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Breaking down the 2017 Ravens’ initial 53-man roster

Posted on 02 September 2017 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Perriman remains on mend from “long-term” hamstring injury

Posted on 15 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens aren’t yet ruling out wide receiver Breshad Perriman for the rest of the preseason, but his return to practice isn’t considered imminent.

Two weeks after leaving the field with a hamstring injury, the 2015 first-round pick still isn’t practicing and has only been seen catching passes from a stationary position when in view of the media. Head coach John Harbaugh stopped short of saying Perriman wouldn’t make it back for any preseason games, but he acknowledged how unpredictable a serious hamstring injury can be.

“Nothing’s changed with Breshad,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a long-term hamstring guy in terms of from when he did it. It’s a pretty good hamstring [injury] he had. He’s making progress. Everything is on schedule, and they’re happy with the way he’s progressing. That’s what I know.”

This marks the third straight year in which the 23-year-old has missed most of training camp, a frustrating development for a speedy 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver who’s flashed potential when healthy. Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a right knee injury and was sidelined for most of last year’s camp with an injury to his left knee before returning to play in the preseason finale and all 16 regular-season games, catching 33 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns.

Perriman isn’t the only recent first-round pick to be dealing with an injury as second-year left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed his third consecutive practice on Tuesday, making it unlikely that he’ll play in Thursday’s preseason game in Miami. Harbaugh wouldn’t specify what Stanley is dealing with, but his short-term status sounded more positive than Perriman’s.

“No season-ending thing or anything like that,” Harbaugh said. “It’s something he’s working through. There are two or three guys like that that are working through some things. I’d like to get them back sooner rather than later, but we don’t want to push them too much and [we need to] just let them heal up a little bit. I’d say it’s ‘camp stuff’ right now.

“I haven’t gotten anything definitive on Ronnie from the trainers, so when we do, we’ll let you know as far as when he’s coming back.”

Fourth-year lineman James Hurst was once again working as the first-team left tackle in Stanley’s absence.

Harbaugh confirmed that first-round rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey will make his preseason debut on Thursday after practicing for the fourth straight day.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (back), wide receiver Kenny Bell (hamstring), offensive tackle Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), cornerbacks Brandon Boykin (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee), and inside linebacker Lamar Louis (undisclosed) all remained absent from Tuesday’s workout.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Jimmy Smith were also missing from practice, but the Ravens might have elected to keep both veterans off a wet field as heavy rain moved through Owings Mills. Suggs and Smith both practiced without incident on Monday.

Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (knee) and offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor (undisclosed) returned to practice Tuesday after sitting out the previous day.

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Linebackers

Posted on 24 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning this week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Quarterbacks
Defensive line
Running backs
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers

LINEBACKERS

Projected depth chart:
RUSH – Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams, Randy Allen
MIKE – C.J. Mosley, Albert McClellan, Boseko Lokombo, Bam Bradley
WILL – Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Lamar Louis, Donald Payne
SAM – Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Brennen Beyer

Why to be impressed: Suggs remains the heart of the Baltimore defense, but Mosley made two Pro Bowls in his first three years and is positioned to become the long-term leader of the unit. Aiming to revamp the pass rush this offseason, Ozzie Newsome drafted Bowser and Williams to give the Ravens a total of four edge candidates under age 25 — Judon and Smith being the others — to work with Suggs.

Why to be concerned: The Ravens have not added a veteran inside linebacker to help fill the void left behind by Zach Orr and will be counting on Correa, who played a total of 48 defensive snaps as a rookie. So much youth looks great on paper, but Baltimore edge defenders not named Terrell Suggs have combined for 13 1/2 career sacks with the versatile McClellan accounting for three of those takedowns.

2017 outlook: There is plenty of intriguing upside in this group, but the Ravens need Suggs to continue fighting off Father Time in his 15th season and Judon and Smith to be productive while the likes of Bowser and Williams get their NFL feet wet. The presence of new strong safety Tony Jefferson could factor into the equation if Correa isn’t up to the challenge of being a three-down inside linebacker.

