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mosley

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Predicting the Ravens’ 53-man roster at the end of 2015 preseason

Posted on 03 September 2015 by Luke Jones

With the 2015 preseason in the books, the Ravens now turn their full attention toward the season opener against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 13.

But first, it’s time to go on the record with the final projection of the Ravens’ 53-man roster to begin the regular season as head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome will make their final decisions by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Of course, this will only be the beginning as the Ravens will explore the possibility of adding other players who will become available over the next few days.

With injury concerns at receiver, running back, and on the defensive line as well as overall depth questions in the secondary, the Ravens could be active as they have been in the past in adding veteran talent just before the start of the season. Many have also speculated that Baltimore could be in the market to add a veteran return specialist, which appeared to be an even bigger concern after Thursday’s preseason loss in Atlanta.

Though Newsome, Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are aware of the number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens will look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their position.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players they are projected to keep at that given position.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
IN: Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub
OUT: Bryn Renner
Skinny: The veteran Schaub quelled some concerns with a strong performance in the preseason finale, but the Ravens hope they won’t need him to play for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Renner was solid after a rough start on Thursday, but he still figures to have a decent chance to make the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (4)
IN: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
OUT: Terrence Magee, Fitz Toussaint, Kiero Small
Skinny: The prediction here is that the Ravens will waive both Magee and Toussaint to create a temporary roster spot to accomodate Brent Urban and to explore veteran backs that may become available elsewhere. They will then have the option to bring back either one assuming they clear waivers.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Darren Waller
OUT: Jeremy Butler, Daniel Brown, Tom Nelson
Skinny: Butler has had a role on special-teams units this summer, but he just hasn’t shown enough ability to gain separation with extensive looks in the passing game. Marlon Brown’s job wasn’t in danger, but it was nice seeing him show up emphatically in the first quarter on Thursday night.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Dennis Pitta
OUT: Konrad Reuland
Skinny: This position group has been decided ever since Harbaugh confirmed last month that Pitta would begin the year on the PUP list. You have to wonder how quickly Williams will be able to make an impact after being limited with injuries quite a bit this summer.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Rick Wagner, Eugene Monroe, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, James Hurst, Robert Myers, Jah Reid
OUT: Ryan Jensen, Kaleb Johnson, Nick Easton, Blaine Clausell
Skinny: The current injury to Jensen makes the decision a little easier to stick with Myers, a 2015 fifth-round pick who struggled during the preseason. A good summer for Johnson makes him an attractive option for the practice squad along with Jensen.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)
IN: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Chris Canty, Carl Davis, Lawrence Guy, Kapron Lewis-Moore
INJURED RESERVE-DESIGNATED TO RETURN: Brent Urban (must be on the 53-man roster until Sunday)
OUT: DeAngelo Tyson, Christo Bilukidi, Micajah Reynolds
Skinny: A strong finish to the summer put Lewis-Moore back on the positive side of the bubble as he’s finally starting to show signs of the player he was at Notre Dame before suffering two major injuries. Tyson becomes the odd man out after an injury-riddled summer and a disappointing 2014 season.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Albert McClellan, Arthur Brown
OUT: Andrew Bose
Skinny: Brown is in a tenuous position as the Ravens still think he possesses upside as a linebacker, but his special-teams ability clearly lags behind Orr and McClellan. Baltimore will try to carry the 2013 second-round pick on the roster, but positional needs elsewhere will make it difficult.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Za’Darius Smith
OUT: Brennen Beyer, Zach Thompson
Skinny: The Ravens hope Smith is ready to step into Pernell McPhee’s old hybrid role in passing situations, but the fourth-round rookie remains a work in progress. A strong performance in the final preseason game was a nice statement from Beyer to land on the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (6)
IN: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Kyle Arrington, Tray Walker, Rashaan Melvin, Asa Jackson
OUT: Cassius Vaughn, Quinton Pointer
Skinny: Jackson makes the 53-man roster for now, but the Ravens really need to pursue an upgrade at cornerback and in the return game. Vaughn and Pointer were too up and down over the course of the summer to warrant roster spots.

SAFETIES (4)
IN: Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine
OUT: Brynden Trawick, Nick Perry
Skinny: Trawick is a victim of the numbers game after serving a steady role on special teams over the last couple seasons. The Ravens need Brooks to knock off the rust from the knee injury as quickly as possible to sure up depth behind Hill and Lewis.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
OUT: None
Skinny: This trio begins its fourth season together as the Ravens easily possess one of the best sets of specialists in the NFL.

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hill

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Will Hill makes good on second chance with Ravens

Posted on 27 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A recent conversation with his father reinforced to Will Hill why he didn’t want to be anywhere else after the Ravens had given the talented, but troubled safety a chance last summer.

