Tag Archive | "Sammy Watkins"


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Ravens still paying for past mistakes at start of free agency

Posted on 13 March 2018 by Luke Jones

Owner Steve Bisciotti declared last month that the Ravens could “make a splash” to improve one of the NFL’s worst passing attacks, but it was always going to need to come at their price.

Free agency hasn’t yet officially begun, but dreams of a discounted rate for a high-impact wide receiver like Allen Robinson or Sammy Watkins are long gone as both agreed to deals for a combined $55 million in guarantees. Former Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham is going to Green Bay. Even second- and third-tier free-agent receivers such as Paul Richardson and Albert Wilson are fetching deals with an average annual value of $8 million despite underwhelming production in their careers.

If the Ravens wanted to hand out a contract or two along those lines — many of them aren’t exactly looking wise — entering the week with less than $5 million in salary cap space left them in poor position. And as Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer noted, the popular three-year structure being used in many deals this offseason makes it difficult for a cap-strapped team to spread out high guarantees and keep a free agent’s 2018 cap number affordable.

That isn’t an excuse, but it serves as a reminder that the Ravens continue to pay for past mistakes that have piled up since Super Bowl XLVII. And it’s why fixing their passing attack in one offseason isn’t going to be easy. Yes, these free-agent prices have looked outrageous, but Baltimore hasn’t shown the ability — or used the necessary resources — to draft and develop its own receivers over the years, either, meaning something has to give at some point.

To their credit, the Ravens have spent to the salary cap on an annual basis, but how they’ve used it is certainly open to criticism as too many back-loaded deals and veteran restructures have frequently left them in tight spots. It’s a vicious cycle that’s contributed to the current era of mediocrity, leaving one to wonder if some type of reset is needed sooner than later. Of course, try selling that strategy to John Harbaugh and his staff, who are likely coaching for their jobs after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

Joe Flacco’s biggest critics will point solely to his $24.75 million cap figure and label the remainder of his lucrative contract as holding the roster hostage. Of course, they’d be overlooking the fact that the Ravens felt compelled to give a box safety (Tony Jefferson) a $34 million contract last offseason when it was clear the offense was what needed more help, just a recent example of that side of the ball being neglected in favor of the defense. Two of the three modest veteran additions (running back Danny Woodhead and right tackle Austin Howard) made to the offense last year have already been jettisoned with the other (wide receiver Jeremy Maclin) possibly going next, illustrating the minimal impact they made.

Only four of Baltimore’s 17 combined picks in the first three rounds of the last five drafts have been used on offensive players with all four of their Day 1 and Day 2 selections last year spent on defense. Exactly one of those four offensive picks — left tackle Ronnie Stanley — has panned out with wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams standing out as major disappointments at positions of great need. Making matters worse, several of those early picks on defense didn’t pan out, either, which compelled general manager Ozzie Newsome to pump even more resources into positions like safety.

The Ravens did re-sign offensive lineman James Hurst on Monday, but it’s difficult selling that move as a positive after the decision to cut Howard, who was solid at right tackle last season. Neither Hurst nor Alex Lewis is a proven starter at the position, creating another question mark on offense to go with the gaping holes at wide receiver and tight end. And should center Ryan Jensen receive the lucrative deal elsewhere that many are predicting, it would mark the third straight offseason in which the Ravens have lost an above-average offensive lineman in free agency.

When you haven’t spent major free-agent money or used meaningful draft capital on your offense, what exactly do you really expect from Flacco, who clearly has his own flaws?

Perhaps this offseason and this draft will be different. A number of marquee free agents have already come off the board, but potential value remains and some cap casualties are still to come with Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson being the latest cut loose on Tuesday. Maybe the organization will actually focus on the offense for this year’s draft and hit on multiple picks in a way similar to how New Orleans reversed its fortunes last year.

It’s only mid-March and much will happen between now and the start of the season, but the Ravens’ needs are too great and their resources too limited to simply trust that everything will be OK.

Too many mistakes in recent years leave them no longer enjoying the benefit of the doubt like they once did.

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Franchise tag developments bode well for Ravens’ wide receiver search

Posted on 06 March 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are one of several teams in the mix to acquire Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry, but two other accomplished receivers are on track to hit free agency after not receiving the franchise tag on Tuesday.

Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson and Los Angeles Rams wideout Sammy Watkins were not tagged and will hit the open market next week unless their respective teams sign them to long-term contracts. The Watkins news wasn’t a big surprise, but many assumed Robinson would be tagged despite the former Penn State product coming back from an ACL injury suffered in the 2017 season opener.

