Tag Archive | "terrence brooks"

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Two former Ravens draft picks find new homes

Posted on 04 September 2016 by Luke Jones

A day after being waived by the Ravens, a pair of former high-profile draft picks found new homes.

On Sunday, third-year safety Terrence Brooks and fourth-year linebacker Arthur Brown were claimed by Philadelphia and Jacksonville, respectively.

A 2014 third-round pick, Brooks was among Baltimore’s more surprising cuts considering the current lack of safety depth behind starters Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb. A good athlete who flashed potential from time to time, the Florida State product battled injuries and struggled with the defensive schemes from a mental standpoint, hindering his ability to see the field on defense.

Meanwhile, Brown was a major disappointment as a second-round selection the Ravens traded up to make in the 2013 draft. Unfair comparisons were initially made between Brown and the recently-retired Ray Lewis, but the Kansas State product saw a total of only 10 defensive snaps in the last two seasons after playing in the nickel package as a rookie.

The writing appeared to be on the wall for Brown last year when the Ravens elected not to give him any defensive snaps in the final weeks of an already-lost season.

Two other waived players found new homes on Sunday as wide receiver Jeremy Butler joined Tampa Bay’s practice squad while outside linebacker Victor Ochi joined the New York Jets practice squad.

According to Pro Football Talk, Butler declined an invitation to be part of Baltimore’s practice squad after he caught 16 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason and did not make the team. His inability to make meaningful contributions on special teams ultimately harmed his roster chances, and the possession receiver was stuck behind both Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken on the depth chart, making him expendable in the Ravens’ eyes.

Despite fan uproar over the decisions to cut Butler and Ochi, both players went through waivers unclaimed.

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Brooks, Campanaro among early Ravens cuts on Saturday

Posted on 03 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Two members of the Ravens’ 2014 draft class headlined the early list of reported moves ahead of Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline to set the initial 53-man roster for the regular season.

Former third-round safety Terrence Brooks was waived after only two years with Baltimore and seventh-round wide receiver Michael Campanaro was placed on injured reserve with a calf injury. Brooks took part in Saturday morning’s practice and had played every snap of the final two preseason games, but he now represents the latest miss at the safety position since Super Bowl XLVII.

Injuries have been the biggest obstacle for Campanaro, a River Hill grad who played in just eight games in his first two seasons.

As expected, rookie wide receiver and former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was waived and could be re-signed to the Ravens’ practice squad. Struggling to adjust to a new role as a receiver and return specialist at the NFL level, Reynolds was limited to just one reception for two yards in four preseason games and struggled to catch punts throughout training camp.

Wide receiver Jeremy Butler was also waived despite leading the Ravens with 16 receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason. Widely believed to have played well enough to earn a roster spot, Butler wold have ranked no higher than fifth on the depth chart and did not distinguish himself as a special-teams player, making him expendable in the organization’s eyes.

With return specialist candidates Campanaro and Reynolds being cut, general manager Ozzie Newsome is considering signing veteran Devin Hester, who has worked out twice for the Ravens and took a physical on Saturday morning. The 33-year-old underwent toe surgery in January and was released by Atlanta at the start of training camp.

“He is a proven returner, both as a kick returner and a punt returner,” said Harbaugh, who declined to comment on any concerns about the four-time Pro Bowl selection’s health. “He is at the back end of his career, so you have to factor that in to your decision. That will be up to Ozzie.”

Hester holds the NFL record for most career return touchdowns and most all-time punt return scores.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on preseason win over Detroit

Posted on 28 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winding down the preseason with a 30-9 win over Detroit, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Solid in his preseason debut, Joe Flacco got rid of the ball quickly, which did disrupt the timing on a few throws. Such a strategy was hardly surprising in his first game back from a major knee injury, but it’s worth keeping an eye on this going into the season.

2. In 10 plays, Terrell Suggs registered two tackles and the Baltimore defense just had a different look and feel with him on the field. I’m not sure if that says more about the 33-year-old linebacker or the rest of the defensive personnel at this point.

3. He may not be ready for an every-down role, but rookie Matt Judon reinforced why he’s deserving of being a situational pass rusher in sub packages. He did impressive work against starting right tackle Riley Reiff and collected a sack, five tackles, and a pass defense.

4. Considered a threat to win the starting job entering the summer, Buck Allen was the last of the Ravens’ top four running backs to receive action and ran for just 15 yards on eight carries. Averaging only 1.9 yards per carry this preseason, he hasn’t impressed running between the tackles.

