Tag Archive | "Owen Daniels"

Daniels returns to practice; Pierce, Elam absent on Monday

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Daniels returns to practice; Pierce, Elam absent on Monday

Posted on 25 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After trimming their roster to 75 players earlier Monday, the Ravens returned to the practice field with veteran tight end Owen Daniels back in action for the first time in two weeks.

According to head coach John Harbaugh, the 31-year-old had been dealing with leg fatigue and swelling despite no specific injury. The former Houston Texan caught one pass for six yards against San Francisco in the preseason opener but hadn’t practiced since Aug. 11.

The extended absence for Daniels had led some to wonder about his future and desire to continue playing after he was limited to five games because of a broken leg last season. However, Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak had been adamant several times that he was not injured, and Daniels had been seen around the building regularly.

“I don’t anticipate [his health] affecting his status,” Harbaugh said. “I just go by what [the medical staff] tells me. There’s no tear; there’s no pull. There is swelling in the legs. That’s probably the result of stress. Obviously, he’s not right, or we would’ve played him. But we also felt like he has had so many reps in this offense — just take a week or a week and a half and just let him getting fully recovered and let him get fully rested.

“We’ll bring him back now today, tomorrow, a little bit on Wednesday, and then I really do anticipate him practicing fully on Friday. We’ll just have to see, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t practice on Friday fully.”

Despite the good news about their No. 2 tight end, the Ravens had three new absences on Monday as running back Bernard Pierce, safety Matt Elam, and wide receiver Kamar Aiken were not present during the portion of practice open to media. Pierce left Saturday’s game with a concussion, but the third-year back posted on his official Twitter account that he was “fine” on Sunday afternoon.

Harbaugh confirmed Elam has “a little leg issue” but expected him back on the practice field by Friday, but the head coach said he wasn’t sure why Aiken wasn’t practicing.

Others missing from Monday’s practice included cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle), offensive lineman Jah Reid (head), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (hip). It remains unclear if Cody will begin the season on the reserve physically unable to perform list as he continues to recover from offseason surgery.

“We have a couple options on that. He’s progressing well,” Harbaugh said. “He’s done a really good job. Whether he’s ready to play yet or not, we’ll have to decide and determine. But I don’t want to say at this time what we plan on doing, and we really don’t know yet.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (chest) was not suited up to practice on Monday afternoon, but he was running and catching passes on the field, encouraging signs that he’s moving closer to a return. The fourth-year defensive back suffered bruising and bleeding from the lungs after falling on his back early in the second preseason game against Dallas on Aug. 16, but Harbaugh said last week that Smith probably could have played against Washington had it been a regular-season game.

Players were practicing in helmets, shells, and shorts on Monday.

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J. Smith, Jackson, Webb missing from practice, won’t play Saturday

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J. Smith, Jackson, Webb missing from practice, won’t play Saturday

Posted on 21 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are expected to take the field for Saturday’s all-important third preseason game against the Washington Redskins without three key members of their secondary.

Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (chest), Asa Jackson (ankle), and Lardarius Webb (back) were all missing from the open portion of Thursday’s practice and will miss Saturday’s game, which is viewed as the final tuneup for the start of the regular season. Head coach John Harbaugh had already ruled out Webb for the remainder of the preseason while expressing optimism that Smith and Jackson might be able to play against Washington.

“Our top three corners are going to be out,” said Harbaugh, who added that Smith would probably be able to play if it were a regular-season game. “It’s going to be an opportunity for those [backups] to go against the best for a long period of time. Those guys are among the best receivers in football and have a great quarterback. The whole offense is very well stocked with talent. It’s going to give us a good chance to evaluate where we’re at and give those guys an opportunity to prove they can play with the best.”

Starters are not expected to play in next week’s preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints as a season-opening matchup with All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green and the Cincinnati Bengals only 17 days away.

Against Washington, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will likely turn to fourth-year veteran Chykie Brown, former Atlanta Falcon Dominique Franks, rookie free agent Tramain Jacobs, and third-round rookie safety Terrence Brooks as cornerback options to rotate with the starting defense on Saturday night. In 2013, Brown played just 39 defensive snaps in the Baltimore secondary while Franks took only 13 in the Falcons defense, according to Pro Football Focus.

