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DeCosta officially becomes Ravens general manager on Friday

Posted on 10 January 2019 by Luke Jones

A transition anticipated for years will be completed on Friday with Eric DeCosta officially becoming general manager of the Ravens.

As owner Steve Bisciotti revealed last February, DeCosta will take over for longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome, who has been in charge of football operations since the franchise arrived in Baltimore in 1996 and been the architect of two Super Bowl championship teams. According to a press release, Newsome, 62, will remain with the organization in “a significant role” as Bisciotti indicated would happen last year.

DeCosta spent the last seven seasons as Newsome’s assistant general manager after previously serving as director of player personnel (2009-11), director of college scouting (2003-08), and an area scout (1997-2002). The 47-year-old began as a scouting intern with the Ravens in 1996 and has long been viewed as Newsome’s successor, evident by the number of general manager interview requests he declined from other teams over the years. The two are very close, which should lead to fewer hiccups in what is usually a major — and sometimes awkward — transition within an organization.

“I just think that over the last 22 years, probably the most rewarding thing for me has been working with Ozzie, and I don’t see that changing,” DeCosta said last April. “He said this to me one time: ‘His strengths are my weaknesses, and my strengths are his weaknesses.’ So, you know what? We’re a family, we want to win, and we’re competitive people. We believe in what we do, we want to be good, and we want to build a team that you guys are proud of.

“I’ve got probably the best GM in the history of football — at least one of the top five here right now — and I hope he always stays.”

The change comes at an interesting time for the Ravens, who are coming off a division-winning season and their first playoff appearance since 2014. The organization has already stated its intention to retain head coach John Harbaugh beyond the 2019 season — his final year under contract — but an extension hasn’t yet been finalized. The Ravens have also transitioned to 22-year-old quarterback Lamar Jackson, who replaced longtime starter and former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco in November.

DeCosta will be faced with a number of challenging roster decisions this offseason, ranging from the free agency of linebackers C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, and Za’Darius Smith to whether to part with veterans such as safety Eric Weddle and cornerback Jimmy Smith to create more salary cap space.

The organization has yet to announce a time for its “State of the Ravens” press conference, which typically takes place sometime in January. Harbaugh hasn’t met with reporters since Sunday’s playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers despite usually doing so in the first few days after the season’s conclusion.

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Patience — and skepticism — warranted as Ravens’ fun 2018 ride comes to end

Posted on 08 January 2019 by Luke Jones

The 2018 Ravens were weird but fun, something that shouldn’t be forgotten in the aftermath of the ugly wild-card playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Winning its first AFC North championship in six years and returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, Baltimore completed one of the more memorable in-season turnarounds in team history. Faced with a three-game losing streak and a hip injury to longtime quarterback Joe Flacco at the bye week, head coach John Harbaugh and his coaching staff turned to rookie Lamar Jackson and zigged while the rest of the pass-happy NFL zagged with the Ravens rushing for over 1,600 yards in their final seven games, nearly twice as many as their total from the first nine weeks of the season. The coaches deserve much credit for remaking the offense on the fly, and that drastic change was embraced by players, including a group of wide receivers who were marginalized overnight.

However, that ride came to a screeching halt Sunday with the Chargers defense smothering the Ravens for the first 50 minutes of play, holding them to three points and 83 total yards through three quarters in their own stadium. It was obvious Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley figured out the unconventional Baltimore running game the second time around, but the Ravens were soundly beaten in their one-on-one matchups as well, especially on the offensive line. The offense was thoroughly outcoached and outplayed, and it was too late by the time the Ravens managed two late touchdowns against a sleepy Los Angeles defense to make the final score look respectable.

With an enjoyable season coming to an end, patience is warranted, but skepticism is fair in assessing the state of the Ravens moving forward. The first playoff appearance in four years typically signals brighter days ahead, but this season was as much a last hurrah for some key individuals as it was the start of a new chapter.

Change is already underway as longtime lieutenant Eric DeCosta becomes the general manager with Ozzie Newsome stepping aside after 23 years in charge of football operations. That should be as seamless a transition as you’ll find in this position with DeCosta having been with the Ravens since their inception, but that doesn’t guarantee success or the absence of some hiccups along the way.

The Ravens have publicly expressed their intentions of keeping Harbaugh, but rumors and speculation will persist until a contract extension becomes official. How his assistant coaches fit into that future also remains to be seen as Sunday wasn’t exactly a banner day for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

We know Flacco is finished in Baltimore as Harbaugh eulogized the former Super Bowl MVP’s Ravens career minutes after Sunday’s loss, but he’s unlikely to be the only notable veteran player to depart. Retirement, free agency, or salary-cap decisions could lead to the exit of some combination of Marshal Yanda, Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle, Za’Darius Smith, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Tony Jefferson. Much will depend on how dramatically DeCosta wants to reshape the roster and reset the salary cap in his first year calling the shots.

