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Examining the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

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Examining the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

Posted on 13 January 2015 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

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

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

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Snap Counts

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Baltimore Ravens – Snap Counts vs Steelers

Posted on 08 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

Here is a break down of the snap count of every offensive and defensive player, in the Ravens’ win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Offense:

57 – LT James Hurst – he played the whole game, and struggled mightily vs James Harrison

57 – LG Kelechi Osemele – had some problems in pass protection, but was an absolute mauler in the run game

57 – C Jeremy Zuttah – got pushed back in to Joe Flacco time and time again. He has to do better against the Patriots

57 – RG John Urshel – graded out well overall. Had a better night pass blocking than run blocking

57 – RT Marshal Yanda – best offensive lineman in the league. Pass blocked well and was a road grader in the run game

57 – QB Joe Flacco – threw 2 TDs, managed the offense well, and didn’t turn the ball over. “January Joe.”

54 – TE Owen Daniels – struggled with pass blocking, but was a factor in the passing game; caught 4 for 70 yards

50 – RB Justin Forsett – didn’t have a great running night running the ball, lost a fumble, but capably blocked blitzing LBs from the A gaps

40 – WR Torrey Smith – caught an 11 yard TD pass from Flacco; missed a certain TD when he didn’t drag his foot in the end zone

39 – TE Crockett Gillmore – caught a 21 yard TD from Flacco; blocked whistle to whistle

35 – WR Steve Smith – made a couple of tough catches in traffic; caught 5 for 101 yards

25 – WR Kamar Aiken – caught just 1 pass for 4 yards

20 – FB Kyle Juszczyk – caught 2 for 16 yards

13 – WR Marlon Brown – caught 1 for 9 yards

5 – WR Jacoby Jones – caught 1 for 9 yards

4 – RB Bernard Pierce – just 1 rushing attempt but it was good for a 5 yard TD

Defense:

76 – ILB Daryl Smith – save for the TD pass given up to Antonio Brown, he was stout vs the pass as well as the run

75 – CB Lardarius Webb – he was targeted a lot by Roethlisberger, and had an ok game overall

74 – ILB CJ Mosley – was solid vs the run but struggled in pass coverage

72 – FS Will Hill – was solid vs the run and even better vs the pass; defended well all night long

66 – CB  Rashaan Melvin – did a really good job in pass coverage, came up in run support

56 – OLB Terrell Suggs – stopped the run, pressured the QB, didn’t get a sack, but got a sick interception

52 – DT Haloti Ngata – looked fresh all game long, collapsed the pocket and applied pressure up the middle, got one sack

49 – SS – Darian Stewart – played one of his best games all season; got the game ending pick

47 – OLB Elvis Dumervil – applied great pressure from the edge consistently; ended up with 2 sacks

46 – OLB Pernell McPhee – had an outstanding game overall; was a force vs the run, and hit the QB a few times

39 – OLB Courtney Upshaw – did a great job setting the edge as usual; defended the pass well

31 – NT Brandon Williams – no one is going to move him backwards; applied consistent pressure through the A gaps; 1 sack

31 – DE Chris Canty – stopped the run and pressured the QB on numerous occassions

31 – CB Anthony Levine – the converted safety struggled in pass coverage; it was clear Roethlisberger was looking for him

29 – FS Jeromy Miles – solid game overall, but had a couple of lapses in pass coverage

29 – CB Matt Elam – yes, the SS played corner most of the night, and played the position well overall; was strong in pass coverage

13 – DE DeAngelo Tyson – was brought in on obvious passing downs; did not have a good night, did not apply pressure

11 – DE Lawrence Guy – did a solid job defending the run in his limited action on the field

6 – CB Antone Cason – came is when Melvin was shaken up; let up a catch during Melvin’s short absence

2 – ILB Albert McClellan – was only in for two plays; obviously not enough field time to analyze performance

