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Harbaugh unaware of any change to Kubiak’s plans to stay with Ravens

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Harbaugh unaware of any change to Kubiak’s plans to stay with Ravens

Posted on 13 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Even if the Denver Broncos are targeting Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak as their next head coach, John Harbaugh gave no indication Tuesday afternoon that it would happen.

The Ravens head coach said he’s heard nothing from Kubiak that indicates he has changed his mind about the commitment he made to remain as offensive coordinator Sunday night, but Harbaugh didn’t dismiss the possibility of it happening. Kubiak spent nine years as the backup quarterback in Denver in addition to 11 years as an assistant coach under former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan.

“I haven’t sat down with Gary and interrogated him about it,” said Harbaugh as he smiled. “Maybe I should. That might be my next move. Out of respect, he’s told me he’s planning on being here. Denver hasn’t reached out in any way at this time. That’s not to say it couldn’t change at some point in time. I just think if that happens, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“I’m not really one to put anybody on the spot like that. I want to be respectful. I’m planning on Gary being back, so if that changes, then we’ll deal with it if it comes up. But I don’t anticipate that changing at this time.”

Hall of Fame quarterback and Broncos general manager John Elway remains close friends with Kubiak and hasn’t shot down the possibility of him being a candidate to replace head coach John Fox, who parted ways with the Broncos on Monday. For now, Kubiak remains the Ravens offensive coordinator despite an ESPN report indicating Denver will request permission to interview him.

In their first season with Kubiak running the offense, the Ravens set franchise records in points scored and total yards and finished 12th in the NFL in total offense and eighth in points per game. A running game that ranked last in the NFL in yards per carry in 2013 improved to eighth in yards per game this season.

Kubiak’s announcement on Sunday squashed reported interest from Chicago, the New York Jets, and San Francisco, but the Denver position could be viewed as a dream job that could prompt the 53-year-old to change his mind.

“As far as I know, nothing’s changed,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not aware of any change of anything that’s taken place between then and now. Of course, I’m as pleased as heck to hear that [initial announcement] and talk to Gary about that leading up to that and then that day. I told him that’s music to my ears. He’s very happy here; his family’s happy here. I think all the coaches really feel good about where they’re at right now. As far as I know, nothing’s changed along those lines.”

Harbaugh did confirm that secondary coach and assistant head coach Steve Spagnuolo will interview for the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator position on Wednesday. The Ravens finished 23rd in pass defense after dealing with a rash of injuries that included top cornerback Jimmy Smith and No. 3 corner Asa Jackson.

Spagnuolo is no stranger to Tom Coughlin and the Giants after serving as their defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 before he became the head coach of the St. Louis Rams.

“Steve’s a great coach and has done a great job with the guys throughout the course of the season,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, a tremendously experienced coach. He’s been a head coach, been a coordinator, and that’s not something that we would want to hold him back from as an opportunity. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that, but that’s something that he deserves an opportunity to look at.”

Though a change in Kubiak’s status could create a ripple of change with quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani in particular, Harbaugh is not anticipating any other shakeups to his coaching staff at this time.

The Ravens endured plenty of change last offseason with the departures of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, wide receivers coach Jim Hostler, tight ends coach Wade Harman, offensive line coach Andy Mueller, and secondary coach Teryl Austin. Harbaugh is hoping for more continuity this winter as the Ravens try to build on their 2014 return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

“I sure hope so. I’m recruiting those guys every day,” Harbaugh said. “But like I said, guys like being here. If a coach gets a chance to be a head coach in this league, you’ve got to be happy for him. I don’t know if anything else will come up — I haven’t heard of anything along those lines — but if something comes up, we’ll just have to deal with it.”

 

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Harbaugh proud of 2014 Ravens for being “best team we could be”

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Harbaugh proud of 2014 Ravens for being “best team we could be”

Posted on 13 January 2015 by WNST Audio

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Examining the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

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Examining the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

Posted on 13 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The start of free agency is roughly two months away, but the Ravens face a number of important decisions in their efforts to build upon their return to the playoffs in 2014 after a one-year absence.