If fully healthy, the 6-foot-3 Robinson could bring the most upside of any free-agent receiver after he caught 14 touchdowns and posted 1,400 receiving yards in 2015 while playing with maligned Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. His numbers slipped to six touchdowns and 883 receiving yards a year later, but the 24-year-old represents the kind of red-zone and jump-ball threat quarterback Joe Flacco has sorely lacked in years.

Watkins, the fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft, had over 2,000 receiving yards combined in his first two seasons with Buffalo, but a foot injury derailed his 2016 season and he was traded to the Rams last summer. In 15 games in 2017, he caught 39 passes for 593 yards and eight touchdowns.

Landry has easily been the most consistent of the trio, but Robinson and Watkins hitting the market could certainly impact the overall demand — and subsequent asking price from the Dolphins — in trade talks. Their presence would also figure to impact the cost of a variety of second- and third-tier free-agent options such as Marqise Lee, Paul Richardson, and Donte Moncrief.

Regardless of which receivers the Ravens ultimately target, more quality on the open market is good news for a roster in need of at least two meaningful additions at the position. With disappointing veteran Jeremy Maclin likely to be cut and leading wide receiver Mike Wallace scheduled to hit free agency, the Ravens will need to be aggressive to improve the league’s 29th-ranked passing attack from last season.

And though many are clamoring for Baltimore to address the position in next month’s draft, the need for both experience and upside makes it obvious that Newsome should be looking at the free-agent and trade markets before the final weekend in April.

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Ravens-Bills: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 10 September 2016 by Luke Jones

A fast start is always welcomed in a new season, but it’s especially critical for the Ravens coming off a 5-11 campaign.

A win in Week 1 allows for a deep breath and thoughts that this year will be different. A home defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills will only make John Harbaugh and his players think, “Here we go again.”

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore and Buffalo meet for the seventh time in the all-time regular-season series with both teams previously winning three apiece. The Ravens are 3-1 against the Bills at M&T Bank Stadium and 3-0 in games against Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan, who spent a decade as an assistant in Baltimore before serving as the head coach of the New York Jets for six years.

1. A suspect Buffalo pass rush will allow Joe Flacco to go vertical to Mike Wallace for a long first-half touchdown. You can expect a Ryan defense to throw the kitchen sink at rookie offensive linemen Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis, but the Bills had just 21 sacks a season ago and are without suspended defensive tackle Marcell Dareus for the first four games. The Ravens will want to try out their revamped vertical passing game against the league’s 19th-ranked pass defense from a year ago, and Flacco will get enough time to throw a strike to Wallace, whom he praised over the summer.

2. Tyrod Taylor will run for 60 yards and a touchdown as the Baltimore front struggles to keep him in the pocket. The Ravens are fully aware of Taylor’s athleticism, but the absence of Elvis Dumervil will leave an inexperienced rusher such as Za’Darius Smith or Matt Judon opposite Terrell Suggs on the other side. Pressuring a mobile quarterback is tricky because you don’t want him to flush him from the pocket, meaning you must stay disciplined in rush lanes and not get too wide or crash inside. This will be a problem for overzealous young rushers and will lead to scrambling opportunities.

3. As Jimmy Smith tries to lock down Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Charles Clay will catch touchdowns. After Dean Pees said Watkins reminded him a bit of Randy Moss, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Smith mirror him with safety help whenever possible. However, Woods and Clay are capable of making plays and this pass defense didn’t play at a high level in the preseason. In trying to prevent Watkins from going off, the Ravens will give up passing yards to other targets while primarily staying in their base defense to account for the league’s top-ranked running game from a year ago.

4. Terrance West will score a touchdown in an otherwise so-so day for the running game. It will be interesting to see how many opportunities the Ravens give veteran starter Justin Forsett early before West begins to get his touches. Buffalo ranked 16th in run defense a year ago and the Ravens have made it clear that they want to be better on the ground, but it will be a work in progress with a new left side of the offensive line in place. There won’t be a ton of running room, but West looks like the best candidate to get goal-line carries and he’ll push one into the end zone.

5. Flacco will throw for 240 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Ravens to a 27-21 win over the Bills. If Baltimore wants to be taken seriously as a playoff contender, this is a game you must win playing at home. The Bills defense doesn’t pose a big threat, but Flacco will want to get rid of the ball quickly as he did in his only preseason action last month. Look for lots of underneath passing to the likes of Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, and Dennis Pitta while mixing in deep shots to Wallace and Breshad Perriman. It will be enough for a solid Week 1 win and Baltimore’s first victory in an opener since 2012.