5. Injuries at safety gave Terrence Brooks the chance to go the distance on Saturday, but he dropped an easy interception and missed a couple tackles leading to big gains. He still hasn’t been able to put it all together despite looking the part on paper.

6. We’re now three games into the preseason and there are no signs that rookie Ronnie Stanley can’t handle protecting Flacco’s blindside after he more than held his own against Pro Bowl defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. It wasn’t a sexy pick, but Stanley is already looking like a gem.

7. A year ago at this time, Carl Davis looked like the early star of the 2015 draft class, but he continues to have a quiet preseason and failed to register a statistic in 18 snaps. His performance is especially concerning after he hit the rookie wall last year.

8. With the season-ending injury to Benjamin Watson, the coaching staff has to be watching Darren Waller and wishing he hadn’t drawn himself a four-game suspension. Other than a drop that led to an interception in the preseason opener, he’s flashed appealing upside at his new position.

9. Remembering his special-teams prowess, I never thought Anthony Levine was in real danger of not making the roster, but he added an interception and a sack on Saturday to go along with his late-game heroics in Indianapolis. Seeing him work as a dime back will be interesting.

10. The Ravens were wise not to risk playing Lardarius Webb due to back tightness since he’s had his healthiest summer in a few years. If he’s right physically, his tackling ability cannot be overlooked at the safety position and the Ravens can move him around a bit.

11. You couldn’t ask for more from Jeremy Butler in his quest to earn a roster spot, but it was interesting to note that he only participated in two plays on special teams. If he’s going to be active on game days, he’ll need to be a part of those units.

12. It was hardly surprising, but seeing Haloti Ngata recognized in the second half of Saturday’s game was still a special moment. Despite an unceremonious departure after nine years in Baltimore, the five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle and future Ring of Honor member deserved a big ovation.

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Suggs, Ravens defense dominate in Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 17 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Leaping high in the air to snatch a Joe Flacco pass at the line of scrimmage, Terrell Suggs returned the ball the other way before heaving it into a crowd of Ravens fans on Wednesday.

It was one of the highlight plays in all of training camp in what was only the third day of practice for the 33-year-old linebacker. In good shape and increasing his activity level from the first two days of limited work, Suggs looked a lot like the high-impact force he’s been for well over a decade in Baltimore.

“I saw Anthony Levine and said, ‘I guess he’s back,'” said head coach John Harbaugh about the impressive interception. “We heard him before that. It was good to see him make a play like that though.”

Suggs wasn’t the only one to shine on Wednesday as the defense dominated the offense in a fully-padded practice ahead of Saturday’s preseason contest in Indianapolis.

Third-year safety Terrence Brooks intercepted an overthrown Flacco pass during a seven-on-seven period of practice. Ryan Mallett was also victimized by the secondary as cornerback Jerraud Powers picked him off and later broke up another pass from the backup quarterback.

It’s likely no coincidence that the defense has picked up its intensity this week with Suggs back on the field for the first time since tearing his Achilles tendon in Denver just over 11 months ago. Younger players also value his underrated mental preparation and the knowledge he shares when stepping on the field.

“He brings a special kind of energy with him,” defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. “He’s definitely one of those guys that’s almost like having another coach on the field with you. When we’re out there together and he sees something, sometimes he’s telling me, ‘The play’s coming to you.’ Before the ball is snapped, it’s easier to make pre-snap reads and things like that with a guy like Suggs beside you.

“He hasn’t told me anything wrong in three years. Every time he has been beside me and said, ‘This is what is about to happen,’ it has happened.”

The Ravens are still dealing with a long list of absences just a few days before their second preseason contest, but Harbaugh confirmed that running back Justin Forsett, offensive linemen Marshal Yanda and Jeremy Zuttah, and wide receiver Michael Campanaro were just given Wednesday’s practice off.

Tight ends Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams, and Daniel Brown, wide receiver Chris Matthews, guard John Urschel, defensive backs Kendrick Lewis, Kyle Arrington, Sheldon Price, and Sam Brown, and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi were all missing due to various ailments. Wide receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, linebacker Elvis Dumervil, and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro remain on the physically unable to perform list and did not participate.

However, the Ravens confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Smith has passed his physical and will return to the practice field in the near future, putting him on track to be ready for the start of the season.

