Tag Archive | "NFL"

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Safeties

Posted on 25 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning this week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Quarterbacks
Defensive line
Running backs
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers
Linebackers
Tight ends

SAFETIES

Projected depth chart:
FS – Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Otha Foster
SS – Tony Jefferson, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark

Why to be impressed: Weddle was the NFL’s highest-graded safety in the Pro Football Focus rankings while veteran newcomer Jefferson ranked fifth, giving the Ravens one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. The depth is also strong at this position as Webb was re-signed to a team-friendly deal and Levine, a special-teams standout, has the ability to play safety or cornerback in a pinch on game days.

Why to be concerned: The Ravens have invested a significant long-term contract in a safety in each of the last two offseasons, but neither Weddle nor Jefferson fits the mold of a ball-hawking safety. And though Weddle has shown good durability throughout his career, two of Baltimore’s top three safeties — Webb being the other — are over the age of 30.

2017 outlook: The Ravens will be looking for Jefferson to make a major impact, and much of that will depend on how he’s used as he’s particularly skilled playing the run and covering tight ends. Weddle’s cerebral presence last year immediately cleaned up the communication issues that had plagued the secondary in previous seasons, and his value stretches beyond his strong on-field production.

Prediction: The Ravens will send a safety to the Pro Bowl for the second straight season as Jefferson will receive the nod playing in a town where the defense receives much of the attention.

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Tight ends

Posted on 25 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning this week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Quarterbacks
Defensive line
Running backs
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers
Linebackers

TIGHT ENDS

Projected depth chart:
TE – Crockett Gillmore, Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle, Ryan Malleck
SUSPENDED – Darren Waller

Why to be impressed: Even with Dennis Pitta suffering a career-ending hip injury in the spring and Waller being suspended for the entire 2017 season, the Ravens have three tight ends who have been envisioned as starters as some point over the last couple years. Gillmore and Boyle are both strong blockers, which bodes well for Baltimore’s desire to improve the running game.

Why to be concerned: Gillmore, Watson, and Williams all have substantial injury concerns while Boyle is a failed drug test away from potentially being suspended for two years, leaving the Ravens with plenty of baggage at the position. Pitta was the most productive tight end on the roster in 2016 while Waller possessed the most athletic upside, making it difficult to know what to expect from the rest of this group. 

2017 outlook: You could put the top four names in a hat and pick one out as the leading receiver for the season and I wouldn’t be surprised, but an unforeseen name being in the mix wouldn’t be a shock, either, considering the number of injury concerns. The biggest key to the future at this position might be the health of Williams, a 2015 second-round pick who underwent a mysterious knee procedure last fall.

Prediction: Boyle will play the most snaps, Gillmore will lead the group in receptions, and Watson will record the most touchdown receptions of any Ravens tight end.

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Ravens running back Dixon could miss season with meniscus injury

Posted on 25 July 2017 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 7:25 p.m.)

The Ravens won’t hold their first full-squad practice until Thursday, but they’re already dealing with another major injury.

According to NFL Network, second-year running back Kenneth Dixon could miss the entire 2017 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, which usually requires four to five months for recovery. The Ravens had hoped that Dixon’s meniscus would only need to be trimmed, which would have meant a much shorter recovery time.

Dixon was already set to serve a four-game suspension to begin the regular season for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy — he would still serve that ban without pay if on injured reserve — but his long-term absence leaves the Ravens thin at the running back position. According to The Sun, Baltimore is trying to sign veteran Bobby Rainey — who began his NFL career with the Ravens in 2012 — to the 90-man roster.

Former Towson star Terrance West is expected to be the starter after rushing for 774 yards and five touchdowns in his first full season with the Ravens in 2016. Veteran newcomer Danny Woodhead will serve as the third-down back and primary receiver out of the backfield, but Dixon represented the most upside of any running back on the roster, making this a substantial loss.

Former fourth-round pick Buck Allen will also figure to have more opportunities after a disappointing 2016 season. The Ravens have already moved 2014 fourth-rounder Lorenzo Taliaferro to fullback, but he could also factor into the run-game equation if healthy.

Dixon missed the first four games of the 2016 season after suffering an MCL sprain in his left knee in the preseason, but he returned to average 4.3 yards per carry as a rookie and ranked 11th in yards after contact per carry among 53 running backs with at least 80 carries, according to Pro Football Focus.

