Tag Archive | "Ravens"

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Ravens to host joint practices with Rams prior to preseason game

Posted on 12 April 2018 by Luke Jones

The Los Angeles Rams will make a cross-country flight to Baltimore for more than just the Aug. 9 preseason game with the Ravens.

The teams will conduct joint practice at the Ravens’ Owings Mills training facility prior to the exhibition contest at M&T Bank Stadium. This marks the first time in three years that John Harbaugh’s team will practice with another squad as the Ravens hosted Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers in 2014 and worked out with the Eagles in Philadelphia the following year.

The Rams will bring a local flavor to the joint practices with former Dunbar star and wide receiver Tavon Austin and Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley, who spent his childhood in Baltimore before moving to North Carolina for high school.

The entertaining matchup to watch will be new Ravens wide receiver Michael Crabtree and new Rams cornerback Aqib Talib renewing their old AFC West rivalry. The two brawled in each of the last two seasons with Talib ripping off Crabtree’s gold chain each time. Last year’s altercation resulted in ejections and one-game suspensions for each player.

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Ravens release 2018 preseason schedule

Posted on 11 April 2018 by Luke Jones

The countdown to the release of the 2018 regular-season schedule continues, but the Ravens have unveiled their preseason slate that begins with their first ever appearance in the Hall of Fame Game and includes another nationally-televised road game.

The Ravens learned in February that they would play Chicago in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 2 — a game televised on NBC — but they will also travel to Indianapolis for ESPN’s Monday Night Football on Aug. 20, leaving John Harbaugh’s team with two nationally-televised preseason contests.

Baltimore’s first home preseason game comes on Aug. 9 with the Los Angeles Rams visiting M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens will play the all-important third preseason game at Miami on a date to be determined, marking the second straight year they’ll play the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.

For the first time since 2008, Ravens season-ticket holders already miffed about the cost and overall quality of exhibition games will be subjected to the preseason finale at M&T Bank Stadium on Aug. 30. Baltimore will host Washington in a game likely to feature very few starters. This marks the second straight year that the Ravens will play a home preseason game against the Redskins.

The Ravens are 55-32 in their preseason history — including an 8-0 record over the last two summers — and own a 28-12 preseason mark under Harbaugh.

Final dates and times will be announced at a later time.

2018 Ravens preseason schedule
Hall of Fame Game: Thursday, Aug. 2 – vs. Chicago (Canton, Ohio)
Week 1: Thursday, Aug. 9 – vs. Los Angeles Rams
Week 2: Monday, Aug. 20 – at Indianapolis
Week 3: Date to be determined – at Miami
Week 4: Thursday, Aug. 30 – vs. Washington

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Campanaro becomes latest Ravens wide receiver to depart

Posted on 11 April 2018 by Luke Jones

Michael Campanaro became the latest Ravens wide receiver to depart this offseason by agreeing to a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday.

The River Hill product turned in the best season of his career in 2017, leading the AFC in punt return average (10.8 yards per attempt) and catching a career-high 19 passes for 173 yards and one touchdown. Campanaro returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown in the Week 6 overtime loss to Chicago.

A 2014 seventh-round pick out of Wake Forest, Campanaro endured a slew of injuries that limited him to just 11 games over his first three seasons before playing in 13 contests in 2017. The 5-foot-9, 191-pound receiver joins Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin as Baltimore wide receivers to exit this offseason. The Ravens signed free-agent wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown last month to try to breathe new life into the NFL’s 29th-ranked passing attack.

Campanaro posted the following farewell message to his Twitter account:

In 24 career games for the Ravens, Campanaro caught 31 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 10 times for 131 yards and a touchdown.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following pre-draft press conference

Posted on 04 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens conducting their pre-draft press conference on Wednesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I have no strong opinion on Robert Griffin III, but the notion that an oft-injured quarterback who was out of the league last year pushing Joe Flacco is silly. Perhaps he sticks as the backup, but the signing shouldn’t impact any plans to draft a quarterback in the middle rounds.

2. Ozzie Newsome has been criticized for rarely talking to media, but he said he’s taking “all the blame” for missing the playoffs three straight times and was complimentary of John Harbaugh. He remains measured, but you can tell he really wants to right the ship in his final season.

3. Asked about last year’s draft, Newsome quipped that he hopes the Ravens won’t be taking four defensive players with their first four picks, but he reiterated — as he always does — they’ll stay true to their draft board. I can only imagine the fan reaction if that were to happen again.