1- SS Brynden Trawick – same as McClellan

Special Team notes – Justin Tucker was lights out as usual. The 52 yarder was particularly special, as you don’t see too many successful field goals at Heinz Field over 50 yards. Sam Koch had a good night – save for the blocked punt which was due to blocking assignment breakdowns. He was also directionally kicking it away from Antonio Brown, and that factored in as well. Jacoby Jones did not have a good night. He lost his footing and slipped during his first kick off return, and seemed tentative after that. Michael Campanaro had a couple of fair catches on punt returns. Hope his hamstring has healed to the point where he could be a factor vs the Patriots

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Ravens pass rush in race against quick-release Brady on Saturday

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Ravens pass rush in race against quick-release Brady on Saturday

Posted on 05 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have come to expect strong play from quarterback Joe Flacco in the postseason like they witnessed in the wild-card win in Pittsburgh, but the biggest key in beating the New England Patriots on Saturday may lie on the opposite side of the ball.

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady presents a great challenge to the NFL’s 24th-ranked pass defense, but Baltimore possesses the single-best weapon you can have to potentially slow the league’s No. 9 passing attack.

A dominating pass rush.

How significant has it been to Baltimore’s success during the 2014 season? The Ravens have collected four or more sacks in each of their last eight wins, including the 30-17 victory over the Steelers in which they sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times. Over that same time, they are 0-4 when failing to reach the four-sack plateau.

A quick look at the numbers suggests pass protection isn’t a concern for the Patriots as Brady was sacked only 21 times in the regular season — backup Jimmy Garoppolo was also dropped five times — but that is more a reflection of the 37-year-old getting the ball out more quickly that just about any quarterback in the league. Per Pro Football Focus, Brady’s average time of 2.39 seconds before throwing, being sacked, or scrambling is the third quickest in the league behind only Denver’s Peyton Manning and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton.

The Patriots received the fourth-worst pass-blocking grade in the league from PFF, suggesting Baltimore shouldn’t be overly concerned with New England’s offensive line. Only right tackle Sebastian Vollmer received a positive cumulative grade in pass blocking among the Patriots’ starters during the regular season.

New England is particularly vulnerable inside with starting guards — Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell — who are much stronger as run blockers than in pass protection. This could spell trouble with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and situational rusher Pernell McPhee primed to bring inside heat while Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil come off the edges.

But how do you reach Brady when he’s so adept at getting rid of the ball quickly?

The Ravens have made no secret about their attempts to jump the opposition’s snap count to get to the quarterback this season. This leads to some pre-snap penalties, which head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees don’t condone but acknowledge as an occasional “cost of doing business.” They view them in a similar manner to how many great power hitters in baseball are also prone to striking out.

Of course, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Brady will be aware of Baltimore’s aggression up front, making you believe they’ll throw some hard counts and cadence variations into the mix Saturday to keep the pass rush at bay.

Baltimore could also mix in some press coverage from defensive backs to temporarily hold up receivers in hopes that the rush gets to Brady after an extra split-second or two of holding the ball. In doing so, the Ravens do run the risk of giving up a big play if the pressure doesn’t get there, but they made it clear against the Steelers that they weren’t afraid to be aggressive on either side of the ball.

The Ravens’ biggest problem will be All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame doesn’t make it feasible to jam him at the line of scrimmage. Will Hill did a commendable job against New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham during the regular season, and you’d expect the safety to receive a bulk of the coverage duties against Gronkowski on Saturday.

The defense showed once again that it can make up for an injury-plagued secondary by consistently pressuring the Steelers in the wild-card round, and the Ravens will need to do it again Saturday to be in position to continue their playoff run.

 

 

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 27 December 2014 by Luke Jones

(Editor’s note: The Browns announced that wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for a team violation after this post was published.)

Needing help in Week 17 is never a comfortable feeling, but it’s reality for the Ravens as they welcome the Cleveland Browns to town for the regular-season finale on Sunday.

Baltimore needs a win coupled with a Kansas City victory over San Diego to advance to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years under head coach John Harbaugh. Should the Ravens win and not receive help from the Chiefs — who will be starting backup Chase Daniel in place of injured quarterback Alex Smith — it would be the first time in franchise history that they’d finish a year with double-digit wins and not make the postseason.