“He was like, ‘Look, this is a great fit for you,'” said the 25-year-old, who signed a two-year deal with the Ravens on Thursday. “He said, ‘If you ever come across getting a deal, all that off-the-field stuff, it has got to go. I know you’ve been doing a great job with it, and let’s just keep it up.’

“That has been playing through my head every day.”

He’s come a long way in a little over a year.

After being handed the third suspension of his young career last spring, Hill was promptly released by the New York Giants and faced a six-game ban to begin the 2014 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Despite facing their own scrutiny with the Ray Rice saga and four other player arrests hanging over their heads at the time, the Ravens signed Hill to a one-year contract last July with the expectation that he would need to stay out of trouble while serving his suspension to receive a chance.

Returning in Week 7 and immediately becoming a meaningful part of the defense, Hill started the final eight games of the regular season, collecting 42 tackles, four pass breakups, and an interception returned for a touchdown against New Orleans in Week 12. Pro Football Focus graded Hill as its 14th-best safety in the NFL in 2014.

The Ravens were encouraged with his play, but head coach John Harbaugh laid down the challenge to Hill at the end of the season to focus on what was important after he received two marijuana-related suspensions in his first three years and dealt with other off-field issues. After character concerns led to him going undrafted in 2011, Hill was suspended for Adderall use as a rookie with the Giants in 2012 and was arrested in 2013 for failing to pay child support.

“We put it on his plate a little bit. We’re challenging him for the next three or four months,” Harbaugh said in January. “‘Are you going to come back a better player than you were when you left here in January, and is that slate going to be clean?’ We fully expect it to be. He just had a baby. He’s doing great with his family, and we fully expect him to do a great job with that, and we’re going to try to help him anyway we can with that.”

Upon signing his restricted free-agent tender, Hill regularly attended spring workouts in Owings Mills and became more and more comfortable with defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ system. His family members came to training camp practices on a daily basis this summer while the University of Florida product worked exclusively with the starting defense after Matt Elam suffered a torn biceps during the first week of camp.

After five different safeties received extensive snaps a year ago, the Ravens hope Hill and veteran newcomer Kendrick Lewis will provide stability in the back end of the secondary. With some long-term security in hand, Hill says the focus is solely on winning a championship as he looks forward to making plays with Lewis, who has started 66 games in his first five NFL seasons with Kansas City and Houston.

“I think we’re a deadly combo, because we complement each other well,” Hill said. “I can play in the box and play deep, and he can do the same thing. You never know what you’re going to get.”

The 6-foot-1, 228-pound safety has done everything that the Ravens have asked of him to earn an extension as general manager Ozzie Newsome spent much of the offseason solidifying a maligned secondary by signing top cornerback Jimmy Smith to a long-term extension, inking Lewis to a three-year deal, and restructuring Lardarius Webb’s contract.

Hill made no secret about it being a dream to make money — terms of the deal were not immediately made available on Thursday — but he also can’t help but feel like he’s found a home with a support system that cares about him beyond what he can do on the football field.

Now, it’s up to him to prove that the Ravens made a wise investment.

“You go to most places, and it is just a business,” Hill said. “Even though it is just a business, it is more family-oriented around here, and I know I have a good rapport with all my coaches — the offensive coaches, too. I talk to Ozzie every day, and Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti — we have good conversations. They mingle with my family, so everybody is really family-oriented around here.”

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waller

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Sizing up 2015 Ravens roster after second preseason game

Posted on 25 August 2015 by Luke Jones

With two preseasons in the rear-view mirror, I take a look at projecting the Ravens’ 53-man roster for the first time since the aftermath of the opener.

My current look at the roster suggests 45 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the preseason roster lists 19 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are aware of the number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens will look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their position.

