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Ready or not, Ravens about to pull back curtain on 2017 offense

Posted on 06 September 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ready or not, the Ravens are about to pull back the curtain on their offense after a summer full of injuries and unanswered questions.

Quarterback Joe Flacco declares that his back feels good and he’s ready to go after missing the entire preseason.

Longtime right guard Marshal Yanda says the Baltimore offense is more committed to the running game than ever after attempting more passes than any team in the NFL the last two seasons.

Wide receiver Mike Wallace believes the group merely needs to trust its abilities.

But even those wearing the deepest tint of purple-colored glasses have to be concerned if they’re being honest, especially with the Ravens opening the season in a place where they haven’t won in nearly six years. To no surprise, head coach John Harbaugh says he believes in his players and their schemes with Marty Mornhinweg in his first full season as offensive coordinator and new senior offensive assistant Greg Roman in charge of fixing a dormant ground attack.

“When you look back at all that stuff, it’s not always completely accurate,” said Harbaugh about outside expectations. “Teams rise up, and they’re better than people thought they’d be. You don’t have to justify it beforehand. You just go and play the games.”

After the Ravens prioritized defense in free agency and the draft and lost a whopping eight offensive players to season-ending injury, suspension, or retirement over the last three months, fans are being asked to take a leap of faith that the offense will be just good enough to complement a defense expected to be one of the best in the NFL this season. Frankly, even that middle-of-the-road standard is a lot to ask considering the personnel losses endured by the league’s 21st-ranked scoring offense from a year ago.

It doesn’t help that the preseason provided no meaningful answers with Flacco sidelined and the projected starting offensive line not playing a single game together. Roman was never going to show his full hand with a running game vowing to be more downhill and physical than in recent years, but a preseason average of 3.1 yards per carry doesn’t spark enthusiasm, either.

The line will have three new starters with two of them — center Ryan Jensen and left guard James Hurst — previously serving as backups and the other — former Oakland right tackle Austin Howard — only arriving in early August. General manager Ozzie Newsome thought so little of his offensive line depth that he acquired two of the Ravens’ three current reserves in separate trades in the last week.

That’s a pretty big leap.

The Ravens lost roughly half of their receiving production from last season while making only two meaningful additions in the skill-position department. Veteran running back Danny Woodhead — if healthy — should help fill the void in the underneath passing game left behind by tight end Dennis Pitta and fullback Kyle Juszczyk while ninth-year receiver Jeremy Maclin fell into Baltimore’s lap in June and will be trusted to become Flacco’s new safety net with Pitta and wide receiver Steve Smith no longer on the roster.

The problem is those two practiced together a total of two days prior to Flacco’s return to the field last weekend. The quarterback acknowledged that their on-field chemistry will be a work in progress in the early weeks of the season.

“Every guy has their own way of doing things, and you build a rapport with guys throughout the course of the year and throughout practice and all of that,” Flacco said. “But the other side of it is that Jeremy is a good player, and he knows how to get open. Things might not be perfect right now, but if he gets open, then I should be able to put the ball on him.

“We have been doing that since we have been six years old. You just have to go back to the basics of things. You can’t overthink things too much.”

No matter how much the Ravens chose to focus on improving their defense in the offseason, they need more from their offense to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. But is there enough to like about this group on paper to believe that will happen?

Though another year removed from his 2015 knee injury, Flacco is coming off back-to-back lackluster seasons and has a lot of catching up to do after being sidelined for more than a month. The aforementioned challenges on the offensive line certainly don’t quell concerns about the quarterback’s back. Backup Ryan Mallett’s play in the preseason made it pretty apparent that the Ravens are going nowhere if Flacco misses meaningful time.

A group of running backs led by starter Terrance West doesn’t appear to have much upside after the season-ending loss of Kenneth Dixon in July. The addition of two running backs to the practice squad certainly appears to reflect that line of thinking.

The current collection of tight ends combined for just six catches last season. Nick Boyle is a dependable blocker, but the Ravens need to get a return on their investments in the 36-year-old Benjamin Watson and 2015 second-round pick Maxx Williams, who are both coming back from serious injuries a year ago.

The wide receiver trio of Maclin, Wallace, and former first-round pick Breshad Perriman probably inspires more confidence than any other offensive position group, but will the offensive line and running game be effective enough for Flacco to effectively utilize these weapons?