Regardless of other changes, Jackson’s development is obviously the biggest factor in determining the short-to-intermediate future and that will require some patience and perspective. The 22-year-old is a special talent who flashed much to like on his way to helping the Ravens win six of their last seven regular-season games, but significant questions about his ball security and passing ability cannot be overlooked because of the early team success. That was apparent Sunday as he fumbled three times and completed only three passes through three quarters until regrouping to throw two touchdowns in the final seven minutes to make the game interesting. His mental toughness to fight back in the closing minutes was admirable, but he looked in over his head for much of the day.

Jackson was hardly alone in the struggles as the offensive line was awful against the Chargers front, but it was a reminder that he has a long way to go. That’s OK, of course, as Flacco was far from stellar in his first few playoff games before becoming “January Joe” a few years later. Jackson’s first postseason performance really shouldn’t change anything as he was always going to need to make marked improvement, regardless of how far the Ravens advanced this January.

But what will the organization do to help him get there?

Assistant head coach Greg Roman deserves credit for implementing the same run-game schemes successfully used in his previous stops at San Francisco and Buffalo, but is Mornhinweg the right offensive coordinator for Jackson? It’s been much advertised that he and quarterbacks coach James Urban worked with a veteran Michael Vick in Philadelphia, but that was an eternity ago in NFL years. For what it’s worth, Mornhinweg’s arrival as the quarterbacks coach four years ago — with Marc Trestman as the offensive coordinator — coincided with an immediate statistical decline in Flacco after arguably his best season under Gary Kubiak in 2014.

Sunday was damning for Mornhinweg in terms of having no plan B as the Chargers seemingly knew what plays the Ravens were running in their second meeting in 15 days. However, Harbaugh has shown much faith in his offensive coordinator over these last few years, making it difficult to expect a change now as the head coach has newfound leverage with a division championship and playoff appearance.

The Ravens are likely to remain a run-first offense going forward, but more balance will be paramount. With his mobility, Jackson doesn’t need to become Peyton Manning to be very successful at this level, but his throwing mechanics, footwork, and ability to throw outside the numbers will be scrutinized even more next season. Before anything else, however, he needs to do a much better job protecting the football as he finished with 15 fumbles counting Sunday’s playoff game.

The offensive talent the Ravens add around Jackson will be just as important as his individual development. Contrary to the lazy narrative of the last six years being strictly about Flacco’s contract, the Ravens did a poor job building an offense around him. The organization used most of its early draft picks from 2013-17 on defense — with mixed results at best — and even gave out big contracts to defensive players at less valuable positions while the other side of the ball floundered with minimal resources. Flacco’s pending exit shouldn’t leave that truth forgotten.

The Ravens will have much more cap flexibility with a quarterback on a rookie contract for the next few years, but the defense will also be undergoing substantial change with several key veterans moving on sooner than later. In other words, it will be interesting to see if DeCosta and the organization evolve toward making offense the greater priority or whether Jackson will be asked to do less with more like his predecessor. Improving the interior offensive line and addressing the wide receiver position — again — will be just two of the priorities on the offensive side of the ball.

A new era has begun in Baltimore, one that warrants some patience with a new general manager, a number of potential veteran departures, and a talented 22-year-old quarterback. These are certainly interesting and exciting times at 1 Winning Drive.

But it’s fair to be skeptical as the Ravens hand the keys to Jackson, both for his own weaknesses and those of the organization in recent years.

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 30 December 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens just need to win.

Dreams of a first-round bye evaporated with New England and Houston handling their business in Week 17, but Baltimore clinches its first AFC North championship since 2012 and first playoff appearance since 2014 with a victory over Cleveland on Sunday. Of course, a loss coupled with a Pittsburgh win over Cincinnati would knock the Ravens out of the playoffs for a fourth straight season and the fifth time in six years. With the Patriots and Texans winning, the AFC North champion would remain the fourth seed in the conference.

Despite the Ravens issuing a statement last week announcing John Harbaugh would return in 2019 as the sides are working on a contract extension, speculation persists about the 11th-year head coach’s future. Multiple national outlets reported Sunday that NFL teams could seek a trade for Harbaugh’s services, especially if the Ravens were to lose in Week 17. Harbaugh remains under contract through the 2019 season.

There were no surprises among Baltimore’s inactives as linebacker Terrell Suggs (hamstring), wide receiver John Brown (hamstring), defensive back Anthony Levine (toe/ankle), and slot cornerback Tavon Young (groin) are all active after being listed as questionable on the final injury report. However, guard Alex Lewis (shoulder) is once again inactive despite practicing fully all week, making it apparent that he’s lost the starting left guard job to the combination of veteran James Hurst and rookie Bradley Bozeman.

Veteran running back Buck Allen was a healthy scratch for a second straight week while outside linebacker Tim Williams was deactivated for the eighth straight game, continuing his disappointing second season.

The Browns had already ruled out cornerback Denzel Ward on Friday as the rookie sensation continues to recover from a concussion. Cleveland starting center JC Tretter is active despite being listed as questionable with an ankle injury.