The Ravens must trim the roster from 90 players to 75 on Sept. 1 and will go down to the regular-season number of 53 on Sept. 5.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are currently on my projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 25.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Bryn Renner
Skinny: Renner continues to stake a nice claim for a spot on the practice squad and could be one to keep an eye on for the backup job behind Flacco in the future.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
BUBBLE: Fitz Toussaint, Terrence Magee
LONG SHOT: Kiero Small
Skinny: The knee injury suffered by Taliaferro opens the door for the Ravens to carry another running back, but the rookie free agent Magee has performed well enough to push Toussaint for that job.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro
BUBBLE: Darren Waller, Jeremy Butler
LONG SHOT: DeAndre Carter, Aldrick Robinson, Daniel Brown, Trent Steelman, Tom Nelson
Skinny: Waller is moving ever closer to lock territory and has improved immensely since the spring while Butler has had a quiet preseason and Carter isn’t reliable enough as a returner.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
LOCK: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Konrad Reuland
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Dennis Pitta
INJURED RESERVE: Allen Reisner
Skinny: There’s no roster drama at this position with Pitta set to begin the year on the PUP list, but the Ravens have to hope their young tight ends are ready to contribute immediately.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (17)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Rick Wagner, Eugene Monroe, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, James Hurst
BUBBLE: Robert Myers, Jah Reid, Ryan Jensen
LONG SHOT: Nick Easton, Leon Brown, Kaleb Johnson, Marcel Jones, Darryl Baldwin, Blaine Clausell, De’Ondre Wesley
Skinny: Injuries currently plague this unit and it remains to be seen how many linemen they’ll carry, but Easton, a rookie free agent, has played well in the preseason and is someone to keep an eye on.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Chris Canty, Carl Davis, Lawrence Guy
BUBBLE: DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Christo Bilukidi
LONG SHOT: Micajah Reynolds
INJURED RESERVE: Brent Urban
Skinny: Despite seeing his playing time dwindle last season, Tyson is likely safe after the Urban injury and with Lewis-Moore struggling to establish himself this summer.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr
BUBBLE: Albert McClellan, Arthur Brown
LONG SHOT: Andrew Bose
Skinny: It will be interesting to see how this position shakes out as the 2013 second-round pick Brown saw early action with the first-team defense when veteran Daryl Smith was lifted from the game.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Za’Darius Smith
BUBBLE: Steven Means, Brennen Beyer
LONG SHOT: Zach Thompson
Skinny: Means’ groin injury is now helping his cause in trying to make the roster, creating more opportunities for Beyer to put himself in the conversation for a backup linebacker job.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Kyle Arrington, Tray Walker, Rashaan Melvin
BUBBLE: Asa Jackson, Quinton Pointer, Cassius Vaughn
LONG SHOT: Tramain Jacobs, Chris Greenwood
Skinny: A solid performance against Philadelphia put Vaughn in the roster conversation while Pointer has come back to the pack since a strong start to the summer.

SAFETIES (7)
LOCK: Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Brynden Trawick, Nick Perry
LONG SHOT: None
INJURED RESERVE: Matt Elam
Skinny: The activation of Brooks provides a nice boost to an otherwise-thin position behind Hill and Lewis, but it will be interesting to see if Trawick or Perry can survive for special-teams purposes.

SPECIALISTS (5)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Justin Manton, Patrick Scales
Skinny: There’s still nothing to see here.

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campanaro

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Sizing up the 2015 Ravens roster after the preseason opener

Posted on 17 August 2015 by Luke Jones

With the preseason opener against New Orleans in the rear-view mirror, I take a look at projecting the Ravens’ 53-man roster for the first time since the end of mandatory minicamp in mid-June.

My current look at the roster suggests 44 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the preseason roster lists 17 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are aware of the number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens will look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their position.

The Ravens must trim the roster from 90 players to 75 on Sept. 1 and will go down to the regular-season number of 53 on Sept. 5.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are currently on my projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 17.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Bryn Renner
Skinny: Renner was the hero in the preseason opener, but he still profiles as no more than a candidate for the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
BUBBLE: Fitz Toussaint
LONG SHOT: Kiero Small, Terrence Magee
Skinny: Special-teams play could allow Touissant to steal one of the final roster spots while Magee looks like an intriguing practice-squad candidate.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro
BUBBLE: Darren Waller, Jeremy Butler, DeAndre Carter
LONG SHOT: Aldrick Robinson, Daniel Brown, Trent Steelman, Tom Nelson
Skinny: Plenty of competition remains at the receiver position, but it will be interesting to see how many the Ravens will keep, making the next two weeks critical for the second tier of wideouts.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
LOCK: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Konrad Reuland
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Dennis Pitta
INJURED RESERVE: Allen Reisner
Skinny: With Pitta expected to begin the year on the PUP list, there isn’t much drama here in terms of roster spots, but it will be intriguing to see how quickly Williams can close the gap on Gillmore.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (17)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Rick Wagner, Eugene Monroe, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, James Hurst
BUBBLE: Robert Myers, Jah Reid, Ryan Jensen
LONG SHOT: Leon Brown, Kaleb Johnson, Marcel Jones, Nick Easton, Darryl Baldwin, Blaine Clausell, De’Ondre Wesley
Skinny: It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Ravens take advantage of an injury to stash the rookie Myers on injured reserve, which would open up a spot for the improved Jensen on the 53-man roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Chris Canty, Carl Davis, Lawrence Guy
BUBBLE: DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Christo Bilukidi
LONG SHOT: Micajah Reynolds
INJURED RESERVE: Brent Urban
Skinny: After two years missed due to injuries, Lewis-Moore hasn’t been impressive this summer and now looks like he could be on the wrong side of the bubble without improvement.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr
BUBBLE: Albert McClellan, Arthur Brown
LONG SHOT: Andrew Bose
Skinny: The Ravens could find a way to keep five inside linebackers, but it was telling that Brown, the 2013 second-round pick, didn’t play extensively on defense until the fourth quarter against New Orleans.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Za’Darius Smith
BUBBLE: Steven Means
LONG SHOT: Brennen Beyer, Zach Thompson
Skinny: Means’ leg injury sustained in the preseason opener could change the picture at this position, but the Ravens want to be sure to have enough depth behind Suggs and Dumervil.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Kyle Arrington, Tray Walker, Rashaan Melvin
BUBBLE: Asa Jackson, Quinton Pointer
LONG SHOT: Cassius Vaughn, Tramain Jacobs, Chris Greenwood
Skinny: Jackson is nursing a knee injury, but his status as the potential return specialist factors more heavily to his standing than his play at cornerback, meaning the surprising Pointer could still grab a spot.