Of course, the Ravens wouldn’t trade their current predicament with the Browns, who are losers of four straight and are forced to start rookie free agent Connor Shaw due to Week 16 injuries suffered by Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. While many in Baltimore are displeased by the possibility of the Ravens missing the playoffs for a second straight year, Cleveland needs a win just to complete its third non-losing season since 1999.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Browns meet for the 32nd time in regular-season history. Baltimore is 12-3 against Cleveland at M&T Bank Stadium and has won 12 of the last 13 over the Browns under Harbaugh. The Browns haven’t beaten the Ravens in Baltimore since 2007.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens hope to extend their season beyond Week 17 …

1. Torrey Smith will catch a touchdown in what could be his final game with the Ravens. The Browns own the league’s seventh-ranked pass defense, but top cornerback Joe Haden is questionable with a shoulder injury that limited him in practice all week. Meanwhile, Smith is facing the possibility of Sunday being his last game with Baltimore. It will be interesting to see what kind of market potentially develops for the 2011 second-round pick as he’s proven himself as a solid — and occasionally spectacular — No. 2 receiver, but the Ravens cannot and should not pay him as anything more than that. Regardless of what happens this offseason, Smith will catch his team-leading 11th touchdown of the 2014 campaign.

2. Browns wideout Josh Gordon will have his best game since his 2014 season debut in Week 12. Draw whatever conclusion you’d like, but Cleveland’s once-promising season crashed right around the time that the talented receiver returned from a lengthy suspension. There’s no doubting Gordon’s immense talent, but he hasn’t provided the shot in the arm the Browns needed as they’ve lost four of the five games in which he’s played. Gordon will have a chance to finish the season on a high note against the league’s 28th-ranked pass defense and even with Shaw under center, the 6-foot-3 receiver will eclipse 75 receiving yards and catch his first touchdown of the year, beating Rashaan Melvin in coverage.

3. Timmy Jernigan and Pernell McPhee will combine for three sacks against a vulnerable Browns interior line. All eyes will be on Elvis Dumervil and his quest to lead the league in sacks, but the Ravens should have few problems exploiting the interior portion of the Cleveland line as Nick McDonald is expected to start at center for the injured Ryan Seymour. The Browns have struggled inside since the loss of Pro Bowl center Alex Mack earlier in the year, and McPhee and Jernigan have had plenty of success as interior rushers in passing situations. While Cleveland will do whatever it can to contain Dumervil and Terrell Suggs off the edges, the Ravens will wreak havoc on the rookie Shaw with pressure right up the middle.

4. Justin Forsett will crack the century mark to complete one of the most surprising seasons in franchise history. The running game has suddenly become a concern over the last couple weeks, but the Browns are dead last in the NFL against the run, which will soften the blow of neither Eugene Monroe or Rick Wagner playing on Sunday. Even without his starting tackles to block for him, Forsett will take advantage of a front seven that will struggle to set the edge and will fail to protect cutback lanes, leading to a couple long runs. Forsett will join Jamal Lewis, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice as the only running backs in franchise history to post a 1,200-yard season.

5. The Ravens will win 24-13 before learning they will miss the postseason after not receiving the necessary help from Kansas City. Sunday’s game will be one of those contests that’s closer than it should be, but the Browns’ inability to consistently move the ball will allow the Ravens to stay ahead until they put together a fourth-quarter drive to make it a two-score game. Unfortunately, the Chargers will continue their late-season mojo with a win over the Chiefs to clinch the No. 6 spot. Considering the adversity and injuries the Ravens experienced in 2014, a 10-win season looks good on paper, but the memory of late-season losses to San Diego and Houston will lead to the most offseason pressure Harbaugh has felt since coming to Baltimore.

 

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McPhee, Suggs probable; Campanaro questionable for Chargers game

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McPhee, Suggs probable; Campanaro questionable for Chargers game

Posted on 28 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to the practice field after the Thanksgiving holiday, the Ravens look to be in excellent shape from a health standpoint as they made final preparations for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers.

Rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro is the only Baltimore player listed as much as questionable for Week 13.

All players on the 53-man roster were present and working during the portion of practice open to reporters on Friday morning. Campanaro made his return to the practice field this week after a month-long absence due to a hamstring injury, but the Ravens training staff is bringing him along very slowly in fear of a mishap, making it unlikely that he’ll play on Sunday.