He is the third substantial loss the Ravens have sustained on the offensive side of the ball since spring as tight end Dennis Pitta was released after suffering the third major hip injury of his career and third-year tight end Darren Waller was suspended for the entire season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Second-year cornerback Tavon Young sustained a torn ACL on June 1 and is also expected to miss the entire season.

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Linebackers

Posted on 24 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning this week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Quarterbacks
Defensive line
Running backs
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers

LINEBACKERS

Projected depth chart:
RUSH – Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams, Randy Allen
MIKE – C.J. Mosley, Albert McClellan, Boseko Lokombo, Bam Bradley
WILL – Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Lamar Louis, Donald Payne
SAM – Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Brennen Beyer

Why to be impressed: Suggs remains the heart of the Baltimore defense, but Mosley made two Pro Bowls in his first three years and is positioned to become the long-term leader of the unit. Aiming to revamp the pass rush this offseason, Ozzie Newsome drafted Bowser and Williams to give the Ravens a total of four edge candidates under age 25 — Judon and Smith being the others — to work with Suggs.

Why to be concerned: The Ravens have not added a veteran inside linebacker to help fill the void left behind by Zach Orr and will be counting on Correa, who played a total of 48 defensive snaps as a rookie. So much youth looks great on paper, but Baltimore edge defenders not named Terrell Suggs have combined for 13 1/2 career sacks with the versatile McClellan accounting for three of those takedowns.

2017 outlook: There is plenty of intriguing upside in this group, but the Ravens need Suggs to continue fighting off Father Time in his 15th season and Judon and Smith to be productive while the likes of Bowser and Williams get their NFL feet wet. The presence of new strong safety Tony Jefferson could factor into the equation if Correa isn’t up to the challenge of being a three-down inside linebacker.

Prediction: The Ravens won’t have a single player with double-digit sacks for the third straight season, but four linebackers will record five or more in 2017.

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Defensive line

Posted on 19 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning next week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Quarterbacks

DEFENSIVE LINE

Projected depth chart:
DE – Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley
NT – Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce
DT – Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard

Why to be impressed: Williams is one of the best run-stopping nose tackles in the NFL, evident by Ozzie Newsome’s decision to give him a five-year, $52.5 million contract in March. Pierce was one of the surprises of the 2016 season as the undrafted rookie free agent ranked second among NFL defensive tackles in run-stop percentage, according to Pro Football Focus.

Why to be concerned: Offseason departures Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy were solid contributors against the run and as interior rushers in passing situations. Urban was underrated in his 150 defensive snaps last year, but Davis, Henry, and Kaufusi were all injured and combined for zero snaps in 2016 and — along with the rookie Wormley — will be expected to make meaningful contributions.

2017 outlook: The Ravens ranked fifth in the league in holding opponents to 3.7 yards per carry last year and should remain stout against the run with Williams staying put for the long haul. There is plenty of talent in this group on paper, but the lack of overall experience is a concern entering the preseason and the Ravens need some combination of young players to emerge as impactful inside pass rushers.

Prediction: Given more extensive opportunities to get after the quarterback this season, Williams will collect a career-high five sacks.

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Quarterbacks

Posted on 18 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning next week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

QUARTERBACKS

Projected depth chart: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Dustin Vaughan

Why to be impressed: Coming off a season-ending knee injury in 2015, Flacco started all 16 games and recorded the first 4,000-yard season of his career after coming within 200 yards three previous times. The 2008 first-round pick also completed a career-high 64.9 percent of his pass attempts, improving in that department for the third straight season.

Why to be concerned: Despite the Ravens expressing a desire to run the ball more, Flacco threw a career-high 672 passes, which ranked behind only Drew Brees (673) for most in the NFL. His yards per attempt mark (6.42) was the second worst of his career and ranked 27th among qualified quarterbacks while he threw just 20 touchdowns, illustrating how inefficient the high-volume passing game was.

2017 outlook: The additions of Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead will help offset the departures of Steve Smith, Dennis Pitta, Kamar Aiken, and Kyle Juszczyk, but Flacco attempting 600 passes per year isn’t a winning formula. The 10th-year veteran is never going to put up huge numbers, but an improved ground game would allow him to be more efficient and to push the ball downfield more effectively.