SAFETIES (7)
LOCK: Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Brynden Trawick, Nick Perry
LONG SHOT: None
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Terrence Brooks
INJURED RESERVE: Matt Elam
Skinny: Depth is a concern at safety with Elam likely done for the year and Brooks’ status up in the air for at least the start of the regular season, meaning Newsome should be looking to add depth here.

SPECIALISTS (5)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Justin Manton, Patrick Scales
Skinny: There’s just nothing to see here.

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Which free-agent newcomer will bring biggest impact to Ravens?

Posted on 01 July 2015 by Luke Jones

Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens

As usual, the Ravens weren’t big movers and shakers in the free-agent market this offseason, but general manager Ozzie Newsome did pick his spots to augment the roster with veteran talent.

Looking to improve the secondary as well as replace backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Ravens made three key veteran signings they hope will pay dividends during the 2015 season.

Below is a look at each one as you can vote in our poll and comment below on which signing will pay the biggest dividends for the Ravens:

Which Ravens' free-agent newcomer will make the biggest impact this season?

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S Kendrick Lewis
Age: 27
Contract: Three years, $5.4 million
Synopsis: The former Texans safety was part of a game of musical safeties in the AFC this offseason as ex-Raven Darian Stewart signed with Denver and former Bronco Rahim Moore landed with Houston. Considering their issues at safety last year, the Ravens hope Lewis can play an effective deep center field after the likes of Stewart and Terrence Brooks allowed too many balls to go over their head. During spring workouts, Lewis consistently worked with the starting defense while Will Hill and Matt Elam rotated at the other safety spot. Of their three biggest free-agent signings, the Ole Miss product projects to receive the most playing time as defensive coordinator Dean Pees would like him to provide an upgrade over Stewart, who underwhelmed for much of the 2014 season.

QB Matt Schaub
Age: 34
Contract: One year, $2 million
Synopsis: The Ravens and their fans pray that the only impact Schaub makes will come in the meeting room and on the practice field as a source of knowledge and experience to aid franchise quarterback Joe Flacco. You never want to draw too many conclusions from spring practices, but the former Texans quarterback didn’t inspire much confidence based on his play as he struggled to connect with receivers consistently and threw too many interceptions. If Schaub sees extensive playing time, it clearly means something has gone horribly wrong for the Ravens during the 2015 season. Baltimore invested real money in a backup quarterback for the first time since 2010, but I’m not convinced that Schaub will give them a much better chance to win if he needs to play than Taylor did the last couple seasons.

CB Kyle Arrington
Age: 28
Contract: Three years, $7 million
Synopsis: With the Ravens’ extensive injuries at the cornerback position a year ago, Newsome couldn’t afford to go into the 2015 campaign without an established veteran to go with Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb in the nickel defense. The former New England cornerback is very solid defending the slot and allows Pees to keep Webb on the outside. This signing takes pressure off the likes of fourth-round rookie Tray Walker, Rashaan Melvin, and Asa Jackson on the depth chart, but the key to the secondary’s success will be the ability of Smith and Webb to stay on the field. Arrington will have to perform and isn’t a great fit playing outside, but the Ravens paid a very reasonable price when you remember some of the bloated contracts given to free-agent corners at the start of free agency.

