Tag Archive | "Ravens"

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Five questions pondering Yanda, Matusz, others

Posted on 22 May 2015 by Luke Jones

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

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or do you still enjoy seeing Marshal Yanda receive league-wide recognition? I’ve made no secret about my disdain for the annual NFL Network top 100 players list over the years, but I did enjoy seeing the four-time Pro Bowl guard appear 79th overall on this year’s version — even if he should be higher. Ozzie Newsome is in a tough spot with Yanda and Kelechi Osemele both scheduled to become free agents after the 2015 season. If you can only sign one — the Ravens believe young linemen John Urschel and Robert Myers could be starters in the near future — conventional wisdom might say to keep the younger Osemele, but would Baltimore really let the best guard in the NFL and one of the better players in franchise history leave? It isn’t an easy call as Yanda turns 31 in September, but his play has shown no signs of slowing down and he’s the leader of an offensive line that was very good in 2014.

2. Is it just me or do you think the Orioles regret not trading Brian Matusz in the spring? It’s been a difficult start for the lefty specialist, who sports a 3.77 ERA that doesn’t tell the story of just how ineffective he’s been. Matusz owns a 5.85 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) mark, is walking as many hitters per nine innings as he’s striking out (6.3), and has allowed an .864 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handed hitters, which includes 10 walks in 41 plate appearances. After a two-hour rain delay on Thursday, Matusz entered to face a lineup that sported six left-handed hitters and could have given the Orioles a lift by handling a couple innings. Instead, he labored through a 39-pitch frame by giving up two runs, three hits, and a walk. Meanwhile, right-hander Ryan Webb sports a 1.42 ERA for Cleveland after the Orioles elected to jettison him at the start of the season.

3. Is it just me or are you interested to see how John Harbaugh handles the new extra-point rule? Despite expressing my skepticism over how much the changes will really impact the game, I am intrigued to see how the Ravens coach approaches the new rules from a strategic standpoint considering he hasn’t been afraid to go against the conventional — and ultraconservative — nature of many NFL coaches as we saw with his key decision to go for it on fourth down in his own territory in Miami last season. Speaking to reporters after delivering the commencement address at Stevenson University on Thursday, Harbaugh endorsed the changes and believes they will lead to more two-point conversions, particularly when weather conditions are harsh. Of course, it certainly helps that he has one of the best kickers in the league to handle what will now become 33-yard extra points.

4. Is it just me or does Buck Showalter need to rethink the heart of the order? No, this isn’t a rant about Chris Davis striking out way too much — you don’t need me to tell you that — but it’s a look at Delmon Young, who has hit fourth in nine of the Orioles’ last 13 games. On the surface, Young’s .287 average is respectable, but his .330 slugging percentage is lower than the likes of struggling hitters such as Alejandro De Aza and Steve Pearce. Young’s lack of patience at the plate isn’t helping with only a 2.1 percent walk rate. This isn’t supposed to be a knock on Young as much as it shows how underwhelming the Orioles have been at the corner outfield spots, which has forced him to become an everyday player. Young is a better fit as a part-time player and pinch hitter, but he’s already played more innings in the field in 2015 than he did all last season, something that isn’t helping the Baltimore defense, either.

5. Is it just me or should the Ravens take a suggestion or two from the Uni Watch assessment of their uniforms? I don’t shy away from being a uniform geek as I enjoy using the “#FashionTweets” hashtag on Twitter and I generally like the Ravens’ duds, but the subtle tweaks suggested by Paul Lukas wouldn’t be bad ideas. The black pants that have become a major part of home and away uniform combinations could use a purple and white stripe on the sides similar to what we saw in 1997 (see below) before the black pants disappeared for years. More than that, I’d like to see the Ravens bring back the black and purple striped sock design worn before changing to the current — and boring — solid black ones in 2004. I admire the organization for making few uniform changes since 1999, but a couple tweaks would freshen up the look, especially if they insist on wearing black pants so often.