As is often the case, salary cap space will be a substantial concern as the Ravens entered the offseason with an estimated cap commitment of roughly $138 million, according to Spotrac.com. The 2015 salary cap has not been set, but it is projected to rise from $133 million in 2014 to somewhere between $138 million and $141 million for the new season, which leaves general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens with very tough maneuvering ahead.

Of course, the Ravens could elect to terminate or renegotiate several veteran contracts with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and his $16 million cap figure for 2015 at the top of the list. Baltimore would like to extend Ngata in a way similar to what they did with Terrell Suggs last winter, but cutting him outright would save $8.5 million. Cornerback Lardarius Webb carries a $12 million figure next season, but his release would only save $2 million in space as it would leave $10 million in dead money with the Ravens still needing to replace him.

Other veterans such as defensive end Chris Canty, wide receiver Jacoby Jones, linebacker Albert McClellan, and punter Sam Koch don’t carry lucrative cap numbers but could be released to create moderate savings for 2015.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The Ravens will have the opportunity to re-sign any of the following 14 unrestricted free agents before they can sign with any other team beginning on March 10 at 4:00 p.m.

CB Antoine CasonSigned in early December, the 28-year-old was leapfrogged on the depth chart by former Miami Dolphins practice squad cornerback Rashaan Melvin, telling all you need to know about his standing.

DT Terrence Cody - I was surprised the Ravens brought back the 2010 second-round pick on a one-year deal last offseason, and he was a non-factor after returning from the reserve physically unable to perform list in November.

LS Morgan Cox - The veteran is hitting the point in his career where the Ravens usually want to go cheaper for a snapper, but they had some issues with both Kevin McDermott and Patrick Scales after Cox was lost for the season.

TE Owen DanielsThe 32-year-old had some inconsistent stretches this season, but you’d like to bring back an established option with Dennis Pitta’s status in doubt and 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore still developing.

RB Justin ForsettThe feel-good story of the 2014 campaign will draw interest elsewhere, but his knowledge of Gary Kubiak’s zone schemes as well as his patience and vision make it important for the Ravens to bring him back.

CB Danny GorrerThe journeyman cornerback suffered a season-ending knee injury in December and won’t be a priority, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him re-signed to compete for a roster spot in training camp.

LB Pernell McPheeHis 7 1/2 sacks, 21 quarterback hits, and 35 quarterback hurries likely price him out of the Ravens’ budget as other teams will throw a lot of money at the rush specialist while envisioning a bigger role for him.

S Jeromy MilesMiles is a good special-teams player and emerged to earn a significant number of snaps in the defensive backfield, so you would think the Ravens would like to bring him back at a reasonable rate.

G Will RackleyThe former Jacksonville Jaguar sustained a concussion early in training camp and was placed on injured reserve, making it unlikely the Ravens will bring him back with their offensive line in much better shape now.

OL Jah ReidThe 2011 third-round pick never lived up to expectations to even become a reliable backup, so it would be surprising to see the Ravens bring him back on even a minimum contract for 2015.

CB Aaron RossThe 32-year-old tore his Achilles tendon on the eve of training camp and has dealt with other injuries in recent years, making you think his NFL career could very well be over.

WR Torrey SmithThe Ravens and the University of Maryland product both want to continue their relationship, but will other suitors offer No. 1 receiver money for Smith’s skill set and leave Newsome with a difficult decision?

S Darian StewartThe former St. Louis Ram played better in the second half of the season and wouldn’t be a bad option to bring back to compete with 2014 third-round pick Terrence Brooks for the safety spot opposite Will Hill.

QB Tyrod Taylor - The writing was on the wall for Taylor when the Ravens drafted Keith Wenning in the sixth round of last May’s draft, so it appears unlikely that he’ll be back with Baltimore.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The following players have accrued three years of service and have expiring contracts. The Ravens can tender each with a restricted free agent offer, but other teams may then sign that player to an offer sheet. If that happens, Baltimore has seven days to match the offer and keep the aforementioned player. If the Ravens choose not to match the offer sheet, they would receive compensation based on which tender was initially offered to that player.