And after many called for Harbaugh to replace Mornhinweg since the 2016 offense showed little improvement when he took over for the fired Marc Trestman, the coordinator will be under great pressure to revitalize the downfield passing game and to bring new ideas to the table. He also needs to get more out of his quarterback as he continues to coach that position group.

Much has worked against their offense in the last few months, but the Ravens must find their way on that side of the ball and find it quickly. The Bengals — nor any other early-season opponent — aren’t going to feel sorry for them.

“We’re paid to do a job and paid to do a job at a high level,” Yanda said. “It doesn’t matter how much time you’re taking off, if you’re injured or sick — it doesn’t matter. You have to go out there and produce. We’re expected to go out there and play winning football on Sunday, and we’re preparing to do that.”

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wallace

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Breaking down the 2017 Ravens’ initial 53-man roster

Posted on 02 September 2017 by Luke Jones

A year after the Ravens surprisingly released veteran running back Justin Forsett on final cut-down day, there were no real surprises in the formulation of the first 53-man roster for the 2017 season.

The acquisitions of reserve offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko likely pushed veteran Jeremy Zuttah and former practice-squad member Matt Skura off the roster, but cornerback Robertson Daniel and linebacker Brennen Beyer were the only other players from last year’s team not to survive Saturday’s final cuts and neither saw meaningful action in 2016.

More roster changes are inevitable in the coming days as Baltimore has already made two trades to augment its offensive line depth and could look for another running back or a veteran inside linebacker. General manager Ozzie Newsome should have another roster spot to play with once cornerback Maurice Canady is placed on injured reserve as expected. Still recovering from knee surgery, Canady needed to be on the initial 53-man roster to remain eligible for a designation to return later in the season.

The Ravens will certainly scan the open market for potential additions to enhance the roster that’s already been assembled as hundreds of players hit the waiver wire on Saturday. Beginning Sunday, they will also put together a 10-man practice squad with a number of Baltimore players who were cut over the weekend potentially returning to the organization.

Below are some early impressions of the 53-man roster as it stood on Saturday evening:

QUARTERBACKS (2) — Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
Analysis: The Ravens and their fans will continue to hold their breath until Flacco stays on the field and shows his back is no longer a concern after he was sidelined for the entire summer. However, the fact that there are only two quarterbacks on the roster leads you to believe the organization is confident that Flacco is truly healthy and ready to go. At the very least, you’d expect the Ravens to re-sign Josh Woodrum or another quarterback to the practice squad for some extra depth.

RUNNING BACKS (3) — Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
Analysis: This group lost much of its upside after Kenneth Dixon suffered a season-ending knee injury right before training camp, but the unrest on the offensive line this summer made it difficult to evaluate the backs. Woodhead figures to be a major part of the passing game if healthy, but how well West fares as the No. 1 back will depend on how effectively the line gels. This is a position the Ravens should explore upgrading, especially if they can find a back possessing some return skills.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5) — Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore
Analysis: The competition among a batch of young receivers on the preseason roster never really materialized as Moore, a 2016 fourth-round pick, did little to distinguish himself and still landed on the roster. The major question will be how quickly Flacco can build a rapport with Maclin, who didn’t sign with the Ravens until the week of mandatory minicamp in mid-June. It’s difficult to identify a trustworthy red-zone threat in this group, but that’s been a problem for this offense for years. 

TIGHT ENDS (4) — Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle
Analysis: Few would have guessed Mayle would be one of four tight ends on the roster when there were questions months ago about how the Ravens would pick among six viable options. The losses of Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, and Darren Waller subtracted production, physicality, and upside from the equation, but Boyle has been solid and Watson and Williams are healthy. It remains to be seen whether the Ravens will get enough production from these tight ends as blockers or receivers.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8) — Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor, Tony Bergstrom, Luke Bowanko
Analysis: The Ravens finally have their projected starting offensive line on the practice field, but there are plenty of questions beyond Yanda and Stanley. Newsome attempted to address the depth by making two trades, but neither Bergstrom nor Bowanko are established commodities. Beyond taking a leap of faith that Greg Roman’s blocking schemes will work their magic, there isn’t a ton to love about this group on paper, which is unsettling when your quarterback is just returning from a back injury.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8) — Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
Analysis: Eight defensive linemen in a 3-4 base system are too many, but the Ravens are smart not wanting to lose a talented defensive lineman just to keep an inferior player elsewhere. You would think the organization will attempt to use its defensive line depth to potentially acquire talent at another position of need or will eventually try to stash one with a injury. Of course, don’t dismiss the possibility of Ricard being used more as a fullback and blocking tight end to help justify the high number here.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4) — C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
Analysis: Correa hasn’t seized control of the starting job next to Mosley, leaving the door open for Onwuasor or even Bradley to potentially push him for playing time further into the season. The loss of special-teams standout Albert McClellan really hurts their depth as he could play any of the four linebacker positions, a valuable asset on Sundays with only 46 players active. Bradley earned his job with a strong summer, but a veteran addition to compete with Correa would ease some concerns.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5) — Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
Analysis: Entering his 15th year, Suggs remains the soul of the defense and is still an above-average three-down outside linebacker, but you have to be intrigued with the young talent and depth here. Judon and Bowser have battled for the starting “Sam” linebacker spot with both looking like viable options while Za’Darius Smith solidified his roster standing as a situational rusher. Williams is raw, but he has shown impressive potential as a pure rush specialist, something this defense needs.