Sunday will mark the final regular-season game of Ozzie Newsome’s terrific 23-year run as Ravens general manager, making his photo a natural choice for the Week 17 game-day program cover (below). Longtime assistant general manager Eric DeCosta will take over at the end of the season with Newsome expected to remain with the organization in some capacity.

Sunday’s referee is Shawn Smith.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-40s with winds light and variable and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing their black jerseys with purple pants, the first time they’ve ever worn that uniform combination. Cleveland dons white tops with brown pants for its season finale.

Sunday marks the 40th all-time meeting between these AFC North teams with the Ravens enjoying an overwhelming 29-10 advantage. Baltimore is 18-3 against Cleveland in the Harbaugh era, but the Browns are seeking their first season sweep of the Ravens since 2007, the last time they finished with a winning record.

The Ravens are trying to avoid a fourth consecutive Week 17 loss. Their last victory in a regular-season finale came in 2014 when they defeated the Browns to punch their ticket to the playoffs as a wild card.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Robert Griffin III
WR Jordan Lasley
RB Buck Allen
FB/DL Patrick Ricard
LB Tim Williams
G Alex Lewis
DL Zach Sieler

CLEVELAND
CB Denzel Ward
QB Drew Stanton
WR Blake Jackson
OL Kyle Kalis
OL Desmond Harrison
DL Chad Thomas
DL Carl Davis

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Harbaugh to remain as Ravens head coach in 2019

Posted on 21 December 2018 by Luke Jones

On the eve of another make-or-break game likely determining their playoff fate, the Ravens have apparently seen enough to recommit to 11th-year head coach John Harbaugh.

The organization issued a statement just over 24 hours before their Saturday showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers saying Harbaugh would return next year as the sides “are working on an extension to his existing contract, which expires after the 2019 season.” Winners of four of their last five games since their Week 10 bye, the Ravens currently hold the final wild-card spot in the AFC playoff race and are trying to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2014.

With former starting quarterback Joe Flacco suffering a hip injury in the Week 9 loss to Pittsburgh that dropped Baltimore’s record to 4-5, the coaching staff went to work revamping a pass-heavy offense during the bye week in preparation for first-round rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson making his first NFL start. What’s resulted is a dynamic run-first attack that’s produced at least 190 rushing yards in five straight games, the first time an NFL team has done that since the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers. Harbaugh announced last week that Jackson would remain the starter with a now-healthy Flacco officially benched after 10 1/2 years as Baltimore’s franchise quarterback.

Despite being in danger of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, Harbaugh has continued to receive strong support in the locker room with his teams consistently playing hard even when lacking talent at key positions or ravaged by injuries in previous seasons. The 56-year-old arguably would have been the top head coaching candidate around the NFL had the Ravens elected to part ways with him, and many had questioned whether the organization would find a replacement as good as Harbaugh.

Even with the Ravens’ resurgence since the bye, the timing of the announcement is peculiar as a loss to the Chargers would likely mean another non-playoff season for a franchise that has gone just 48-46 and has qualified for the postseason only once since winning Super Bowl XLVII. Owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged in February that he briefly contemplated a coaching change after the Ravens’ stunning Week 17 loss to Cincinnati that knocked them out of the playoffs last year, but Harbaugh will now remain head coach as Eric DeCosta assumes the general manager role that will be relinquished by Ozzie Newsome at the end of this season.

With rumors and reports circulating about Harbaugh’s future as the Ravens dropped three straight from late October into early November, the team has responded by winning four games against opponents with a combined record of 19-37 and run defenses ranking in the bottom 10 of the NFL, making the Week 16 tilt against a strong and balanced Chargers team a significant test. This is the third straight year in which the Ravens have entered the penultimate week of the season with an 8-6 record and controlling their own path to a playoff spot.

Harbaugh has compiled a 102-72 regular-season record with six playoff appearances, 10 playoff wins, three AFC championship game appearances, and one Super Bowl title in his 11-year run in Baltimore. The Ravens have won at least eight games in all but one of his seasons.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on current quarterback situation

Posted on 11 November 2018 by Luke Jones

With Joe Flacco dealing with a hip injury and many clamoring for the Ravens to begin the Lamar Jackson era, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The last two days of speculation are an example why it’s usually a good idea to pump the brakes in such situations. Whether Flacco plays against Cincinnati remains uncertain, but the number of fans and even some media who’ve so eagerly thrown dirt on his Baltimore tenure is disappointing.

2. The Ravens will try to make the best of the situation by keeping the Bengals guessing as much as possible this week. Marvin Lewis’ defense being awful of late and A.J. Green’s status being in doubt certainly should help Baltimore’s chances.

3. I look forward to watching Jackson play whenever that time comes, but the definitive takes ranging from him providing an instant upgrade to him not being an NFL-caliber quarterback are silly. Based only on the limited role Jackson’s fulfilled so far, no one really knows how he’ll fare initially.

