Tag Archive | "Torrey Smith"

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Seven takeaways from “State of the Ravens” press conference

Posted on 25 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens’ brass met with reporters Tuesday to review the 2014 season and look ahead at the offseason priorities for 2015.

Below are seven takeaways from what was discussed:

1. The Ravens made it clear they’re more than willing to walk away from wide receiver Torrey Smith.

You got the sense from general manager Ozzie Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti that the organization is not willing to break the bank for the 2011 second-round pick as the latter even mentioned how much the Miami Dolphins regretted paying speedy receiver Mike Wallace a couple years ago. You wonder if the Ravens were trying to show Smith some “tough love” negotiating tactics as he’s a couple weeks away from hitting the open market but has repeatedly expressed his desire to stay in Baltimore.

2. Running back Justin Forsett might be a higher priority than we thought.

Forsett will be 30 next season and many have wondered how much of his success was a product of an improved offensive line, but Newsome mentioning what kind of mentor the running back has been in his career was interesting with questions about how he’d be valued on the open market. The Ravens will look to add another young running back for the future, but it wouldn’t make sense for Newsome to offer such a compliment if he were trying to low-ball the veteran, who was such a great story in 2014.

3. We’re still waiting to hear about the future of defensive end Chris Canty.

Head coach John Harbaugh said he hasn’t spoken to the veteran defensive lineman since the end of the season when he told reporters he was contemplating retirement. You’d have to think the Ravens are trying to be respectful to the 32-year-old, who may be a salary-cap casualty if he decides to continue his career. Baltimore was in a similar position with veteran center Matt Birk a couple years ago and likely would have cut him had he not decided to retire in the offseason following Super Bowl XLVII.

4. If there were any lingering doubts, rush specialist Pernell McPhee won’t be returning to Baltimore.

Newsome couldn’t have been more clear unless he said, “We wish Pernell good luck in his future endeavors.” The 2011 fifth-round pick had a terrific season as a situation player this past season and is expected to cash in with a number of teams vying for his services. It will be interesting to see how McPhee handles a full-time role elsewhere as his cranky knees were an issue at a few different points during his run in Baltimore.

5. Safety Terrence Brooks is likely to start the 2015 season on the physically unable to perform list.

After suffering a serious knee injury in December, Brooks figured to be a question mark to begin the 2015 campaign and Newsome confirmed that on Tuesday. The 2014 third-round pick showed a few flashes while also making plenty of mistakes as a rookie, but it will be hard to count on him contributing more in his second year as he works his way back from injury. Much attention has been paid to the cornerback position, but it’s clear the Ravens need to add an impact safety this offseason.

6. Bisciotti experienced his worst year as the owner of the franchise.

It wasn’t surprising to hear the owner share the sentiment, but the conviction with which he spoke let you know just how bothered he was by the Ray Rice saga and four other player arrests. Bisciotti quipped that he was off “suicide watch” and would have considered selling the team to Steve Ballmer last year, but he didn’t come across well in disputing the notion that the NFL had an image problem before team president Dick Cass saved him by pointing to the league’s concerns with domestic violence.

7. Newsome’s discussion about the Ravens secondary was disappointing.

Newsome is an excellent executive, but his thoughts on the secondary lacked accountability as he leaned on the return of cornerback Jimmy Smith from injury. There’s no disputing that injuries played a role in last year’s woes, but many opined that the Ravens didn’t do enough last offseason to augment the unit after the free-agent loss of cornerback Corey Graham and long before the rash of injuries. Either way, actions will speak louder than words in how the Ravens address the defensive backfield.

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If not Torrey Smith, then who for the Ravens?

Posted on 04 February 2015 by Luke Jones

No Ravens free-agent-to-be has sparked more debate over the last several months than wide receiver Torrey Smith as he’s set to hit the open market in a few weeks.

So much time is spent picking apart his shortcomings in running routes and arguing that he’s not a No. 1 receiver — there aren’t 32 of them in the entire NFL, by the way — that we lose sight of what Smith has brought to the table in his four years with the Ravens. Prior to his selection in the second round of the 2011 draft, the Ravens lacked any kind of a vertical threat for quarterback Joe Flacco and were regularly suffocated by any defense simply playing Cover 2 with aggressive cornerbacks. From the moment he arrived, the speedy receiver brought an ability to not only stretch the field, but make plays in the process of doing so.

The University of Maryland product ranks third on the all-time franchise list in receptions and is second with 30 touchdown catches while never missing a game in four years. After a 2013 season in which he caught 65 passes for 1,128 yards — both career highs — his numbers dipped to 49 catches for 767 yards under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, but Smith still caught a career-best 11 touchdowns and drew an impressive 261 yards on pass interference calls. The six-foot, 205-pound wideout wasn’t a great fit in Kubiak’s system that focused on short-to-intermediate passing, but his skill set is something that would be hard to replace.

By all accounts, Smith is also one of the best men in the Ravens locker room, a factor that shouldn’t be lost in the wake of last offseason when five players were arrested and after the recent reports of Will Hill and Terrence Cody being in trouble with the law. Character can’t be everything when it comes to valuing a player, but it should count for something.

It’s true that Smith profiles best as a good No. 2 receiver, but that still carries substantial value, evident by a CBS Sports report indicating the Ravens offered him a five-year, $35 million contract prior to the 2014 season. And even if the 26-year-old won’t cash in on his gamble in the same way that Flacco did in his walk year two years ago, offers in that same neighborhood — or slightly better — will still be thrown his way on the open market. Resources such as Spotrac.com have projected Smith to be worth slightly above $7 million per year, and that’s before learning whether top free-agent receivers such as Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Randall Cobb will even hit the market.