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BALTIMORE - DECEMBER 28:  Jamal Lewis #31 of the Baltimore Ravens leaves Dewayne Washington #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in his wake as he goes 26 yards for a first quarter touchdwon to give the Ravens a 7-0 lead over the Steelers during NFL action on December 28, 2003 at the M and T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

 

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Happy or not, Tucker should adjust well to new extra-point rule

Posted on 20 May 2015 by Luke Jones

After more than a year of debate, the NFL officially changed the extra point at its spring meetings in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Citing an ever-increasing success rate that’s made the extra point an automatic play, the league has elected to move kicking tries from the 2-yard line to the 15, transforming a 20-yard kick into what will now be an attempt from 33 yards. Two-point tries will remain at the 2, but opposing defenses will now have the ability to return failed kicks or turnovers on two-point attempts for their own two-point play, copying the collegiate rule.

To no one’s surprise after being quite vocal about the potential tinkering with the kicking game, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker didn’t offer a ringing endorsement to the team’s official website about the changes on Tuesday afternoon. It’s understandable not to celebrate a decision that will make his job more difficult, but the 2013 Pro Bowl kicker has never missed a kick from within 37 yards, which should give him a distinct advantage over most kickers in the NFL.

How dramatically will the new extra-point rules impact the game?

The league hopes such a change will prompt more two-point attempts, but I remain skeptical considering the ultraconservative nature of most NFL head coaches. The ability of the defense to return a point-after try for two points is an overdue change that could bring some excitement, but even that only figures to come into play a handful of times per season in the entire league.

Beyond the initial novelty, I don’t expect the game to change all that much as kickers converted 95.8 percent of field goals from 30-34 yards last season. According to the Wall Street Journal, this will essentially take the NFL extra point back to the success rate of the 1980s when the play was — you guessed it — not at all exciting, either.

Was the old extra point too easy and boring? Sure.

Was it something that was bothering my viewing experience? Not even a little.

If we’re truly interested in eliminating boredom from the game, the countless media timeouts are a much bigger problem, but, of course, there’s never any mention of that.

Will the new extra point still be too easy and boring? Most likely.

It won’t ruin my viewing experience, but this has felt more like change for the sake of change all along.

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Ravens national scout Douglas takes job with Chicago

Posted on 15 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Photo courtesy of the Ravens

Joe Douglas isn’t a household name for most Ravens fans, but his work has been critical to the organization’s success over the last 15 years.

The national scout accepted a job with the Chicago Bears to become their college scouting director, a position currently held by Joe Hortiz in Baltimore. Douglas joined the Ravens in 2000 and famously filled the role of “The Turk” — the man who informed players that they were about to be cut — when their training camp was profiled in HBO’s “Hard Knocks” in 2001.

Despite remaining in the background during his time with the Ravens, Douglas was largely responsible in scouting and recommending Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco, who was selected with the 18th pick of the 2008 draft and went on to become the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XLVII. The scout was also instrumental in the evaluation of Rutgers running back Ray Rice, who was drafted in the second round that same year.

Douglas was promoted to the role of national scout following the 2012 draft after he previously served as Southeast area scout from 2009-2011. He also played a key role in facilitating the signing of undrafted free agents, an area in which the Ravens have excelled for years.

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Five questions pondering Showalter, Arrington, Harvey, others

Posted on 15 May 2015 by Luke Jones

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

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or does the acquisition of Kyle Arrington have you feeling really good about the Ravens in 2015? Baltimore is no stranger to significant roster turnover, but fans were understandably uneasy in seeing so many high-profile players depart this offseason. Since then, general manager Ozzie Newsome has done some of his finest work — on paper, at least — with this year’s draft and Wednesday’s acquisition of veteran cornerback Kyle Arrington, which addressed the last glaring need the Ravens had. Arrington isn’t a Pro Bowl player, but his experience and versatility will be welcomed in a secondary that struggled at cornerback and safety last season. The Ravens may not be the clear favorite in the AFC this season, but they could be very dangerous in December and January if — and it’s a big one — rookies Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams are ready to contribute in a meaningful way.