4. Newsome remains open to signing another wide receiver before the draft, but he wouldn’t discuss any specifics, ranging from whether he’s had discussions with the New York Giants about Odell Beckham Jr. to potential contract talks with restricted free agents Cameron Meredith and Willie Snead.

5. Eric DeCosta offered interesting thoughts HERE (4:25 mark) about whether the Ravens have undervalued wide receivers in the draft compared to other teams, but he admitted “you’ve got to swing” and that the organization hasn’t done much of that at receiver. We’ll see if that finally changes.

6. Director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said he thinks there are tight ends throughout the draft who could help the Ravens, but he acknowledged the challenge of even most standout tight ends not coming on strong as rookies, citing Dennis Pitta as an example. That position remains a major concern.

7. DeCosta estimated as many as eight or nine quarterbacks in this class have a real chance to start and be productive during their rookie contract. I’d still be surprised to see the Ravens take one in the first round, but you sense they’d really like to nab one with upside.

8. Hortiz described Maryland wide receiver DJ Moore as “holding his water” in the pre-draft process and was complimentary of his college production and talents without sounding overly enthusiastic. Interpret that as you wish.

9. Newsome’s role with the organization beyond 2018 is yet to be determined, but DeCosta welcomes as much involvement as his mentor prefers. Let’s not forget Newsome went into a scouting role immediately after his Hall of Fame playing career concluded in 1990. He may want more of a breather.

10. It wasn’t surprising to hear DeCosta stick up for younger Ravens scouts after owner Steve Bisciotti noted in February how many experienced ones the organization has lost in recent years. However, the real proof will come after the draft when you typically see changes to scouting departments among teams.

11. You could sense DeCosta’s deep respect for Newsome as he labeled him “probably the best GM in the history of football.” They both downplayed this draft feeling any different than past ones, but you know it has to be with the changing of the guard looming next year.

12. Listening to Newsome speak (3:20 mark) about the draft still giving him the same butterflies he felt running out of the tunnel before a game as a player offers a glimpse into what’s made him so successful in both roles. What a competitor with a remarkable a body of work.

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Dates set for Ravens’ 2018 offseason workout program

Posted on 02 April 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will officially return to work in two weeks to begin preparations for the 2018 season.

The first phase of the nine-week workout program begins April 16 and is limited to two weeks of conditioning and strength training as well as physical rehabilitation. Many notable players and young players alike have been present for the first day in past years, but all of these workouts are officially voluntary.

The next phase of the offseason schedule occurs over three weeks. On-field workouts that include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practices conducted on a “separate” basis are permitted, but no live contact or team offense against team defense drills can be conducted.

The third phase of the offseason program covers the final four weeks. During this period, teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or OTAs. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are allowed.

Though these workouts are voluntary by definition, most players are expected to attend regularly. The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement allows for a mandatory three-day minicamp for veteran players, which may occur during the third phase of the offseason.

Each club may also conduct a rookie football development program for a period of seven weeks, which may begin on May 14. During this period, no activities may be held on weekends except one post-draft rookie minicamp, which may be conducted on either the first or second weekend following the draft. The dates for Baltimore’s rookie minicamp have not yet been announced, but it usually falls on the first weekend after the draft.

Below is the Ravens’ 2018 offseason training program schedule that was released Monday by the NFL:

First Day: April 16
OTA Offseason Workouts: May 21-22, May 24, May 29, May 31-June 1, June 4-5, June 7-8
Mandatory Minicamp: June 12-14

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Former Ravens tight end Watson returns to New Orleans on one-year deal

Posted on 28 March 2018 by Luke Jones

After contemplating retirement earlier this offseason, former Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson is going back to New Orleans.

On Wednesday, the 37-year-old agreed to a one-year contract with the Saints, the team he left two offseasons ago to sign a two-year, $8 million deal with Baltimore. Watson was reportedly moving toward a deal with Kansas City last week, but a reunion with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees proved too enticing as he caught a career-high 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns with New Orleans in 2015.

Watson led the Ravens with 61 receptions and tied for the team lead with four touchdown catches last season, completing an impressive comeback after missing the entire 2016 season with a torn Achilles tendon. He was highly respected on the field and for his work in the community as he was the team’s 2017 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, but Baltimore hopes to add more youth and play-making ability to the position to go along with blocking tight ends Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams.