Prediction: Flacco will throw more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than he did last season in 100 fewer passing attempts as the Ravens find more offensive balance under Marty Mornhinweg.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts counting down to training camp

Posted on 14 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With the start of Ravens training camp now less than two weeks away, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The addition of Brian Billick to the preseason broadcast team is a good move and the latest step that should lead to his induction into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor. Nearly a decade after his dismissal, it’s time for the Super Bowl XXXV champion coach to be recognized.

2. Darren Waller was hardly a sure thing to become a major contributor in 2017, but he brought the most athleticism of any tight end on the roster. I’m concerned with this group, especially if Maxx Williams’ return from knee surgery doesn’t go smoothly.

3. I wish Zach Orr nothing but the best in his attempt to play football again, but his claim late last month that he’d taken the advice of only one doctor to retire completely contradicted his comments in January and made the Ravens look bad. That wasn’t a good look.

4. The hiring of Greg Roman has probably been undersold with much of the criticism and concern expressed for the offensive line, but he also had Pro Bowl running backs Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy at his previous stops. He’ll have a chance to cement his genius with this offensive personnel.

5. Lorenzo Taliaferro could have the opportunity to be a meaningful offensive piece, especially early in the season with Kenneth Dixon’s suspension. A Le’Ron McClain-type role at fullback wouldn’t be out of the question, but he must first prove he can stay on the field.

6. The hype for the defensive backfield is through the roof, but the re-installation of Chris Hewitt as secondary coach is worth monitoring. The talent wasn’t as good when he was in charge in 2015, but communication was a total mess. Of course, the cerebral Eric Weddle should alleviate that concern.

7. This will mark the third straight summer in which Jerry Rosburg will field questions about the return specialist job. I understand the desire not to have a one-trick pony filling the role — Devin Hester didn’t work out anyway — but this offense needs all the field position it can get.

8. Brandon Williams is a beast and Michael Pierce impressed as a rookie, but the Ravens need several unknowns to fill larger roles on the defensive line. Stopping the run shouldn’t be a problem, but the pass rush is a different story with interior rushers Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy gone.

9. The addition of Jeremy Maclin certainly helps, but it’s still tough to feel dramatically better about this offense than last year’s group. Despite the efforts of some to skew the narrative, the defensive struggles late in 2016 shouldn’t mask how inadequate the offense was all year.

10. Breshad Perriman’s development may not be as critical for 2017 with Maclin’s addition, but he needs to play well enough to look like a slam-dunk starter for 2018. As we recently witnessed with Matt Elam, it can take years — and many dollars — to recover from a first-round bust.

11. This is a pivotal time for Joe Flacco. A poor season from the 32-year-old could cost people jobs and bring a new coaching regime that wouldn’t be as invested in him. His contract makes him bulletproof through 2018, but he must be better than he’s been the last two years.

12. My final thought isn’t on the Ravens, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing their old foe Peyton Manning host the ESPY Awards, a show I hadn’t watched in years. I never would have imagined that kind of comedic timing watching the often-robotic quarterback work early in his career.

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Former Ravens linebacker Orr considering NFL comeback

Posted on 28 June 2017 by Luke Jones

Less than six months after the discovery of a rare congenital spinal condition that pushed Zachary Orr into retirement, the former Ravens inside linebacker is exploring a comeback.

The 25-year-old told NFL Network that additional medical opinions in recent weeks have countered the original determination that he would be at serious risk for paralysis or even death by continuing to play football. A CAT scan at the end of last season revealed that the top of Orr’s spinal column never developed fully, a condition he was told less than one percent of the world had. He has apparently been told by several doctors since then that he would be at no greater risk playing with the condition than any player with a normal spine.

Former Baylor quarterback Seth Russell advised Orr to visit Dr. Sanford Emery, a West Virginia orthopedic surgeon who treated Russell when he suffered a neck injury two years ago.

“It’s actually been documented that there was a college player who had the exact same thing that I had who returned to play with no problems,” Orr told “Good Morning Football” on Wednesday morning. “My range of motion, my muscle functions, everything is normal. I’m feeling good and ready to go and willing to sit down to talk to whoever about whatever. It’s a real exciting time that there is a chance for me to come back and everything, and I’m ready to do that.”

An interesting wrinkle to this story is Orr’s current status as an unrestricted free agent, which would allow him to sign with any team. He entered the offseason as a restricted free agent, but the Ravens did not tender the linebacker since he had retired. Before the surprising discovery of the spinal condition in January, Orr was likely to receive a second-round restricted tender worth $2.746 million for the 2017 season. He never filed any retirement paperwork with the league.