Since Webb has been sidelined with back spasms since July 25, the Ravens have gone through the entire summer without an opportunity to see what their starting secondary will look like, which is concerning as Brown and Jackson were competing for the No. 3 cornerback position.

“[It's] always a concern. We want guys that are going to play,” Pees said. “Somebody asked [Wednesday] about who we’d have out there [for the] first game, and I said, ‘Whoever we have healthy.’ But even when you get guys back, if a guy has been off for three or four weeks, he hasn’t played game tempo — all that stuff. It’s always a concern at any position.”

Other players missing from Thursday’s workout included tight end Owen Daniels (legs), offensive linemen Jah Reid (head), Will Rackley (head), and Brett Van Sloten (knee), fullback Shaun Chapas (undisclosed), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (active physically unable to perform list – hip surgery).

Daniels hasn’t practiced since Aug. 11 as Harbaugh has repeatedly said the 31-year-old veteran is resting his legs and not dealing with a specific injury.

 

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Daniels, J. Smith remain sidelined; Reid going through concussion protocol

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Daniels, J. Smith remain sidelined; Reid going through concussion protocol

Posted on 19 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continued to be without a number of notable players as they continued preparations Tuesday for the all-important third preseason game of the summer.

While a number of others remain sidelined with defined injuries, veteran tight end Owen Daniels continues to miss practices while resting his legs, according to head coach John Harbaugh. The 31-year-old hasn’t practiced since Aug. 11, leading some to wonder whether he is secretly injured or to even question his desire to play after what’s been an underwhelming summer for the former Houston Texan.

“He has some swelling in his leg with use, and we’re playing it safe right now rather than pounding his legs out,” Harbaugh said. “It’s training camp. He’s an older guy, and I’m just following [head certified athletic trainer] Mark [Smith’s] instructions on it. He feels like he needs some rest still, so that’s what he’s getting. But there’s no injury there.”

Reserve offensive tackle Jah Reid was absent from Tuesday’s practice as he is now undergoing the NFL’s concussion protocol. The 2011 third-round pick hasn’t lived up to expectations in his four-year career, but Harbaugh complimented Reid’s play on Monday, naming him the team’s top reserve tackle and all but confirming he would make the 53-man roster.

Reid was sidelined for most of the spring with a calf injury but had remained healthy through the first several weeks of training camp.

“Jah has a little head dinger,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know the extent of it or how long it’ll be, but he hit his head yesterday, so he’s [going through the] concussion protocol.”

Others missing from Tuesday’s practice included cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (chest), Lardarius Webb (back), and Asa Jackson (ankle), offensive linemen Will Rackley (head) and Brett Van Sloten (knee), fullback Shaun Chapas (undisclosed). Defensive tackle Terrence Cody remains on the active physically unable to perform list while rehabbing from offseason hip surgery.

Harbaugh gave the day off to wide receivers Steve Smith and Torrey Smith as well as defensive end Chris Canty.

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Jimmy Smith still sidelined after suffering bruised lungs against Cowboys

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Jimmy Smith still sidelined after suffering bruised lungs against Cowboys

Posted on 18 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens returned to the practice field on Monday without top cornerback Jimmy Smith, but the prognosis appears encouraging after he suffered a scary chest injury in Saturday’s preseason win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Head coach John Harbaugh said a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed the 2011 first-round pick suffered bruising and bleeding from the lungs when he slammed his back on the turf while defending a sideline pass intended for Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant early in the first quarter. Smith was coughing up blood even after the game and was initially diagnosed with a chest contusion, according to the Ravens.

“They said it’s not a serious thing and just needs a couple days to heal up,” Harbaugh said. “We do anticipate him to play against the Redskins unless something changes that I’m not aware of.”

Running back Ray Rice practiced on Monday after leaving Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury. X-rays were negative for Rice after he was limited to just 21 yards on two carries. With Rice facing a two-game suspension to begin the regular season, Harbaugh had planned to focus on getting work for primary backup Bernard Pierce as well as veteran Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, but he may elect to give Rice a few more reps since he saw little action against the Cowboys.