“He’s coming along. It’s a process with a hamstring,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “You can’t really push that thing so much. What usually happens with a hamstring is they’re pretty conservative and then all of a sudden they come back and tell you he’s ready to go. He did practice this week. It wasn’t all the time as fast as we want it to be, because we don’t want a setback. I imagine I’ll find out Sunday if he’s ready to go or not and if he is, we’ll see. That’s really the best we can do right now.”

Linebackers Terrell Suggs (foot) and Pernell McPhee (shoulder) are listed as probable after both were full participants on Friday. Reserve offensive lineman Jah Reid has also been a full participant all week after missing the last two games due to a broken hand.

With the disadvantage of a short week after playing a Monday night game in New Orleans, the Ravens sporting such a clean injury report is encouraging as they play the 7-4 Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Ravens lead the all-time regular-season series by a 5-4 margin and have a 2-0 advantage playing in Baltimore.

The Chargers officially ruled out nose tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) and listed linebacker Andrew Gachkar (knee) as doubtful for Sunday’s game. Starting running back Ryan Mathews (shoulder) is probable.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Walt Anderson.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid-50s and winds up to eight miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh)
PROBABLE: LB Pernell McPhee (shoulder), OL Jah Reid (hand), LB Terrell Suggs (foot)

SAN DIEGO
OUT: NT Ryan Carrethers (elbow)
DOUBTFUL: LB Andrew Gachkar (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: G Ryan Miller (groin), DT Tenny Palepoi (non-injury)
PROBABLE: S Jahleel Addae (concussion), RB Ryan Mathews (shoulder), WR Eddie Royal (toe)

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McPhee continues doing dirty work for Ravens defense

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McPhee continues doing dirty work for Ravens defense

Posted on 25 November 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens had a number of huge performances in the 34-27 win over the New Orleans Saints, but one of their better ones came from a defensive player who didn’t even make a tackle Monday night.

While Elvis Dumervil (two), Terrell Suggs, and C.J. Mosley combined for four sacks, it was situational rush specialist Pernell McPhee who brought the most pressure against Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Playing 28 defensive snaps, McPhee produced four hurries and three quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus.

Regularly credited for doing the dirty work up front while Dumervil and Suggs produce higher sack totals, McPhee has been effective as either an edge rusher spelling one of the veterans or as an interior lineman in obvious passing situations. The 280-pounder’s combination of strength and quickness has made him arguably the Ravens’ best inside rusher since Trevor Pryce, so it only made sense that he’d exploit a suspect interior part of the New Orleans offensive line.

McPhee doesn’t produce as many sacks because it’s generally easier for quarterbacks to recognize pressure and get rid of the ball when it’s right in front of them — he primarily lines up inside in sub packages — instead of dealing with rushers coming off the edge, but the 2011 fifth-round pick effectively collapses the pocket and is a key cog in helping to run stunts for others to pick up sacks. Playing fewer snaps than Suggs or Dumervil this season, McPhee leads all Ravens defensive players with 14 quarterback hits and 26 quarterback hurries, per PFF.

The Ravens knew they had something with McPhee in his rookie season when he collected six sacks as a situational rusher, but an array of nagging injuries limited his performance over the last two seasons. McPhee has stayed healthy in 2014 and has proven himself as a productive rusher in defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ rotation.

Keeping McPhee on a pitch count with his playing time appears to have maximized his production while also allowing Suggs and Dumervil to remain fresh, but it will be interesting to see how much interest the Mississippi State product draws this offseason when he becomes a free agent for the first time. In that regard, McPhee collecting only four sacks to this point in the year might be a blessing when trying to quantify his value on the open market.

Despite a suspect secondary that’s dealt with a number of injuries, the Ravens rank fifth in points allowed and 15th in total defense because of the strong play of their front seven with McPhee playing a vital part.

Even if it’s gone unnoticed for large stretches of time like it did Monday night.