Rookie cornerback Tavon Young returned to practice after missing three days of practice with a hamstring injury suffered in the preseason opener.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on preseason win over Carolina

Posted on 12 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens kicking off the preseason with a 22-19 win over Carolina, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Terrance West and Buck Allen combined for three touchdowns, but I was most impressed with the quickness of Kenneth Dixon, who ran for a game-high 44 yards on nine carries. He has the potential to be a home-run hitter as a change-of-pace back, which is something the Ravens need.

2. With Jerraud Powers and Kyle Arrington both struggling, I’d like to see Tavon Young and Terrence Brooks get more opportunities at the nickel. Young played sparingly, but he has shown good ball skills in practices. Brooks’ size is an intriguing option there, especially since Baltimore’s starting safeties are undersized.

3. First-round rookie Ronnie Stanley performed well in his first start, and Harbaugh made a point to praise the young left tackle’s strong desire to play despite suffering a recent injury. I wonder if that was a coincidence after ex-Raven Eugene Monroe started just 17 games over the last two years.

4. The Kaelin Clay muffed punt and John Harbaugh’s post-game comments lead you to believe the 2016 punt returner may not be on the current roster. The Ravens were right to cut Jacoby Jones two offseasons ago, but they’ve surely had their problems replacing him.

5. After a fast start to camp, Kamalei Correa had a relatively quiet night, failing to record a statistic in 21 defensive snaps. He appeared to play exclusively as an edge defender, making you wonder if Zach Orr has a bigger lead in the inside linebacker competition than we thought.

6. Entering his sixth year, linebacker Chris Carter was facing second- and third-team offensive linemen, but he showed impressive quickness off the edge and also made plays at inside linebacker. Versatility and his special-teams ability will help in his bid to win a job.

7. Speaking of edge defenders, Victor Ochi has flashed potential on more than one occasion during camp, but the rookie free agent only saw the field for seven snaps. That makes you wonder if the Ravens are trying to hide him in an effort to sneak him onto the practice squad.

8. Starting in place of Marshal Yanda, Vlad Ducasse may have been the Ravens’ most impressive offensive lineman, making terrific blocks on Dixon’s 19-yard run and Allen’s 19-yard touchdown catch. He’s not a sure bet to make the roster, but he has made 22 starts in six NFL seasons.

9. The Ravens only suited up five receivers, making it concerning that Keenan Reynolds wasn’t targeted once despite playing 29 offensive snaps. Everyone is rooting for the former Navy standout, but he remains a work in progress with a long way to go as both a punt returner and receiver.

10. Built similarly to Brandon Williams, rookie nose tackle Michael Pierce showed impressive push inside to collect three tackles and split a sack with Carter. Making the 53-man roster might appear to be a tall order, but the Samford product has definitely turned some heads.

11. After calling plays from the upstairs booth the last few seasons, defensive coordinator Dean Pees was on the sideline during Thursday’s game. It will be interesting to hear his rationale for the change and whether it will carry over to the regular season.

12. The fans’ reaction to Michael Phelps winning his 22nd Olympic gold medal on Thursday night was hardly surprising, but the enthusiasm shown by players watching the replay of the race on the video board was a memorable moment late in a pedestrian preseason game.

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Veterans rest as Ravens continue countdown to preseason opener

Posted on 05 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With their first preseason game now less than a week away, the Ravens rested a number of veterans during Friday’s practice.

However, that list did not include starting quarterback Joe Flacco, who continues to ease any lingering concerns about the health of his surgically-repaired left knee. The 31-year-old has yet to miss a practice this summer despite undergoing ACL reconstruction surgery just eight months ago.

It remains to be seen whether Flacco will play in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, but the Ravens are pleased with where the ninth-year quarterback is from a football standpoint despite him missing all spring workouts and their June minicamp while rehabbing.

“It is obvious he has spent time on his own getting himself ready,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “He is certainly ready mentally. Each and every day, he is just working to try and get better, and we are seeing a lot of productivity out here. It is good stuff.”

A total of 18 players were missing from the field at the start of Friday’s practice with wide receiver Kamar Aiken, running back Justin Forsett, safety Eric Weddle, linebacker Albert McCellan, tight end Benjamin Watson, and offensive linemen Jeremy Zuttah and Marshal Yanda presumably receiving the day off as veterans with no known injury concerns.

Players absent because of injuries included tight ends Dennis Pitta (finger) and Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (ribs), wide receiver Chris Moore (foot), cornerback Maurice Canady, and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle). Wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles) and Breshad Perriman (knee), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) remain on the active physically unable to perform list and have yet to practice this summer.