If you’re convinced the Ravens shouldn’t pay Smith what they offered him a few months ago or sweeten the deal a bit to potentially get it done, then what?

Even if Bryant, Thomas, and Cobb find their way to the market, the Ravens won’t have the salary cap space to make a competitive offer. Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin would be next on the list, but most project him to fetch more than Smith in free agency. A look at contracts signed in recent offseasons likely puts Smith in line with the deals received by Eric Decker and Golden Tate last offseason, but the final price will depend on the supply of quality receivers on the market and the number of teams willing to spend.

Whether re-signing Smith or not, the Ravens will take a long look at the wide receiver position in the draft, but Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White will be long gone by the time they pick 26th overall. And let’s not forget that general manager Ozzie Newsome’s sterling draft reputation doesn’t extend to the wide receiver position where Smith is the Ravens’ biggest success story in two decades. Going into the draft needing to find a starting receiver with a late first-round pick isn’t a recipe for success for a playoff-caliber team.

Drafting a wideout such as DeVante Parker, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jaelen Strong, or Devin Funchess could pay off in the long run, but few positions are as unpredictable as wide receiver, especially if you’re expecting one to play a significant role immediately.

Should Smith depart, the Ravens would be looking at a 36-year-old Steve Smith as one starter and a competition among the likes of Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro, and Jacoby Jones (if he isn’t a cap casualty) for the No. 2 spot. Those receivers are complementary parts — not NFL starters — at this stage, and the Ravens can’t depend too much on Steve Smith, who slowed down at different points last season after a blazing start.

As they have in the past, Baltimore could look for another short-term veteran fix, but there’s only so much upside to be had with receivers on the wrong side of 30, especially if you’re looking for someone to stretch the field.

Of course, Smith will also need to prove just how much he wants to remain in Baltimore as he told WNST.net last week that he won’t necessarily go to the highest bidder and complimented the organization for giving him a chance to win every year. If the Ravens are still offering the fifth-year receiver what they did a few months ago and are willing to offer a little more as a show of faith in him, Smith can’t accuse them of disrespecting him after a season he’s described himself as less than stellar.

Most agree that Smith needs to be “the right player at the right price” for the Ravens to continue their relationship with him, but his departure would spell bad news for a team trying to build on a 10-6 season that ended in the divisional round.

His detractors have had few problems pointing out what Smith isn’t, but replacing him would be more difficult than many are willing to admit.



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Torrey Smith won’t necessarily go to highest bidder

Posted on 30 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith has never wavered from his desire to stay in Baltimore, but trying to determine his value might be the organization’s most difficult task this offseason.

He profiles best as a No. 2 receiver and is coming off a disappointing 2014 campaign, but the 26-year-old may learn other suitors are willing to pay more than the Ravens for his ability to stretch the field. That doesn’t mean Smith will simply sign with the highest bidder, however.

“I know guys [saying], ‘Whoever offers me the most money, I am going there,'” Smith told WNST.net in Phoenix this week. “That’s not necessarily the case for me, because there are so many different things that go into it. It’s going to be a tough decision.

“There are guys on teams that whether they believe it or not, they want to say, ‘This is the year.’ But they know come the middle of the season like, ‘This isn’t happening.’ In Baltimore, you know you have a chance every single year. That’s probably the best part, and it’s a strength of the organization.”

Of course, the Ravens must be judicious with their salary cap as they own a projected commitment of over $142 million for players currently under contract, according to Spotrac.com. General manager Ozzie Newsome could look to cut several veterans to clear space, but that doesn’t mean the necessary resources will be there to retain Smith if another team makes a lucrative offer.

After repeatedly expressing confidence that he wasn’t going anywhere, the 2011 second-round pick and University of Maryland product acknowledged the possibility late in the regular season that a deal might not be reached. Despite catching only 49 passes for a career-low 767 receiving yards, Smith caught a career-best 11 touchdowns and drew pass interference penalties on a regular basis to aid an offense that set franchise records for points score and total yards.

In 2014, Smith moved up to third on the franchise’s all-time receptions list and is now second in team history in touchdown receptions with 30 in four years. He hopes to continue moving up the list in 2015 and beyond.

“Everything’s going to take care of itself. The business is what it is,” Smith said. “We all understand that. Everyone knows where my heart is, but I understand it could possibly go the other way. I’m not really dwelling on anything. I’m just focusing on my family. I’m not nervous at all, because I know everything will take care of itself. You can’t really stress over things you can’t control. I try not to do it and when I do, things definitely don’t go my way.”

To keep his mind off the free-agent process, Smith has enrolled in the University of Miami’s new masters of business administration program geared toward professional athletes and artists. He’s already made a commitment to continue his charitable endeavors in Baltimore should he sign elsewhere as the Virginia native now considers Charm City his home.

Smith is trying not to think about what could happen if he hits the open market on March 10, but he knows he can’t take the easy way out of saying he’s leaving the decision solely in agent Drew Rosenhaus’ hands. And it would be difficult to walk away from the place where he got his start and has never experienced a losing season while also winning Super Bowl XLVII.