CORNERBACKS (6) — Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
Analysis: The Ravens haven’t had this kind of outside corner depth in a long time with Humphrey likely to push the veteran Carr for his starting spot at some point in 2017. Tavon Young’s spring knee injury was a blow to the nickel spot, but the undrafted Hill may have been the best story of the summer after only receiving a tryout during rookie camp weekend. With safeties Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine expected to play the nickel and dime spots, respectively, five cornerbacks are likely enough.

SAFETIES (5) — Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark
Analysis: The depth here is strong after Jefferson was signed to a lucrative deal to be a major factor against the run and in covering tight ends. There is plenty of room for defensive coordinator Dean Pees to be creative in the secondary with Webb and Levine having so much versatility. The rookie Clark will likely be more of a special-teams contributor than anything else, but the Ravens needed another safety with their primary backups projected to be so involved in sub packages.

SPECIALISTS (3) — Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
Analysis: This trio enters its sixth consecutive season together. That continuity is just one reason why these three are so tremendous at what they do.

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Predicting Ravens’ initial 53-man roster at end of 2017 preseason

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

With the 2017 preseason now over, the Ravens turn their attention toward the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

First, it’s time to go on the record with the final projection of the Ravens’ 53-man roster to begin the regular season with head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome making their final decisions by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Of course, this will only be the initial 53-man squad as the Ravens will look to add other players who could be made available over the next few days.

Though the coaching staff and the front office are aware of the numbers at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. Ultimately, the organization wants to keep the best 53 players with positional preference serving more as a tiebreaker than as a hard rule that results in keeping an inferior player. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their offensive or defensive positions.

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

QUARTERBACKS (2)
IN: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
OUT: Josh Woodrum, Thaddeus Lewis
Skinny: The fate of the 2017 campaign lies on the health of Flacco’s back, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Woodrum land on the practice squad as a No. 3 option.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (3)
IN: Terrance West, Buck Allen, Danny Woodhead
INJURED RESERVE: Kenneth Dixon
OUT: Taquan Mizzell, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Ricky Ortiz, Bobby Rainey
Skinny: Mizzell looks like a prime practice-squad candidate, and the Ravens could still seek an outside option for the fullback position in the coming days.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore, Chris Matthews
INJURED RESERVE: Tim White
OUT: Quincy Adeboyejo, Keenan Reynolds, Griff Whalen, C.J. Board
Skinny: Moore and Matthews make the roster because of their special-teams contributions, but neither did much to solidify a role in the passing game this preseason.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams
OUT: Vince Mayle, Larry Donnell, Ryan Malleck
Skinny: The depth here is shaky at best, but it’s reasonable to think Mayle or Donnell could be re-signed in the not-too-distant future when other roster questions are addressed.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, Austin Howard, James Hurst, Jermaine Eluemunor, Jeremy Zuttah, Matt Skura
INJURED RESERVE: Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa
OUT: De’Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot, Jarell Broxton, David Nelson, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir
Skinny: This is not an impressive group on paper, so you’d hope Newsome can add another viable piece to the mix between now and the start of the season.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Patrick Ricard
OUT: None
Skinny: Keeping eight defensive lineman is unusual and likely not tenable, but there’s too much talent here to let someone go in favor of an inferior player at another position.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
INJURED RESERVE: Albert McClellan
OUT: Donald Payne, Brennen Beyer
Skinny: Bradley has a chance to help fill the special-teams void left by McClellan, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a veteran inside linebacker added in the near future.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
OUT: Boseko Lokombo, Randy Allen
Skinny: Smith answered the challenge this summer to solidify his standing on the 53-man roster, but this talented young group behind Suggs must now show up when the lights come on for real.

