just 182 pounds last year. Who is going to cover the big, athletic tight ends?

5. Like anyone, I have questions about Steve Smith returning from a torn Achilles tendon at age 37, but I’m intrigued to see what he has in store for us. The Ravens can’t just assume greatness, but I won’t be surprised if he still provides plenty in his final season.

6. There’s merit to the medical marijuana cause Eugene Monroe is championing, but his scheduled appearance on a panel in Las Vegas in the middle of the first week of OTAs isn’t the best look for a player at a position where a 2016 first-round pick is breathing down his neck.

7. We probably won’t see him until next month’s mandatory minicamp, but I’m very curious to hear from Terrell Suggs. Where is he physically after tearing his Achilles tendon in the 2015 opener? Perhaps more importantly, where is he mentally entering his 14th season?

8. It wasn’t surprising to hear Kenneth Dixon say he tries to emulate Marshall Faulk as a running back. Watching his college highlights reminds you of Faulk or Ricky Watters as a receiver. The Ravens would love for him to be even a respectable fraction of either of those former greats.

9. Much focus will be on second-round rookie Kamalei Correa, but the Ravens need Za’Darius Smith to be able to step into Courtney Upshaw’s old role to allow Elvis Dumervil to be a situational rusher. Their willingness to let Upshaw go for peanuts in free agency reflects their confidence in Smith.

10. The Ravens having competition at wide receiver is nothing new, but there is better talent at the top of the depth chart this year. Marlon Brown already being let go reflects that reality when he was competing for the No. 3 wideout job only a year ago.

11. We’re all rooting for Dennis Pitta to stay healthy, but it’s fair to ask if he’s even one of Baltimore’s best three tight ends now. He’s played a total of seven games in three seasons and will be 31. Is he still explosive enough after two major hip injuries?

12. The fourth-round selection of Michigan defensive tackle Willie Henry reiterated how forgotten Carl Davis was by the end of his rookie season. The 2015 third-rounder provided the biggest impact of any rookie early on before hitting the wall and seeing just 17 defensive snaps over the final six games.

13. John Harbaugh deserves the chance to tell his story regarding players illegally wearing pads during rookie camp, but the current collective bargaining agreement has been in place since 2011. Even if they sincerely didn’t know the rules, it’s hard to imagine the Ravens hadn’t thought of doing this before.

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Ravens sign guard Vladimir Ducasse, quarterback Josh Johnson

Posted on 16 May 2016 by Luke Jones

Filling out their 90-man offseason roster after making several cuts last week, the Ravens signed guard Vladimir Ducasse and quarterback Josh Johnson on Monday.

Ducasse visited with Baltimore two months ago and started 11 games for the Chicago Bears last season. A 2010 second-round pick out of Massachusetts, the Haitian-born offensive lineman has played in 79 games (22 starts) with the New York Jets, Minnesota, and Chicago over six NFL seasons.

The 28-year-old is expected to compete with John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, and first-round pick Ronnie Stanley — if he’s not playing left tackle — for the starting left guard spot vacated by free-agent departure Kelechi Osemele. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Ducasse graded 47th among qualified guards in the NFL last season.

Johnson, 30, will provide the Ravens an extra quarterback for spring organized team activities and minicamp as starter Joe Flacco continues to rehab his surgically-repaired left knee. He will work with primary backup Ryan Mallett and former Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson with Flacco not expected to be back until training camp.

A former fifth-round pick of Tampa Bay in the 2008 draft, Johnson has made five career starts in the NFL but none since 2011, his final season with the Buccaneers. Since then, the 6-foot-3 quarterback has had stints with a plethora of teams including Cleveland, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Indianapolis, and Buffalo.

He has completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 1,042 yards, five touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, but Johnson hasn’t attempted a pass in a regular-season game since 2011.

The Ravens also signed defensive back Sam Brown, a rookie free agent from Missouri Western State.

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