 

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Five up, five down: Ravens stock at midway point

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Five up, five down: Ravens stock at midway point

Posted on 29 October 2014 by Luke Jones

At the midway point of the season, we take a look at which Ravens players’ stock is up and down after the first eight games of 2014 …

STOCK UP

1. Justin Forsett
Skinny: What else can be said about the 29-year-old journeyman who currently ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards (571) and second among running backs in yards per carry (5.5). Forsett said it best last week in quipping that many people didn’t even know he was still in the NFL entering 2014, but he’s been a saving grace in the aftermath of the Ray Rice saga. For an organization that’s found plenty of diamonds in the rough over the years, Forsett has been as good of a story as any.

2. Pernell McPhee
Skinny: The rush specialist has picked the perfect time to have a career year with his rookie contract set to expire. McPhee is second on the team in sacks (four) despite playing fewer snaps than Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil, a reflection of how effective he’s been in putting pressure on quarterbacks. The 2011 fifth-round pick’s improved health as well as defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ effective use of McPhee have added up to the Ravens having their best interior rusher in quite some time.

3. C.J. Mosley
Skinny: Many were obviously high on the 2014 first-round pick, but Mosley has been better than advertised in serving as the Ravens’ best inside linebacker and a top candidate for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Mosley ranks fourth in the NFL in tackles entering Week 9 and has recorded two interceptions, six pass breakups, five quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. For a front seven that needed some new blood, Mosley has been a high-impact addition.

4. Rick Wagner
Skinny: Remember when right tackle was a major topic of discussion throughout the offseason? Wagner has not only quelled those concerns, but the 2013 fifth-round selection has been an above-average player at his position, a major reason why the offensive line has been one of the strengths of the 2014 Ravens. He and perennial Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda have been an impressive tandem opening lanes on the right side of the line for the league’s eighth-ranked running game.

5. Brandon Williams
Skinny: There were high hopes for the second-year nose tackle to slide into a starting role and Williams hasn’t disappointed while wreaking havoc for interior offensive linemen against the run. He is seventh on the team in tackles and has made it far more difficult for teams to focus their attention on defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Very athletic for his size, Williams has recorded 25 tackles, 1/2 sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in his first year as a starter.

Others receiving consideration: Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Steve Smith

STOCK DOWN

1. Jacoby Jones
Skinny: His season has been nothing short of disastrous as he’s dropped more passes (five) than he’s caught (four) and has twice lost fumbles on returns. The Ravens re-signed him to a four-year, $12 million contract that included a $3.5 million signing bonus in March, which is now looking like one of the worst contracts the organization has handed out in recent memory. He’ll need a big second half just to avoid being cut after the 2014 season, but his role has all but disappeared in the offense.

2. Bernard Pierce
Skinny: It’s been a dramatic fall for the 2012 third-round pick, who began the year as the starting running back and was a healthy inactive in Sunday’s game against Cincinnati. Pierce’s 3.6 yards per carry average is nearly two yards worse than Forsett’s (5.5) and lags behind rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro (4.4), which reflects his struggles and indecisiveness running in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking system. Pierce hasn’t taken advantage of what was a huge chance to prove himself as a feature back.

3. Matt Elam
Skinny: It’s fair to point out that Elam has been out of position for a large portion of his career, playing free safety as a rookie and often filling in at the nickel spot often in 2014. However, it isn’t just his pass coverage that’s been unsatisfactory as the 2013 first-round pick leads the team in missed tackles with 12, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s too early to label Elam a bust, but he hasn’t consistently displayed qualities of a good strong safety, let alone the versatility the Ravens expected him to have.

4. Torrey Smith
Skinny: The fourth-year receiver has had his moments and has drawn several significant pass interference calls, but he’s gone from a wideout who produced 1,128 receiving yards a year ago to one on pace for 36 catches and 616 yards in 2014. The Steve Smith factor is obvious, but Torrey Smith has averaged just 1.22 yards per route run, which is the 14th-worst mark in the NFL among players targeted at least 20 times. A down season couldn’t have come at a worse time with his rookie contract expiring.