Harbaugh elected to award Saturday’s start to Pierce to give him an extra opportunity to begin a game with the starting offense before he begins the season as the starter in Week 1.

“It could impact us [to] maybe get Ray a few more reps going forward,” said Harbaugh about Saturday’s distribution of playing time. “But the main focus is going to be Bernard, Justin, and Lorenzo and getting those guys ready. You know Ray’s had a good camp.”

Veteran tight end Owen Daniels was absent from the field during the portion of practice open for media viewing and hasn’t been on the field since last Monday. The Ravens have insisted Daniels is being rested and is not dealing with an injury concern, but the 31-year-old has now missed three straight practices and did not play in Saturday’s game.

The former Texan was limited to just five games due to a broken leg last season.

“There’s no pull, there’s no strain of any kind,” Harbaugh said. “[His legs are] a little fatigued. You get a little swelling in there. You’ve got to take some time to get the legs back, and we really felt like he needed to get his legs back, especially as an older guy. We wanted to give him this time to do that. I’m counting on him being there this week. That’s what I’ve been told is there’s no kind of injury in there. It’s just a fatigue factor, and he needs time.”

Others missing from Monday’s practice included cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle), offensive linemen Will Rackley (head) and Brett Van Sloten (knee), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (physically unable to perform list – hip).

Harbaugh said that Webb would not play in the preseason after initially hoping the starting cornerback would be able to play in the third game of the summer. The sixth-year cornerback has been sidelined with a back injury since July 25.

Nursing an ankle injury since Aug. 10, Jackson has a chance to return to action this week, according to Harbaugh.

“Asa’s got a chance,” Harbaugh said. “‘Touch and go’ is probably a good way to say it, but I’ve been told he has a chance to get back for this game. It’d be great if he could.”

The Ravens were practicing in helmets, shells, and shorts after receiving Sunday off.

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Ravens continue to rest veteran tight end Daniels

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Ravens continue to rest veteran tight end Daniels

Posted on 14 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens conducted their final full practice ahead of Saturday’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys as veteran tight end Owen Daniels continued to be absent from the field.

The former Houston Texan was absent from practice for the second straight day after offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Daniels was simply receiving a day off on Thursday. Daniels’ two-day absence following the Ravens’ off-day will raise some eyebrows as the 31-year-old has had a quiet training camp thus far.

“We decided to rest his legs a little bit,” Harbaugh said. “He had been going pretty hard, so [we wanted] to [rest him] a little bit. Whether he’ll play in the game, we’ll just decide and see how he feels. But there’s no injury involved there.”

Daniels hasn’t shown great explosiveness when running routes against man coverage this summer after being limited to five games due to a broken leg in his final season with Houston. With starting tight end Dennis Pitta back to full strength after last season’s hip injury, the Ravens don’t need Daniels to handle a full workload, but Kubiak is known for using multiple tight ends in his West Coast offense.

The Ravens continue to be shorthanded in the secondary as cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle) failed to practice on Thursday with neither expected to play in the second preseason game of the summer. Offensive lineman Will Rackley (concussion) and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (active physically unable to perform list – hip) also continue to be sidelined.

Harbaugh expects starters to see more playing time in the second preseason game than they did against San Francisco last Thursday.

“Normally, in the second preseason game you get a quarter, maybe a little more than a quarter,” Harbaugh said. “Some of that will be individualized for different players; we’ll have some play counts for a few guys, including Joe [Flacco] and some of the defensive players. We’ll see how it goes, but basically, about a quarter is what you’re looking at — maybe more. It could get close to a half; it could even be a half for some of the starters.”

Thursday’s practice was a lighter workout with players working in helmets, shells, and shorts. The Ravens will conduct a closed walk-through on Friday before departing for Texas in anticipation of their first ever preseason meeting against the Cowboys.

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Live From Owings Mills: CB Jackson remains out of practice Wednesday

Posted on 13 August 2014 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens returned to the practice fields at their 1 Winning Drive facility Wednesday, the penultimate open session of their 2014 Training Camp.