Prediction: The Ravens won’t have a single player with double-digit sacks for the third straight season, but four linebackers will record five or more in 2017.

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Suggs remains strong presence in new era for Ravens defense

Posted on 16 June 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Rookie second-round outside linebacker Tyus Bowser was 7 years old when the Ravens selected Terrell Suggs with the 10th overall pick of the 2003 draft.

First-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey was 6.

Having years ago referred to former teammate and soon-to-be Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis as Mufasa — a reference to the sage leader of the Pride Lands in “The Lion King” — Suggs understands he’s the last of his kind and he’s embraced that, even referring to himself as the Darth Vader of a new era.

“I like having fun with the younger guys,” said the 34-year-old, now entering his 15th season in the NFL. “They tell me how old they are, and I’m like, ‘Holy s–t.’ It’s weird, but I like it. It feels good.”

This spring was different for Suggs, who had always skipped the voluntary offseason workout program in the past and would work out on his own before showing up for mandatory minicamp in June. His weight and conditioning levels varied from year to year, sometimes sparking criticism when he wasn’t in the best of shape.

But after hearing rave reviews from those teammates who worked with Ravens director of performance Steve Saunders last offseason, the six-time Pro Bowl selection elected to give it a try. Having gone through spring workouts in Owings Mills — head coach John Harbaugh chose to hold him out of the voluntary spring practices open to the media — Suggs says he hasn’t felt this good in June in many years.

“It’s funny seeing him die in workouts and doing the running, lifting,” said safety Eric Weddle, who was one of the first to embrace Saunders’ rigorous methods. “It’s great for him. I think he knows that at this point in his career, he needs to be in the best shape of his life. He needs to be as strong as he can so he can get through the season. We need him.”

Suggs enjoyed a fine 2016 in his return from the second Achilles tendon tear of his career — especially considering he played with a torn biceps for much of the season — but his eight sacks marked his lowest total in a year not substantially abbreviated by injuries since 2009. He may no longer stand among the elite defensive players in the NFL, but the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year is still an above-average starting linebacker who plays the run very well and can conjure up a big play in a critical spot.

His boisterous behavior is evident at practices when he’s hooting and hollering at someone or taking owner Steve Bisciotti’s golf cart for a joyride on his way out to the back fields at the team facility, but Suggs does much more than keep the mood light in the locker room and in the huddle. Having learned from obsessive students of the game like Lewis and nine-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed early in his career, Suggs is constantly praised by those who know him best for his football intellect.

The Ravens hope he continues passing down those lessons to young players such as Bowser, 2016 fifth-round pick Matt Judon, and fourth-round rookie Tim Williams to rebuild a pass rush that had markedly declined over the last couple years.

“You can really tell a difference in our types of practice when he is here and when he is not here,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who added that Suggs looks like he’s 25 years old again. “It’s more fun for me when he is here, too. But when it is time to be serious, there’s nobody more serious. There is really nobody smarter on this defensive football team than Terrell Suggs.”

Suggs was noncommittal when asked how much longer he hopes to play or whether he has any visions of trying to match Lewis’ 17 years with the Ravens, but he made it clear that he doesn’t feel like it’s his time to “cross that bridge” to retirement yet. His contract runs through 2018 and is scheduled to pay him $4 million in base salary for each of the next two years.

His commitment to be in the building this spring hasn’t gone unnoticed as the Ravens made a conscious effort to get younger this offseason after missing the playoffs for the third time in four years. Seeing general manager Ozzie Newsome show the door to five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil likely served a reminder to Suggs about his own football mortality as he turns 35 in October.

“What I am so impressed with is the leadership by example that he has demonstrated in this offseason,” Harbaugh said. “He is out there doing it, and he is out there competing with the guys every day in the conditioning program. It is impressive to watch, and that is a great way to get guys attention if you want to be a leader.”