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Nov 10, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam (26) in action against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

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Sizing up the post-minicamp 2015 Ravens roster

Posted on 22 June 2015 by Luke Jones

With mandatory minicamp behind them and training camp just over a month away, the Ravens turn their attention toward the preseason and eventually trimming the current 90-man roster down to 53 by the start of the regular season.

Little can be taken away from voluntary organized team activities and three mandatory practices — conducted without live contact — but my early look at the roster suggests as many as 40 players would be considered locks if the deadline to trim the roster took place in late June. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the roster lists 28 on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with some positions lacking quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the coaching staff and front office pay attention to the number of players at each position, trying to pinpoint a specific number of receivers or cornerbacks or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. The Ravens are looking for reserves who can excel on special teams in addition to their designated position, so they will look carefully at players’ other abilities and overall athleticism in addition to what they bring to their specific position when filling out the bottom of the roster.

Of course, this breakdown could change at any point and certainly by the first day of training camp if any individuals report to Owings Mills in poor physical condition or have not done the necessary mental preparation for the summer.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. As we move into the preseason, I’ll provide updated looks as well as projections of who’s in and who’s out during the different stages of the summer.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Bryn Renner, Jerry Lovelocke
Skinny: Schaub did not impress in spring workouts open to media, but the Ravens invested $2 million in guaranteed money in the veteran quarterback to back up Flacco following the free-agent departure of Tyrod Taylor. Renner and Lovelocke will compete for a potential spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
BUBBLE: Fitz Toussaint
LONG SHOT: Kiero Small, Terrence Magee
Skinny: There doesn’t appear to be much drama in the backfield, but the competition between Taliaferro and Allen for carries behind Forsett will be interesting to watch. Toussaint will give himself a better chance to make the roster if he can offer something as a kickoff returner.

WIDE RECEIVERS (11)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken
BUBBLE: Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Darren Waller, DeAndre Carter
LONG SHOT: Aldrick Robinson, Daniel Brown, Cam Worthy
Skinny: There are many questions beyond the reliable 36-year-old Smith, but there is intrigue and upside with this group of young wide receivers. You’re always waiting for Brown to take his game to the next level while the oft-injured Campanaro struggles to stay on the field, making it difficult to deem either a lock at this point. Butler was very impressive during spring workouts and Carter offers ability as a returner, making them two names to watch closely this summer.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
LOCK: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Allen Reisner, Konrad Reuland
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Dennis Pitta
Skinny: The Ravens invested a second-round pick in Williams, but Gillmore was the one who stood out during spring practices as the two will battle for the starting job this summer. I’d never want to count out Pitta, but if doctors wouldn’t clear him to participate in a non-contact minicamp, what are the odds that he’ll be allowed to take part in training camp this summer?

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (17)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Rick Wagner, Eugene Monroe, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel
BUBBLE: Robert Myers, James Hurst, Jah Reid, Ryan Jensen
LONG SHOT: Marcel Jones, Nick Easton, Leon Brown, Kaleb Johnson, Darryl Baldwin, Blaine Clausell, De’Ondre Wesley
Skinny: Myers and Hurst are in great shape from a roster standpoint, but you never know with offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who loves working with unheralded linemen and has found some diamonds in the rough in his coaching career. Re-signed to a one-year deal, Reid is a former third-round pick who never lived up to expectations and looks more like camp depth than a great candidate to make the roster at this point, but the health of Wagner’s foot could alter that thinking if the starting right tackle isn’t ready to practice by late July or early August.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Chris Canty, Carl Davis, Brent Urban
BUBBLE: Lawrence Guy, DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Christo Bilukidi, Casey Walker
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: The narrative centers around replacing five-time Pro Bowl selection Haloti Ngata, but the Ravens have a nice collection of talent in this group, which will likely lead to them being forced to part ways with one or two NFL-caliber defensive linemen. Baltimore is curious to see how hard Urban can push the veteran Canty at the 5-technique defensive end spot. This is probably a make-or-break summer for Lewis-Moore, who has not played a snap in his first two seasons due to injuries.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley
BUBBLE: Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan, Zachary Orr
LONG SHOT: Andrew Bose
Skinny: While it’s certainly possible that all three inside linebackers on the bubble make the 53-man roster, you wonder how much patience the Ravens will have with Brown, who couldn’t even make it on the field as a special-teams player in his second season. McClellan has been one of their best special-teams players over the last few seasons, but Orr is younger and cheaper and took extensive reps with the second-team defense this spring.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Za’Darius Smith
BUBBLE: Steven Means, Brennen Beyer, Zach Thompson
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: The Ravens need to look at this position with an eye toward the future as Upshaw becomes a free agent after the season and Suggs didn’t exactly make it sound like he’s definitely committed to continue playing beyond 2015, making it even more critical that the fourth-round rookie Smith develops sooner rather than later. The organization has talked up Means this offseason, but time will tell whether he’s the next great find or another Adrian Hamilton or Michael McAdoo.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Kyle Arrington, Tray Walker
BUBBLE: Asa Jackson, Rashaan Melvin, Tramain Jacobs, Cassius Vaughn
LONG SHOT: Chris Greenwood, Quinton Pointer
Skinny: Smith and Webb remaining healthy are the biggest keys to this group’s improvement, but Arrington appears to be a good fit playing inside in the nickel package and takes some pressure off the development of the fourth-round rookie Walker. Newsome appears to have some second- and third-tier depth, but the Ravens pray they won’t have to tap into it like they did last season.