5. Arthur Brown
Skinny: The 2013 second-round pick has been a healthy inactive for eight straight games as the Ravens have elected to use the likes of Albert McClellan and rookie free agent Zach Orr on special teams. The re-signing of Daryl Smith and the drafting of Mosley made it pretty obvious that Brown would need to remain patient in terms of expanding his role from a year ago when he served as a nickel linebacker. But for him to not even suit up for games is pretty telling of his current status.

Others receiving consideration: Marlon Brown, Chykie Brown, Lardarius Webb

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 6

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 6

Posted on 07 October 2014 by Luke Jones

Every week, we’ll take a look at which Ravens players’ stock is rising and falling …

STOCK RISING

C.J. Mosley
Skinny: The rookie inside linebacker was the best player on the field for the Ravens in Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis as he finished with 14 tackles, a quarterback hit, a pass breakup, and an interception. Baltimore has used plenty of high draft picks on defensive players in recent years with mixed results, so it’s encouraging to see Mosley emerging as a game-changer on that side of the ball with so many aging players around him. Veteran Daryl Smith’s strong play last year was a pleasant surprise the year after Ray Lewis’ retirement, but Mosley has been the better player of the two in 2014.

Marshal Yanda
Skinny: Coming back from offseason shoulder surgery a year ago, the Pro Bowl right guard wasn’t his usual self in 2013, but Yanda has again been one of the best players in the NFL at his position so far in 2014. According to Pro Football Focus, the eighth-year guard is the Ravens’ highest-graded offensive player this season and the running game has been particularly potent with him and second-year tackle Rick Wagner opening running lanes on the right side. The offensive line struggled against Indianapolis, but Yanda had another strong day despite the loss.

Pernell McPhee
Skinny: The Ravens have had difficulty sustaining a pass rush, but the reserve specialist has arguably been their best weapon in that department, whether lining up at end or sliding inside in passing situations. McPhee may have only picked up his first sack of the season against the Colts, but the 2011 fifth-round pick leads the Ravens in Pro Football Focus’ quarterback hurries category despite playing less than Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. The Ravens try to limit McPhee’s snaps to keep him healthy after dealing with nagging knee issues in past years, but he’s been one of their best defensive players this season.

STOCK FALLING

James Hurst
Skinny: The undrafted rookie free agent was a pleasant surprise in his first career start against the Carolina Panthers, but his second game as the starting left tackle was disastrous as Indianapolis beat him repeatedly in the process of harassing quarterback Joe Flacco. The Ravens didn’t provide Hurst with enough help on the left side, so they’ll need to adjust as they play another road game against Tampa Bay in Week 6. Veteran Eugene Monroe was noncommittal last week when asked when he anticipated returning, so the Ravens can only hope that Hurst bounces back to play like he did against Carolina.

Terrell Suggs
Skinny: The veteran linebacker hasn’t played as poorly as some have suggested while focusing on the fact that he only has 1/2 sack so far this year, but it’s apparent the nagging groin injury he’s been dealing with is taking its toll as he was a non-factor against Indianapolis. Suggs is eighth on the team in tackles and has looked more like the player he was in the second half of 2013 than the linebacker who collected nine sacks in the first eight games of last season. The soon-to-be 32-year-old is still solid against the run, but you have to wonder if his days as a consistent high-impact player are coming to an end.

Torrey Smith
Skinny: Dropping the fourth-down pass from Flacco on the Ravens’ final offensive play of the game Sunday was just the latest example of concern as Smith has just 11 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown through five games. Gary Kubiak’s West Coast offense depends on short-to-intermediate routes that Smith often struggles in running, leaving the fourth-year wideout uncomfortable and on a different page than Flacco for much of the season. Smith has been able to draw a number of pass interference penalties on deep balls, but you wonder how much his struggles are wearing on him in a contract year.

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Rice, Canty, six others listed as questionable for Sunday’s game

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Rice, Canty, six others listed as questionable for Sunday’s game

Posted on 27 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens appear to feel good about their chances of getting Pro Bowl running back back for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills as Ray Rice practiced for the third straight day on Friday.

Rice is listed as questionable — along with seven other teammates — for Sunday’s game after practicing on a limited basis all week. He was moving around effectively during the portion of practice open to the media on Friday morning. Should he return, the sixth-year back will be facing a run defense tied for 30th in the NFL and giving up 155 yards per game on the ground.