CORNERBACKS (6)
IN: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Tavon Young
OUT: Robertson Daniel, Trevin Wade, Brandon Boykin, Reggie Porter
Skinny: The injured Canady needs to be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible for the designation to return from injured reserve, but the outside corner depth is as good as it’s been in a long time.

SAFETIES (5)
IN: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark
OUT: Otha Foster
Skinny: With Webb and Levine both filling meaningful roles in the dime package to begin the season, Clark becomes more of a necessity for depth and will fill a large special-teams role.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
OUT: Kenny Allen, Taybor Pepper
Skinny: This trio of specialists stays together for the sixth consecutive season, which is quite a rarity in today’s NFL.

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Retired linebacker Zach Orr joins Ravens’ coaching, personnel staffs

Posted on 30 August 2017 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens linebacker Zach Orr has officially begun the first phase of his post-playing career.

The organization announced Wednesday that the 25-year-old will join the coaching and personnel staffs this season to prepare him for a potential career in either. Orr will shadow linebackers coach Wink Martindale and attend special-teams meetings during the season before shifting to the scouting and player evaluation side of the organization.

It’s a similar path to the one taken by Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome at the conclusion of his 13-year Hall of Fame career with the Cleveland Browns. Owner Art Modell gave Newsome the opportunity to gain experience in both coaching and personnel before he ultimately remained in the latter and becoming a two-time Super Bowl champion as a general manager.

“He’ll spend time learning about coaching at this level, and he’ll learn the ropes with our scouts,” Newsome told the team’s official website. “We look forward to working with him as he makes the transition from being an active player.”

Orr announced his retirement in January after doctors discovered a congenital spine condition that put him at greater risk for paralysis or death by playing football. He had announced hopes of a comeback in late June after receiving a favorable second opinion, but 17 teams would not clear him to play, leading him to reconfirm his retirement earlier this month.

The former undrafted free agent from North Texas visited the team facility in Owings Mills last week to discuss his new role with Newsome as well as to visit with former teammates and coaches.

“I sure would like to have him on board — scouting or coaching — whatever he wants to do if he wants to do it,” head coach John Harbaugh said earlier this month. “He has expressed an interest in doing that. Good for him. He has peace with the whole thing now I believe. He will get on with the rest of his very successful life.”

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Sizing up the 2017 Ravens roster before the third preseason game

Posted on 21 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the first two preseason games in the books, it’s again time to examine the Ravens’ 53-man roster as we move closer to final cuts being made at the end of next week.

My current look at the roster suggests 41 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My assessment of the players currently on the 90-man preseason roster lists 23 players on the bubble with a few young players making a push. Not all bubble players are created equal, however, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying more talent.

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

Unlike the past few years, teams are no longer required to trim their 90-man roster to 75 prior to the final preseason game. The Ravens must determine their initial 53-man roster by 4 p.m. on Sept. 2, but changes frequently come in the days leading up to the season opener on Sept. 10.

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 part of the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 21. You can check out last week’s projection HERE.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Josh Woodrum, Thaddeus Lewis
Skinny: Even if the Ravens ultimately choose to replace Mallett, I’m still not close to buying Woodrum as the one to do it, but he’s been a fun preseason story.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (8)
LOCK: Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
BUBBLE: Ricky Ortiz, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Taquan Mizzell
LONG SHOT: Bobby Rainey
INJURED RESERVE: Kenneth Dixon
Skinny: It appears that Ortiz has leapfrogged Taliaferro in the fullback competition, but it’s not a great sign for either one that defensive lineman Patrick Ricard is seeing extended looks in that role.