Of course, the real question now is whether the Ravens — or any other team — will clear him to play football again. Orr finding outside medical opinions giving him the green light to play is one thing, but doctors the Ravens trust did not believe in January that it was safe for him to continue his NFL career.

With the league’s ever-increasing public emphasis on player safety, any potential organization clearing Orr would face scrutiny after the severe nature of the original diagnosis. According to ESPN, the former undrafted free agent from North Texas will visit the Detroit Lions on Thursday with other teams already reaching out to express interest.

“I just want to play football. Perfect scenario, of course, [would be] Baltimore,” Orr said. “I have a great relationship with everybody in that organization and teammates that I’ve gotten to know really well that I’ll talk to the rest of my life. Baltimore would obviously be favorites, but I just want to play football.

“At the end of the day, that’s what I want to do. I love ball, and I’m ready to give whoever my all out there on the field.”

The Ravens broke their silence on Orr’s announcement late Wednesday morning.

“I spoke with Zach yesterday and he informed me that he would like to continue to play football,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “He is a free agent.”

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 8) – That time Peter Angelos tried to buy the Washington Redskins

Posted on 28 June 2017 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 8 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

 

8. That time Peter Angelos tried to buy the Washington Redskins

“Anyone interested in purchasing a sports franchise would have to be interested in buying the Redskins. It’s a storied franchise, in the nation’s capital – it’s one of the premier franchises in the NFL, and that automatically would make it attractive.”

– Peter Angelos to The Sun 1998

 

 

PETER G. ANGELOS WAS FASCINATED WITH more than just baseball at the end of the disappointing 1998 season. In November, when he was jockeying with Wren for control of the free agency situation, Angelos was also once again moonlighting in areas where he could exert his massive wealth and influence to boost his ego and status.

With the Baltimore Ravens of Ted Marchibroda mired in their third straight losing season since coming to Baltimore and being led by veteran quarterback Jim Harbaugh, Angelos talked openly in the media about still wanting an NFL franchise. And with a quarter of his Orioles fanbase – remember they were never to be referred to as the Baltimore Orioles, just “The Orioles” – coming from the Washington, D.C. area, Angelos thought it prudent and profitable to become a suitor for the true love of the nation’s capital – the Washington Redskins.

On Halloween 1998, Angelos threw his name into the media circus as a bidder for the team that was mired in estate debts left from the death of longtime owner Jack Kent Cooke in April 1997. Angelos had two major hurdles to clear: the NFL desperately wanted the family of Cooke to retain control, and the football owners made it clear they didn’t want cross-ownership issues with Major League Baseball, especially in a different local market.

Of course, that didn’t deter Angelos. The MLB baseball owners didn’t want him to be a part of their little club but he pushed his way in during a bankruptcy auction in 1993. The rules of the NFL owners were pliable, Angelos insisted.

Asked by Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post, if he would relinquish control of the Orioles to own the Redskins, Angelos said: “No, I would not. But I don’t think that question is even applicable. The rule states that in order to own a team in another sport, you have to be within the same market area as the football franchise.”

Angelos was essentially saying that Baltimore and Washington were the same market, a tune he would continue to hum years later when Major League Baseball would seek to put a team in the District of Columbia. During the summer of 1998, speculation suggested that the Redskins would fetch at least $400 million and perhaps as much as $500 million if the spending got aggressive amongst billionaires who would want an NFL membership. “Anyone interested in purchasing a sports franchise would have to be interested in buying the Redskins.” Angelos added. “It’s a storied franchise, in the nation’s capital – it’s one of the premier franchises in the NFL, and that automatically would make it attractive.”

Of course, in Baltimore to mention the word “Redskins” is akin to civic heresy amongst many longtime football fans who grew up on the Colts and hated anything burgundy and gold. The Orioles got plenty of pushback from Baltimoreans over the years as the team wooed D.C. baseball fans. After the Colts departed the Charm City, the subject of “market” was a source of major civic consternation from 1984 through 1995 when Redskins games were shown as “local” games on Sunday NFL viewing, despite Baltimore’s disdain

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Gilman grad remains invested in Baltimore despite NFL success elsewhere

Posted on 26 June 2017 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Copeland)

At a time when NFL players often go off the grid to relax and prepare for the start of training camp next month, Brandon Copeland is counting tables in a cafeteria at the Gilman School on a hot June afternoon.