2. Is it just me or are the Orioles delaying the inevitable with Hunter Harvey’s latest elbow problems? I couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu when hearing Buck Showalter say that the pitching prospect wouldn’t need surgery before he then dodged a question about whether a magnetic resonance imaging exam showed any damage to Harvey’s ulnar collateral ligament. Last July, Harvey was first diagnosed with a flexor mass strain, the same ailment experienced by Dylan Bundy before he ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013. To be clear, undergoing the surgical procedure shouldn’t be viewed as flippantly as some like to think as not every pitcher fully recovers, but the fact that this is the second time in less than a year that Harvey is having arm issues makes you wonder if we’ve seen the last of him on a mound until sometime in 2016. He will seek a second opinion with Dr. James Andrews in the near future, and you know how that story usually ends.

3. Is it just me or are you already fatigued hearing hype about this year being different for Matt Elam? The Ravens hope to finally get a return on their 2013 first-round investment, but Elam will need to show improvement on the field after a dismal 2014 campaign. While it’s certainly premature to completely bury the strong safety in only his third season, Elam won’t be assured of anything this summer with Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis the favorites to win starting jobs on the back end. Head coach John Harbaugh mentioned earlier this week that Elam has lost eight pounds and that his body fat is down to about six percent. Elam will hope that improved fitness helps improve his tackling and coverage skills, two areas that were sorely lacking in last year’s performance. The Ravens have had other late bloomers such as cornerback Jimmy Smith, but Elam has rarely ever shown signs that his game could have another level and the discussion about him being in better shape and showing more confidence means very little until we see it translate to the field.

4. Is it just me or does Showalter just “get it” about managing in Baltimore? Winning is the most important change that the sixth-year manager has brought to the Orioles, but Monday provided the latest example of how he always knows the right thing to do. Showalter so often wears a black jacket during games that most fans would struggle to remember his jersey number, but you saw him proudly wearing his No. 26 in the series opener against Toronto when the Orioles wore “Baltimore” home jerseys in their return to Camden Yards. It was a subtle gesture, but it came after the honest and thoughtful manner in which Showalter spoke about last month’s unrest in Baltimore. He isn’t from Charm City and he’d be the first to tell you he hasn’t done it alone, but no one has been more important in rebuilding the pride of what it means to be an Oriole or an Orioles fan since his arrival in 2010.

5. Is it just me or does Jarret Johnson top the list of Ravens players you wish had won a Super Bowl? Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, and Kelly Gregg also deserve mentions, but Johnson epitomized what it meant to “play like a Raven” in his nine years in Baltimore. During his retirement press conference this week, I asked him about his emotions watching his former team win the Super Bowl less than 11 months after he departed via free agency — the Ravens made no real effort to keep him after the 2011 season — and you couldn’t sense an ounce of bitterness or regret in his reply. Johnson recalled celebrating when the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII and quickly sent a congratulatory text message to Harbaugh, a man with whom he occasionally clashed in their years together. The Ravens coach said that was one of the most meaningful messages he received that night and replied telling Johnson he was a part of that championship. He wasn’t a Pro Bowl player and is unlikely to go into the Ring of Honor, but the dependable Johnson was about as “Baltimore” as a guy from Florida can be.

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Ravens add veteran cornerback Kyle Arrington to boost secondary

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Less than 24 hours after telling season-ticket holders they were still in the market for a cornerback, the Ravens have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with veteran Kyle Arrington.

The move is pending a physical, but the former New England Patriots defensive back projects to become Baltimore’s No. 3 corner, playing the slot with starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb outside in the nickel package. Despite drafting Texas Southern product Tray Walker in the fourth round of the 2015 draft, the Ravens still considered cornerback to be a concern with Walker, Asa Jackson, and Rashaan Melvin considered the top contenders for the No. 3 spot.