WIDE RECEIVERS (11)
LOCK: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Michael Campanaro, Quincy Adeboyejo, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Griff Whalen, C.J. Board
INJURED RESERVE: Tim White
Skinny: I don’t get the sense that Moore’s job is in danger, but you’d like to see more from the 2016 fourth-round pick, especially with Perriman still sidelined with a hamstring injury.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
LOCK: Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams
BUBBLE: Vince Mayle, Larry Donnell
LONG SHOT: Ryan Malleck
Skinny: Williams showed explosiveness in Miami that we hadn’t seen since his knee surgery, but I still believe the Ravens will try to carry a fourth tight end on the 53-man roster if possible.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (17)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor
BUBBLE: Jeremy Zuttah, Matt Skura, De’Ondre Wesley
LONG SHOT: Stephane Nembot, Jarell Broxton, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir, Derrick Nelson
INJURED RESERVE: Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa
Skinny: The re-signed Zuttah might be a lock, but he’s not a great fit for Greg Roman’s scheme and has essentially been cut by two teams in the last five months, meaning he still needs to prove himself.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Chris Wormley, Bronson Kaufusi
BUBBLE: Carl Davis, Patrick Ricard, Willie Henry
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: The depth here is a great problem to have, and I’ll still predict that the Ravens ultimately trade a defensive lineman before potentially being forced to waive a talented one like Henry.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Albert McClellan, Patrick Onwuasor
BUBBLE: Bam Bradley
LONG SHOT: Brennen Beyer, Donald Payne
Skinny: A good showing in the preseason has nudged Bradley onto the roster radar, and the Ravens still need to see more consistency out of Correa in a starting role.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams
BUBBLE: Za’Darius Smith
LONG SHOT: Boseko Lokombo, Randy Allen
Skinny: A strong start to the preseason has improved Smith’s stock, but he still feels like a candidate to be traded for help at another position of need.

CORNERBACKS (11)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey
BUBBLE: Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Trevin Wade, Brandon Boykin, Robertson Daniel
LONG SHOT: Reggie Porter
INJURED RESERVE: Tavon Young, Maurice Canady (designated to return candidate)
Skinny: Hill is as close as a rookie free agent gets to being a roster lock, and Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine are slated to play the nickel and dime spots to minimize the need for an extra corner.

SAFETIES (6)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Chuck Clark
LONG SHOT: Otha Foster
Skinny: Clark has remained a regular on the special-teams units and remains in good shape to secure a 53-man roster spot as a 2017 draft pick.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Kenny Allen
Skinny: There’s still nothing to see here.

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Sizing up the 2017 Ravens roster before the second preseason game

Posted on 13 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the preseason opener against Washington in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to examine 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 40 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My assessment of the 90 players currently on the preseason roster lists 21 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are created equal, however, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying more talent.

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

Unlike the past few years, teams are no longer required to trim their 90-man roster to 75 prior to the final preseason game. The Ravens must determine their initial 53-man roster by 4 p.m. on Sept. 2, but immediate changes often come in the days leading up to the season opener on Sept. 10.

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 part of the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 13.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Dustin Vaughan, Josh Woodrum
Skinny: Depending on Flacco’s health, the Ravens could carry three quarterbacks into a season for the first time since 2009, but they would need to upgrade from Vaughan or Woodrum to justify doing so.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (8)
LOCK: Terrance West, Danny Woodhead
BUBBLE: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen, Bobby Rainey
LONG SHOT: Ricky Ortiz, Taquan Mizzell
INJURED RESERVE: Kenneth Dixon
Skinny: Finding an upgrade at fullback or another viable running back is certainly a possibility, but Taliaferro provides game-day versatility at either position and Allen has looked better this summer.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Quincy Adeboyejo, Michael Campanaro, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Griff Whalen, Kenny Bell, C.J. Board
INJURED RESERVE: Tim White
Skinny: How quickly Perriman recovers from a hamstring injury and Campanaro’s inability to stay healthy are variables that could alter the outlook at this position between now and early September.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
LOCK: Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson
BUBBLE: Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle, Larry Donnell
LONG SHOT: Ryan Malleck
Skinny: Williams hasn’t moved well and could conceivably wind up on IR if his knee doesn’t hold up, which could open the door for Mayle and even a post-Week 1 addition like Donnell or another veteran.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Matt Skura, Jermaine Eluemunor
BUBBLE:  De’Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot
LONG SHOT: Jarell Broxton, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir, Derrick Nelson
INJURED RESERVE: Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa
Skinny: This group could really use another veteran upgrade or two between now and the start of the season after losing three key interior linemen since the start of training camp.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Chris Wormley, Bronson Kaufusi
BUBBLE: Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: The defensive line is the deepest positional group on either side of the ball, making it a distinct possibility that Newsome attempts to trade from this strength to reinforce another position of need.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (8)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Albert McClellan, Patrick Onwuasor
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Brennen Beyer, Bam Bradley, Donald Payne, Lamar Louis
Skinny: There doesn’t appear to be much drama with this group from a roster standpoint, but don’t sleep on the undersized Onwuasor to push Correa for playing time, especially in the nickel package.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams
BUBBLE: Za’Darius Smith
LONG SHOT: Boseko Lokombo, Randy Allen
Skinny: Given the newfound youth at this position and McClellan’s ability to play both outside spots, Smith could be the odd man out or even a candidate to be traded for depth at another position.