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Maryland tries to pull stunner Saturday at Clemson

Posted on 09 November 2012 by WNST Staff

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland returns to the road this Saturday to take on No. 10 Clemson in what could set up to be the first of back-to-back games against top-10 opponents. After taking on the Tigers, Maryland will play host to No. 8 Florida State before finishing off the regular season at North Carolina. The series with Clemson has been split evenly since 2000, with each team having won six games, though the Tigers own a 32-26-2 all-time lead.


• The Terps have been unlucky this season in the injury department, with eight players – all of them potential starters – having been lost to season-ending injuries. The latest is senior linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, who tore his ACL during the Georgia Tech game. One of four team captains, Hartsfield is Maryland’s leading tackler and ranks 10th among active players in career tackles with 338. That also ranks 15th in school history.

• The quarterback position has been hit hardest, leaving the Terps in what seems to be uncharted territory. Four Maryland QBs have suffered season-ending injuries this year: C.J. Brown was lost in August with a torn ACL; Perry Hills was lost in the NC State game with a torn ACL; Devin Burns was lost after replacing Hills in the NC State game with a Lisfranc (foot); and Caleb Rowe was lost for the year after suffering a torn ACL in the Boston College game. An inquiry among FBS media relations contacts turned up no results of any school having a similar injury situation at quarterback this season or in the past.

• True freshman Shawn Petty took the reins at QB against Georgia Tech. Petty starred on both sides of the ball and was an All-Met selection at Eleanor Roosevelt HS in Greenbelt, Md. As a quarterback, he threw for 1,300 yards and 15 TDs, and ran for 550 yards and 10 TDs. After a slow start against the Yellow Jackets, Petty responded with an efficient second half. He was 8 of 12 for 114 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the final two quarters. Maryland is one of seven schools to have started three different players at quarterback this season (also Southern Miss – 4; and Colorado State, Kentucky, Minnesota, Tulane and Utah – 3).

• Despite allowing a season-high 401 yards of total offense to Georgia Tech, the Terps rank highly in a number of categories. Maryland is 11th nationally in total defense (301.7 ypg), 18th in rushing defense (110.1 ypg) and 20th in passing defense (191.6 ypg). Until facing the high powered, triple-option attack of Georgia Tech, Maryland had held its last two opponents under 50 rushing yards: NC State totaled just 40 yards on 26 attempts (1.5 yards per carry) and Boston College had just 8 yards on 27 attempts (0.3 yards per carry).

• Maryland has an experienced front seven highlighted by senior defensive linemen Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, and senior linebackers Kenneth Tate and Darin Drakeford. Those four have played a big role in holding opponents to an average of just 3.05 yards per rush, which is tied for ninth nationally. Maryland’s 7.1 tackles for loss per game are tied for 24th in the FBS and its 2.78 sacks per game are tied for 16th. Vellano leads the ACC and is tied for 16th nationally with 1.56 tackles for loss per game. Cole Farrand has also provided solid play, with his 55 tackles ranking second on the team behind the injured Hartsfield.

• Offensively and on special teams, wide receiver Stefon Diggs continues to be Maryland’s most dynamic playmaker. Against Virginia, the freshman returned the game’s opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and vs. BC he had a career-high 11 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown. He followed that up with a pair of touchdown catches against Georgia Tech and over the last six games he’s averaging 95.8 receiving yards per game. His 174.9 all-purpose yards per game this season rank second in the ACC and seventh nationally. Diggs has earned ACC weekly honors four times this season: he received Rookie of the Week honors against West Virginia, Wake Forest and Boston College; and Specialist of the Week honors against Virginia. He already ranks sixth on Maryland’s single-season all-purpose yards list and 11th on the single-season receiving yards list.

Quick Hitters

• The combination of a talented 2012 recruiting class and a number of injuries has led Maryland to play 15 true freshmen this season. That’s tied for the third most in the FBS, behind only Texas and TCU who have each played 16.

• Perry Hills, Caleb Rowe and Shawn Petty have all started at QB this season. It’s been nearly 30 years since Maryland last started three quarterbacks in one season. The last time was 1973, when Ben Kinard started six games, Bob Avellini started three games and Al Neville started two games.

• Maryland has lost eight players to season-ending injuries this year, four of which are quarterbacks. QB C.J. Brown (knee), QB Devin Burns (foot), QB Perry Hills (knee), PK/P Nick Ferrara (hip), LB Demetrius Hartsfield (knee), WR Marcus Leak (toe), DL Andre Monroe (knee) and QB Caleb Rowe (knee) have all been lost for the year.