The Detroit Lions defensive end has enlisted more than 130 volunteers to help with his second annual Beyond the Basics camp being held at his alma mater on Saturday, July 8, but that doesn’t mean the self-described micromanager isn’t doing much of the heavy lifting before the big day — even down to making sure there are enough tables for campers to eat lunch. It isn’t surprising considering what Copeland has already accomplished, whether going from struggling undrafted free agent to playing in all 32 games for Detroit over the last two years or finding success in the investment world in the offseason.

When it comes to trying to master an NFL defensive playbook or evaluating stocks and companies, the details matter.

Copeland, a graduate of the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, doesn’t want to be known solely as a football player. That’s a message he wants to convey at his free camp that uses football as its hook while introducing young people ages 12 through 17 to individuals from many walks of life and different career paths.

“They genuinely look up to these people because they’re good people,” said Copeland, who was originally signed by the Ravens in 2013 and also spent time with Tennessee before eventually finding his NFL footing with the Lions. “Then, [campers] find out that, ‘Oh, this guy’s an engineer, this guy’s a doctor, this guy’s in law school right now.’

“It makes them say, ‘OK, I’d love to be Torrey Smith [or] Haloti Ngata, but if not, let me pursue this because I can be cool and down to earth and work on becoming an investment banker or whatever.’”

Having spent only a few months with the Ravens before being waived from the practice squad in Week 4 of the 2013 regular season, Copeland knows he’s not a household NFL name in Baltimore, but he draws inspiration from others such as the late Keion Carpenter who have made an indelible mark on the city over the years despite finding football success elsewhere.

At least 18 current and former NFL players — many with deep roots in Baltimore – are scheduled to appear at the camp, a list that includes the former Raven and University of Maryland standout Smith, a few of Copeland’s Lions teammates, former Gilman teammate and Tennesee wide receiver Darius Jennings, and his grandfather and former Baltimore Colts defensive end Roy Hilton. The 25-year-old dreams of one day holding camps in additional cities, but he says giving back to the place that helped shape him is of the utmost importance.

“Guys like Keion, they definitely had a huge influence on me and what I want to do and the imprint I want to leave on the city,” Copeland said. “When I was planning the camp last year, the one thing I thought was I’m not the biggest name in the world — I’m not any name if you ask me. I don’t have that at all, but I’ve been good to people throughout my life and I can get good people — great people — to come here and help. People like him make you want to have an imprint on this city.”

In addition to the on-field activities and fun one would expect from a football camp, Copeland is pleased to be able to give away some laptops, tablets, and headphones to attendees. However, he’s even more excited to pass along the lesson of helping others to the campers themselves, who will put together 500 book bags and hygiene kits to be distributed through the Franciscan Center in Baltimore.

“It teaches the kids a lesson that it took me longer than I would have liked to learn in terms of you can give back at any age,” said Copeland, who credits his fiancée, Taylor, as his greatest inspiration for being so active in helping others. “While climbing up your own respective ladder, you can pull other people up as well. I’m hoping that by us instilling this in the kids young, that trickles throughout their life.”

Copeland is hardly satisfied with his accomplishments to this point as he faces the challenge of making the Lions’ 53-man roster as a special-teams standout and defensive contributor for the third straight summer. His lofty goals include having a lengthy NFL career and using his investment prowess to make even more money off the field than on it through a variety of channels, whether using traditional means like real estate or perhaps even diving into the movie industry.

He wants to continue helping others and even has designs of sharing his investment strategies along the way, quipping that others can join him in becoming rich or going broke 10 or 15 years from now. Of course, Copeland cautions to be smart and to save — evident from his plan to live off just 10 to 15 percent of his current NFL salary — but he doesn’t intend to shy away from taking measured risks after coming this far in life.

The details of his journey haven’t always gone according to plan and he’s excited to see what the future holds both on and off the field, but being able to return to where it started to give back next month is a humbling opportunity.

“Whether it’s the Detroit Lions or the NFL or no NFL, I’m going to find a way to provide for myself and my family,” Copeland said. “But to be able to literally come back to Gilman and to see my former teachers, coaches, kids that are working out the way I used to back in the day, this is a dream come true.”

Register online for the second annual Beyond the Basics camp at www.bcopeland.com/camp

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