4. My educated guess is that the Ravens would run the ball more effectively while taking a substantial hit in the passing game. I don’t believe that net result is improving — or matching — their chances to make the playoffs compared to a healthy Flacco playing the rest of the way.

5. As I pointed out in my rest-of-the-season predictions piece that was torpedoed by news of Flacco’s injury, Baltimore’s next five opponents rank in the bottom 10 in Football Outsiders’ weighted defense metric, which should bode well for either quarterback.

6. A retiring Hall of Fame executive, a general manager in waiting, a Super Bowl-winning head coach and quarterback on the hot seat, other key veterans potentially on their last ride, a rookie first-round quarterback, and less-than-ideal — but hardly impossible — postseason hopes. Awkward much?

7. If Flacco only needs to miss the Bengals game, what do the Ravens do after that? If they lose, do you just stick with Jackson — no matter how he plays — with their playoff hopes even more remote? If they win and the rookie doesn’t play poorly, do you keep rolling with him? Again, awkward.

8. The best-case scenario has always been Flacco playing well and Jackson showing strong behind-the-scenes development to prompt an offseason trade. What remains as a three-year, $63 million non-guaranteed deal should have some appeal for a quarterback-needy team with a strong roster. This injury doesn’t help that cause.

9. Flacco’s most undervalued trait for a long time was his availability as he didn’t miss a game through his first 7 1/2 seasons, but a 2015 ACL tear, last year’s back injury, and his current hip ailment show durability rarely lasts.

10. This article is a reminder why most probably need to lower whatever expectations they have for the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner this season. It also means he shouldn’t be labeled a bust if he struggles with any extended playing time over these final seven games.

11. Per OverTheCap.com, Baltimore has an average ranking of 22nd in the NFL in cap spending on offense since 2013, which includes Flacco. Coupling that with mostly defense-heavy drafts since Super Bowl XLVII, the organizational commitment to offense must improve. This past offseason being praised so much reflects a low standard.

12. With the dumb conspiracy theories suggesting a fake injury for Flacco — despite numerous people observing a leg issue early in the Pittsburgh game — as an excuse for the Ravens to start Jackson, is it any wonder grocery stores in the greater Baltimore area were all out of tinfoil?

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Ravens acquire Green Bay running back Montgomery at trade deadline

Posted on 30 October 2018 by Luke Jones

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome chose not to stand pat at his final trade deadline, acquiring running back Ty Montgomery from Green Bay on Tuesday afternoon.

Baltimore hopes Montgomery’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield as well as to carry the ball will bring more versatility to an offense that ranks 31st in the NFL in yards per carry and averaged just 18.5 points per game in October. In a reduced role this season, Montgomery has rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and made 15 receptions for 170 yards. He first rose to some prominence in 2016 when he converted from the wide receiver position to running back to gain 457 yards on 77 carries and make 44 receptions for 348 yards in 15 games. Injuries limited the 216-pound Montgomery to eight games last season as he rushed for 273 yards on 71 carries and caught 23 passes for 173 yards.

The Ravens released veteran linebacker Albert McClellan to make room on their 53-man roster. It’s possible McClellan could be re-signed in the near future, especially with Baltimore currently carrying four running backs on the active roster. Still on injured reserve with a knee injury sustained in Week 1, running back Kenneth Dixon is eligible to begin practicing at any point now, which could further crowd the backfield.

To complete Tuesday’s trade, the Ravens sent a 2020 seventh-round draft pick to the Packers, who were apparently looking to move on from Montgomery after his critical fumble in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams. An NFL.com report indicated the 25-year-old was unhappy about his reduced role and didn’t follow coaches’ instructions to kneel a kickoff for a touchback late in the second half, instead bringing it out of the end zone and fumbling. The turnover prevented Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers from having another chance against the Rams defense in the 29-27 final.

Montgomery, a 2015 third-round pick from Stanford, will make the remainder of his $716,500 base salary for the 2018 season — roughly $379,000 — before becoming an unrestricted free agent. It’s unclear how he’ll fit into the offensive game plan or whether the Ravens will want him to return kicks, but Montgomery fumbled twice in his last four games with the Packers.

Many had clamored for Newsome to acquire help along the offensive line as three linemen — left guard Alex Lewis, right tackle James Hurst, and reserve Bradley Bozeman — did not play in Sunday’s 36-21 loss at Carolina due to injuries. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley also missed 19 snaps after quarterback Joe Flacco was driven into the back of his left leg in the third quarter. Head coach John Harbaugh would not discuss his status for this coming Sunday’s meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I’m not going to get into all that,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

It remains unclear whether Hurst (back) or Lewis (neck) will be ready to return to action after sitting out the last two games. Bozeman (calf) was active for the Panthers game, but he did not play as Hroniss Grasu took all 68 snaps at the left guard spot.

With Stanley sidelined, 2015 fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor filled in at left tackle for a large portion of the second half.