SAFETIES (7)
LOCK: Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks
BUBBLE: Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick, Nick Perry
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: The Ravens have put Elam on notice, but there’s not enough talent in this group to seriously think the 2013 first-round pick is in jeopardy of not making the team at this point. Levine’s ability to play cornerback and safety makes him a good bet to make the roster while Perry is a former Alabama product and one of the Ravens’ more highly-touted rookie free agent signings. It will be interesting to watch Brooks this summer as his progress coming back from a torn ACL suffered in December was one of the biggest surprises of the spring.

SPECIALISTS (5)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Justin Manton, Patrick Scales
Skinny: If Cox’s surgically-repaired knee were in question, Scales could make a push to replace him, but the veteran long snapper looked fine during spring workouts and remains as reliable as they come in the NFL.

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Nov 10, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam (26) in action against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

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Elam having “best camp yet” in defensive coordinator’s mind

Posted on 09 June 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have made it clear this season is critical for Matt Elam and the third-year safety has responded favorably in at least one coach’s mind.

After general manager Ozzie Newsome stated earlier this offseason that the organization has “not been satisfied” with the performance of the 2013 first-round pick, defensive coordinator Dean Pees said he’s seeing plenty of progress with Elam, who has been splitting time with Will Hill at strong safety in the starting defense during voluntary organized team activities.

“Best camp he has had — bar none, not even close. I expect big things out of Matt,” Pees said on Monday. “I really do. I know there are some critics out there, but I’m just telling you I think No. 26 is going to be a good football player. I think he’s having a great camp.”

Of course, coaches will rarely go out of their way to be negative about a player publicly, but Pees’ comments contrast the tone the organization’s brass has offered when asked about the safety this offseason. The Ravens are still hoping that Elam will begin providing a better return after looking like one of the worst first-round picks in franchise history through two seasons.

The 23-year-old reported to the Ravens’ training complex in better shape this spring after losing eight pounds, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Baltimore hopes that will translate to better performance in the secondary where Elam has struggled in pass coverage and as a tackler despite a reputation for being a punishing hitter at the University of Florida.

According to Pro Football Focus, Elam graded out 78th among all safeties to have played at least 25 percent of his team’s snaps in 2014 and led the Ravens defense with 16 missed tackles. Injuries in the secondary forced Elam into nickel duty too often — a problem that should be avoided with better cornerback depth this season — but that doesn’t excuse his inconsistency in bringing down ball carriers in 2014.

So, what specific improvement is Pees seeing from Elam that suggests this season will be different?

“Communication-wise, running to the ball wise, and every aspect,” Pees said. “Now, the thing that we can’t tell right now is tackling from anybody [in non-contact practices]. It wouldn’t be just him, [but] it would be anybody. We don’t know that. But as far as just communication, knowing the defense, being in the right spot, doing all those things, [it’s the] best camp he has had.”

In two seasons, Elam has totaled 127 tackles, one interception, seven pass breakups, and a forced fumble.

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flacco

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Five questions pondering Flacco, Webb, Monroe, Ravens guards

Posted on 05 June 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or should the Cam Newton contract put all discussion to rest about the deal Joe Flacco received two years ago? To some degree, criticism we heard about Flacco’s contract is now being thrown Newton’s way as he received an extension that pays him an average yearly salary of $20.8 million. We spend so much time ranking quarterbacks and determining which ones are “elite” when it really comes down to a very simple question for NFL teams. Can your quarterback win you a Super Bowl with a reasonable supporting cast around him or not? If the answer is yes, you pay him — plain and simple. Of course, determining the line of demarcation is the challenge as Miami recently paying Ryan Tannehill was an example of that. In terms of average annual salary, does Newton deserve to be the fourth-highest paid quarterback in the NFL? No, but it was his turn in line and Carolina has enough reason to think he can eventually lead the Panthers to the promised land. That’s all that matters.