There are three different tenders — the values won’t be set until the 2015 salary cap is finalized — that can be made: a first-round tender ($3.113 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s first-round selection, a second-round tender ($2.187 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s second-round selection, and a low tender ($1.431 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s draft selection equal to the round in which the player was originally chosen. For example, a restricted free agent selected in the fifth round would be worth a fifth-round pick if given the low tender. If a player went undrafted originally and is given the low tender, the Ravens would simply hold the right to match the offer and would not receive any compensation if they elected not to match the competing figure.

The original round in which each player was drafted is noted in parentheses:

DL Christo Bilukidi (sixth) - The former Cincinnati Bengal appeared in only four games before being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him non-tendered and re-signed to a cheaper deal. 

DE Lawrence Guy (seventh) - Added in late September, Guy emerged as a reliable member of the defensive line rotation and passed DeAngelo Tyson on the depth chart, making it likely the Ravens will want to bring him back.

S Will Hill (undrafted) – The bright spot in an otherwise difficult year for the secondary, Hill could receive the second-round tender to prevent other teams from trying to sign him away as the Ravens clearly want him back.

K Justin Tucker (undrafted) – The Ravens will explore a long-term deal with one of the best kickers in football, but the 2013 Pro Bowl selection would figure to receive a second-round tender to discourage other teams from sniffing around.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

These players have less than three years of accrued service and can be tendered a contract for the league minimum based on their length of service in the league. If tendered, these players are not free to negotiate with other teams. Historically, the Ravens tender all exclusive-rights free agents with the thought that there’s essentially nothing assured beyond a likely invitation to training camp for each.

WR Kamar Aiken
CB Chris Greenwood
CB Tramain Jacobs
OL Ryan Jensen
S Anthony Levine
LS Kevin McDermott
DE Steven Means
CB Rashaan Melvin
LS Patrick Scales
TE Phillip Supernaw
RB Fitz Toussaint
S Brynden Trawick
DT Casey Walker

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Would Kubiak change his mind for Denver job?

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Would Kubiak change his mind for Denver job?

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Less than 24 hours after Gary Kubiak announced he would return to the Ravens for the 2015 season, questions are again being asked about his future in Baltimore.

As soon as the Denver Broncos revealed they were parting ways with head coach John Fox on Monday, the Baltimore offensive coordinator’s name was being mentioned as an intriguing candidate along with former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who still resides in Denver. Of course, Kubiak has deep ties to the organization after spending nine years as the backup quarterback to John Elway and 11 years as an assistant coach under Shanahan.

With Elway now the general manager of the Broncos and making the surprising change at head coach, one wonders if he’d be interested in having his close friend take over in Denver. Kubiak reiterated his fondness for Baltimore in taking his name out of the running for other head coaching gigs Sunday night, but no one could really blame the 53-year-old for viewing the Broncos as a dream job for which he’d at least consider changing his mind.

Even one of Kubiak’s current players, wide receiver Torrey Smith, offered a cryptic response to the news of Fox being out in Denver:

There were rumors over the weekend that Fox could be dismissed if the Broncos fell to Indianapolis, so you would assume Kubiak had at least some inkling of the Denver job becoming open. With the former Houston Texans head coach regarded by the Ravens as a man of great integrity and character, the initial expectation is that Kubiak will remain as the team’s offensive coordinator.

The future of Peyton Manning is a hot topic in Denver, so it will be fascinating to see how he factors into the equation for any potential candidate for the head job.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will meet with the media at 2 p.m. Tuesday and will undoubtedly be asked about the updated status of his offensive coordinator.

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Ravens sign Wenning, eight others to reserve-future deals

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Ravens sign Wenning, eight others to reserve-future deals

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens announced the signing of nine players to reserve-future deals on Monday including quarterback Keith Wenning.

After being drafted in the sixth-round of last May’s draft, Wenning was waived by the Ravens at the end of the preseason before being signed to the practice squad. The Ball State product is a candidate to become the No. 2 quarterback behind Joe Flacco with veteran backup Tyrod Taylor scheduled to become a free agent.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound Wenning completed 10 of 17 passes for 140 yards in the 2014 preseason.