Two injured Ravens returned to the practice field following Tuesday’s day off. OL Ryan Jensen (leg) and S Brynden Trawick (back) were both back on the practice field-both had been out since Saturday. Additionally, TE Dennis Pitta (ankle) was on the practice field again after missing Sunday’s session and being limited in Monday’s activities.

CB Asa Jackson missed a third straight day of practice Wednesday dealing with an ankle injury, continuing to deplete a unit that is already missing Lardarius Webb (back). Webb is not expected to return until at least the end of the preseason. OL Will Rackley was not participating in Wednesday’s practice-he continues to work his way back from a concussion suffered at the start of Training Camp. DL Terrence Cody remains on the active Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list as he recovers from offseason hip surgery.

TE Owen Daniels was not present for the session Wednesday either, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak confirmed after the session there was no injury issue-the veteran had just received a day off.

Defensive Linemen Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles) and Brent Urban (knee) remain on the roster but are both expected to miss the entire 2014 season.

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Week 2 observations from 2014 Ravens training camp

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Week 2 observations from 2014 Ravens training camp

Posted on 05 August 2014 by Luke Jones

With two weeks of training camp in the books and the Ravens making final preparations to take on the San Francisco 49ers in their preseason opener Thursday night, there’s a new batch of takeaways from the practice field in Owings Mills.

1. We’ve witnessed a quieter Joe Flacco this summer.

This development won’t please fans and critics clamoring for a more vocal quarterback entering his seventh season as Flacco has refrained from trash talking with Terrell Suggs like we saw last summer and hasn’t been very vocal with the rest of his offensive teammates during practices open to media. Those around him have downplayed his quieter demeanor, insisting he’s focusing on fine-tuning his grasp of Gary Kubiak’s system. The new offensive coaching staff has emphasized Flacco having better footwork and getting rid of the ball quickly, two requirements in Kubiak’s West Coast offense. Flacco has been steady but unspectacular in practices to this point, but it’s all about the games that count for the signal-caller at this stage of his career.

2. Matt Elam has yet to stand out in his transition to the strong safety position.

Much attention has been paid to the free safety spot as well as the lack of cornerback depth in the Baltimore secondary, but the 2013 first-round pick hasn’t stood out after moving to the more natural position he played at the University of Florida. In fairness to Elam, there aren’t many full-contact periods in practices for him to genuinely show off his physicality, but he’s made few plays in coverage and hasn’t looked the part of a rising impact defensive player. During Monday’s practice, Elam was spelled by special-teams standout Jeromy Miles on a few occasions, but it remained unclear whether the second-year safety was dealing with a physical concern or the coaching staff was trying to create a little more urgency in Elam by throwing Miles into the mix.

3. Torrey Smith is emerging as a leader in the final year of his rookie contract.

So much focus has been placed on the leadership of Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Ray Rice, and Haloti Ngata since Ray Lewis retired and Ed Reed departed, but Smith’s quiet leadership has emerged over the last couple years. He was responsible for gathering teammates to support Rice during his recent press conference and simply carries himself with a maturity that suggests a leader by example. Assuming a contract extension isn’t reached before the start of the season, it will be interesting to see how Steve Smith and a healthy Dennis Pitta impact Smith’s production after his first 1,000-yard season. The University of Maryland product has had a strong camp, making spectacular catches and showing more consistency than in the past. General manager Ozzie Newsome shouldn’t pay Smith like an elite receiver, but his value shouldn’t be underestimated, either.

4. Owen Daniels has struggled to get separation in his first training camp with the Ravens.

The signing of Daniels to a one-year deal was an obvious move given his familiarity with Kubiak’s offensive system, but the 31-year-old hasn’t stood out in practices, struggling to gain separation against linebackers in coverage. Both Daniels and fellow tight end Dennis Pitta thrive in finding open windows in zone coverage, but the former will need to show a little more against man coverage to have the kind of impact the Ravens are looking for. The former Houston Texan was limited to five games due to a broken leg last season, but the Ravens won’t need him to play 75 snaps a game with Pitta ahead of him on the depth chart. You hope his slow start is more about pacing himself than a sign of declining skills like the Ravens saw with Dallas Clark last year.