• Stefon Diggs has earned ACC Player of the Week honors four times this year. Diggs won Rookie of the Week for his play against West Virginia (9/22), Wake Forest (10/6) and Boston College (10/27), and Specialist of the Week against Virginia (10/13). Additionally, a defensive player has captured weekly honors in three of the past five weeks: Demetrius Hartsfieldearned Linebacker of the Week for his play against Wake Forest (10/6), and Darin Drakeford received the award against Virginia (10/13). Joe Vellano was named Defensive Lineman of the week for his play against Boston College (10/27).

• Diggs ranks sixth in the conference and first among freshmen with 80.1 receiving yards per game. Diggs, who has 43 catches for 721 yards, already ranks 11th on Maryland’s single-season receiving yards list (see list page 6).

• Diggs is the only Maryland freshman to record back-to-back 100-yard receiving games (vs. West Virginia and Wake Forest) since at least 1985, the earliest game-by-game statistics were recorded at the school.

• Maryland allowed Wake Forest to complete just 32.4 percent of its passes (13 of 38). That is the lowest percentage by an opponent with at least 30 passing attempts since Duke went 13 of 42 (30.9%) on Nov. 14, 1998.

• Joe Vellano’s father, Paul Vellano, was inducted into the Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 5. The elder Vellano was a first team All-American in 1973, while Joe was a second team All-American in 2011. The father-son combo represent one of four known father-son All-America combos to attend the same FBS school (also Lee and Travis McGriff at Florida; Kevin and Drew Butler at Georgia; Archie and Eli Manning at Ole Miss).

• Fourteen players saw their first career action for Maryland against William & Mary, and 26 players have seen their first career action for Maryland at some point this season (15 true freshmen, eight redshirt freshmen, two juniors, one senior).

• The Terps are holding opponents to 3.05 yards per carry, which is tied for ninth nationally. Of the opponents’ 325 rushing attempts this season, 204 (69.1%) have been for three yards or less (28 of 41 vs. William & Mary; 28 of 39 vs. Temple; 25 of 40 vs. Connecticut; 20 of 25 vs. West Virginia; 21 of 29 vs. Wake Forest; 25 of 42 vs. Virginia; 18 of 26 vs. NC State; 21 of 27 vs. Boston College; 18 of 56 vs. Georgia Tech).

• The Terps have done a good job controlling the clock. In seven games, Maryland has had the ball for an average of 31:43 to 28:17 for the opponent. That’s a major upgrade compared to 2011, when Maryland averaged just 25:16 a game to 34:44 for the opponent.

• Against William & Mary, Perry Hills became the first true freshman starter at quarterback for Maryland since Latrez Harrison in 1999. He also became the first freshman to start a season opener since redshirt freshman Calvin McCall on Sept. 2, 1999, in a 6-0 win over Temple.

• Nine bowl teams from last year appear on Maryland’s 2012 schedule: Temple (Gildan New Mexico Bowl), West Virginia (Discover Orange Bowl), Wake Forest (Franklin American Mortgage Music City), Virginia (Chick-fil-A Bowl), NC State (Belk Bowl), Georgia Tech (Hyundai Sun Bowl), Clemson (Discover Orange Bowl), Florida State (Champs Sports Bowl) and UNC (AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl).

Maryland-Clemson Series History

• Saturday’s game will mark the 61st meeting between the Terrapins and Tigers. The two teams met for the first time in 1952, and have played every year since, with Clemson owning a 32-26-2 edge in the all-time series. Maryland is 13-17 vs. Clemson in games played at Clemson. The Terps have won two of the last three on the road, though the Tigers won the 2010 and 2011 meetings. The series since 2000 has been split, with each team having won six games.

• Last season, Clemson overcame an 18-point second half deficit to rally for a 56-45 win which was the highest scoring game in the series history. C.J. Brown ran for 162 yards and threw for 177 with three touchdowns. Matt Furstenburg had 104 receiving yards and two TDs.

• The 31-7 loss by Maryland in 2010 was the largest margin in the series since 1996 when the Tigers knocked off Maryland, 35-3.

• Clemson won 30-17 in 2007 at College Park, but the Terps rallied for a 20-17 win over the 20th-ranked Tigers the next season in Death Valley. Chris Turner threw a TD pass and Da’Rel Scott scored the go-ahead touchdown. Clemson QB Cullen Harper was stopped short on fourth-and-1 by Alex Wujciak with 5:36 remaining.

• Six years ago, Maryland won 13-12 at No. 19 Clemson after Dan Ennis nailed a 31-yard field goal as time expired.


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