2. Is it just me or does the Ravens’ current guard situation remind you of the 2011 season? Most assume Baltimore will ultimately re-sign Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda while fourth-year left guard Kelechi Osemele will likely depart via free agency after this season, but I do wonder if that would be the best path for the Ravens. Yanda is a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the best guard in the NFL, but he’ll also be 31 in September. If his demands are through the roof, can you justify giving lucrative money to a player who will be approaching his mid-30s during the life of the contract? Meanwhile, Osemele turns just 26 later this month is likely to get even better over the next couple years. The situation isn’t identical, but it reminds me of 2011 when Ben Grubbs and Yanda were both scheduled to become free agents. Many thought the Ravens should sign Grubbs, but Yanda received an affordable extension that summer and the 2007 first-round pick departed the following winter. I’ll still assume that the Ravens keep Yanda, but it would be tough allowing a much younger player to depart.

3. Is it just me or should Lardarius Webb and Eugene Monroe be attending voluntary organized team activities after injury-plagued campaigns last season? Any veteran player has the right to skip voluntary spring practices, but I can’t help but think the Ravens aren’t thrilled to see Webb and Monroe missing OTA workouts — at least the ones that have been open to media thus far. Counting the playoffs, injuries forced Monroe to miss seven starts last season and the left tackle’s contract is structured in a way that the Ravens could release him next offseason if they’re not thrilled with his performance, as was the case last year. Meanwhile, Webb may have restructured his current contract this offseason, but Baltimore could easily cut the veteran cornerback next winter if his play doesn’t improve substantially from 2014. It’s one thing for established veterans to skip spring workouts, but those with question marks from the previous year are taking a chance to further fall out of good graces when they’re not around in the spring.

4. Is it just me or could a healthy Brent Urban be a difference-maker for a revamped defensive line? Much attention has been paid to the interior part of the line following the trade of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, but the 5-technique defensive end spot is a position of interest as veteran Chris Canty was cut and re-signed at a cheaper rate earlier this year. Canty has been mostly solid in his two years with Baltimore, but he will also be 33 in November and contemplated retirement this past winter. Urban has been quite active during spring workouts and appears fully recovered from last summer’s knee injury. Not only could he challenge Canty for his starting spot, but the 6-foot-7 University of Virginia product could be an intriguing option to replace Pernell McPhee as an interior pass rusher on third down. Urban will need to prove himself this summer, but it was no secret that the 2014 fourth-round pick was going to be a big part of the rotation as a rookie. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a key contributor for the Ravens’ front this season.

5. Is it just me or are the Ravens getting more than enough love this offseason? I’ve made no secret about how impressed I was with general manager Ozzie Newsome’s work in the 2015 draft and the savvy signing of slot cornerback Kyle Arrington last month, but I was surprised to see Sports Illustrated’s Peter King list the Ravens first in his preseason power rankings. Looking at it objectively, Ravens fans would be incensed if Pittsburgh were ranked No. 1 after losing a starting wide receiver, a starting tight end, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, an impact pass rusher, and a good offensive coordinator. Make no mistake, I expect the Ravens to be a playoff team in 2015 and they could very well be poised to make a championship run if wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams are ready to make meaningful contributions as rookies. Everything the Ravens have done looks strong on paper, but that doesn’t always mean it comes to fruition on the field as quickly as you’d like, especially when relying on unproven players. For the fans who like to play the disrespect card in terms of how the national media views their team, King is taking a leap of faith to put Baltimore at the top of the list.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 10.49.18 PM

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Ravens still looking to add veteran cornerback to mix

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Nearly two weeks after addressing most of their positional needs and wants in the 2015 draft, the Ravens apparently aren’t done addressing their cornerback depth.

Speaking to season-ticket holders in a conference call Tuesday night, head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome confirmed the organization remains interested in adding a veteran cornerback. Baltimore feels comfortable with the health of starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb after both dealt with injuries last season, but the important No. 3 cornerback spot remains up for grabs with Asa Jackson, Rashaan Melvin, and fourth-round rookie Tray Walker the top contenders.

“We want to add some competition in there. Ozzie is working on that right now,” Harbaugh said. “I think Ozzie has said [that] we’re not finished there.”

After being released by New England earlier this week, veteran Kyle Arrington would appear to be a good fit at the slot cornerback position, which would take pressure off the Ravens’ younger options. Newsome did not express any specific interest in Arrington, but the 28-year-old would figure to draw plenty of interest around the NFL after collecting 39 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, and four pass breakups.

Arrington’s play declined in the second half of 2014, but the 5-foot-10 cornerback brings plenty of experience with 56 starts and nine interceptions under his belt in a six-year career. With just over $10 million in salary cap space, the Ravens will clearly have the ability to make a competitive offer for Arrington if they consider him a worthy addition.