The 28-year-old Arrington brings plenty of experience to the defensive backfield with 56 starts and nine interceptions in his six-year career. He collected 39 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, and four pass breakups last season while primarily serving as the Patriots’ slot corner.

Scheduled to make $3 million in 2015, Arrington was released by the Patriots earlier this week even though they lost both of their starting cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, in free agency. Arrington’s play did decline down the stretch last season, but the 5-foot-10 cornerback still graded as Pro Football Focus’ 36th-best cornerback among players who took at least 25 percent of his team’s defensive snaps in 2014.

After losing Corey Graham in free agency last offseason, the Ravens went into 2014 counting on Chykie Brown or Asa Jackson to emerge as their No. 3 corner, but Brown was cut in the middle of the season and Jackson appeared in only seven games due to injuries and didn’t play at a high level when he was on the field. Of course, a season-ending foot injury to Smith and Webb’s lingering back issues turned a depth problem into a full-blown crisis as five cornerbacks ended the season on injured reserve.

General manager Ozzie Newsome simply couldn’t afford to gamble in the secondary for a second straight year with the injury histories of both Smith and Webb.

Originally an undrafted free agent from Hofstra, Arrington spent the 2008 season split between the practice squads of Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. He appeared in one game for the Buccaneers in 2009 before eventually landing in New England where he appeared in 87 career games.

Arrington’s best season came in 2011 when he started 14 games and finished with 88 tackles, seven interceptions, and 15 pass breakups. He is also regarded as a solid special-teams player and figures to be a part of Jerry Rosburg’s coverage units.

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Ravens still looking to add veteran cornerback to mix

Posted on 13 May 2015 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Report: Ravens among teams with military financial deals

Posted on 12 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Lost in the shuffle of the NFL’s punishment of the New England Patriots Monday was a report stating the Department of Defense paid a total of $5.4 million to NFL teams through promotional military contracts over the last few years.

According to NJ.com, the Ravens were among a group of 14 teams that received funds to finance advertising and military tributes. Baltimore has reportedly received $884,500 since 2011 — the second-highest amount of any mentioned team — but senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne told multiple outlets Monday that the Ravens’ agreement with the Maryland National Guard makes “no mention of honoring soldiers.”

Past advertising included a Maryland National Guard patch on the Ravens’ practice jerseys, the type of measure that probably should have made it clear that there was a financial aspect to their partnership. Of course, this blurs the line between business and goodwill for many as the Ravens have recognized military personnel in a variety of ways over the years.

In fairness, there is much evidence to suggest the Ravens have gone above and beyond in their efforts to recognize the military as head coach John Harbaugh alone has visited soldiers abroad and received the league’s Salute to Service award in 2013 for his well-documented efforts.

Meanwhile, Arizona senator Jeff Flake has criticized the Armed Forces for the allocation of these funds, questioning the effectiveness of the measures while understanding their desire to recruit soldiers from NFL fan bases. Depending on your views, it could be easy to find fault with either side while questioning the authenticity of the many touching tributes we’ve witnessed at Ravens games and across the league in recent years.

Can a team accept military dollars for advertising and marketing and simultaneously recognize soldiers as sheer acts of goodwill like the Ravens say they do?

Opinions will certainly vary depending on who you talk to.

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Ravens sign first-round pick Breshad Perriman

Posted on 11 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Two weeks before Memorial Day, the Ravens have signed all of their selections from the 2015 draft with first-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman agreeing to terms on Monday.

The 26th overall pick was the last of Baltimore’s nine draft picks to sign, agreeing to a four-year, $8.7 million contract that includes a fifth-year team option. The deal includes a $4.59 million signing bonus, according to the NFL’s slotting system for draft picks.

The memories of rookie draft picks holding out well into training camp continue to fade as the current collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011 eliminated the drama that once existed in signing early-round picks. All nine draft picks participated in the Ravens’ rookie minicamp in Owings Mills last weekend.

The 6-foot-2 Perriman is expected to start opposite veteran receiver Steve Smith this season.