“At the end of the day, the decision will be on me and I understand that,” Smith said. “The agent does what they do. When the time comes to make a decision, I’ll make the best decision for [my wife and son]. You’ve got to go somewhere where you can believe you can win, and I’ll make the best decision all the way around.”



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Examining the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

Posted on 13 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The start of free agency is roughly two months away, but the Ravens face a number of important decisions in their efforts to build upon their return to the playoffs in 2014 after a one-year absence.

As is often the case, salary cap space will be a substantial concern as the Ravens entered the offseason with an estimated cap commitment of roughly $138 million, according to Spotrac.com. The 2015 salary cap has not been set, but it is projected to rise from $133 million in 2014 to somewhere between $138 million and $141 million for the new season, which leaves general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens with very tough maneuvering ahead.

Of course, the Ravens could elect to terminate or renegotiate several veteran contracts with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and his $16 million cap figure for 2015 at the top of the list. Baltimore would like to extend Ngata in a way similar to what they did with Terrell Suggs last winter, but cutting him outright would save $8.5 million. Cornerback Lardarius Webb carries a $12 million figure next season, but his release would only save $2 million in space as it would leave $10 million in dead money with the Ravens still needing to replace him.

Other veterans such as defensive end Chris Canty, wide receiver Jacoby Jones, linebacker Albert McClellan, and punter Sam Koch don’t carry lucrative cap numbers but could be released to create moderate savings for 2015.


The Ravens will have the opportunity to re-sign any of the following 14 unrestricted free agents before they can sign with any other team beginning on March 10 at 4:00 p.m.

CB Antoine CasonSigned in early December, the 28-year-old was leapfrogged on the depth chart by former Miami Dolphins practice squad cornerback Rashaan Melvin, telling all you need to know about his standing.

DT Terrence Cody I was surprised the Ravens brought back the 2010 second-round pick on a one-year deal last offseason, and he was a non-factor after returning from the reserve physically unable to perform list in November.

LS Morgan Cox The veteran is hitting the point in his career where the Ravens usually want to go cheaper for a snapper, but they had some issues with both Kevin McDermott and Patrick Scales after Cox was lost for the season.

TE Owen DanielsThe 32-year-old had some inconsistent stretches this season, but you’d like to bring back an established option with Dennis Pitta’s status in doubt and 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore still developing.

RB Justin ForsettThe feel-good story of the 2014 campaign will draw interest elsewhere, but his knowledge of Gary Kubiak’s zone schemes as well as his patience and vision make it important for the Ravens to bring him back.

CB Danny GorrerThe journeyman cornerback suffered a season-ending knee injury in December and won’t be a priority, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him re-signed to compete for a roster spot in training camp.

LB Pernell McPheeHis 7 1/2 sacks, 21 quarterback hits, and 35 quarterback hurries likely price him out of the Ravens’ budget as other teams will throw a lot of money at the rush specialist while envisioning a bigger role for him.

S Jeromy MilesMiles is a good special-teams player and emerged to earn a significant number of snaps in the defensive backfield, so you would think the Ravens would like to bring him back at a reasonable rate.

G Will RackleyThe former Jacksonville Jaguar sustained a concussion early in training camp and was placed on injured reserve, making it unlikely the Ravens will bring him back with their offensive line in much better shape now.

OL Jah ReidThe 2011 third-round pick never lived up to expectations to even become a reliable backup, so it would be surprising to see the Ravens bring him back on even a minimum contract for 2015.

CB Aaron RossThe 32-year-old tore his Achilles tendon on the eve of training camp and has dealt with other injuries in recent years, making you think his NFL career could very well be over.

WR Torrey SmithThe Ravens and the University of Maryland product both want to continue their relationship, but will other suitors offer No. 1 receiver money for Smith’s skill set and leave Newsome with a difficult decision?

S Darian StewartThe former St. Louis Ram played better in the second half of the season and wouldn’t be a bad option to bring back to compete with 2014 third-round pick Terrence Brooks for the safety spot opposite Will Hill.

QB Tyrod Taylor The writing was on the wall for Taylor when the Ravens drafted Keith Wenning in the sixth round of last May’s draft, so it appears unlikely that he’ll be back with Baltimore.


The following players have accrued three years of service and have expiring contracts. The Ravens can tender each with a restricted free agent offer, but other teams may then sign that player to an offer sheet. If that happens, Baltimore has seven days to match the offer and keep the aforementioned player. If the Ravens choose not to match the offer sheet, they would receive compensation based on which tender was initially offered to that player.

There are three different tenders — the values won’t be set until the 2015 salary cap is finalized — that can be made: a first-round tender ($3.113 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s first-round selection, a second-round tender ($2.187 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s second-round selection, and a low tender ($1.431 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s draft selection equal to the round in which the player was originally chosen. For example, a restricted free agent selected in the fifth round would be worth a fifth-round pick if given the low tender. If a player went undrafted originally and is given the low tender, the Ravens would simply hold the right to match the offer and would not receive any compensation if they elected not to match the competing figure.

The original round in which each player was drafted is noted in parentheses:

DL Christo Bilukidi (sixth) The former Cincinnati Bengal appeared in only four games before being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him non-tendered and re-signed to a cheaper deal. 

DE Lawrence Guy (seventh) Added in late September, Guy emerged as a reliable member of the defensive line rotation and passed DeAngelo Tyson on the depth chart, making it likely the Ravens will want to bring him back.

S Will Hill (undrafted) – The bright spot in an otherwise difficult year for the secondary, Hill could receive the second-round tender to prevent other teams from trying to sign him away as the Ravens clearly want him back.