“He did pretty well. It was mostly pass protection; he’s good in pass protection,” said Harbaugh about Eluemunor, who was promoted from the practice squad last week. “He’s stout and firm, and he handled the bull rushes really well — probably the best of all of our guys throughout the course of the game. I was very encouraged by that.”

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His future with Ravens unresolved, Mosley keeping focus on field

Posted on 05 September 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The list of goals taped to the locker of Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is there for everyone to see.

Lead league in tackles.

Lead linebackers in interceptions.

First-team All-Pro.

Pro Bowl.

Defensive MVP.

Super Bowl MVP.

Ambitious, for sure, but we’re talking about someone who was named to three Pro Bowls and voted a second-team All-Pro linebacker three times by age 25. He finished second among NFL linebackers in interceptions two years ago and tied for third in the league in solo tackles last season. This spring, he took the advice of new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale — his former linebackers coach — to remind himself of what he wants to accomplish in 2018.

“I’ve always had my goals, but putting them up so I can see them, that’s kind of a new step for me,” said Mosley, who also keeps the list on his phone since he quips that he’s always on it. “It’s just something to look at every day when I’m kind of tired and just gives me a little motivation to keep going, keep pushing.”

Mosley has reason to be motivated beyond on-field accolades or helping the Ravens return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The former first-round pick is entering the final year of a rookie contract that will pay him $8.718 million in 2018.

Many expected a long-term extension to be high on the Ravens’ offseason agenda with fellow defensive leaders Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle now entering their 16th and 12th seasons, respectively, but a deal hasn’t yet come to fruition. Mosley has repeatedly said he wants to remain a Raven and go down as the second-best inside linebacker in franchise history behind the recently-enshrined Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, who just happened to reach every goal on Mosley’s list over the course of his 17-year career.

As Martindale revamped the defensive system this offseason to put more responsibility on his veteran leaders to make calls on the fly, Mosley faithfully attended voluntary workouts while others around the league with similar contract situations stayed away from their teams in the spring and even into the summer in some cases. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound linebacker says his focus remains on the field as begins his fifth season against Buffalo on Sunday.

“Right now, I’ve got my last year to play out,” Mosley said. “I guess maybe further down the road, it might become more of an issue – maybe not, I don’t know. Like I’ve said before, those are the types of things that I let my agent (Jimmy Sexton) and them work [on] upstairs. I’ll talk to my agent and we’re trying to get somewhere with it, so that’s about all I can tell you right now.”

Despite that last hint of optimism, there has been no progress towards a deal. It remains unclear how much Mosley is asking for or how much the Ravens are willing to pay, but his impressive resume would lead one to believe his representation seeks a contract north of the five-year, $62 million extension signed by Carolina’s Luke Kuechly three years ago that included $27 million guaranteed. The record-setting deals recently signed by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald and All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack emphatically set new standards at their positions, another factor to consider as Mosley — or any other standout defensive player — moves closer to free agency.

Even with his impressive accomplishments over his first four seasons, opinions vary in some circles as to how great Mosley truly is. The quality of his pass coverage has come under scrutiny as Pro Football Focus noted his problems last season, but the website still graded him 11th among linebackers in that category, perhaps a reflection of the scarcity of quality three-down linebackers in today’s game. It’s also worth noting Mosley dealt with a nagging ankle injury over the second half of last season when his difficulties covering tight ends were more pronounced.

Following in the footsteps of one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history, Mosley has been held to Lewis’ impossible standard by some — consciously or not — despite his efforts to assume the mantle. Though clearly less demonstrative than the theatrical Lewis, Mosley gets his point across in his own way, according to teammates and coaches.

His stabilizing presence makes it easy to forget he was actually the Ravens’ second attempt at picking Lewis’ long-term successor after 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown — a player general manager Ozzie Newsome traded up to draft — was a disappointment. Selected with the 17th overall pick in 2014, Mosley was an immediate starter and became the first Ravens rookie to ever make the Pro Bowl.

“I feel like C.J. can go as high as he wants to go and be whoever he wants to be,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “He’s got that much talent. He’s got that much leadership ability, and I’ll follow him anywhere. I think C.J. can be, is, [and] will be forever a premier linebacker in this league.”

Of course, Mosley playing out the final year of his contract wouldn’t mean he’s destined to depart next offseason. Williams briefly hit the free-agent market last year before the Ravens made him the highest-paid nose tackle in the league with a five-year, $52.5 million deal. Baltimore has used the franchise tag to retain the rights of former Pro Bowl defensive players such as cornerback Chris McAlister, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, but the $14.961 million cost to tag a linebacker — inside or outside — in 2018 will likely climb next year.

Perhaps the wait-and-see approach with Mosley is indicative of the Ravens’ overall transition. Newsome will step down after 2018, leaving successor Eric DeCosta to consider the futures of several key figures, ranging from Suggs to even head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco.

Only 26, Mosley would seemingly be a pillar for the next era of Ravens football, especially if he can check off a few more items from the list on his locker.