CORNERBACKS (11)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey
BUBBLE: Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Brandon Boykin, Robertson Daniel
LONG SHOT: Trevin Wade, Reggie Porter
INJURED RESERVE: Tavon Young, Maurice Canady (designated to return candidate)
Skinny: The long-term injuries to Young and Canady have put Hill in good roster position, but a vested veteran like Boykin could still be signed after Week 1 when his full 2017 salary isn’t guaranteed.

SAFETIES (6)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Chuck Clark
LONG SHOT: Otha Foster
Skinny: Clark has been a mainstay on special teams and feels like a solid bet to stick around while Webb and Levine provide much-needed versatility by being able to play the nickel and dime spots.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Kenny Allen
Skinny: There’s nothing to ponder here.

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alexlewis

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Injuries continue hammering Ravens in preseason

Posted on 11 August 2017 by Luke Jones

After it appeared that the Ravens may have escaped their preseason opener without any major injuries, the organization delivered more bad news to an ever-growing list on Friday afternoon.

Starting left guard Alex Lewis will undergo shoulder surgery next week and will miss the entire 2017 season. The Ravens say the 2016 fourth-round pick’s shoulder hadn’t responded favorably to treatment in recent days, leading to the decision to operate.

It’s a major blow to an offensive line that saw two starters depart in the offseason and had already lost interior linemen John Urschel to retirement and fourth-round rookie Nico Siragusa to a season-ending knee injury since the start of training camp. General manager Ozzie Newsome will likely need to pursue veteran depth as the best options on the current roster to replace Lewis at left guard are former practice-squad member Matt Skura and fifth-round rookie Jermaine Eluemunor.

Lewis was one of three projected starters on the offensive line to miss Thursday’s game as right guard Marshal Yanda and right tackle Austin Howard continue to be brought along slowly after offseason shoulder surgeries.

The team also announced that rookie wide receiver Tim White suffered a thumb injury in Thursday’s win over Washington and will undergo a repair procedure. He is expected to miss the remainder of the season, an unfortunate development for a rookie free agent who had turned heads this summer. White caught a 33-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter of the 23-3 win over the Redskins.

Since June 1, the Ravens have now lost a whopping nine players for the season because of season-ending injury, retirement, or suspension.

The Ravens also said that quarterback Joe Flacco will return to practice during the summer, but he is not expected to play in any preseason games. The press release added that he is making “good” progress after having his back re-examined and “the plan” is for him to start at Cincinnati to open the season on Sept. 10.

Of course, many will remain skeptical of this updated timetable after the organization had initially expressed hope that Flacco might miss only a week to begin camp.

Backup Ryan Mallett struggled in the preseason opener, completing 9 of 18 passes for just 58 yards.

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ozzie

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Newsome denies report of Bisciotti blocking Kaepernick signing

Posted on 02 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome says no decision has been made on the status of Colin Kaepernick and that owner Steve Bisciotti has not blocked his potential signing.

Making his first public comment on the polarizing quarterback, Newsome responded to an ESPN report Wednesday morning saying the Baltimore owner was resisting Kaepernick’s addition. The report stated that Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh are on board for his signing.

“We are going through a process, and we have not made a decision,” Newsome said in a statement released by the team. “Steve Bisciotti has not told us we cannot sign Colin Kaepernick, nor has he blocked the move. Whoever is making those claims is wrong.”

Bisciotti spoke at length about Kaepernick during a fan forum at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday and expressed uncertainty about whether the former San Francisco 49er would help the Ravens win games. Admitting he didn’t agree with all of Kaepernick’s protest methods, Bisciotti said the organization has consulted with current and former players and received plenty of feedback from fans on the issue.

Starting quarterback Joe Flacco remains sidelined with a back issue while backup Ryan Mallett has struggled in the first week of training camp, leading many to clamor for Kaepernick’s signing. Harbaugh had no new information on Kaepernick after Wednesday’s practice.

“I do not have an update on Colin Kaepernick or our quarterback situation,” Harbaugh said. “Really, I’ll frame that this way: there are other positions we’re looking at too and I don’t have any updates on those, either. So, I think they’re all in the same category.”

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Bisciotti not sure Kaepernick would help Ravens win games

Posted on 30 July 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Owner Steve Bisciotti says the Ravens are still weighing the possibility of signing Colin Kaepernick, but he isn’t sure whether the polarizing quarterback would help his team win games.