K Justin Tucker (undrafted) – The Ravens will explore a long-term deal with one of the best kickers in football, but the 2013 Pro Bowl selection would figure to receive a second-round tender to discourage other teams from sniffing around.


These players have less than three years of accrued service and can be tendered a contract for the league minimum based on their length of service in the league. If tendered, these players are not free to negotiate with other teams. Historically, the Ravens tender all exclusive-rights free agents with the thought that there’s essentially nothing assured beyond a likely invitation to training camp for each.

WR Kamar Aiken
CB Chris Greenwood
CB Tramain Jacobs
OL Ryan Jensen
S Anthony Levine
LS Kevin McDermott
DE Steven Means
CB Rashaan Melvin
LS Patrick Scales
TE Phillip Supernaw
RB Fitz Toussaint
S Brynden Trawick
DT Casey Walker

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Torrey Smith doesn’t want to leave place “more like home now”

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Even as he cleaned out his locker on Sunday, wide receiver Torrey Smith once again made it clear where his heart lies as he approaches free agency for the first time in his career.

He wants to stay with the Ravens.

“For me, it’s more like home now. It’s kind of tough to leave home at times,” Smith said. “But also, it’s a great organization. I genuinely love the people here, from the owner to everyone who makes this building go. I really love being here.”

But Smith knows it isn’t a certainty that he’ll be back as the Ravens must carefully weigh his value after a disappointing 2014 season in which he caught only 49 passes for 767 yards, career lows in both categories. On the flip side, the University of Maryland product posted a career-high 11 touchdown catches and drew an NFL-high 12 pass interference penalties for 261 yards, which must be acknowledged as part of his overall production.

Baltimore would like him back, but the 2011 second-round pick fits the profile of a No. 2 receiver, meaning the Ravens can’t break the bank for him. That philosophy could lead to Smith testing the market to see if other suitors would look to his 1,128-yard season in 2013 as evidence that he can be a No. 1 receiver.

“I honestly went the whole year without worrying about it, but when things kind of get tight, it’s like, ‘Man!’” Smith said. “You start looking around saying, ‘This could be it.’ But I’m not really going about it that way. I understand it’s a business. I’m just going to worry about things I can control and see what happens.”

Smith brings additional value to what he produces on the field as a leader by example and one of the Ravens’ most active players in the community. He’ll also be part of a crowded market of free-agent wideouts that could include the likes of Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin, and Michael Crabtree, which may keep the price reasonable for Smith’s services.

As is always their mantra, the Ravens will view Smith within the scope of being the right player at the right price. With Steve Smith entering his 15th season, tight end Dennis Pitta’s future uncertain, and Baltimore already wanting to add another pass-catcher at either the receiver or tight end position, it only makes sense to retain the soon-to-be 26-year-old who wants to remain a Raven.

In listening to his words, it’s clear Smith doesn’t think his time in Baltimore is over.

“I’ve been saying all year I didn’t play the way I wanted to play this year,” Smith said. “Was it the worst? No. Was it what I wanted? No. But everything will take care of itself. I feel like I’ve done some pretty good things since I’ve been here, and there’s still so much more left to do.”

Canty contemplating future

Defensive end Chris Canty just completed his 10th NFL season and isn’t sure if there will be an 11th.

The 32-year-old acknowledged Sunday he is contemplating retirement after missing five games this season due to a staph infection in his wrist and an ankle injury.

“You have to think about your future,” Canty said. “You have to think, ‘Can your body take the pounding going through a regular reason and being able to stay healthy?’ The last couple of years, I’ve been pretty banged up, so it’s a situation where I’ll take some time away from the game, spend some time with my family, and make a decision when we have to make a decision.”

Even if Canty decides to continue his career, it may not be in Baltimore as he’s entering the final season of a three-year, $8 million contract and carries a $3.32 million cap figure for 2015. The Ravens were pleased with newcomer Lawrence Guy and drafted the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Brent Urban in the fourth round last May despite the rookie missing the entire season with a knee injury.

Canty has future plans to work in the media, but he acknowledges he still has a passion for the game. He just doesn’t know if that will be enough to carry him into another grueling season.

“Ultimately, it’s whether I can do it or not at a high level,” Canty said. “I don’t want to go out on the football field and not be able to play at a high level. When you turn on the tape and you don’t recognize yourself, that’s a problem, and I never want that to be the case.”

The former Dallas Cowboy and New York Giant finished with 33 tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble, and 1/2 sack this season.

Urschel a future Pro Bowl selection?

While James Hurst received more attention in becoming the first undrafted rookie to start a playoff game at left tackle in NFL history, fellow rookie John Urschel turned plenty of heads with his performance.

Filling in at right guard with four-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda shifting to right tackle in place of the injured Rick Wagner, Urschel played at a high level in the playoffs and more than held his own against Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork in the Ravens’ 35-31 loss to New England.

“Honestly, I really feel like Urschel in a few years is going to be a Pro Bowler himself if he gets the opportunity,” starting left guard Kelechi Osemele said, “if he gets in there and plays [like he’s capable of doing].”

The high praise makes you wonder if the Ravens would consider an increased role for the fifth-round pick from Penn State as early as next season. He became the backup center on game days this season and could be examined as an eventual upgrade over current starter Jeremy Zuttah.