“We stand by the fact that we’re hoping [Rice will] get there,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s got a better chance than he had last week. He has practiced, to an extent, throughout the course of the week, and we’ll know Sunday.”

Rice took his inability to play last week in stride, especially after he knew his hip flexor strain would not be the type of injury to keep him out for any extended period of time.

In the first two games of the season, Rice carried 25 times for 72 yards and a touchdown. He credited his teammates for the way they played in his absence in the 30-9 win over Houston. He told reporters on Friday that he tried as much as he could to push his hip to the limit to test how it could hold up against the Bills on Sunday.

“The week went as expected. I was very smart out there,” Rice said. “It did feel good to get three days worth of work in. Barring [any] setbacks, there’s a chance I could be out there on Sunday. Obviously, I have to go out there and warm up and see how it feels and let coaches make the decision for me.”

Defensive end Chris Canty (groin), linebacker Arthur Brown (pectoral), wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), defensive tackle Brandon Williams (toe), and running back Shaun Draughn (ankle) were also listed as questionable for Sunday’s game after taking part in Friday’s practice. Rush specialist Pernell McPhee is questionable after he missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday while recovering from a sore knee.

Veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley was a new addition to Friday’s injury report and was listed as questionable against the Bills after being limited with a groin injury in the final practice of the week. Rookie receiver Marlon Brown (neck) was a full participant on Thursday and Friday and is probable to play on Sunday.

“You’ve got all the guys who have been injured — some just last week and some before — and practiced will be game-time decisions,” Harbaugh said. “They all have a chance to get there, and we’re really hopeful in each one of their cases that they can play, but something could come up. It could not feel right on Sunday. I doubt it will be 100 percent [of them playing], but we’d love for it to be 100 percent.”

The only players not taking part in Friday’s workout were wide receiver Jacoby Jones (knee), defensive tackle Terrence Cody (knee), and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot). Jones was ruled out for Sunday’s game earlier in the week while the latter two were designated as doubtful and are not expected to play in Week 4.

Meanwhile, the Bills ruled out five players and listed two key members of their secondary as questionable for Sunday’s game. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and free safety Jairus Byrd (foot) were limited in practices all week.

Defensive end Mario Williams, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, running back C.J. Spiller, and wide receiver Stevie Johnson were all designated as probable.

Referee Jerome Boger and his crew will officiate Sunday’s game in Orchard Park, N.Y. between the Ravens and Bills. He was the referee for Super Bowl XLVII.

Sunday’s forecast calls for a high of 71 degrees and mostly cloudy skies.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Jacoby Jones (knee)
DOUBTFUL: DT Terrence Cody (knee), C Ryan Jensen (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Arthur Brown (chest), DE Chris Canty (thigh), RB Shaun Draughn (ankle), LB/DE Pernell McPhee (knee), RB Ray Rice (hip), WR Brandon Stokley (groin), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe)
PROBABLE: WR Marlon Brown (neck)

BUFFALO
OUT: K Dustin Hopkins (r. groin), CB Stephon Gilmore (wrist), CB Ron Brooks (foot), WR Marquise Goodwin (hand), DT Alex Carrington (quad)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Leodis McKelvin (hamstring), FS Jarius Byrd (foot)
PROBABLE: WR Stevie Johnson (hamstring), RB C.J. Spiller (quad), G Doug Legursky (knee), G Kraig Urbik (knee), DE Mario Williams (ankle), DT Kyle Williams (Achilles), DT Marcell Dareus (ankle)

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Ravens’ depth, versatility paying off at outside linebacker

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Ravens’ depth, versatility paying off at outside linebacker

Posted on 17 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Though the Ravens’ 1-1 start has been anything but seamless, the hype surrounding the pass-rushing combination of Terrell Suggs and free-agent acquisition Elvis Dumervil has been justified for the Baltimore defense.