Speaking to fans at a special forum that included NFL commissioner Roger Goodell prior to Sunday’s practice at M&T Bank Stadium, Bisciotti said he is still discussing the matter with team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and head coach John Harbaugh while also surveying current and former players for their opinions. As Harbaugh indicated Friday, the status of starting quarterback Joe Flacco, who is currently sidelined with a bad back, remains the biggest variable in the decision-making process from a football standpoint.

Cass confirmed during the forum that the Ravens have had direct discussions with Kaepernick, who has expressed his desire to continue his football career.

“We do want to win games, and I’m not sure right now that he is going to help us do that,” Bisciotti said. “We’re monitoring Joe. We’ve talked to Joe about it. We’re monitoring [Ryan] Mallett. We’re keeping our door open. We’ve talked about [Robert Griffin III], bringing him in for a workout.”

Bisciotti admitted he wasn’t a fan of seeing Kaepernick sit during the national anthem last preseason, but he gained more respect for the former San Francisco 49er’s protest when he began kneeling for “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the 2016 preseason finale and continued that practice in the regular season.

The Ravens have said they’ve received plenty of fan feedback over the last few days and have carefully considered how Kaepernick’s signing would impact their brand.

“Colin’s made some assurances — I think through his intermediaries — that there would be no protesting, that he would be standing for the [national anthem],” Bisciotti said. “To quantify hurting the brand, I know that we’re going to upset some people and I know that we’re going to make people happy that we stood up for somebody that has the right to do what he did.

“Nonviolent protesting is something that we’ve all embraced.”

The Ravens had $6.956 million in salary cap space entering Sunday, but they then signed former New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell to a spot on their 90-man roster. Mallett, the current backup, was re-signed to a one-year, $2 million with a $1 million signing bonus in March.

Below is Bisciotti’s complete answer to a fan’s question about the potential impact a Kaepernick signing would have on the Ravens’ brand:

We are very sensitive to it. It’s been discussed between Dick and Ozzie and John, and we’ve talked to a lot of our current players and a lot of our former players. I was speaking to Ray Lewis this morning. I know Ozzie had a long conversation with Ben Watson. I wouldn’t divulge people’s opinions, but I think you’d be kind of shocked at some people that are against it and some people that are for it. It’s not racial lines. It’s not existing players versus former players. I care about the fan base, but I have to absorb the opinions of the players that have been there.

Colin’s made some assurances I think through his intermediaries that there would be no protesting, that he would be standing for the [national anthem]. To quantify hurting the brand, I know that we’re going to upset some people and I know that we’re going to make people happy that we stood up for somebody that has the right to do what he did. Nonviolent protesting is something that we’ve all embraced. I don’t like the way he did it. Personally, I kind of liked it a lot when he went from sitting to kneeling. I don’t know. I’m Catholic [and] we spend a lot of time kneeling. When I saw him develop last year and went from sitting to kneeling next to his teammates, I liked that. I just thought, ‘OK, if it’s still a silent protest, I don’t think that the level of disrespect is as strong that way.’

We do want to win games, and I’m not sure right now that he is going to help us do that. We’re monitoring Joe. We’ve talked to Joe about it. We’re monitoring Mallett. We’re keeping our door open. We’ve talked about [Robert Griffin III], bringing him in for a workout.

All I would ask is to just talk to your neighbors and your friends and your co-workers, too, because I think you’ll just get the same sense that I got. Wow, every time I hear something negative, I hear something positive and sometimes it shocks me who it’s coming from. I hope we do what is best for the team and balance that with what’s best for our fans. Your opinions matter to us, and you couldn’t get a consensus in here, either. Every time there’s a sensitive subject, we know.

When I fired [Brian] Billick nine years ago, it sounded like 90 percent of the people in Baltimore wanted me to fire him until I fired him and then I found out 80 percent thought I was an idiot. You’ve got to be careful about the vocal minority. They have the tendency to seem to be a bigger group than they are.

We’re very sensitive to it, and we’re monitoring it. We’re still, as Ozzie says, scrimmaging it, and we’re trying to figure out what’s the right tact. So, pray for us.

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flacco

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Ravens remain in holding pattern with Flacco resting back

Posted on 28 July 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are in a holding pattern with franchise quarterback Joe Flacco continuing to rest his ailing back.