Baltimore will also face tough financial decisions next winter with both Yanda and Osemele scheduled to become free agents after the 2015 season, which could open the door for Urschel to replace one of them. For now, the 2014 fifth-round pick sees an important offseason in front of him as he’ll try to improve on a successful rookie campaign in which he made five starts counting the postseason.

“Lots of hard work, dedication. It’s different,” Urschel said. “This is my first real offseason. In college, you have eyes on you — you have people telling you what to do. This is the first time I’ve had about three months to myself since high school. It’s on me to motivate myself.”


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Post game thoughts – Ravens vs Patriots

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

Had a great show Sunday morning, with relative predictable reaction by the Baltimore Ravens’ fan base. The scale was truly A – Z, from fans who were extremely upset, to moderately happy. The biggest issue that came up time and again was the decision that Joe Flacco made to throw the ball deep to Torrey Smith with just under 2 minutes left in the game.

Lots of Ravens fans second guessed that decision, and they wanted Flacco to continue to patiently work the ball downfield. In fact, on that play he had a wide open Marlon Brown streaking across the middle of the field.

It is my opinion that Flacco did in fact make the right call. The Patriots were in a single high safety formation, and Flacco knew that Torrey Smith was singled up by the DB on the left sideline. Smith got a couple of steps on his man, but the ball was under thrown and the safety came over and made a great play. It’s a simple as that. You take points when you can get them, and then you rely on your defense to make a stop, and win the game for you. Had the Ravens scored on that play, there’s no question it would have left the Patriots plenty of time to go down field and either tie the game with a field goal, or win it with a touchdown.

But first things first. I’ve seen too many games where offenses try to methodically go downfield in an attempt to score with seconds left, in order to leave the opposing offense with no time to move the ball. I’ve also seen turnovers happen in the form of fumbles and interceptions, mishandled handoffs and snaps. The ball is oblong, pointy, and bounces funny.  Oftentimes anything and everything that can go wrong…does. That is precisely why you take the points when you can get them.

The Ravens play aggressive football, and they have an aggressive nature about them. They are by and large well coached and relatively disciplined. No one complained when they went for it on 4th and 6th. When you live by the sword, you die by the sword. That’s how this team rolls, and that philosophy has played a big part as to why under John Harbaugh’s tenure, they’ve been in the playoffs 6 times in the past 7 years.

Speaking of Flacco, for 58 minutes he played a great game. He had two critical interceptions, but he also threw for 4 touchdowns. He should have had 5, but one of his throws bounced off of the hands of Owen Daniels. That was a huge play in and of itself, as it did factor in to the outcome. Flacco set a new NFL record with two touchdowns in eight straight postseason games, passing Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Drew Brees. That’s pretty good company if you ask me. The other question is this: if not Flacco – Ravens fans – then who? He didn’t let up a two touchdown lead, twice in the game. That was on the defense. Scoring 31 points in the NFL should be good enough for a win on any given Sunday. That was on the Ravens’ defense and their patched up secondary. Rob Gronkowski, some trickery, and Patriots’ half time adjustments were enough to pull out a win on their home turf.

There was criticism of Torrey Smith on the play that Flacco threw the pick on. Some fans felt that he didn’t do enough to break up the play. I’ve looked at the replays and he never had a chance to make a play on the ball. The safety was in good position, and got there at the ball’s high point. Smith is good, solid football player, but he doesn’t have the instincts to go up there and fight for the ball. It was not a lack of effort, and I’m not even sure that he saw the safety until the last second, so he didn’t have much time to react. I hope that he and the Ravens can come to a contractual agreement, as I believe he is a solid #2 receiver in this league, and adds value to the team.

Jacoby Jones looked tentative in the last two games, particularly on kickoff returns. He was not hitting the lanes hard, and maybe was putting too much emphasis on protecting the ball. He slipped on the opening kickoff versus the Steelers, and did not look good after that. I was hoping he would unleash himself in the manner that he did two years ago in the playoffs, but he was nowhere the difference maker this post season that he was then. I was disappointed with his performance, as I expected more.

The personal foul calls were troublesome, particularly on Torrey Smith. Coach Harbaugh should have also used a time out versus running on the field to get the refs’ attention. Not to mention he was wrong about the “deceptive practices” he alleged Bill Belichick was using. I under stand coach was frustrated after the bitter loss, but watching his presser brought to mind the phrase “never blame, complain or explain. I think Harbaugh is a solid coach, but hey coach, you got beat. Simple as that. Your defense blew a two TD lead – twice! Daniels didn’t come up with a catch – that Pitta would have probably held on to – in the end zone. Sending out 4 offensive linemen is nothing new. Alabama coach Nick Saban used it this season in overtime, in a 20-13 victory over LSU. I don’t recall LSU coach Les Miles complaining about the tactic at his press conference.

Bottom line is that the Ravens should head in to the off season with their heads held high. They battled through major off field distractions, 19 players on injured reserve, a late season suspension to a key player and still scratched and clawed their way to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. They went toe to toe with a team that features a certain Hall of Fame first ballot quarterback and head coach, and gave them all that they could handle on their home turf.

Looks like offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is coming back, and with a strong draft and some health, the Ravens are poised to make a deep run in to the playoffs next season for sure. Hopefully they’ll win enough regular season games to get some home games in the playoffs, which will make the road to where they’re ultimately trying to get to a bit easier.


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Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for Saturday

Posted on 09 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have made a mostly-pleasant habit of traveling to Foxborough in January to take on the New England Patriots.