Baltimore also signed quarterback Bryn Renner, defensive backs Victor Hampton and Quinton Pointer, offensive tackle Marcel Jones, tight ends Allen Reisner and Konrad Reuland, fullback Kiero Small, and defensive end Zach Thompson to reserve-future deals, which allow players to take part in offseason activities and count against the 90-man offseason roster.

Small went to Cardinal Gibbons and finished the 2014 season on the Ravens’ practice squad after he played in three games for the Cleveland Browns. Pointer, Jones, Reisner, Reuland, and Thompson also spent time on the Baltimore practice squad this season.

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Ravens set to pick 26th overall in 2015 draft

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Ravens set to pick 26th overall in 2015 draft

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Luke Jones

With their 2014 season officially in the books, the Ravens now know where they’ll be picking in the 2015 draft set to begin in Chicago on April 30.

By advancing to the divisional round, Baltimore will now pick 26th overall in hopes of building on a 10-6 regular season. The Ravens are currently scheduled to have six draft picks, but that number will increase when compensatory choices are awarded later this offseason.

General manager Ozzie Newsome will have his original choices in the first four rounds, but the Ravens traded their 2015 fifth-round pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for center Jeremy Zuttah last offseason and sent their sixth-round choice to Cleveland for the 2014 seventh-rounder spent on wide receiver Michael Campanaro.

Baltimore will receive Dallas’ sixth-round pick in exchange for its original seventh-round choice as part of last summer’s Rolando McClain trade. The Ravens will also have the Miami Dolphins’ seventh-round pick as part of last year’s Bryant McKinnie trade.

After losing unrestricted free agents Arthur Jones, Michael Oher, Corey Graham, and James Ihedigbo last offseason while only signing one notable unrestricted free agent — safety Darian Stewart — the Ravens are projected to receive three compensatory picks, which would bring their total to nine selections. Players who were cut or signed after being released elsewhere — such as wide receiver Steve Smith — do not impact the compensatory pick formula.

This will mark the seventh consecutive year in which the Ravens will be picking in the bottom half of the first round. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley was selected 17th overall in last May’s draft before going on to become the first rookie in franchise history to make the Pro Bowl.

The only player to be selected 26th overall in franchise history was linebacker Ray Lewis in 1996.

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Torrey Smith doesn’t want to leave place “more like home now”

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Torrey Smith doesn’t want to leave place “more like home now”

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Even as he cleaned out his locker on Sunday, wide receiver Torrey Smith once again made it clear where his heart lies as he approaches free agency for the first time in his career.

He wants to stay with the Ravens.

“For me, it’s more like home now. It’s kind of tough to leave home at times,” Smith said. “But also, it’s a great organization. I genuinely love the people here, from the owner to everyone who makes this building go. I really love being here.”

But Smith knows it isn’t a certainty that he’ll be back as the Ravens must carefully weigh his value after a disappointing 2014 season in which he caught only 49 passes for 767 yards, career lows in both categories. On the flip side, the University of Maryland product posted a career-high 11 touchdown catches and drew an NFL-high 12 pass interference penalties for 261 yards, which must be acknowledged as part of his overall production.

Baltimore would like him back, but the 2011 second-round pick fits the profile of a No. 2 receiver, meaning the Ravens can’t break the bank for him. That philosophy could lead to Smith testing the market to see if other suitors would look to his 1,128-yard season in 2013 as evidence that he can be a No. 1 receiver.

“I honestly went the whole year without worrying about it, but when things kind of get tight, it’s like, ‘Man!’” Smith said. “You start looking around saying, ‘This could be it.’ But I’m not really going about it that way. I understand it’s a business. I’m just going to worry about things I can control and see what happens.”

Smith brings additional value to what he produces on the field as a leader by example and one of the Ravens’ most active players in the community. He’ll also be part of a crowded market of free-agent wideouts that could include the likes of Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin, and Michael Crabtree, which may keep the price reasonable for Smith’s services.

As is always their mantra, the Ravens will view Smith within the scope of being the right player at the right price. With Steve Smith entering his 15th season, tight end Dennis Pitta’s future uncertain, and Baltimore already wanting to add another pass-catcher at either the receiver or tight end position, it only makes sense to retain the soon-to-be 26-year-old who wants to remain a Raven.