Entering the 2013 season with eight Pro Bowl selections and 148 quarterback sacks between them, Suggs and Dumervil have collected a combined four sacks and 10 quarterback hits in their first two weeks together. Considering the money and resources invested by general manager Ozzie Newsome at the outside linebacker position, you expect that kind of production, but another reason to feel optimistic about Suggs, who will turn 31 next month, and the 29-year-old Dumervil being productive over the entire 16-game regular season is the depth and versatility behind them in the Baltimore defense.

With younger players such as Courtney Upshaw and Pernell McPhee spelling the veterans in certain situations, it decreases their total number of opportunities to rack up sacks and pressures but provides an ability to maximize their production when they are on the field. Both Suggs and Dumervil have welcomed younger players receiving opportunities defensively.

“That’s a good thing. You want guys getting after it,” Suggs said following Sunday’s win. “Everybody’s fighting for it.”

With Cleveland expected to establish the running game as opposed to Denver’s wide-open passing attack from Week 1, it was no surprise to see Upshaw start the game at the strong-side linebacker position with Dumervil on the sideline. Ideally, Dumervil is better suited for Suggs’ rush linebacker position than the Sam linebacker spot responsible for setting the edge and focusing more on stopping the run.

Upshaw played 42 of the Ravens’ 63 defensive snaps against the Browns while Dumervil was on the field for 39 plays. This didn’t prevent Dumervil from being a major thorn in the side of Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden as he collected a sack, three quarterback hits, and two hurries in 28 pass-rush situations, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Upshaw was a major part of a run defense that limited the Browns to just 3.3 yards per carry and 65 yards on the ground.

“Upshaw is a hell of a player, and he’s only [in] year two, so the sky is the limit for him,” Dumervil said prior to the start of the season. “I think the staff does a great job of putting guys where it’s suited best for them, and as a player, you have to be respectful towards what is trying to be accomplished.”

Dumervil wasn’t the only standout linebacker to receive some rest over the course of the game as Suggs took 49 defensive snaps and third-year pass-rush specialist Pernell McPhee participated in 20, often spelling Suggs at his rush linebacker spot. McPhee was converted to outside linebacker in the offseason and while he lacks the skill set of Suggs against the run and in pass coverage, the position change allowed him to shed some weight to take some pressure off his problematic knees and to help keep the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year fresh over the course of games when possible.

Of course, there will be occasions against tougher competition in which the Ravens will lean more heavily on Suggs and Dumervil, but the ability for defensive coordinator Dean Pees to lighten the workload of his veteran outside linebackers will keep them more productive down the stretch when the Ravens will need them at their best.

Dead end with tight ends

The tight end position has been a hot topic for discussion ever since starter Dennis Pitta went down with a serious hip injury in the first week of training camp, and there are no indications that the problem is being fixed until his potential return late this season.

The Ravens showed their level of concern by working out free-agent tight ends Jake Ballard and Matt Mulligan after the season opener, but it’s difficult to expect any addition off the street to make a significant impact. Ed Dickson has struggled mightily to catch the football while 34-year-old Dallas Clark has looked slow running routes and dropped a sure touchdown right before halftime in the Week 1 loss at Denver.

“Those guys need to be a big part of what we are doing,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They are fully capable of making catches. Ed should be a big-play guy up the seam, over routes, and all those kinds of things. We need to get Ed going.”

On paper and in practices, Dickson looks like the prototypical tight end with size, good speed, and strong blocking ability, but trying to cure the mental issue of having a case of the drops isn’t easy. After Dickson dropped a Joe Flacco pass that would have been a nice gain over the middle of the field on the first play of the game on Sunday, the quarterback didn’t target him again.

It spoke volumes for both Dickson and Clark that No. 3 tight end Billy Bajema — known mostly for his blocking — turned in the best performance of the day by making an 18-yard reception. Whether we see more of him, versatile fullback Kyle Juszczyk, or the eventual promotion of Matt Furstenburg from the practice squad, the Ravens need to see improvement from the tight end spot considering the similar questions facing the wide receiver position.

In two games this season, Ravens tight ends have combined for 10 catches and 126 yards. In comparison, New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham had eight catches for 156 yards and a touchdown in the first half of the Saints’ win against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

That type of production from their tight ends in two games just simply isn’t enough in the modern NFL.

Running game concerns

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