Safety Matt Elam was on the field for the start of practice before leaving the field and not returning. He appeared limited during Thursday’s practice with an unknown ailment.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was having one of his best practices of camp before he began favoring his left leg toward the end of Friday’s workout. The defensive back broke up a deep ball intended for speedy receiver Mike Wallace in a 1-on-1 drill and broke up another pass later in the day.

Camp highlights

One of the top plays of the day was an impressive connection from Flacco to second-year tight end Maxx Williams with linebacker C.J. Mosley in tight coverage down the middle of the field. The quarterback threw slightly behind Williams in order to fit the ball into a tight window and the 2015 second-round pick made a strong catch.

Williams has quietly had a solid camp despite a few veterans being ahead of him in the pecking order.

Currently atop the depth chart as the Ravens’ primary return specialist, Kaelin Clay flashed skills as a receiver with a great touchdown catch on a back-shoulder throw from backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and brought in another good catch later in practice. However, he dropped an easy one during an 11-on-11 drill.

Safety Terrence Brooks has a lot to prove after an underwhelming start to his NFL career, but he had a strong day, intercepting a Mallett pass that went off the hands of tight end Darren Waller and stripping the ball from running back Terrance West as the whistle blew to conclude a non-live play.

Waller later beat coverage from linebacker Kamalei Correa to catch a touchdown pass from Flacco on a deep corner route.

Late teammate remembered

A number of Ravens players including Perriman, Forsett, Kendrick Lewis, Julian Wilson, and Anthony Levine used Twitter to remember late teammate Tray Walker, who would have celebrated his 24th birthday on Friday.

The young cornerback tragically died from injuries sustained in a motorbike accident in March.

The Ravens have not issued his No. 25 jersey this summer.

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Walker’s death takes on different meanings for Ravens

Posted on 18 March 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have dealt with tragedy before in their 20-year existence, but never quite like this.

The death of 23-year-old cornerback Tray Walker takes on different meanings for various members of the organization, very little of it having to do with football. Fans were limited in their experiences watching the 2015 fourth-round pick as he played just eight defensive snaps as a rookie, but he left an impression with team executives, coaches, and teammates in his far-too-short time in Baltimore.

We’ll never know what kind of football player Walker might have become, but that pales in comparison to such a loss of young life. It’s gut-wrenching to know a family that celebrated the start of his NFL career less than 11 months ago must now bury a young man whose adulthood was just getting started.

“Tray was one of the most humble persons we brought in for a pre-draft visit,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “That was striking. After we drafted him, he and his family were so excited to receive the call that he was about to become a Raven. It was one of the calls I will always remember. There was such joy for Tray and his family.”

Reactions collected on Friday evening reflected the various ways in which Walker’s death resonates with members of the organization.

Owner Steve Bisciotti noted that his two sons aren’t much older than Walker and expressed deep sadness for his grieving mother and family. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to outlive a child.

After writing such a heartfelt letter to all of his players earlier Friday, John Harbaugh recalled Walker’s smile and how the rookie defensive back often stood next to the head coach during the national anthem, which would result in a big hug before kickoff.

Those little moments are sometimes the most important ones in life, aren’t they?

Teammates ranging from Joe Flacco and Steve Smith to C.J. Mosley and Jimmy Smith expressed their grief and heartfelt condolences, but the words of one of Walker’s closest friends on the team, safety Terrence Brooks, were particularly powerful. Much like Walker, Brooks hasn’t firmly established himself in the NFL and spoke of their bond in that journey.

It’s a struggle typically ignored by fans and media, but one that involves much hard work behind the scenes while dreaming of Sunday stardom.

“We vowed to each other to stick together and push each other as long as we remained on the same team,” said Brooks, who was drafted a year earlier than Walker. “We both shared similar life experiences growing up in Florida. We sat together every day during meetings. He was like a little brother to me. I especially remember times he would drop by my house, and we would have long talks and laughs just about the NFL and everyday life. I truly felt a brotherly bond with him.

“Tray was a young man with so much life experience. I feel like he was much more of a man just because of where he grew up. Football was his escape. Not many understood that. It hurts my heart that he’s not getting the chance to show the world just what type of man and football player he was going to be. I was looking forward to taking that field with him this year, because we both kept up with each other’s progress this offseason. I really felt he was going to have a great year.”