In listening to his words, it’s clear Smith doesn’t think his time in Baltimore is over.

“I’ve been saying all year I didn’t play the way I wanted to play this year,” Smith said. “Was it the worst? No. Was it what I wanted? No. But everything will take care of itself. I feel like I’ve done some pretty good things since I’ve been here, and there’s still so much more left to do.”

Canty contemplating future

Defensive end Chris Canty just completed his 10th NFL season and isn’t sure if there will be an 11th.

The 32-year-old acknowledged Sunday he is contemplating retirement after missing five games this season due to a staph infection in his wrist and an ankle injury.

“You have to think about your future,” Canty said. “You have to think, ‘Can your body take the pounding going through a regular reason and being able to stay healthy?’ The last couple of years, I’ve been pretty banged up, so it’s a situation where I’ll take some time away from the game, spend some time with my family, and make a decision when we have to make a decision.”

Even if Canty decides to continue his career, it may not be in Baltimore as he’s entering the final season of a three-year, $8 million contract and carries a $3.32 million cap figure for 2015. The Ravens were pleased with newcomer Lawrence Guy and drafted the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Brent Urban in the fourth round last May despite the rookie missing the entire season with a knee injury.

Canty has future plans to work in the media, but he acknowledges he still has a passion for the game. He just doesn’t know if that will be enough to carry him into another grueling season.

“Ultimately, it’s whether I can do it or not at a high level,” Canty said. “I don’t want to go out on the football field and not be able to play at a high level. When you turn on the tape and you don’t recognize yourself, that’s a problem, and I never want that to be the case.”

The former Dallas Cowboy and New York Giant finished with 33 tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble, and 1/2 sack this season.

Urschel a future Pro Bowl selection?

While James Hurst received more attention in becoming the first undrafted rookie to start a playoff game at left tackle in NFL history, fellow rookie John Urschel turned plenty of heads with his performance.

Filling in at right guard with four-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda shifting to right tackle in place of the injured Rick Wagner, Urschel played at a high level in the playoffs and more than held his own against Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork in the Ravens’ 35-31 loss to New England.

“Honestly, I really feel like Urschel in a few years is going to be a Pro Bowler himself if he gets the opportunity,” starting left guard Kelechi Osemele said, “if he gets in there and plays [like he's capable of doing].”

The high praise makes you wonder if the Ravens would consider an increased role for the fifth-round pick from Penn State as early as next season. He became the backup center on game days this season and could be examined as an eventual upgrade over current starter Jeremy Zuttah.

Baltimore will also face tough financial decisions next winter with both Yanda and Osemele scheduled to become free agents after the 2015 season, which could open the door for Urschel to replace one of them. For now, the 2014 fifth-round pick sees an important offseason in front of him as he’ll try to improve on a successful rookie campaign in which he made five starts counting the postseason.

“Lots of hard work, dedication. It’s different,” Urschel said. “This is my first real offseason. In college, you have eyes on you — you have people telling you what to do. This is the first time I’ve had about three months to myself since high school. It’s on me to motivate myself.”

 

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Harbs

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Post game thoughts – Ravens vs Patriots

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

Had a great show Sunday morning, with relative predictable reaction by the Baltimore Ravens’ fan base. The scale was truly A – Z, from fans who were extremely upset, to moderately happy. The biggest issue that came up time and again was the decision that Joe Flacco made to throw the ball deep to Torrey Smith with just under 2 minutes left in the game.

Lots of Ravens fans second guessed that decision, and they wanted Flacco to continue to patiently work the ball downfield. In fact, on that play he had a wide open Marlon Brown streaking across the middle of the field.

It is my opinion that Flacco did in fact make the right call. The Patriots were in a single high safety formation, and Flacco knew that Torrey Smith was singled up by the DB on the left sideline. Smith got a couple of steps on his man, but the ball was under thrown and the safety came over and made a great play. It’s a simple as that. You take points when you can get them, and then you rely on your defense to make a stop, and win the game for you. Had the Ravens scored on that play, there’s no question it would have left the Patriots plenty of time to go down field and either tie the game with a field goal, or win it with a touchdown.