The latest chapter in this underrated rivalry will be written Saturday with Baltimore eyeing its fourth trip to the AFC Championship game under head coach John Harbaugh. Meanwhile, the No. 1 seed Patriots are seeking their first championship in a decade with 37-year-old quarterback Tom Brady not getting any younger.

Joe Flacco will try to continue an impeccable postseason run in which he’s thrown 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions over his last nine playoff games. The seventh-year signal-caller has thrown 13 touchdowns without an interception in leading the Ravens to wins in their last five postseason contests.

Who will win on Saturday?

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It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Patriots meet for the fourth time ever in the playoffs — all have been in Foxborough — with Baltimore holding a 2-1 edge. New England leads the all-time regular-season series by a 7-1 margin despite the Ravens’ postseason success at Gillette Stadium.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to hand New England another loss in the postseason …

1. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will be chased by Will Hill most of the day while catching a touchdown and posting 100 receiving yards. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will throw the kitchen sink at New England in trying to cover the All-Pro tight end, but Hill will draw most of the responsibility with little success. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound safety did an admirable job in holding New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham to six catches for 47 yards in late November, but Gronkowski has played at a different level than anyone at his position this year and is more physical. Brady will go to him early and often to try to offset a Baltimore pass rush bearing down on him.

2. Three of the Ravens’ sacks against Brady will come from inside pressure. Four has been the magic number for the Ravens as they’ve collected at least four sacks in their last eight wins and are 0-4 when failing to reach the plateau over that stretch. Brady was sacked just 21 times this year, but his quick release was a bigger factor in that statistic than an offensive line that’s been shaky in pass protection this year. The Ravens will exploit rookie center Bryan Stork and guards Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell with A-gap blitzing as well as the presence of Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee, and Timmy Jernigan in passing situations. Inside pressure will force Brady backward and give Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil time to reach him off the edges.

3. Steve Smith will have a quiet game, but Torrey Smith will catch a touchdown and fetch a key pass interference call. Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis is expected to match up against Steve Smith, which will spell trouble for the veteran wideout as Revis will match the 35-year-old’s physicality with press coverage. This will leave the 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner against Torrey Smith in a matchup that could determine the outcome of the game. The Maryland product will be challenged by Browner’s physicality, but the former Seattle defensive back is prone to penalties, drawing 15 flags in nine games in the regular season. The speedy fourth-year wideout draws pass interference calls as well as anyone and will fetch a big one inside the red zone in addition to catching a first-half touchdown.

4. Brady will pass for more yards, but Flacco will throw more touchdown passes. The Patriots will try to establish the run with their extensive collection of running backs, but they won’t find much room against the league’s fourth-ranked run defense, meaning the ball will be in their franchise quarterback’s hands all day. Brady will make amends for his 56.8 passer rating in his three previous playoff games against the Ravens, but Baltimore will clamp down inside the red zone. In contrast, the Ravens will find enough running room to keep Justin Forsett involved, and Flacco will have another efficient game like he did in Pittsburgh with 220 yards and two touchdowns to put his team in position to grab a victory in the fourth quarter.

5. Justin Tucker will kick the game-winning field goal to give the Ravens a 24-23 win. New England was the better team this season, but Baltimore has history on its side and — more importantly – the right tools to match up with the Patriots. If the Ravens are able to pressure Brady inside and out, it will make up for potential problems in the secondary and allow the Baltimore offense to keep up as it deals with an improved Patriots defense. This game could go either way, but it’s getting to the point where you just can’t pick against Flacco in the playoffs until someone finally cools him off. The Ravens won’t be scared playing in familiar Foxborough, and they’ll find a way to win there once again in January.

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Snap Counts

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Baltimore Ravens – Snap Counts vs Steelers

Posted on 08 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

Here is a break down of the snap count of every offensive and defensive player, in the Ravens’ win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.


57 – LT James Hurst – he played the whole game, and struggled mightily vs James Harrison

57 – LG Kelechi Osemele – had some problems in pass protection, but was an absolute mauler in the run game

57 – C Jeremy Zuttah – got pushed back in to Joe Flacco time and time again. He has to do better against the Patriots

57 – RG John Urshel – graded out well overall. Had a better night pass blocking than run blocking

57 – RT Marshal Yanda – best offensive lineman in the league. Pass blocked well and was a road grader in the run game

57 – QB Joe Flacco – threw 2 TDs, managed the offense well, and didn’t turn the ball over. “January Joe.”

54 – TE Owen Daniels – struggled with pass blocking, but was a factor in the passing game; caught 4 for 70 yards

50 – RB Justin Forsett – didn’t have a great running night running the ball, lost a fumble, but capably blocked blitzing LBs from the A gaps

40 – WR Torrey Smith – caught an 11 yard TD pass from Flacco; missed a certain TD when he didn’t drag his foot in the end zone

39 – TE Crockett Gillmore – caught a 21 yard TD from Flacco; blocked whistle to whistle

35 – WR Steve Smith – made a couple of tough catches in traffic; caught 5 for 101 yards

25 – WR Kamar Aiken – caught just 1 pass for 4 yards

20 – FB Kyle Juszczyk – caught 2 for 16 yards

13 – WR Marlon Brown – caught 1 for 9 yards

5 – WR Jacoby Jones – caught 1 for 9 yards

4 – RB Bernard Pierce – just 1 rushing attempt but it was good for a 5 yard TD


76 – ILB Daryl Smith – save for the TD pass given up to Antonio Brown, he was stout vs the pass as well as the run