Fun and camaraderie aside, Suggs wants to win. He hasn’t gone through a down period like this from a team standpoint since the end of the Brian Billick era and is counting on an extensive batch of defensive additions to help him get back to the playoffs.

Suggs may not have expressed any clear intention of trying to surpass Lewis for most years spent with the Ravens, but he did mention the way his former leader was able to go out on top with a championship.

“We can’t fall short anymore,” Suggs said. “It’s a terrible thing when you don’t capitalize on your potential. We’ve always had a capable team; we’ve just haven’t always capitalized on it. I think it’s time to cash in and don’t be one of the odd teams looking in when it becomes the second season in January.”

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Pitta “not delusional” about future after latest devastating hip injury

Posted on 15 June 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Dennis Pitta hasn’t lost his dry sense of humor less than two weeks after suffering his third devastating right hip injury to end his seven-year run with the Ravens.

Using crutches to stand before the media after Baltimore concluded its three-day minicamp, the 31-year-old immediately sparked laughter in what could have been a sobering “farewell” press conference.

“They asked me to do podium and I said, ‘I don’t even work here. Why do I have to come up?'” said Pitta, referencing the Ravens releasing him on an injury waiver last week. “But here I am.”

It was a surreal scene after he had quipped to media only three weeks ago how nice it was to no longer be fielding so many questions about his hip.

Pitta made no retirement announcement on Thursday, but he’s “not delusional” after dislocating and fracturing his hip for the third time in the last four years. The 2010 fourth-round pick spoke about his career in the past tense, but he wants to focus on making a full recovery before facing the finality of his playing days being all but officially over.

For Pitta, being on his feet and back at the Ravens’ training facility was gratifying enough after his horrific injury on June 2 and the surgery that followed. Being driven around by Steve Bisciotti in the owner’s golf cart during Wednesday’s practice, he was greeted by head coach John Harbaugh and many teammates happy to see him.

Unfortunately, this is familiar territory for the man who caught three touchdowns in the 2012 postseason run that culminated with a win in Super Bowl XLVII.

“More of a nightmare, I would say, other than déjà vu,” said Pitta, who had told his wife, Mataya, that he was feeling better than ever just days before re-injuring his hip. “It is what it is. It’s something I’ve gone through before. It’s weird being out here and not being part of things. Just over a week ago, I was out here practicing and feeling really good, so things change in an instant. But I’m positive and staying in a good mind frame.”

We’ll always wonder where Pitta could have ranked on the franchise’s all-time receiving list as he appeared to be emerging as one of the top tight ends in the league when he sustained his first hip injury on July 27, 2013. He missed nearly three full seasons due to the first two injuries and played in a total of just 19 games after signing a five-year, $32 million contract in 2014 that included $16 million guaranteed.

His story is a reminder of how fragile an NFL career can be.

“It’s heartbreaking. I talked to him. He understands it. I understand it,” said veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs, who years ago nicknamed Pitta “American Express” for his reliability in being everywhere you want him to be. “It’s part of the game. Some of these guys look and say, ‘Dang, Sizz, 15 years?’ You know some people don’t have that long. That’s definitely something to be fortunate about. But I talked to him, and he’s in good spirits about it. It’s just one of those things. We play a very brutal sport.”

Pitta said his improbable return to the field in 2016 means even more to him now as he was the only Ravens tight end to appear in all 16 games and led all NFL tight ends with a career-high 86 receptions. He isn’t second-guessing his decision to come back last year despite previously contemplating retirement because of the slow rehab process that came with the 2014 injury.

Expressing gratitude for the support from both his family and the organization over these last few challenging years, Pitta sounded like a man at peace with his fate.

Even if he wasn’t quite ready to to use the “retirement” word.