How the Ravens will do that remains to be seen with few appealing options remaining on the free-agent market and history suggesting it’s an unwise gamble to count too heavily on a rookie tight end. This year’s draft class lacks an elite talent at the position, but Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State, Mike Gesicki of Penn State, and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are considered good prospects

“We’re going to try and get one,” said head coach John Harbaugh at the owners meetings in Orlando on Tuesday. “Not to take anything away from Maxx and Nick — I think those guys have skills and stuff. I think they both have excellent hands and they can make plays for you, especially underneath moving the chains and those kinds of things. But I also think those guys are excellent blockers. They’ve proven that. Those guys have a huge role on our team. I love those two guys.

“A pass-catching tight end is someone that can stretch the field, make some big plays for us. That’s something that we want to have.”

Watson is the Ravens’ third unrestricted free agent to sign elsewhere this offseason, joining center Ryan Jensen (Tampa Bay) and wide receiver Mike Wallace (Philadelphia). He will be entering his 15th NFL season and has caught 495 passes for 5,485 yards and 42 touchdowns over his career spent with New England, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Baltimore.

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Harbaugh says Ravens offensive line in better shape than last offseason

Posted on 27 March 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens lost two 2017 starters from their offensive line this month, but head coach John Harbaugh didn’t sound concerned speaking to reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando on Tuesday.

Of course, they’ll welcome back six-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda this year as well as third-year lineman Alex Lewis, who started eight games as a rookie and was considered an ascending talent before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery last August. But Baltimore didn’t pick up its 2018 option on right tackle Austin Howard and lost free-agent center Ryan Jensen to Tampa Bay, who made him the NFL’s highest-paid player at the position.

This marks the second straight year the Ravens will need to replace the previous season’s starters at those positions.

“You compare it to last year, I think we are in better shape than we were a year ago at this time really,” Harbaugh said. “We actually have more flexibility, more depth than we did a year ago, and it turned out pretty well for us. I thought [offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris] did a really good job with those guys obviously. Marty [Mornhinweg], Greg Roman, all of our coaches did a great job, and it showed up in the fact that these guys are signing big contracts around the league.

“We’ve got some prospects there. I love the way the offensive line is set up right now.”

Harbaugh made it clear the Ravens have substantial plans for James Hurst, who signed a four-year, $17.5 million contract extension that included a $5 million signing bonus earlier this month. Making 15 of his 16 starts at left guard in place of the injured Lewis last season, Hurst is now expected to move to right tackle.

It’s a position where he’s made only two career starts, but the 6-foot-5, 317-pound lineman practiced there last spring and summer and received sparkling reviews from a notable teammate.

“Actually, Terrell Suggs said, ‘Hey man, this is the next Rick Wagner. He’s going to set the record this year,’” said Harbaugh about Hurst’s performance at right tackle last summer. “That’s how he felt going against him in training camp. I remember him saying that. Then, we had the injury to Alex and we moved him inside. That shows you how versatile he is. That’s how we’ll start off, but it could change.”

The 11th-year head coach also said former practice-squad member Matt Skura — who started 12 games at right guard last year — will receive the first crack at securing the starting center job as many anticipated. Nico Siragusa will also be in the mix if the 2017 fourth-round pick is fully recovered from the season-ending knee injury sustained last summer.

With Hurst moving outside, Lewis is in line to reclaim the left guard spot, but the 2016 fourth-round pick must prove he can stay on the field after missing 22 games in his first two seasons. In assistant head coach Greg Roman’s run schemes, guards are frequently required to pull, making the agile Lewis an ideal fit.

He also remains a consideration at center if Skura is not up to the challenge.

“We like Alex at left guard because what we do as an offense requires the guard to move, to be really athletic and do things like that,” Harbaugh said. “That’s part of the thing that Greg and Marty put in last year. We run a lot of different schemes — gap schemes and pull schemes and lead schemes — where the guards have to get out and do a lot of athletic things. Alex Lewis can run. He’s fast for an offensive lineman.”

Of course, Harbaugh was only speaking about offensive linemen currently on the roster as you’d expect the Ravens to be looking to add competition and depth in the draft since Hurst and Skura lack extensive NFL experience at their projected positions.

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Ravens among teams with most adjusted games lost in 2017

Posted on 24 March 2018 by Luke Jones

It’s no secret the Ravens endured a slew of serious injuries in 2017, especially before the regular season even began.