But first things first. I’ve seen too many games where offenses try to methodically go downfield in an attempt to score with seconds left, in order to leave the opposing offense with no time to move the ball. I’ve also seen turnovers happen in the form of fumbles and interceptions, mishandled handoffs and snaps. The ball is oblong, pointy, and bounces funny.  Oftentimes anything and everything that can go wrong…does. That is precisely why you take the points when you can get them.

The Ravens play aggressive football, and they have an aggressive nature about them. They are by and large well coached and relatively disciplined. No one complained when they went for it on 4th and 6th. When you live by the sword, you die by the sword. That’s how this team rolls, and that philosophy has played a big part as to why under John Harbaugh’s tenure, they’ve been in the playoffs 6 times in the past 7 years.

Speaking of Flacco, for 58 minutes he played a great game. He had two critical interceptions, but he also threw for 4 touchdowns. He should have had 5, but one of his throws bounced off of the hands of Owen Daniels. That was a huge play in and of itself, as it did factor in to the outcome. Flacco set a new NFL record with two touchdowns in eight straight postseason games, passing Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Drew Brees. That’s pretty good company if you ask me. The other question is this: if not Flacco – Ravens fans – then who? He didn’t let up a two touchdown lead, twice in the game. That was on the defense. Scoring 31 points in the NFL should be good enough for a win on any given Sunday. That was on the Ravens’ defense and their patched up secondary. Rob Gronkowski, some trickery, and Patriots’ half time adjustments were enough to pull out a win on their home turf.

There was criticism of Torrey Smith on the play that Flacco threw the pick on. Some fans felt that he didn’t do enough to break up the play. I’ve looked at the replays and he never had a chance to make a play on the ball. The safety was in good position, and got there at the ball’s high point. Smith is good, solid football player, but he doesn’t have the instincts to go up there and fight for the ball. It was not a lack of effort, and I’m not even sure that he saw the safety until the last second, so he didn’t have much time to react. I hope that he and the Ravens can come to a contractual agreement, as I believe he is a solid #2 receiver in this league, and adds value to the team.

Jacoby Jones looked tentative in the last two games, particularly on kickoff returns. He was not hitting the lanes hard, and maybe was putting too much emphasis on protecting the ball. He slipped on the opening kickoff versus the Steelers, and did not look good after that. I was hoping he would unleash himself in the manner that he did two years ago in the playoffs, but he was nowhere the difference maker this post season that he was then. I was disappointed with his performance, as I expected more.

The personal foul calls were troublesome, particularly on Torrey Smith. Coach Harbaugh should have also used a time out versus running on the field to get the refs’ attention. Not to mention he was wrong about the “deceptive practices” he alleged Bill Belichick was using. I under stand coach was frustrated after the bitter loss, but watching his presser brought to mind the phrase “never blame, complain or explain. I think Harbaugh is a solid coach, but hey coach, you got beat. Simple as that. Your defense blew a two TD lead – twice! Daniels didn’t come up with a catch – that Pitta would have probably held on to – in the end zone. Sending out 4 offensive linemen is nothing new. Alabama coach Nick Saban used it this season in overtime, in a 20-13 victory over LSU. I don’t recall LSU coach Les Miles complaining about the tactic at his press conference.

Bottom line is that the Ravens should head in to the off season with their heads held high. They battled through major off field distractions, 19 players on injured reserve, a late season suspension to a key player and still scratched and clawed their way to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. They went toe to toe with a team that features a certain Hall of Fame first ballot quarterback and head coach, and gave them all that they could handle on their home turf.

Looks like offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is coming back, and with a strong draft and some health, the Ravens are poised to make a deep run in to the playoffs next season for sure. Hopefully they’ll win enough regular season games to get some home games in the playoffs, which will make the road to where they’re ultimately trying to get to a bit easier.

 

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Forsett hoping to escape “friend zone” in free agency

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Forsett hoping to escape “friend zone” in free agency

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After he expressed gratitude for the Ravens taking a chance on him by turning in a career season, Justin Forsett is looking for a long-term partnership.