“I think it’ll be a little bit more cut and dried this time,” Pitta said. “I certainly don’t regret coming back and playing last season. I felt great all year. I think I would have regretted it more being at home and feeling as good as I did and not playing. It was a tremendous year for me personally, just being able to overcome what I did and prove a lot to myself, and I don’t regret it one bit.

“I’m happy I played and fortunate that I was able to get another year in.”

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Ravens tight end Watson practices for first time in nearly 10 months

Posted on 13 June 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson said it felt like Christmas morning when he woke up on Tuesday.

Having not practiced since tearing his right Achilles tendon on the first play from scrimmage in a preseason game in Baltimore last Aug. 27, the 36-year-old was itching to get back on the football field for the first time in nearly 10 months. Watson took part in some individual drills before working to the side during the full-team portions on the opening day of mandatory minicamp.

“I went to sleep last night, and my wife and I were talking and I told the kids,” said Watson, who is now entering his 14th NFL season. “They’ve been praying for me every day since I got injured, and they will continue to. I’m still not all the way there.

“It’s definitely exciting. It leaves you hungry for more, obviously, but the plan was to have a good day and not have any setbacks and just get my feet under me a little bit.”

Watson recently agreed to a pay cut to lower his scheduled $3 million salary to $1.25 million with incentives for the 2017 season, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. The move increases his chances of making the 53-man roster as the Ravens would like to have his veteran presence to lead an otherwise-inexperienced group of tight ends. Of course, Watson will need to show he can return to playing at a level high enough to justify keeping him around.

The veteran wasn’t the only tight end to return to the practice field Tuesday as Darren Waller was taking extensive reps with the first-team offense, once beating safety Tony Jefferson in coverage on a deep crossing route. However, the 6-foot-6, 255-pound former wide receiver would later leave the field for heat-related reasons.

Two-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley remained sidelined as he continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery, but head coach John Harbaugh said he’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp in late July. Tight end Crockett Gillmore was also absent after leaving the field gingerly during last Thursday’s voluntary workout.

“Crockett tweaked his hamstring,” Harbaugh said. “I think some of you guys speculated on that, and that was right. I do not think it is real serious as far as I know. He should be ready for training camp easily.”

Other players missing from Tuesday’s workout included guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), wide receivers Michael Campanaro (toe) and Quincy Adeboyejo, linebacker Brennen Beyer, defensive tackle Carl Davis (pectoral), tight end Maxx Williams (knee), and cornerback Tavon Young (torn ACL).

Entering his 15th season, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs saw his first on-field action of the spring after being held out during voluntary organized team activities. Suggs took part in individual drills and saw some limited work during team drills.

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin arrived in Owings Mills early Tuesday afternoon to officially sign his contract and will speak to the media after his first practice on Wednesday. To make room on the roster, the Ravens waived tight end Barrett Burns.

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Notes and observations from Ravens’ second week of OTAs

Posted on 02 June 2017 by Luke Jones

Ravens cornerback Tavon Young’s torn ACL Thursday was the latest reminder that the only substantial news to come from spring workouts is typically negative in nature.

Sure, many have gushed about how third-year wide receiver Breshad Perriman has looked this spring, but the significance of Young’s injury outweighs anything else happening on the field as players practice in helmets, jerseys, and shorts. Injuries can occur whether a player is participating in voluntary organized team activities or working out on his own, but you hate seeing an important member of the defense lost for the season several weeks before training camp even begins.

The silver lining is that this unfortunate development comes more than three months before the start of the regular season, giving the Ravens ample time to evaluate and figure out what they want to do at the nickel spot. Veteran Brandon Carr and first-round pick Marlon Humphrey are outside corners and wouldn’t appear to be suited to play inside, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees and secondary coach Chris Hewitt have time to experiment with different alignments and evaluate young options like Maurice Canady, who had three interceptions in Thursday’s practice and showed some swagger playing with the first-team nickel defense after Young was helped off the field.