But where did their health rank compared to the other 31 NFL teams?

You’ll typically see the number of players on injured reserve cited in these discussions, but that alone doesn’t really paint the most insightful picture from team to team. How many on IR were starters compared to reserves or training camp bodies who had no realistic chance of even making the roster before getting hurt? How many on each team went to IR in September as opposed to the last week or two of the season? What about the teams that had more players pushing through injuries than those having cleaner injury reports on a weekly basis?

Football Outsiders uses a metric called adjusted games lost to attempt to quantify how much teams were stricken with injuries. Instead of simply counting the number of games lost with each player on IR, the metric weighs the projected role of each injured player (starter, key reserve, bench-warmer, etc.) and even accounts for those listed on weekly injury reports who ended up playing despite being less than 100 percent. In other words, the metric doesn’t treat the absence of six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda or starting cornerback Jimmy Smith the same as developmental players Brandon Kublanow and Stephane Nembot being on IR and doesn’t completely ignore players battling through documented ailments.

The Ravens finished with the sixth-most adjusted games lost in 2017 with only Arizona, Houston, Miami, Chicago, and Washington having more than their 101.6. Ten of the 12 teams who qualified for the postseason — the exceptions being Kansas City and New Orleans — finished among the 14 teams with the fewest adjusted games lost, reinforcing just how critical health is to success. The Chiefs (80.0) and the Saints (95.9) were the only teams with more than 62.0 adjusted games lost to make the playoffs last season.

Before giving the Ravens a total pass for missing the playoffs for the third straight season, however, it’s fair to note Football Outsiders ranked their schedule as the second easiest in the NFL. It’s no secret the Ravens faced an unusual number of teams with poor quarterback situations, and they finished with the third-lowest strength of victory in the AFC with just one win against a team finishing with a winning record in 2017. That said, you wonder where Baltimore might have finished with even a middle-of-the-pack injury situation and such an advantageous schedule.

Football Outsiders also observed that the Ravens used the second-highest number of questionable designations on their weekly injury reports and finished with the second-highest percentage of questionable players to play, prompting the site to conclude they’re probably listing too many players as questionable that are much more certain to play that week. That likely skewed their adjusted games lost total a little bit on the high side.

Philadelphia winning the Super Bowl after losing several key players reminds us that it’s not impossible to overcome injuries with a deep roster and great coaching, but there is a breaking point, a reality reflected by the adjusted games lost totals and how they related to teams qualifying for the playoffs in 2017.

“Next man up” sounds great as a rallying cry or as a slogan on a t-shirt, but there are only so many injuries most teams can take. And when you acknowledge the number of early season-ending injuries sustained on an offense that didn’t look particularly impressive on paper to begin with and then consider the difficult-to-quantify impact from Joe Flacco’s preseason absence, Baltimore couldn’t persevere.

That’s not an excuse as the Ravens certainly have other deficiencies to address, but poor health was very much a part of their reality in 2017.

Below is a look at where the Ravens have ranked in Football Outsiders’ adjusted games lost in recent years:

2017 – 101.6 (sixth most in NFL)
2016 – 62.0 (11th fewest in NFL)
2015 – 96.1 (third most in NFL)
2014 – 52.6 (seventh fewest in NFL)
2013 – 49.8 (ninth fewest in NFL)
2012 – 57.4 (13th fewest in NFL)
2011 – 18.8 (fewest in NFL)
2010 – 50.9 (15th fewest in NFL)
2009 – 28.8 (seventh fewest in NFL)
2008 – 95.0 (third most in NFL)

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Wallace leaves Ravens to join Super Bowl champion Philadelphia

Posted on 22 March 2018 by Luke Jones

Less than a week after Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said the door was still open for Mike Wallace to return, the speedy wide receiver has joined the defending Super Bowl champions.

The 31-year-old has agreed to a one-year deal with Philadelphia worth a reported $2.5 million plus incentives, according to NFL Network. He becomes Baltimore’s second unrestricted free agent to depart this offseason after starting center Ryan Jensen signed a lucrative contract with Tampa Bay.

Wallace expressed hope at the end of last season that he’d remain with the Ravens, but he said his top priority would be winning, adding that his family has plenty of financial security at this later stage of his career.

“I want to win a Super Bowl. I got there my second year, and it’s been so far away ever since,” Wallace said on Jan. 1. “When you’re a young player, you’re like, ‘Oh, we will be right back.’ I’ve never seen it again, and I’ve been on some great teams that I thought had potential. It just did not work out. It’s that hard.”