5. After a very quiet rookie year, Kyle Juszczyk is a sleeper to watch in Gary Kubiak’s system.

A year ago at this time, the Ravens had re-signed Vonta Leach because of Juszczyk’s inability to hold up as a blocker, but his second training camp has been far more encouraging. Listed at 248 pounds, the Harvard product looks stronger and has held up better when engaged as a blocker, but Juszczyk has also shown some explosiveness as a receiver out of the backfield as he displayed in catching a touchdown matched up against Miles in Annapolis Monday night. Kubiak has compared Juszczyk’s skill set to former Texas fullback James Casey, who caught 34 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. It would be a stretch to expect that much production from the 2013 fourth-round pick, but he’s made some nice plays when given chances in practice.

6. Keith Wenning is beginning to look more comfortable in his first training camp.

For the most part, the Ball State quarterback has looked like any other underwhelming third-string quarterback the Ravens have invited to camp in recent summers, but he put on a show in Annapolis, throwing several beautiful deep balls for touchdowns in team drills. It would be a major stretch to expect Wenning to challenge incumbent backup Tyrod Taylor based on what we’ve seen in the first two weeks of camp, but Wenning’s preseason performance could make for a difficult decision when it comes to finalizing the roster. The Ravens haven’t carried three quarterbacks on the 53-man squad since 2009, but it might be difficult to get Wenning through waivers and to the practice squad if he has more nights like he did Monday in preseason games.

7. Barring injury, the first unofficial depth chart is unlikely to change by the start of the season.

There were few surprises on the first offensive depth chart of the summer as Rick Wagner being listed at right tackle was the only note of interest but wasn’t the least bit surprising. On the defensive side, second-year lineman Brandon Williams is listed as the starting nose tackle with Ngata sliding to the 3-technique defensive tackle spot, which should allow him to take on fewer double teams and provide more opportunities to make plays. Unsurprisingly, rookie first-round pick C.J. Mosley was listed as the starting weakside inside linebacker next to Daryl Smith while Arthur Brown is his backup. Darian Stewart being listed as the starting free safety isn’t surprising based on the struggles of third-round pick Terrence Brooks, and there’s little to suggest that’s changing anytime soon.

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Five questions entering 2014 Ravens training camp

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Five questions entering 2014 Ravens training camp

Posted on 21 July 2014 by Luke Jones

John Harbaugh enters new territory this summer in trying to guide the Ravens to a bounce-back season after missing the playoffs for the first time in his tenure a year ago.

The seventh-year head coach is coming off his most difficult offseason in not only revamping his offensive coaching staff but dealing with the arrests of five different players, painting the organization in a more negative and embarrassing light than it’s faced in quite some time. Of course, the Ravens are hopeful they’ve made the necessary changes to rebound from an 8-8 season and return to the postseason playing in what appears to be a wide-open AFC North.

As rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans coming off injuries officially take the practice field in Owings Mills on Tuesday, here are five questions — of many others, quite frankly — to ponder:

1. Will different automatically translate to better for the Ravens offense? If so, how much better?

The easy answer is the 29th-ranked offense in 2013 couldn’t be much worse, so it’s no profound statement to say the unit will be improved under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who will bring a stronger emphasis on running the football. The real question is how much better the Ravens will be after averaging a league-worst and franchise-worst 3.1 yards per carry.

Kubiak has an excellent reputation dating back to his days with Mike Shanahan in Denver, but quarterback Joe Flacco’s adjustment to a West Coast offense centered around timing, excellent footwork, and shorter throws — not regarded as his biggest strengths — will be interesting to watch after he showed encouraging improvements as spring workouts progressed. Of course, the Ravens hope the free-agent signings of wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels in addition to a fully-recovered Dennis Pitta will provide the quarterback with consistent weapons he sorely lacked beyond wideout Torrey Smith last season.

Steve Smith was the standout acquisition of the offseason and has been praised for the leadership and swagger he’s already brought to the offense, but he has plenty to prove as a 35-year-old receiver whose yards per catch average has dropped in three straight years. Daniels figures to be a clear upgrade as the No. 2 tight end behind Pitta, but he played in only five games last season and must prove he can still gain separation entering his ninth NFL season.