75 – CB Lardarius Webb – he was targeted a lot by Roethlisberger, and had an ok game overall

74 – ILB CJ Mosley – was solid vs the run but struggled in pass coverage

72 – FS Will Hill – was solid vs the run and even better vs the pass; defended well all night long

66 – CB  Rashaan Melvin – did a really good job in pass coverage, came up in run support

56 – OLB Terrell Suggs – stopped the run, pressured the QB, didn’t get a sack, but got a sick interception

52 – DT Haloti Ngata – looked fresh all game long, collapsed the pocket and applied pressure up the middle, got one sack

49 – SS – Darian Stewart – played one of his best games all season; got the game ending pick

47 – OLB Elvis Dumervil – applied great pressure from the edge consistently; ended up with 2 sacks

46 – OLB Pernell McPhee – had an outstanding game overall; was a force vs the run, and hit the QB a few times

39 – OLB Courtney Upshaw – did a great job setting the edge as usual; defended the pass well

31 – NT Brandon Williams – no one is going to move him backwards; applied consistent pressure through the A gaps; 1 sack

31 – DE Chris Canty – stopped the run and pressured the QB on numerous occassions

31 – CB Anthony Levine – the converted safety struggled in pass coverage; it was clear Roethlisberger was looking for him

29 – FS Jeromy Miles – solid game overall, but had a couple of lapses in pass coverage

29 – CB Matt Elam – yes, the SS played corner most of the night, and played the position well overall; was strong in pass coverage

13 – DE DeAngelo Tyson – was brought in on obvious passing downs; did not have a good night, did not apply pressure

11 – DE Lawrence Guy – did a solid job defending the run in his limited action on the field

6 – CB Antone Cason – came is when Melvin was shaken up; let up a catch during Melvin’s short absence

2 – ILB Albert McClellan – was only in for two plays; obviously not enough field time to analyze performance

1- SS Brynden Trawick – same as McClellan

Special Team notes – Justin Tucker was lights out as usual. The 52 yarder was particularly special, as you don’t see too many successful field goals at Heinz Field over 50 yards. Sam Koch had a good night – save for the blocked punt which was due to blocking assignment breakdowns. He was also directionally kicking it away from Antonio Brown, and that factored in as well. Jacoby Jones did not have a good night. He lost his footing and slipped during his first kick off return, and seemed tentative after that. Michael Campanaro had a couple of fair catches on punt returns. Hope his hamstring has healed to the point where he could be a factor vs the Patriots

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Terrell Suggs zeroes in on Tom Brady

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Concerns Patriots have about the Ravens

Posted on 07 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

Terrell Suggs zeroes in on Tom Brady

Although the New England Patriots have been installed as a little better than a touchdown favorite against the Baltimore Ravens, by all accounts they do have some concerns against their 11-6 familiar foe.

For starters, if the Ravens stop the run game a few times, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels may have Tom Brady put the ball up 50 plus times, and that will spell trouble for the Patriots. McDaniels has been critisized for giving up on the run too early in games, exposing Brady to big hits.

Patriots tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer will have their hands full blocking Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs.  New England’s “pain point” has been their offensive line. But their biggest pain may come straight up the middle through the “A” gaps, from Brandon Williams and Haloti Ngata. Plus Tim Jernigan and Chris Canty have both practiced this week, giving the Ravens a potent rotation up and down it’s defensive line. They can pressure up the middle so Brady can’t step up, which he has to do if he wants to be effective. He runs a “dink and dunk” type of an offensive, and the Ravens have to make him uncomfortable, move him off of his spot, and disrupt his timing.

As far as the Ravens defensive backfield is concerned, you don’t have to have great corners and safeties to beat the Patriots because New England does not have any  wide receivers that can go more than 7-10 yards, so the Ravens can keep everything in front of them. They will play man on the outside because the Pats don’t have any wide receivers that need more than man coverage, as non of them can take the proverbial top off of the defense.  They will give up the 5 yard out and they will stop the run. The Pats will have to throw the ball down field if they want to win, and Brady has not been able to do that all season.  Naturally Bill Belichik will try to establish the run with Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray. With the way the front 7 of the Ravens have been playing, they will be able to commit more to the run and stop it. The Patriots will counter by lining up with a double TE with an extra OL opposite All-Pro Tight End Rob Gronkowski.  They will run out of the shotgun, and Vereen might see a lot of action because he’s elusive, a good receiver and a good blocker. Blount had a big game against the Ravens last season, but this defense is much improved, and middle linebacker CJ Mosley has been kept “clean” by the d-line, allowing him to make bone jarring tackles.

On the offensive side of the ball, Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak knows that covering Tight Ends and backs out of the backfield is where the Pats struggle, and he will exploit that.  Look for Owen Daniels to have a big day, and also rookie TE Crockett Gillmore who not only is a tenacious blocker, but also deceptively fast. Their pass rush has also been dismal, and we’ve seen what Joe Flacco can do when given time. That is why it is crucial the the Ravens establish the run early. That can force the Patriots to move their safeties closer to the box, and of course the line of scrimmage.

Torrey Smith is very fast, and can beat Darrelle Revis.  Revis is adept at at taking away sideline and comeback routes, but can be beaten of post and fly patterns.  Steve Smith Sr. is a very physical wide receiver, and he will more than likely be covered by the 6’4″ 220 pound Brandon Browner. That should make for a very interesting matchup.