Forsett rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the league’s eighth-ranked rushing offense and has expressed repeatedly that he’d like to remain in Baltimore. But the Ravens will need to pony up more than the one-year, $730,000 contract they gave the journeyman back last April.

“There’s also a business side of it where, unfortunately, I’ve been in the ‘friend zone’ for most of my career,” the 29-year-old running back said. “Hopefully, we can get into a deeper commitment somewhere down the road and get some stability. But it is what it is. It’s in God’s hands, and I’m at peace with it.”

Determining Forsett’s value could be tricky as it’s no secret the value of running backs has declined dramatically in recent years in the pass-happy NFL. His doubters may credit the improvement of the offensive line and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s history of finding productive running backs as the primary reasons for his success, but Forsett displayed excellent patience and vision in the Ravens’ zone-blocking scheme.

The longest commitment Forsett has received in the NFL was the two-year deal he signed with Jacksonville two years ago, but he was released after one injury-riddled season with the Jaguars.

The Ravens will be hoping for big things from Lorenzo Taliaferro in his second season after he averaged 4.3 yards per carry and rushed for 292 yards as a rookie, but Bernard Pierce was disappointing for a second straight year in running for just 3.9 yards per carry and carrying only 93 times. It’s possible that the Ravens could again look to the draft after selecting Taliaferro in the fourth round last May.

Beyond filling the void left behind by Ray Rice in the backfield, Forsett was strong in pass protection and was praised for his attitude and work ethic by coaches and teammates alike. He hopes to be a part of a Ravens offense that took major strides this season and is seeking further improvement in 2015.

“I would love to be a part of it,” Forsett said. “This is an organization that first gave me my shot, my first real opportunity, and I would love to stay.”

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Kubiak staying put as Ravens offensive coordinator

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Kubiak staying put as Ravens offensive coordinator

Posted on 11 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Just over 24 hours following their playoff loss to the New England Patriots, the Ravens received news that helped ease the sting on Sunday night with the announcement that Gary Kubiak will remain as offensive coordinator.

Despite reportedly receiving interest from the Chicago Bears, the New York Jets, and the San Francisco 49ers for their head coaching vacancies, the former Houston Texans head coach will return to Baltimore for the 2015 season. Under Kubiak, the Ravens set single-season franchise bests for points scored and total yards in the regular season.

“It is flattering and humbling to be invited to interview for a number of NFL head coaching positions, and I greatly appreciate these opportunities,” Kubiak said in a statement released by the team. “But I have decided to stay with the Ravens. This is a special organization and we, like [coach John Harbaugh] says, are building something great. I want to be a part of that and contribute in whatever ways I can.”

Kubiak’s return is certainly good news for quarterback Joe Flacco, who posted career highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdown passes (27) while posting his highest passer rating (91.0) since the 2010 season. Flacco had a good relationship with quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison, who was Kubiak’s offensive coordinator in Houston and would have likely left with him had he taken another head coaching position.

Despite plenty of rumors about his future, Kubiak repeatedly said late in the season that his sole focus was with the Ravens as they made their push for a sixth playoff appearance in the last seven years.

“I’ve been through it and I had my turn, and I’m really enjoying what I’m doing,” Kubiak said on Dec. 31. “I’ve told you all that over and over again. I don’t think about what’s next.”

As players cleaned out their lockers in Owings Mills on Sunday afternoon, many expressed hope that the offensive coordinator would remain with the Ravens. Under Kubiak, Baltimore finished eighth in the NFL in points scored and 12th in yards per game while the running game ranked eighth despite a disastrous 2013 campaign in which the Ravens finished last in the league in yards per carry.

The news figures to only help in retaining free agents such as running back Justin Forsett, tight end Owen Daniels, and wide receiver Torrey Smith. And while working with Flacco and a strong offensive line, Kubiak is unlikely to see his head coaching stock drop dramatically if he wants to pursue head jobs next offseason.

“It’s always tough when you get comfortable with a guy like that,” Smith said hours before the announcement was made. “He’s a players’ coach — I will tell you that much. He’s a guy that you want to play for, so if he gets another head coaching job, you’re not surprised at it.”

 

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