At 6-foot-1 and 193 pounds, Canady doesn’t look the part of a traditional slot corner, but his size would be useful inside if he can show the necessary footwork and quickness to stick with shiftier receivers. Of course, reserve safety and onetime cornerback Lardarius Webb may also fit into the nickel picture, but you’d like to be able to use him in deep center field if the Ravens have visions of being creative with new safety Tony Jefferson and using the dime package more often.

** Young wasn’t the only Ravens player to go down with an injury recently as wide receiver Michael Campanaro and defensive tackle Carl Davis were missing from Thursday’s practice.

According to head coach John Harbaugh, Campanaro will be out for “a little while” with a sprained toe. Harbaugh said that it wasn’t serious, but toe ailments are tricky for any player, let alone a slot receiver who relies on his sudden change of direction. It’s unfortunately the latest ailment for a talented player who has never been able to stay on the field for an extended period of time.

Davis, who lined up as the 3-technique defensive tackle with the starting defense last week, is dealing with a strained pectoral muscle, but Harbaugh said he will return to practice soon. In his absence, Michael Pierce was lining up at the nose with Brandon Williams moving to the 3-technique spot.

Cornerback Sheldon Price was helped inside after bumping his head during practice and was being evaluated for a concussion.

Others not participating in Thursday’s OTA included Webb, cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (concussion) and Carlos Davis (lower leg), linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley (offseason shoulder surgery), offensive linemen Marshal Yanda (offseason shoulder surgery) and Jarell Broxton, and tight ends Benjamin Watson (Achilles tendon), Max Williams (knee), and Darren Waller. Continuing to be held out of voluntary workouts, Suggs was once again in the building and has been a consistent presence in Owings Mills this spring.

** The starting offensive line displayed a new wrinkle as John Urschel worked at center and Ryan Jensen played right guard after their positions were flipped last week.

“Both of those guys are taking reps at center,” said Harbaugh, who noted that 2016 practice-squad member Matt Skura is also in the mix. “They are both going to have to play center and guard. Most of those guys inside do play all three positions. Marshal plays center. I do not know if you knew that, but he is kind of an emergency center.”

** It’s interesting to note that quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t been wearing his left knee brace in the two OTA workouts open to media after saying earlier this spring that he would continue wearing one. It may just be because these are non-contact workouts — though it’s not uncommon for an overzealous young lineman to forget that from time to time — but Flacco wore the brace for every practice that wasn’t a walk-through last season.

Thursday wasn’t the best day for the veteran signal-caller as he threw multiple interceptions. One did come on a pass bouncing off the hands of second-year wideout Chris Moore.

** Veteran running back Danny Woodhead had a good day as a receiver out of the backfield, making an impressive one-handed catch and showing good agility. The early reviews have been positive for a 32-year-old coming off a major knee injury, but durability will be a question as he’s played in just 21 games over the last three seasons.

** Lorenzo Taliaferro appears to be working exclusively as a fullback, which should help his cause to make the 53-man roster with so many tailbacks ahead of him on the depth chart. He and undrafted rookie fullback Ricky Ortiz worked off to the side from the running backs in individual drills Thursday.

** Perriman offered Humphrey a reminder of the speed he’ll see at the next level, beating the rookie cornerback inside on a slant for a short completion and blowing past the rest of the defense for a long touchdown.

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Ravens linebacker Mosley working his way back from shoulder surgery

Posted on 25 May 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens concluded their first week of organized team activities with a workout in which 80 of the 89 players on their current offseason roster were participating.

One of the lone surprises among the absentees was two-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who underwent an offseason shoulder surgery that hadn’t previously been reported.

“C.J. is doing all the conditioning, and he has been at all the walk-throughs and all the meetings,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He had the shoulder surgery, so he is out.”

The Ravens exercised their fifth-year option on the 2014 first-round pick last month, which keeps him under contract through the 2018 season. Despite dealing with hamstring and calf injuries in 2016, Mosley was named to his second Pro Bowl, collecting 92 tackles and four interceptions in 14 games.