The ultimate factor in determining how high the offense can climb will be the improvement of the offensive line with new center Jeremy Zuttah and the return of left guard Kelechi Osemele from season-ending back surgery. Zuttah will be an improvement over Gino Gradkowski with his physical style of play and will be a leader by example in the trenches, but you wonder if there will be some growing pains in making line calls with the veteran having spent more time at guard during his career. Osemele was impressive during spring workouts, but the Ravens need to see his surgically-repaired back hold up during the daily rigors of camp and the third-year lineman had to alter his workout practices as a result of the procedure.

And, of course, the Ravens still aren’t sure who will line up at right tackle, with Rick Wagner the favorite entering camp.

The offense will look quite different, but will there be enough improvement for the Ravens to climb back among the AFC’s elite?

2. How does maligned offensive line coach Juan Castillo fit with the Kubiak system?

After all the hand-wringing over Castillo and calls for him to be dismissed after the offensive line’s woeful 2013 campaign, the hiring of Kubiak all but eliminated that chatter. However, his seat will heat up again very quickly if his unit doesn’t produce immediately in 2014.

Players have dismissed any notion of growing pains last season, but it was clear the coexistence of Castillo and former offensive line coach Andy Moeller wasn’t a good fit. The bigger question this year will be how effectively Castillo implements Kubiak’s brand of stretch outside zone blocking that has produced a plethora of 1,000-yard running backs over the years.

Castillo demands a lot from his his unit before, during, and after practices, which made him a favorite in Philadelphia for so many years, but Harbaugh will have a difficult time sticking with his longtime colleague if the offensive line gets off to another slow start in 2014.

3. How many younger players are ready to make the jump to become standouts?

It’s no secret that the Ravens have undergone quite a transformation since winning Super Bowl XLVII, but a major key in rebounding from last year’s 8-8 finish will be the emergence of younger impact players, something there wasn’t enough of in 2013.

Torrey Smith and cornerback Jimmy Smith took sizable leaps last season, but others such as Osemele, safety Matt Elam, linebacker Courtney Upshaw, running back Bernard Pierce, and defensive tackle Brandon Williams must become more dynamic players if the Ravens are going to bounce back in a significant way.

Entering 2014, how many great players — not good or solid ones — do the Ravens currently have? Linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata might still be considered great around the league but are on the wrong side of 30 and not as dominant as they were a few years ago.

Yes, the Ravens will lean on the likes of veterans Steve Smith, Daniels, and Zuttah to upgrade their respective positions, but substantial improvement in 2014 will only come if the draft classes of 2012 and 2013 are ready to make a larger impact than they did a year ago. And if the likes of linebacker C.J. Mosley and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan can bring immediate impact as rookies, Baltimore will be that much more dangerous.

Simply put, the core of this roster needs younger and more dynamic talent to emerge.

4. What can we expect out of Ray Rice?

Even putting aside the ongoing saga of when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will finally make a ruling on a suspension for the embattled running back, it’s difficult to project what kind of player Rice will be entering his seventh season and coming off the worst year of his career.

The 27-year-old was noticeably leaner and faster during spring practices, but it’s difficult to measure elusiveness — or any ability to break tackles — when players aren’t participating in full-contact drills. Much like we ponder about the entire offense, it’s not difficult to envision Rice being better at a lighter weight and with a better offensive line in front of him, but it’s fair to ask if his days as a game-changing back are over.

It will also be fascinating to see if Kubiak views Rice as an every-down back or is more eager to continue to hand opportunities to the likes of Pierce, veteran newcomer Justin Forsett, or rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro even after the sixth-year back returns from his anticipated suspension. Rice split time with Forsett working with the starters this spring — Pierce was still limited returning from offseason shoulder surgery — but it’s difficult to gauge how much of that was Forsett’s experience in Kubiak’s system as well as the Ravens preparing for the suspension.