The Patriots should win this game, but the Ravens can win this game.  The Patriots also believe that the Ravens present their toughest opponent and biggest obstacle on their road to the Super Bowl.  Should they get past Baltimore, the think they will beat either Denver or Indianapolis.

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Ravens facing big challenge in Patriots secondary this time around

Posted on 07 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens and New England Patriots have uttered similar thoughts throughout the week about Saturday’s divisional playoff meeting in Foxborough.

As the rest of the world focuses on their three previous postseason encounters at Gillette Stadium, coaches and players from each side put little stock in what happened in the past. It’s difficult to argue the point from the Ravens’ side as just 19 players on the current 53-man roster were with the organization when they topped New England in the AFC Championship to go to the Super Bowl two years ago.

The biggest on-field difference between these teams may lie in the Patriots’ secondary, a unit that was their Achilles heel in recent years. When the Ravens met them in consecutive conference championship games, the Patriots ranked 31st in pass defense in 2011 and 29th in 2012, but the unit improved to 17th in the NFL this season because of two key offseason additions at cornerback.

The arrivals of six-time Pro Bowl selection Darrelle Revis and the 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner have transformed one of the Patriots’ biggest positional weaknesses into a strength, especially as the season has progressed. In addition to the veteran free-agent signings, 2013 third-round pick Logan Ryan has emerged as a solid option at the nickel in his second year.

“All three of those guys give them the ability to play man coverage more than they ever have before,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “They play a lot of single-high [safety]. They have a lot of people down in the box to stop the run. They’ll press you. They’ll play combinations where they double a certain player, take him out of the game. They can do that because they have corners that can single people up.”

The combination presents a problem for the Ravens, who have traditionally struggled against press coverage. Veteran Steve Smith certainly won’t shy away from physical play, but it’s fair to wonder if the 35-year-old has enough speed at this stage of the season to take advantage of any upper hand he can gain when the 5-foot-11 Revis tries to press him at the line of scrimmage.

After only one year in Tampa Bay that saw the Buccaneers wasting his talents in zone coverage, the 29-year-old Revis — two years removed from a serious knee injury suffered in his final season with the New York Jets — has retaken his place as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. And he’ll likely be asked to take the veteran Smith out of the game on Saturday.

“Is Revis still Revis? I think his ID and his social security number and those things [still say] ‘Revis,'” said Steve Smith as he smiled. “Revis can play. He’s a great corner. He’s a corner that you have to prepare for; you have to watch film. You can’t just walk in there thinking [it will be easy]. He’s a professional, and you have to approach it with a professional mindset.

“I have to be patient and understand he’s going to make his plays. That’s it. Be patient. It’s a long game. A lot of things happen.”

On the opposite side of the field, Browner will likely match up against Torrey Smith, who has improved against press coverage since his rookie season but generally doesn’t play with much physicality. What Browner may lack in speed he makes up for with a massive frame used to try to knock receivers off their spot.

It will present an interesting matchup as Torrey Smith has repeatedly drawn penalties from the opposition this season while Browner was flagged 15 times to lead the Patriots despite playing in only nine games during the regular season. The University of Maryland product could be in line for a big day if he can win the first couple steps of his routes, but New England will likely be inclined to shade safety help his way while entrusting Revis to handle Steve Smith.

Now in his fourth year, Torrey Smith hopes his experiences playing against both Revis and Browner as a rookie will pay dividends despite being held without a catch on three total targets matched up against them in games against the Jets and Seattle Seahawks in 2011.

“I just think they’re going to try to have a bigger body on me [and] try to be a little physical at the line,” Torrey Smith said. “I’ll check [Browner] out a little more, but I’ve played against both of them. I was a young pup, but I’ve played against them both and I’ve gotten a lot better since then. I’ll be ready for it. It was definitely different seeing Revis walk out on me as a rookie, but that’s just pretty cool.”

How can the Ravens combat the Patriots cornerbacks’ physical play?

Bunch formations, motion, and pick plays can be used to offset press coverage, but the Ravens won’t shy away from using double-moves as well as an improved play-action passing game to gain separation.

However, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak warned that the Ravens can’t reinvent the wheel in an effort to account for tough press coverage. And Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are also masters of changing up strategies and giving opponents different looks than they anticipated after a full week of preparation.

“We have to go do what we do. We can’t sit here and assume, ‘Well, this guy is going to play that guy,'” Kubiak said. “We can’t do that. We have to go out and run the things we run and do them well. But that’s a strength of their defense, and if we’re going to find a way to get it done, we’re going to have to beat as good of a man coverage as there is in football, and we understand that.”

As the Ravens have come to expect with so much postseason success over the last seven years, quarterback Joe Flacco will be the biggest factor in beating the Patriots secondary and he won’t be afraid to test Revis if the opportunities are there.

It was an aggressive approach that led to an impressive 30-17 victory over Pittsburgh last Saturday, and Flacco says the Ravens could run into trouble if they try to deviate too much from what they do best.

“As a quarterback, you have to go out there and just go through your reads. If he’s open, throw it to him; if he’s not, don’t,” Flacco said. “We’re going to have to make contested catches, contested throws — all those things. But I know in the past when we’ve played against some guys and you’ve tried to avoid him or done things game plan-wise to get matchups in other places, it usually just takes your attention away from what you should be doing.

“I think that has a bigger effect than sometimes the actual guy can.”

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