Mosley isn’t the only veteran player recovering from offseason shoulder surgery as six-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda isn’t expected to return to the practice field until training camp. He played with the injury most of last season and even switched to left guard as a result.

Harbaugh said 15th-year outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has been taking part in offseason workouts, but the Ravens have elected to keep him out of OTA workouts so far. The 34-year-old’s presence in the building this time of year is surprising considering he’s regularly skipped voluntary spring workouts ahead of the mid-June mandatory minicamp in recent years.

“I am holding him out,” Harbaugh said. “He is in here training every single day and killing himself and doing a great job on the conditioning part of it.”

Others not participating on Thursday included tight ends Benjamin Watson (Achilles tendon surgery), Maxx Williams (knee surgery), and Darren Waller (unspecified), cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (concussion) and Carlos Davis (lower leg), and guard Jarrell Broxton (unspecified). All three of the non-participating tight ends were watching practice on the sideline.

Williams underwent a season-ending procedure on his knee last fall that’s never been performed on an NFL player, according to Harbaugh. Specifics were vague, but the Ravens coach said it was related to the meniscus and cartilage in his knee and has been deemed successful. The 2015 second-round pick has been participating in offseason conditioning and workouts this spring.

“It is one of those deals that they have not done before, and so far, so good,” Harbaugh said. “It has really held up really well, and it looks like we are going to have him full speed in training camp. I am counting on that.”

With much concern being expressed about the state of the offensive line following the offseason departures of right tackle Rick Wagner and center Jeremy Zuttah, the first-team group on Thursday included Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, Alex Lewis at left guard, Ryan Jensen at center, John Urschel filling in for Yanda at right guard, and James Hurst at right tackle. Harbaugh left open the possibility of Lewis shifting to another spot, but the current plan is for him to remain at left guard where the organization feels he’s at his best.

Needing to replace two starters on their defensive line, the Ravens primarily lined up 2015 third-round pick Carl Davis at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot and 2014 fourth-round pick Brent Urban at the 5-technique defensive end position. Those jobs were previously held by Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy.

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Revamped Ravens defense better live up to expectations

Posted on 29 April 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens stayed true to their board, but that doesn’t change reality after going defense with their first four picks of the 2017 draft.

This is an unbalanced roster with the heaviest lifting of the offseason now in the books. Yes, general manager Ozzie Newsome reminded us again Saturday that the Ravens aren’t done building this year’s team, but there are only so many viable free agents still out there to move the meter in any meaningful way. Right now, Baltimore has a below-average offense that’s going to be difficult to improve dramatically without some substantial improvement from players already on the roster.

The Ravens may still add Nick Mangold or bring back Anquan Boldin, but there’s a reason why they’re still out there. They’re not “Plan A” guys anymore.

Of the seven Ravens players selected in the first three rounds over the last two drafts, just one — left tackle Ronnie Stanley — was an offensive player. It’s difficult to improve on that side of the ball if you’re not spending free-agent dollars or investing early draft picks, which will make life more difficult for quarterback Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg as they will likely lean on unproven talent at wide receiver and on the offensive line.

Asked about the state of his offense after the first wave of free agency last month that included lucrative contracts for nose tackle Brandon Williams and safety Tony Jefferson and another deal for cornerback Brandon Carr, Newsome fairly pointed to the draft as the way to build the rest of the roster. But the Ravens came away with fourth-round guard prospect Nico Siragusa and fifth-round developmental right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor as their only picks for that side of the ball.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the Ravens should have reached to draft offensive players purely out of need as they did appear to get good value with their picks, but the 2017 draft being so rich in defensive talent was a reason why the offense should have been a bigger focus in free agency. The outcome is an offense that’s lost a starting wide receiver, a starting right tackle, a starting center, and a Pro Bowl fullback and has netted only 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead and two Day 3 offensive linemen.

Which side of the ball had its coordinator fired again last year?