5. Is the commitment to winning strong enough top to bottom on the roster?

You never like to make generalizations about what’s currently a 90-man roster when referencing five specific players being arrested during the offseason, but it’s fair to question the overall commitment when your players make up more than 25 percent of the NFL’s total number of reported arrests since last season.

Most already expected Harbaugh to have a tougher training camp following the first non-playoff season of his tenure in Baltimore, but the poor off-field behavior lends even more credence to the head coach working his players harder than in past summers.

Make no mistake, there are countless individuals on the roster who are fully dedicated to winning, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and the Ravens will be under the microscope in not only how they conduct themselves off the field but how they perform on it this season. The poor choices of several individuals unfortunately drew that scrutiny for the entire roster as critics question the organization’s leadership and overall character.

“We have good, really good guys,” Harbaugh said on the final day of mandatory minicamp last month. “Football matters to them. The more it matters to you, the less inclined you are to do anything to jeopardize that.”

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Ravens agree to one-year deal with former Texans tight end Daniels

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Ravens agree to one-year deal with former Texans tight end Daniels

Posted on 03 April 2014 by Luke Jones

After weeks of discussions, the Ravens agreed to a one-year deal with free-agent tight end Owen Daniels on Thursday.

The 31-year-old reunites with new Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison, and tight ends coach Brian Pariani after working with them during his eight-year run with the Houston Texans. Daniels was a salary-cap casualty last month and told WNST.net that the Ravens immediately showed interest in his services.

Daniels is eager for a fresh start after the Texans finished 2-14 last season with Kubiak being fired in December.

“It was definitely an experience this past season for it to go the way it went,” Daniels told AM 1570 WNST.net on Thursday. “But I’m happy to have a new start. I have a ton of respect for the [Ravens]. It’s always been a tough battle.”

The deal is pending a physical scheduled to be completed on Friday.

A fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin in the 2006 draft — the same year Kubiak was hired as the head coach in Houston — the two-time Pro Bowl selection joins Dennis Pitta to form an impressive tight-end duo for quarterback Joe Flacco. Daniels was limited to five games due to a leg injury last season but has caught 385 passes for 4,617 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career.

Kubiak has always been praised for his use of tight ends in his West Coast offense, moving them around in various formations and substitution packages and frequently using two-tight sets.

“Baltimore was always on my radar after Kubiak signed up over there,” Daniels said. “They’re a good team, obviously. Who wouldn’t want to play for them? It just came down to them being the right fit for me. I’m super excited to get out there.”

Daniels’ best season came in 2008 when he caught 70 passes for 862 yards and two touchdowns to earn his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He was again invited to Honolulu in 2012 when he caught 62 passes for 716 yards and six touchdowns.

Since 2006, the 6-3, 249-pound Daniels has produced the eighth-most catches and the seventh-most receiving yards among NFL tight ends. He ranks second in career receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns in Texans franchise history.

The Ravens are likely to continue looking to add a blocking tight end behind Pitta and Daniels on the depth chart as both are known for their pass-catching ability but neither is considered a strong blocker.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear new Ravens tight end Owen Daniels’ conversation with WNST.net host Nestor Aparicio HERE.

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What’s still out there for the Ravens in free agency?

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What’s still out there for the Ravens in free agency?

Posted on 17 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Almost a week into free agency, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has been busy retaining his own free agents while also enticing veteran wide receiver Steve Smith to bring his impressive pedigree to the league’s 29th-ranked offense from a year ago.

Needs remain along the offensive line and at free safety, but the options are dwindling as is the team’s salary cap space with roughly $9 million available. That’s not to say those resources can’t be helpful to further augment the roster as preparations continue for the start of the NFL draft on May 8, but this is when teams often look for the best value in not only identifying players who truly represent upgrades from what they already have but signing them for the right price.

Secondary needs to the offensive line and free safety include a No. 3 cornerback, a blocking tight end, and another running back, but those are all areas in which the Ravens can likely use the draft to find quality depth.