Wallace arrived in Baltimore with his career at a crossroads coming off a 2015 campaign in Minnesota in which he’d recorded a career-low 473 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He thrived in his first season with the Ravens, however, catching 72 passes for 1,017 yards and four touchdowns and looking more like the productive deep threat he was in Pittsburgh at the start of his career.

His production fell off last season as the entire passing game struggled mightily in the wake of Joe Flacco’s back injury, but Wallace rebounded after the Week 10 bye with 32 catches for 481 yards and two touchdowns over the final seven games. He finished 2017 with 52 catches for 748 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Ravens in receiving yards and finishing tied for first in touchdown catches.

Newsome vowed to change the look of the wide receiver room, and that has certainly happened with Wallace and Jeremy Maclin gone and free agents Michael Crabtree and John Brown signing with the Ravens last week. The speedy Brown will likely assume Wallace’s role in the offense and brings youth and upside, but he’s caught only 60 passes for 816 yards and five touchdowns combined over the last two seasons while dealing with injuries. Brown caught 65 passes for 1,003 and seven touchdowns in 2015.

Wallace’s depature isn’t insurmountable by any means, but he effectively filled the void left behind by Torrey Smith the last two seasons as 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman has failed to develop. And the two-year, $11.5 million contract Wallace signed in 2016 proved to be good value for the Ravens.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts after first week of free agency

Posted on 21 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With the first week of NFL free agency now in the books, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I like the Michael Crabtree signing, but looking at past notable receivers’ first season with Baltimore is concerning. Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Lee Evans, and Jeremy Maclin all saw their catch and yardage totals fall from the previous year. Steve Smith and Mike Wallace were the exceptions.

2. Benjamin Watson signing with Kansas City would put the Ravens in line to receive a 2019 third-round compensatory pick for Ryan Jensen. These comp choices shouldn’t drive the entire offseason, but that’s a pick too valuable to pass up to sign any unrestricted free agents remaining on the market.

3. Watson’s potential exit reiterates how big a need tight end remains. I’m not enthusiastic about anyone remaining on the market, but history suggests counting heavily on a rookie is a big mistake. This position may simply remain a question, but an early draft pick would bring enticing upside.

4. The reported visits of restricted free agents Willie Snead and Cameron Meredith reflect the desire to further address wide receiver, but structuring an offer sheet is tricky. You don’t want to exhaust too much effort when you may just be negotiating a deal for the original team in the end.

5. Declining the option on Austin Howard cleared $3 million in cap space, but was it wise to part ways with a reliable starting right tackle for only moderate savings? James Hurst hasn’t fared well at that spot in the past and Alex Lewis is a complete unknown there.

6. Jensen becoming the NFL’s highest-paid center is a reminder that incumbents can get markedly better over time and late bloomers do exist. There’s still at least a glimmer of hope for the likes of Breshad Perriman, Kamalei Correa, and Bronson Kaufusi, even if the Ravens aren’t banking on it.

7. It appears Brandon Williams’ eye disorder is under control, but that’s still not something you want to hear about for anyone, let alone one of your best players who just received a lucrative contract 12 months ago.

8. I’m interested to watch Tim White and Quincy Adeboyejo this summer, but I still see some fans putting too much stock into small glimpses of promise. We’ve seen this movie before, and the Ravens shouldn’t expect any of their young incumbent receivers beyond Chris Moore to make the 2018 roster.

9. Wink Martindale attending Derwin James’ pro day garnered attention, but a team needs to be sure any prospect — not just James — praised for athleticism and being able to line up at multiple positions will truly excel at at least one spot before using such a high pick.

10. Ryan Grant wasn’t going to get the same deal elsewhere after failing Baltimore’s physical, but a one-year, $5 million deal with Indianapolis is such a drop-off that you wonder if others had concerns about his ankle. I feel for him, and this still wasn’t a great look for the Ravens.

11. Eric DeCosta hasn’t been made available to local reporters since Steve Bisciotti announced the longtime assistant general manager would be taking over for Ozzie Newsome next year, but he shared his thoughts on the pending change with the team’s website HERE.

12. I’m amused by anyone believing the proposed language changes will fix the catch rule, but at least the league is trying to fix it. I can’t wait for those heated debates over what “the ability to perform a football move” really means.

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