“C.J. is one of the premier players in this league,” said Suggs, who is also in the final year of his contract as he begins his 16th season in Baltimore. “Like I’ve said before, not everybody can come through these doors and be considered a Raven for life. So far, I think his resume shows that, and I think he’s one of those rare guys that’s going to be a lifer here.”

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Ravens begin process of trimming roster to 53 players

Posted on 31 August 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens began the official process of trimming their roster to the league-mandated 53 by waiving 10 players and moving seven others to reserve lists on Friday afternoon.

There were no surprises among the departing players, but Baltimore elected to place rookie safety DeShon Elliott (forearm), offensive tackle Greg Senat (toe), cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste (arm), and safety Bennett Jackson on injured reserve, eliminating the possibility for any of them to be designated to return later in the season. Players injured during the preseason must be placed on the initial 53-man roster before then moving to IR to be eligible for the return designation. Elliott, Senat, and Jean-Baptiste all suffered injuries over the final week of the preseason while Jackson missed a large portion of the summer with an undisclosed ailment.

General manager Ozzie Newsome waived cornerbacks Robertson Daniel and Jackson Porter, safety Kai Nacua, linebacker Alvin Jones, offensive linemen Andrew Donnal and Justin Evans, wide receiver DeVier Posey, tight end Nick Keizer, defensive end Christian LaCouture, and long snapper Trent Sieg. Jones was waived with an injury designation, meaning he will revert to IR if he goes unclaimed and could reach an injury settlement with the team.

Nacua drew some fanfare after his interception return for a touchdown in Thursday’s win over Washington, but the Ravens will apparently go with four safeties — Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Anthony Levine, and Chuck Clark — following the season-ending injury to Elliott.

As head coach John Harbaugh confirmed would happen earlier this month, wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (quadriceps), cornerback Jaylen Hill (knee), and linebacker Bam Bradley (knee) were transferred to the reserve physically unable to perform list. They will not count against the 53-man roster and are not eligible to be activated before Week 7 of the regular season.

These moves leave the Ravens with 72 players on their preseason roster. Cornerback Jimmy Smith will be placed on the suspended list as he serves a four-game ban for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, leaving 18 more moves to make by 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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Predicting Ravens’ initial 53-man roster at end of 2018 preseason

Posted on 31 August 2018 by Luke Jones

With the 2018 preseason in the books, the Ravens turn their attention toward the season opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 9.

First, it’s time to go on the record with the final projection of Baltimore’s 53-man roster ahead of the regular season with general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh making cuts by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Of course, this will only be the first 53-man squad as the Ravens will explore outside moves and additions over the next few days.

Though the coaching staff and the front office are aware of the numbers at each position, arbitrarily keeping a specific number of receivers or linebackers or defensive linemen isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. Ultimately, the organization wants to keep the best 53-player combination with positional preference serving more as a tiebreaker than as a hard rule that could potentially result in keeping an inferior player. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens always look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their offensive or defensive positions. They must also consider recent injuries to players who won’t be available for the first few games of the season and make sure they’re covered from a depth standpoint.

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

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IN: Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson
OUT: Robert Griffin III, Josh Woodrum
Skinny: Even with Griffin sitting against Washington, I’ll stick with two quarterbacks, especially with the growth shown by Jackson over the last two games. I don’t think Harbaugh saying Griffin “looks like a starter” was by accident as the Ravens will try to find a trade partner in hopes of acquiring a modest depth piece such as an offensive lineman or someone with return experience. Of course, I won’t be shocked if Griffin stays, but it’s strange that a team that was content with Ryan Mallett backing up an ailing Flacco last year would suddenly change its backup standard so much with its first-round pick.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (4)
IN: Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Patrick Ricard
OUT: Gus Edwards, Mark Thompson, De’Lance Turner
PRACTICE SQUAD ROSTER EXEMPTION: Christopher Ezeala
Skinny: I’d be surprised not to see at least one of these rookie free agents on the practice squad as they all had their moments this preseason, but this group appears set. Ricard may also find himself with a bigger role in the defensive line rotation after the way he played this summer.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
IN: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley
OUT: Tim White, Janarion Grant, Breshad Perriman, Andre Levrone, DeVier Posey
INJURED RESERVE: Jaleel Scott
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Quincy Adeboyejo
Skinny: Neither White nor Grant did enough this summer to warrant a roster spot as a return specialist, but the Ravens should be able to get one of them to the practice squad while searching for an outside addition. Moore did a good job returning kickoffs last year, and Snead could serve as a conservative punt returner mostly calling fair catches. Lasley had a disappointing preseason, but he showed enough potential during training camp to justify not giving up on him so quickly.