Even for those who didn’t know Walker well, his vow last spring to dedicate his rookie season to his father — who died of a heart attack several months before his son was drafted by the Ravens — made him easy to root for as an underdog from Texas Southern who wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school. Anyone who has lost a father at a similar age understands the intense desire to make him proud and to carry on his legacy for the rest of your life.

It breaks your heart that his family experiences such a loss.

They — as well as the Ravens and everyone else — are left wondering what could have been.

In football and, much more importantly, in a longer life.

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Five young players the Ravens need more from in 2016

Posted on 11 February 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are coming off their worst season of the John Harbaugh era, and most offseason discussion has centered around the draft and how active general manager Ozzie Newsome can be in free agency.

There’s no disputing the need for more high-impact talent, but improvement from within will go a long way in determining how quickly the Ravens can return to contention after a 5-11 campaign. With limited salary cap space and only so many holes that can be filled through the draft, Baltimore needs young players already on the roster to make a difference this coming fall with some experience and another offseason under their belts.

Below is a look at five young players the Ravens need more from in order to bounce back from their disappointing 2015 campaign:

1. WR Breshad Perriman

Who else could it be in the top spot? The Ravens put all their eggs in one basket trying to replace Torrey Smith with their 2015 first-round pick before he suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first full day of training camp and left the offense without any speed. General manager Ozzie Newsome said he had a smile on his face watching the 6-foot-2 Perriman practice before the injury, and the Baltimore offense will desperately need his speed for a passing attack that struggled to push the ball down the field in 2015. The Ravens will wisely look for additional help at the position this offseason, but Perriman will be the biggest key in making the passing game more explosive and less reliant on a 37-year-old Steve Smith and emerging possession receiver Kamar Aiken.

2. LB Za’Darius Smith

The 2015 fourth-round pick’s 3 1/2 sacks over the final three games of 2015 are something to build on from what was mostly a quiet rookie season. In fairness, the Ravens expected a smaller role for the 275-pound linebacker, but the season-ending Achilles injury to Terrell Suggs in the opener made Smith the primary backup to Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw. Denver showed again in Super Bowl 50 how important it is to have disruptive pass rushers, but how much longer can the Ravens expect Suggs and Dumervil to perform at a high level? Even if Newsome is lucky enough to come away with an impact edge rusher like Joey Bosa or Noah Spence in this spring’s draft, Smith needs to take a big step forward if the Ravens want to boost a pass rush that was too inconsistent in 2015.

3. DT Carl Davis

Many have discussed the second-half improvement of the pass defense, but the Ravens gave up more than 100 yards rushing in each of their final five games after surrendering that amount just twice in their first 11 contests. Brandon Williams played at a Pro Bowl-level and Timmy Jernigan improved after a slow start, but the Ravens needed more contributions from Davis after he began the season looking like one of the steals of the draft. The Iowa product played well early and started three games, but he appeared to wear down and was a non-factor in the second half of the season, seeing just 17 defensive snaps over the final six games. Baltimore doesn’t need Davis to be Haloti Ngata, but his emergence as a run-stopping force next to Williams would allow the Ravens to keep Jernigan fresh for pass-rushing situations.

4. S Terrence Brooks

It’s never good for a player to show up on a list like this two years in a row, but the 2014 third-round pick is just one of many safeties the Ravens have added over the last few years to try to bring stability to the spot once occupied by future Hall of Famer Ed Reed. Brooks made an impressive recovery from the serious knee surgery suffered in the final month of his rookie year, but he saw just 67 defensive snaps in 2015. Kendrick Lewis remains under contract and Lardarius Webb is an option if the Ravens adjust his $9.5 million cap figure for 2016, but Brooks has the athleticism to be more of a playmaker at the position than anyone else on the current roster. Unfortunately, coaches haven’t trusted him from a mental standpoint, so it appears this could be the make-or-break year for the Florida State product.

5. RB Buck Allen

Allen’s inclusion is more about circumstance than his rookie season in which he accumulated 867 total yards of offense, most coming after the season-ending injury to veteran Justin Forsett in Week 11. The Ravens have plenty of depth at running back, but Forsett will be 31, Lorenzo Taliaferro hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a full season, and local product Terrance West has been with three teams in two years. Allen caught an impressive 45 passes, but his 3.8 yards per carry average leaves you wondering whether he can be a feature back in the NFL. The Ravens need more of a home-run hitter in the backfield, and the 2015 fourth-rounder figures to have the best chance to be that guy. Ray Rice averaged 4.2 yards per carry as a rookie before making the Pro Bowl a year later. Can Allen make a jump anywhere close to that?