The concern is hardly dire yet with the season opener still six weeks away, but that could change if the 32-year-old doesn’t respond favorably to the rest and treatment he’s receiving over the first week of training camp. Back injuries can be complicated and often linger if not handled carefully, making it wise for the Ravens to take their time with their most important player.

Of course, that hasn’t slowed the red-hot discussion about whether Baltimore should sign polarizing quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who remains unemployed despite clearly possessing the talent to play in a league that lacks quality signal-callers. Over the last two days, head coach John Harbaugh has heaped plenty of praise on Kaepernick, who played for his brother and Ravens senior offensive assistant Greg Roman in San Francisco.

But it’s complicated.

“We’ll just see how it plays out. It has to do with our need,” Harbaugh said. “Joe is day to day. Do we really need to make that move or not? That’s the decision that really has to be made. There are a lot of layers to it, just from a football standpoint. I’ll focus on the football part.

“If there are other layers to it, then that’s taken into consideration at the appropriate level.”

Those other layers are very relevant from a business standpoint and primarily concern owner Steve Bisciotti and team president Dick Cass, but let’s focus on football, roster construction, and the salary cap. Your opinion on the non-football part of the discussion is unlikely to be swayed at this point anyway, whether you’re pounding the desk for him to be wearing purple or threatening to cancel your season tickets over his potential signing.

The newly-signed David Olson is irrelevant to this debate. Harbaugh said Thursday that the Ravens needed to add a camp “arm” immediately, and Olson merely assumed the reps that assistant coach Matt Weiss was forced to take because there were only two healthy quarterbacks on the field for Thursday’s full-squad practice involving a total of 85 players. The former arena quarterback isn’t replacing Flacco or backup Ryan Mallett and didn’t take a potential spot from Kaepernick, either.

That brings us to Mallett. In a vacuum, Kaepernick is the better quarterback who brings much more experience to the table. The incumbent backup possesses a similar skill set to Flacco that does make for an easy short-term transition from a schematic standpoint, but the Ravens also employed Tyrod Taylor as their backup for four years, making you think a difference in style shouldn’t be a major deterrent with all things being equal.

But Mallett was just signed to a one-year, $2 million contract with a $1 million signing bonus at the start of free agency back in March, which suggests they at least had a comfort level in him as a backup less than five months ago. You can fairly question the wisdom in re-signing him so quickly if they’re no longer enamored with his performance, which has been poor over the first couple days of camp.

According to the NFL Players Association, the Ravens currently have $6.881 million in salary cap space, a number that will shrink at the end of the preseason when the Rule of 51 no longer applies and teams must fit their entire 53-man roster, their players on injured reserve, and their 10-man practice squad under the cap. In other words, the Ravens do not have much flexibility right now and will still need a “rainy day” fund when other roster needs arise over the duration of the season.

Signing Kaepernick and cutting Mallett — assuming the Ravens would continue their current eight-year trend of entering a season with just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster — would leave $1 million of dead money on the cap. In other words, the Ravens would need to add that amount to whatever they would give Kaepernick, making his salary expectations quite relevant to this discussion. His ability suggests that he should be worth much more, but we know how his story has played out throughout the offseason and we don’t know if he would accept the veteran minimum or a little more than that.

As it stands, general manager Ozzie Newsome maybe has one moderate signing he can make without having to restructure veteran contracts and impacting future cap years. With so much concern along the offensive line as well as questions at other positions such as tight end and running back, should improving the backup quarterback spot really be a top priority? If there are questions about the offense with Flacco under center, would you rather have Kaepernick standing on the sideline as an insurance policy or add another offensive lineman that’s going to see the field and better protect a quarterback whose health is potentially in question?

Of course, that brings us back to the current holding pattern.

If the Ravens are more concerned about Flacco’s long-term availability going into the regular season than they’re currently indicating, Kaepernick makes plenty of sense. In a worst-case scenario, Roman could dust off some zone-read packages from his San Francisco days and allow Kaepernick to better utilize his athleticism in what would be viewed by some as a throwaway season anyway if the franchise quarterback were to be on the shelf.

If Flacco’s back is perfectly fine in a week or two, however, pumping more dollars into the quarterback position doesn’t seem like the best allocation of resources for a team desperate to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Yes, Kaepernick is good enough to play in this league, either as a starter or as a high-quality backup. He deserves to have that opportunity somewhere.

But the timing and conditions of a potential marriage with the Ravens will be on their terms.

And that’s not even considering those other layers currently being discussed by the powers that be.

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