TIGHT ENDS (5)
IN: Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, Maxx Williams, Darren Waller
OUT: Vince Mayle, Nick Keizer
Skinny: With the young wide receiver competition never materializing and Hurst out for at least the first couple games, Waller surprisingly sneaks onto the roster primarily as a special-teams player, and his size and athleticism make him a potential option in the red zone and as a bigger slot receiver. Andrews’ performance in the preseason finale was encouraging as the Ravens need someone from this group to be at least a moderate factor in the passing game until Hurst returns from the foot injury.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, Orlando Brown Jr., James Hurst, Bradley Bozeman, Jermaine Eluemunor
OUT:  Nico Siragusa, Andrew Donnal, Maurquice Shakir, Randin Crecelius, Justin Evans, Cameron Lee
INJURED RESERVE: Greg Senat
Skinny: Brown’s development at right tackle was one of the biggest positives of the summer, but the center position remains a concern and no one beyond the top six has inspired confidence as a depth piece. Newsome will likely be working the phones trying to add some veteran help for this group. Given his status as a former fourth-round pick, Siragusa making the roster wouldn’t be surprising, but he just doesn’t look 100 percent after last summer’s serious knee injury.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)
IN: Brandon Williams, Willie Henry, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, Brent Urban, Zach Sieler, Carl Davis
OUT: Bronson Kaufusi, Myles Humphrey, Christian LaCouture
Skinny: Before the news of Henry undergoing hernia surgery, I may have left Davis on the outside looking in, but his ability to play all three defensive line spots in the base defense makes him more attractive for the time being. Kaufusi had an excellent game against Washington, but he was way too quiet this summer and all last season to put too much stock into one performance.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young, Chris Board, Albert McClellan
OUT: Alvin Jones
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Bam Bradley
Skinny: The Kamalei Correa trade and a potential knee injury for Young have changed the makeup of this position group. Board looks like the near-annual long shot the Ravens could keep and develop while he contributes on special teams. I had been predicting McClellan wouldn’t make it, but Correa and veteran departure Steven Johnson combined to play over 600 special-teams snaps last year. I’m not convinced Jerry Rosburg is just going to hand over that much responsibility to inexperienced players, and not playing McClellan on Thursday would be a tough way to send out the longtime Raven.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser
OUT: none
Skinny: Tim Williams was the defensive star of the preseason and should receive more opportunities as a situational pass rusher, but Bowser missing so much of the summer with a groin injury has certainly tempered expectations of him taking a big leap in his second season.

CORNERBACKS (5)
IN: Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett
OUT: Darious Williams, Jackson Porter, Robertson Daniel
SUSPENDED: Jimmy Smith
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Jaylen Hill
INJURED RESERVE: Stanley Jean-Baptiste
Skinny: You have to feel for Jean-Baptiste, who looked like he was on his way to grabbing a roster spot before suffering what’s believed to be a broken arm in the preseason finale. Assuming Canady is ready to go for Week 1, the Ravens should be fine with only five cornerbacks since Anthony Levine is capable of playing some nickel in a game-day pinch. Regardless of the number of corners the Ravens keep, not having Smith for the first four games will be a challenge.

SAFETIES (4)
IN: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine
OUT: Kai Nacua, Bennett Jackson
INJURED RESERVE: DeShon Elliott
Skinny: With the long-term injuries suffered by Elliott and Jean-Baptiste in consecutive weeks, Nacua may have an outside shot to stick on the roster as a special-teams player, but four safeties should be fine.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
OUT: Kaare Vedvik, Trent Sieg
Skinny: After watching him hit a 56-yard field goal to cap a very impressive summer, I get the feeling another team is going to be happy to have Vedvik in the not-too-distant future. A team with a lesser kicking battery would be thinking long and hard about making a change.

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Sizing up the 2018 Ravens roster entering fourth preseason game

Posted on 24 August 2018 by Luke Jones

With two preseason games remaining, it’s time to to once again examine the Ravens’ 53-man roster as we move closer to final cuts being made next weekend.

My current assessment suggests as many as 44 players would be considered safely on the roster if the deadline were to come now. This number is higher than in recent years and reflects the lack of roster turnover on the defensive side of the ball, the team-record-tying 12 selections in this year’s draft, and the absence of any season-ending injuries being sustained so far this summer.