Like it or not, the Ravens prioritized building a great defense above anything else this offseason. The unit collapsed down the stretch in 2016, but the primary cause of that was the absence of No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith as John Harbaugh’s team went 2-5 in games in which he missed meaningful time.

When Smith was on the field, the Ravens had a strong defense despite an underwhelming pass rush. And even with the resources used in both free agency and the draft to revamp the secondary and the pass rush, Smith’s availability remains arguably the biggest key for defensive success.

On paper, the Ravens defense does look better than the 2016 edition, but it will need to be great — possibly even special — to justify the use of so many resources and to make up for an offense with a ton of question marks. Taking that kind of a leap is no sure thing, especially in the modern NFL that is geared toward offense.

Will some combination of the pass-rushing group of Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser, and Tim Williams be ready to step up with Terrell Suggs set to turn 35 in October and Elvis Dumervil no longer on the roster? Is first-round rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey going to be ready to play at a high level if Smith goes down again for some period of time? Can Kamalei Correa hold down the inside linebacker spot vacated by the retired Zach Orr? Will defensive coordinator Dean Pees use so many new pieces effectively and maximize their versatility?

The excitement for the defense is understandable with so much youth and potential at every level, but remember there isn’t a 25-year-old Ray Lewis leading this group before waxing nostalgic about replicating the 2000 Ravens. Even if we’re looking for a more contemporary comparison — it’s a different game than it was nearly two decades ago — the 2015 Denver Broncos had a generational talent in Von Miller and two 1,000-yard receivers on the other side of the ball.

A winning blueprint leaning so heavily on defense is very difficult to execute.

But it’s where the Ravens find themselves after free agency and the draft.

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Ravens cut ties with five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher

Posted on 08 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are moving on from one of the more prolific pass rushers in franchise history.

Five-time Pro Bowl selection Elvis Dumervil has been released in a move that will save general manager Ozzie Newsome $6 million in space on the 2017 salary cap. The news was first reported by former Raven and NFL Network analyst Steve Smith before Dumervil issued a farewell statement via his official Twitter account.

Dumervil was not expected to return at his scheduled $8.375 million cap figure for 2017, but his departure magnifies Baltimore’s need to improve its pass rush. Tied for 24th in the NFL with 31 sacks last season, the Ravens were led in that department by Terrell Suggs, who will turn 35 in October. Newsome will count on improvement from 2016 fifth-round pick Matt Judon and 2015 fourth-round pick Za’Darius Smith while also looking to add help via the draft and free agency.

The 33-year-old Dumervil set the single-season franchise record with 17 sacks in 2014, but his production declined after that. In 2015, he was forced into an every-down role after Terrell Suggs suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the season opener and wore down as the year progressed, finishing with just six sacks.

He then struggled to return from what head coach John Harbaugh originally labeled a “preventative procedure” this past offseason and missed eight games while collecting only three sacks. Not wanting to make excuses for his diminished play, Dumervil revealed only in late December that he had undergone Achilles tendon repair surgery the previous February.

Respected in the locker room as a true professional, Dumervil figures to draw interest on the open market as a situational pass rusher if he can prove he’s fully recovered from the surgery. His 35 1/2 sacks over his four seasons in Baltimore rank sixth on the franchise’s all-time list.

“Elvis Dumervil has been a leader for us on and off the field,” Newsome said in a statement released by the team on Wednesday. “He has made a positive impression on our franchise, and we have been fortunate to have him as a Raven. We respect his professionalism and the way he plays the game, in addition to his extensive charitable efforts that have greatly impacted our Baltimore community and his parents’ native country of Haiti.

“We have not closed the door on the possibility of him returning in the future.”

Dumervil was Baltimore’s first major addition after Super Bowl XLVII as the former Denver Bronco signed a five-year, $26 million contract in 2013. In his four years with the Ravens, he was named to the Pro Bowl twice and collected two sacks in Baltimore’s only playoff win over that time.

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