“There are a lot of players available now that I have been on the phone talking to representatives [about],” Newsome said. “This is the time of the year where because of the draft, teams start to tweak their rosters. We’ll be on the lookout not just for additions to the secondary but for any other good players that may get released.”

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edreed

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Ed Reed always kept everyone on their toes

Posted on 07 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The only certainty about Ed Reed over the years was to be ready for just about anything.

Announcing his retirement after 12 NFL seasons — 11 with the Ravens — and speaking to the Baltimore media, the future Hall of Fame safety tossed a few more laterals and certainly didn’t disappoint during his farewell press conference.

“This is home. Baltimore, I love the city, I love this organization,” Reed said. “I hope that I did more than I was supposed to as a Raven, bigger than any contract could ever explain as a player.”

In discussing the ceremonial one-day contract he signed with general manager Ozzie Newsome, Reed revealed that he lobbied for a three-day contract or even one more season with the Ravens. He was joking, of course.

At least we think he was.

From honestly expressing his love playing against Cleveland’s many quarterbacks to awkwardly dropping a 4-20 reference, Reed covered it all in his 45-minute press conference that also featured Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, and team president Dick Cass. He compared his early relationship with longtime teammate Ray Lewis to Mufasa and Simba from “The Lion King” and even worked in a final jab at the media for the perceived twisting of his words over the years.

It was just Ed being Ed, one of the greatest safeties in the history of the NFL and one of the most unique sports personalities Baltimore has ever seen.

Depending on the day of the week or even the hour in the day, Reed could be thoughtful or disinterested or cordial or surly with just about anyone. He was as likely to take a moment to introduce himself to a young and clueless media member covering his first training camp in Westminster as he was to grumpily walk by his closest teammates in the locker room without saying a word.

The only thing you knew about Reed — other than him being one of the best players in franchise history — was that you never knew. He liked it that way.

“I never thought about making it to the Hall of Fame,” said Reed, who is eligible for induction as soon as 2019. “I just wanted to be a great football player for my teammates. I was just studying and doing all that so that we could be our best. As everybody knows, this is a team sport, but an individual business. As an individual, I had to make sure I was taking care of my business.”

The 36-year-old says he hasn’t yet hung up his cleats despite announcing his retirement from the NFL as he continues to work out regularly and is currently busy coaching his 7-year-old son’s flag football team. Reed quipped that the latter experience doesn’t really make him want to be a coach, but he acknowledges that football is in his blood and has entertained thoughts of coaching at a higher level. This was evident late in his career when he quietly mentored the likes of Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, and Jimmy Smith while Lewis received the spotlight as the leader of the Ravens.

Despite not enjoying talking to the media for much of his career, Reed opened up on Thursday.

He shed light on his passion for helping others, which has been evident through various charitable endeavors over the years and his adoption of Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore early in his career. He spoke sincerely on the recent unrest in the city, emphasizing the need for youth to have sports and other positive avenues on which to focus beyond school.

Along with his nine Pro Bowl selections, 2004 AP Defensive Player of the Year award, and Super Bowl XLVII championship ring, Reed’s contributions in the community — here and in his home state of Louisiana — make him an easy choice to be officially inducted into the Ring of Honor on Nov. 22. Of course, a trip to Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame will follow.

“Deep commitment to the city of Baltimore,” said Cass, adding that Reed invited 26 Booker T. Washington students to every home game for over a decade in addition to the other contributions he made to the school. “The love that he felt for the city has been returned many times over by our fans and by the people in Baltimore who know that Ed is committed to the city. That deep commitment is returned to you in many ways.”

No, Reed didn’t have the storybook ending to his career in the same way Lewis did as he made the business decision to chase another payday with the Houston Texans. His final season with Houston and then the New York Jets was forgettable, but the 2002 first-round pick always moved to his own beat, even joking about his retirement as recently as April Fools’ Day last month.

Whether it was an ill-advised lateral on the field, the mixed signals about his contract and possible retirement in his later years, or the calculated and well-studied gambles that resulted in countless game-changing plays, Reed did things his way. No other player could provide you the full array of emotions in a matter of seconds, whether he was blocking a punt, recklessly flipping the ball to a teammate in heavy traffic, or intercepting a pass deep in his own end zone before sprinting the length of the field for a record-setting touchdown.

Everyone — coaches, teammates, media, and fans — was just along for the ride. And even if we rarely knew what was happening, what an exciting trip it was.

“When he told me later, yes,” said Harbaugh as he laughed when asked if he always knew what Reed was thinking on the field. “I was happy to hear about it.”

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