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Ranking the Ravens’ defensive needs for 2016

Posted on 22 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens defense needs some work.

Yes, the unit finished eighth in total defense and surrendered the fewest passing yards in the NFL over the second half of the season, but five of the Ravens’ final eight games came against passing attacks ranked 19th or worse and another came against an AJ McCarron-led Cincinnati attack in the season finale.

The improvement was encouraging, but it wasn’t enough to just assume everything is fine, especially after the defense finished with just 14 takeaways, shattering the worst mark in team history. The hiring of former NFL head coach Leslie Frazier to coach the secondary highlights the Ravens’ desire to improve against the pass.

With free agency set to begin in less than two months — March 9 at 4 p.m. — and the draft set for April 28-30, the Ravens are currently evaluating their biggest needs in all three phases of the game. In the second of a three-part series — we’ve already looked at the offense and special teams will follow — I offer my thoughts on the defensive side of the football and rank the positions of greatest need.

1. Cornerback

Some will argue that improving the pass rush is a bigger need than cornerback, but with Shareece Wright scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and Lardarius Webb moving to safety, who will start opposite top cornerback Jimmy Smith?

Even if they’re able to re-sign Wright — who shook off a nightmare debut against San Francisco to play quite well the rest of the way — the Ravens would benefit from having another high-end cornerback. In addition to hoping that Smith is finally over the effects of his 2014 foot surgery, they need another playmaker in the secondary.

That’s the biggest reason why the Ravens have been linked to top cornerback prospects such as Jalen Ramsey from Florida State or Vernon Hargreaves from Florida with the sixth overall pick in this spring’s draft.

Baltimore has some internal options such as Will Davis who carry intrigue, but none have a body of work suggesting you could pencil them into the starting lineup with any great level of confidence.

2. Outside linebacker

Owner Steve Bisciotti spoke at length at the season-ending press conference about how much the Ravens missed Terrell Suggs after he was lost for the year in the 2015 opener, but the six-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker will be 34 in October and coming off his second Achilles injury in four years.

Further complicating matters is the pending free agency of Courtney Upshaw, who lacks pass-rushing skills but is effective setting the edge against the run. The Ravens saw promising development from 2015 fourth-round pick Za’Darius Smith late in the year, but they’d love to add another outside linebacker to ease the workload of the 32-year-old Elvis Dumervil, who wore down late in the year as a three-down player.

The defense needs a young outside linebacker who can get after the quarterback, but the top options in the draft beyond Ohio State’s Joey Bosa — Myles Jack of UCLA and Leonard Floyd of Georgia — would likely be considered a reach where the Ravens are picking in the first round.

There’s a lot of uncertainty at this position for 2016 and beyond when your top two options are both well over 30.

3. Safety

Since the departure of Ed Reed, the Ravens have pumped so many resources into improving this position with very underwhelming results.

Though not quite as consistent as you’d probably like, Will Hill has emerged as a solid starter at strong safety, but the free safety position remains a different story. Kendrick Lewis just doesn’t show enough ability to make high-impact plays, and Lardarius Webb’s $9.5 million salary cap figure for 2016 will need to be addressed if he’s even to remain on the team.

Terrence Brooks has flashed his athleticism when given opportunities, but the 2014 third-round pick has battled injuries and has yet to earn the trust of the coaching staff from a mental standpoint.

Unless you draft Ramsey and move him to safety, there doesn’t appear to be a safety in this year’s draft who can bring the type of impact the Ravens are seeking. This could mean another year of hoping an internal option such as Brooks finally emerges as more of a ball-hawking threat.

4. Inside linebacker

Daryl Smith will be 34 and is no guarantee to return, meaning the Ravens should be looking for the inside linebacker of the future next to 2014 Pro Bowl selection C.J. Mosley.

Former undrafted free agent Zach Orr showed solid coverage skills while replacing Smith in the nickel package late last season, but it remains to be seen whether he can be a viable three-down linebacker. And 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown is more likely to be cut then to suddenly become a starter after three disappointing seasons in Baltimore.

Considering Mosley has struggled in pass coverage, the Ravens would benefit greatly from having another inside linebacker who can stick with running backs or tight ends in routes.