Here’s a sampling of the better remaining options to address their needs:

S Ryan Clark
Skinny: The 34-year-old safety has played the last eight seasons in Pittsburgh, which would make his potential defection to Baltimore compelling if he has anything left on the field. In addition to the Ravens, Washington and the New York Jets are reportedly interested in Clark, who would give 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam a mentor in the defensive backfield. A 2011 Pro Bowl selection, Clark is nearing the end of his career and struggled in 2013 but isn’t that far removed from playing at a high level. The hard-hitting veteran doesn’t really fit the profile of the ball-hawking safety Newsome described at the start of the offseason, but he’s generally been strong in coverge in his career and collected 104 tackles and two interceptions last year.

S Thomas DeCoud
Skinny: The 28-year-old started all but two games for Atlanta over the last five seasons but has been plagued with inconsistency and is coming off a poor 2013 campaign in which he recorded 65 tackles, no interceptions, and only two pass breakups. The 2012 Pro Bowl safety had 14 interceptions from 2009 through 2012 but probably reminds Newsome and the front office too much of Michael Huff, who was one of the biggest free-agent busts in franchise history last year. DeCoud was cut by the Falcons earlier this month, meaning he wouldn’t count against the compensatory pick formula if the Ravens were to sign him.

S Chris Clemons
Skinny: Starting 32 games for the Miami Dolphins over the last two seasons, the 28-year-old has been solid but unspectacular in his five-year career. Clemons made 93 tackles and intercepted one pass last season with many observers wondering if the Dolphins downgraded in deciding to sign Louis Delmas to replace Clemons earlier this month. Much like Clark and DeCoud, Clemons doesn’t fit the part of what Newsome described in January, but the Ravens are unlikely to find a playmaking safety unless they draft one such as Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor of Louisville.

C Kyle Cook
Skinny: Cook started 66 games for the Bengals over the last five years and would represent a solid veteran option to compete with incumbent starter Gino Gradkowski and 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen at the center position this summer. The 30-year-old was the 24th-ranked center in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus, but he was released by the Bengals at the start of free agency and wouldn’t cost the Ravens a compensatory pick. His experience in the AFC North is also something that could be of value in the front office’s eyes.

C Brian de la Puente
Skinny: Though New Orleans reportedly remains interested in re-signing the starting center, the 28-year-old would be more appealing than Cook and would likely find a similar market to Evan Dietrich-Smith, who signed a four-year, $14.25 million contract with Tampa Bay last week. Pro Football Focus graded De la Puente as the 16th-ranked center in the league last year, but he graded second in 2012 and would represent a clear upgrade to Gradkowski in the starting lineup. The Ravens have yet to be linked to de la Puente, but the New York Giants reportedly showed interest last week.

G Travelle Wharton
Skinny: He’ll be 33 in May, but Wharton graded out as the fifth-best guard in the NFL by Pro Football Focus this past season after missing the entire 2012 campaign with a knee injury. Entering his 11th season, Wharton played with Steve Smith in Carolina for nearly a decade, so it will be interesting to see if the Ravens ask their new wide receiver what he thinks of his former teammate, who recently reiterated that he has no intentions of retiring. Should the Ravens sign the left guard, they could move Kelechi Osemele to right tackle to address the departure of Michael Oher.

RT Eric Winston
Skinny: The 30-year-old spent six years with Gary Kubiak in Houston, which would make him an enticing fit if not for the fact that he didn’t play well in Arizona this past season. Winston was the 69th-ranked tackle this season, which was one spot below Oher in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. Still, his experience with the zone blocking scheme in Kubiak’s offense would be very attractive at the right price. The acquisition of a right tackle would also allow the Ravens to keep Osemele at left guard, the position where some think he can blossom into a Pro Bowl player if he proves to be healthy after last year’s back surgery.

TE Owen Daniels
Skinny: He doesn’t really fit the mold of what the Ravens are looking for in terms of a blocking-minded tight end, but his close relationship with Kubiak is too much to overlook in wondering if the 31-year-old would be an attractive addition to the passing game. Daniels was limited to five games last year but knows the intricacies of Kubiak’s system and is a two-time Pro Bowl selection who has caught 54 or more passes four times in his career. With so many remaining needs, the Ravens would need to get excellent value in terms of price to make Daniels worth it and there hasn’t appeared to be much concrete interest beyond the initial reaction when he was released by the Texans last week.

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