My rough assessment of the 91 players currently on the roster — fullback Christopher Ezeala carries an international player roster exemption — lists 20 on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with some position groups lacking as much quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent and likely falling victim to the numbers game. It’s also important to consider any player’s contract status as the organization is more likely to retain a player with multiple years of control remaining compared to one similar — or even marginally better — in talent who’s nearing the end of his contract.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of the numbers at each position, arbitrarily trying to pinpoint a specific number of tight ends or inside linebackers or wide receivers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. The Ravens are always looking for reserves who will excel on special teams, so coaches will look carefully at players’ other attributes in addition to what they bring to their specific positions when filling out the end of the roster.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players who are underlined are the ones making the cut for the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 24. You can check out last week’s projection HERE.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
IN: Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson
BUBBLE: Robert Griffin III
LONG SHOT: Josh Woodrum
Skinny: Harbaugh said the decision whether to keep Griffin will “go right to the wire” next week, but I continue to see too many other useful players at other positions for the Ravens to carry three quarterbacks for the first time since 2009. This decision has always been much more about Jackson than Griffin, so seeing the rookie make strides over the last two preseason games would ease concerns.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (8)
IN: Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Patrick Ricard
BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Gus Edwards, Mark Thompson, De’Lance Turner
PRACTICE SQUAD ROSTER EXEMPTION: Christopher Ezeala
Skinny: Dixon showed Monday exactly what the organization needed to see to eliminate any notion of him being on the bubble, but durability continues to be a concern with the 2016 fourth-round pick. Edwards is closer to being a practice-squad candidate than to having much of a chance to making the team, but it was interesting to see him line up as a fullback in a short-yardage situation on Monday.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
IN: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott, Tim White, Janarion Grant, Breshad Perriman
LONG SHOT: Andre Levrone, DeVier Posey
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Quincy Adeboyejo
Skinny: The young wide receivers are the most disappointing position group of the summer as Lasley has regressed and Scott appears in great danger of becoming the first fourth-round pick in franchise history to be cut as a rookie. Returner candidates White and Grant each fumbled against the Colts and haven’t done enough to warrant a spot while Perriman still hasn’t played a single special-teams play.

TIGHT ENDS (7)
IN: Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews
BUBBLE: Maxx WilliamsDarren Waller, Vince Mayle
LONG SHOT: Nick Keizer
Skinny: The foot injury to Hurst improves the chances of Williams sticking to start the year since the Ravens use tight ends prominently in their run-blocking schemes. And with young wide receivers like Scott disappointing this summer and taking into account his special-teams skills, Waller could land on the roster as a red-zone and slot option while assuming Mayle’s special-teams role from last year.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (15)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, James Hurst, Orlando Brown Jr.
BUBBLE:  Nico Siragusa, Bradley Bozeman, Greg Senat, Jermaine Eluemunor
LONG SHOT: Andrew Donnal, Maurquice Shakir, Randin Crecelius, Justin Evans, Cameron Lee
Skinny: Siragusa and Eleumunor have gone in opposite directions with the former improving from the start of camp and the latter not playing like the most experienced member of this bubble group. You can probably flip a coin between Bozeman and Senat as the uncertainty at center and the lack of quality backup options behind Stanley help their roster chances, making it possible they both stick.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
IN: Brandon Williams, Willie Henry, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, Brent Urban
BUBBLE: Zach SielerCarl Davis, Bronson Kaufusi
LONG SHOT: Myles Humphrey, Christian LaCouture
Skinny: Momentum continues for Sieler to make the roster while the veteran Davis hasn’t done as much to enhance his chances, prompting me to flip those two in the group’s overall hierarchy. Kaufusi’s standing as a former third-round pick is probably the only factor keeping him in any serious roster discussion, but he’s likely on the outside looking in with the versatile Ricard factoring into this group.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young
BUBBLE: Albert McClellan
LONG SHOT: Chris Board, Alvin Jones
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Bam Bradley
Skinny: McClellan remains a very tough call and still shouldn’t be dismissed as his experience, special-teams ability, and versatility are valuable traits. Young had a strong performance against Indianapolis and appears to be closing the gap with Onwuasor for the starting job next to Mosley, but the weak-side inside spot remains a fair concern going into the regular season.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser
BUBBLE: Kamalei Correa
LONG SHOT: none
Skinny: There was much buzz about Correa’s great performance in the Hall of Fame Game, but he’s been quiet in the last two preseason contests and is still depending on his special-teams play and versatility to be the difference in earning a spot. Williams has looked like the most improved player on the roster and is also playing the run better than he did as a rookie last year.

CORNERBACKS (10)
IN: Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett
BUBBLE: Stanley Jean-Baptiste
LONG SHOT: Darious Williams, Jackson Porter
SUSPENDED: Jimmy Smith
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Jaylen Hill
Skinny: Smith’s suspension and Canady being in and out of practice with nagging physical issues could prompt the Ravens to keep Jean-Baptiste, who has had a good summer and has impressive 6-foot-3 size on the outside. The argument against keeping him is be the versatility of players such as Canady, Young, Anthony Levine, and Chuck Clark, who can line up in multiple places in the secondary.

SAFETIES (7)
IN: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: DeShon Elliott
LONG SHOT: Kai Nacua, Bennett Jackson
Skinny: Between Clark last year and Elliott this spring, the organization has found good value at the safety position in the sixth round, which is important considering how many cap resources are devoted to Weddle and Jefferson. This hasn’t been discussed much, but you would have liked to have seen Jefferson play more in the preseason after he didn’t have the most impressive debut year in Baltimore.

SPECIALISTS (5)
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Kaare Vedvik, Trent Sieg
Skinny: Koch labeled Vedvik “one of the most impressive guys” he’s seen among the many camp bodies to come through Owings Mills and Westminster over so many summers. That’s high praise from a straight shooter like Koch as Vedvik definitely has the talent to catch on elsewhere.

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