Whether it’s for 2016 or beyond, general manager Ozzie Newsome would probably be wise to be on the lookout for an inside backer with upside in the middle rounds of the draft.

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Ravens-Chiefs: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 19 December 2015 by Luke Jones

The questions run rampant for the Ravens’ Week 15 meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Who’s starting at quarterback?

What will the secondary look like?

Does Sunday represent the Ravens’ last best chance to win another game before the most disappointing season in franchise history mercifully comes to an end?

Meanwhile, Kansas City comes to town having won seven in a row to erase a 1-5 start and enter Sunday holding the first of two wild-card spots in the AFC. Simply put, the Chiefs are exactly what the Ravens wanted to be after the worst start in franchise history, but it simply hasn’t happened for the latter.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Kansas City for the seventh time in their regular-season history with the series tied 3-3. Baltimore has lost three of the four meetings between the teams at M&T Bank Stadium, but the Ravens won the last of those home contests back in 2009. Counting the postseason, the Ravens have won their last four meetings with the Chiefs.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to avoid the first five-loss home schedule in the 20-year history of the franchise …

1. The Chiefs will hold a plus-two turnover advantage in a microcosm of the season for both teams. Though their list of injuries isn’t quite as extensive, the Chiefs lost star running back Jamaal Charles for the season in October and has been without All-Pro linebacker Justin Houston since late November. Andy Reid’s team has kept ticking by forcing turnovers on defense and committing few with an efficient offense. Meanwhile, the Ravens rank 30th in takeaways (11) and 24th in giveaways (23). Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith won’t wow you with ability, but he’s thrown just four interceptions all year. Baltimore will be turning to Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen, who both struggle to protect the football. If both teams follow their 2015 scripts, the Chiefs will capitalize on the Ravens’ mistakes.

2. Elvis Dumervil will exploit former teammate Jah Reid for two quarterback sacks. As bizarre as it was to read that Reid received a three-year contract extension earlier this week, Pro Football Focus has graded the former Raven 73rd of 77 offensive tackles in the NFL this season. On top of that, the first overall pick of the 2013 draft, left tackle Eric Fisher, has graded only 37th overall, according to PFF. This should help Dumervil, who has been limited to just six sacks without a viable edge rusher playing on the opposite side. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to run some stunts to take advantage of an offensive line that’s allowed 41 sacks, fourth worst in the NFL. The Ravens defense ranks 20th in the league with only 28 sacks, but Dumervil will turn in a 2014-like performance on Sunday.

3. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will catch a touchdown pass and collect over 80 receiving yards. Kansas City sports the league’s 27th-ranked passing game, but Smith has effectively used his tight end to the tune of 59 catches for 749 yards and four touchdowns this season. Whether trying to use linebackers or safeties, Baltimore has struggled to cover tight ends and Kelce will effectively move the chains to continue drives for the Chiefs. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens try to cover Kelce as inside linebacker Daryl Smith has been replaced more and more by Zach Orr in the nickel in recent weeks. And with Lardarius Webb now factoring into the rotation at safety, you wonder if even more communication issues are inevitable. Kelce will be ready to take advantage on Sunday.

4. The Baltimore secondary will offer new looks, but Alex Smith will throw for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Head coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week that it was time for young defensive backs such as 2015 fourth-round cornerback Tray Walker, second-year safety Terrence Brooks, and former Houston Texans cornerback Jumal Rolle to receive more opportunities. While it will be important to evaluate the aforementioned players in the final three weeks of the season, the results probably won’t be pretty for a defense that has repeatedly failed to be on the same page even with veterans on the field. Smith carries the dreaded “game manager” label, but he will take advantage of Baltimore mistakes to find Kelce and top receiver Jeremy Maclin for several big plays on Sunday.

5. The Ravens will rebound cosmetically from the Week 14 blowout loss, but Kansas City won’t provide enough help in a 23-14 defeat. Even while carrying a louder tone of resignation this week following an embarrassing loss to Seattle, Baltimore will return to its pattern of competing more like it did in the first 12 games of the season that were all decided by one possession. However, the injury-ravaged Ravens aren’t talented enough to beat a quality team without substantial help from the opposition. The Chiefs won’t figure to provide that assistance as they’ve committed just 12 turnovers all season, third fewest in the NFL. Either Jimmy Clausen or Matt Schaub will facilitate a couple scoring drives against the NFL’s 15th-ranked pass defense, but a couple Ravens mistakes will be the difference.

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