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Ravens to have joint practices with Eagles in Philadelphia

Posted on 09 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — For the second straight year, the Ravens will participate in joint practices with one of their preseason opponents during this summer’s training camp.

After hosting the San Francisco 49ers for three practices following the preseason opener last summer, head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens will travel to the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia to work out for three days with the Eagles prior to their preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on Aug. 22. Harbaugh will finalize the practice schedule with Eagles head coach Chip Kelly in the near future.

Unlike last year when he was welcoming his brother to Owings Mills, Harbaugh says he isn’t very familiar with Kelly, but Jim Harbaugh — the former head coach at Stanford — coached against Kelly’s Oregon Ducks for several years in what is now known as the Pacific-12 Conference.

“We’re excited about that. We’re looking forward to it,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know Chip very well, but Jim’s always spoken real highly of him, and I obviously have great respect for him.”

The Ravens had never held practices with another team prior to last year, but they previously scrimmaged with the Washington Redskins a few times prior to the Harbaugh era. Baltimore hasn’t played the Eagles since 2012 and will host Philadelphia in the regular season next year, which would likely rule out a potential trip by the Eagles to Owings Mills next summer.

This summer will mark the first preseason game between the Ravens and the Eagles since 2011. The Interstate 95 neighbors have met 11 times in the preseason with Baltimore holding a 7-4 edge.

“We were just talking at the owners’ meetings,” said Harbaugh about his interactions with Kelly. “We were kind of wondering why we don’t play each other more in the preseason and to see if we can work something out. It looks like we’re going to be able to do that.”

Ravens studying logistics for trips out west

With two occurrences of back-to-back road games against teams out west, the Ravens continue to weigh their options over whether to stay out there to limit the number of cross-country trips in the regular season.

Nothing is set in stone, but the Ravens may remain out west after their season opener against Denver to then play at Oakland in Week 2. Baltimore also plays in San Francisco in Week 6 before traveling to Arizona for a Monday night game the following week.

“We have not made a final decision on staying out there. We’re leaning in that direction, especially the first week,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see about the second week; it’s a little bit of a longer trip. We have a couple of sleep-study doctors and time-zone doctors and things like that who we’re talking to.

“We just want to do the smartest thing, whatever it is. We’ll probably have a decision on that within two weeks, I’d say.”

Cornerback injured

After the Ravens’ well-documented injuries at cornerback during the 2014 season, the first injury of 2015 was suffered by another playing that same position.

Participating in this weekend’s rookie minicamp, free-agent cornerback Julian Wilson suffered a fractured lower leg on Friday and will miss the 2015 season. The 6-foot-2 Oklahoma product was considered an undrafted rookie to watch this summer, but he will instead spend his rookie season on injured reserve.

“He’ll be out for the year, and he’ll move on from that,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll still be with us and be a part of us. He has a lot of potential as a player, so it was disappointing in that sense.”

Harbaugh mum on Wells report

Asked to comment about the Ted Wells report released on the New England Patriots’ deflated footballs scandal, Harbaugh wasn’t about to take the bait.

“Our business is right here,” said Harbaugh, who declined comment and quipped that he’s been too busy to read the entire report. “This is our business right here in Baltimore. We’ll take care of our business. Thanks.”

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Ravens sign all but one of 2015 draft picks

Posted on 09 May 2015 by Luke Jones

Having not even completed their first rookie minicamp of the spring, the Ravens have wasted no time in signing eight of their nine 2015 draft picks to rookie contracts.

Baltimore announced Friday afternoon that seven of their nine choices had signed contracts before third-round defensive tackle Carl Davis announced via Twitter later in the evening that he had signed his contract. First-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman is the only Ravens draft choice not to have signed a contract, but he was present and participating during this weekend’s minicamp in Owings Mills.

Since the introduction of the latest collective bargaining agreement in 2011, rookie signings have become little more than a formality with a slotting system that includes standard four-year deals for all draft picks. Teams may exercise a fifth-year option for first-round picks.

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