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How did Ravens defensive linemen stack up to rest of NFL in 2017?

Posted on 25 January 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens failed to make the postseason for the fourth time in five years, but where exactly did their players stack up across the NFL in 2017?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl or picking postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few put in the necessary time and effort to watch every player on every team extensively enough to develop any kind of an authoritative opinion.

Truthfully, how many times did you closely watch the offensive line of the Los Angeles Chargers this season? What about the Detroit Lions linebackers or the Miami Dolphins cornerbacks?

That’s why I can appreciate projects such as Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 and the grading efforts of Pro Football Focus. Of course, neither should be viewed as the gospel of evaluation and each is subjective, but I respect the exhaustive effort to grade players across the league when so many of us watch only one team or one division on any kind of a consistent basis. It’s important to note that the following PFF rankings are where the player stood at the conclusion of the regular season.

Below is a look at where Ravens defensive linemen ranked across the league, according to those outlets:

Running backs

Brandon Williams
2017 defensive snap count: 475
NFL1000 ranking: 23rd among defensive tackles
PFF ranking: 19th among interior defenders
Skinny: Those who were reluctant to see the Ravens give Williams a monster contract saw the defense give up the most rushing yards in the NFL during his four-game absence in September and October. The 28-year-old isn’t a pass rusher, but PFF ranked him fifth among interior linemen against the run.

Michael Pierce
2017 defensive snap count: 595
NFL1000 ranking: 20th among defensive tackles
PFF ranking: 22nd among interior defenders
Skinny: The second-year nose tackle built on his successful rookie season with plenty of success as a starter, finishing with 49 tackles and one sack while playing all 16 games. Like Williams, Pierce doesn’t offer much rushing the passer, but he’s been a heck of a find as a former undrafted free agent.

Willie Henry
2017 defensive snap count: 598
NFL1000 ranking: 50th among defensive tackles
PFF ranking: 45th among interior defenders
Skinny: After not playing a snap as a rookie and being a healthy scratch for the first two weeks of 2017, Henry rapidly emerged as Baltimore’s best pass-rushing defensive lineman, finishing with 3 1/2 sacks and five batted passes. His improvement was critical as others dealt with injuries at various points.

Carl Davis
2017 defensive snap count: 302
NFL1000 ranking: 19th among 3-4 defensive ends
PFF ranking: 78th among interior defenders
Skinny: The 2015 third-round pick’s career hasn’t gone as planned thus far, but Davis helped solidify the 5-technique spot after Brent Urban was lost for the season and younger options Chris Wormley and Bronson Kaufusi weren’t up to the task. He finished with 17 tackles, one-half sack, and one batted pass.

Brent Urban
2017 defensive snap count: 123
NFL1000 ranking: 27th among 3-4 defensive ends
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The 6-foot-7 free agent looked poised for a strong 2017 after an impressive preseason, but the injury bug bit him again as he suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in Week 3. Re-signing Urban on the cheap isn’t out of the question, but he’s missed 39 games in his four seasons.

Chris Wormley
2017 defensive snap count: 120
NFL1000 ranking: n/a
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The Ravens would’ve liked to see the third-round rookie from Michigan make more of an impact after Urban went down early in the season, but it’s not unusual to see a 5-technique defensive end need more seasoning. This will be a critical offseason for Wormley to show he’s ready for a bigger role.

Bronson Kaufusi
2017 defensive snap count: 33
NFL1000 ranking: n/a
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: Kaufusi had the chance to be the next man up when he received a Week 4 start, but he was ineffective and then inactive for 10 of the final 12 games. The clock’s ticking for the 2016 third-round pick to prove he’s not a bust, but the circumstances were there for him to get on the field this past season.

2018 positional outlook

The interior defensive line remains in very good shape with Williams and Pierce serving as strong anchors, but the 5-technique defensive end spot remains an uncertain position, especially with the recent news of Davis undergoing shoulder surgery. Using third-round picks on Kaufusi and Wormley the last two years should have more than taken care of that position, but the former may not be a sure thing to even make the 53-man roster after being a total non-factor in his second season and the jury is still out on Wormley after a quiet rookie campaign. Questions about these two could prompt the Ravens to have more interest in re-signing Urban, but he’s not dependable — even at a cheap price. The departure of Lawrence Guy last March turned out to be a bigger loss than anticipated, so it’s possible general manager Ozzie Newsome could be on the hunt for a veteran bargain to stabilize the depth at defensive end.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 44-20 win over Detroit

Posted on 05 December 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens securing their first three-game winning streak since the start of last season with a 44-20 victory over Detroit, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Where has this offense been all year? While recording season highs in points and yards while committing no turnovers, the Ravens were aggressive and effectively used play fakes. The group’s response after Detroit made it a one-score game late in the third quarter was the best drive of the season.

2. Joe Flacco was superb with active feet in the pocket and his most accurate passing of the season. His best throw was the 23-yard back-shoulder connection to Mike Wallace as he was being hit. Flacco would have eclipsed 300 yards if not for four drops by receivers.

3. The key to the offensive success was first-down productivity as Baltimore averaged 7.7 yards on first down and still came in at 5.8 if you want to take away the outlier of Wallace’s 66-yard catch. Marty Mornhinweg deserves credit for mixing up tendencies to help keep the offense on schedule.

4. Eric Weddle got off to a rough start this season, but his strip-sack led to excellent field position for a touchdown in the second quarter and his interception returned for a touchdown capped a dominant fourth. The secondary needs his leadership more than ever with the Jimmy Smith injury.

5. There’s no overlooking his rough performance against the Lions, but Marlon Humphrey had already done enough as a rookie to inspire confidence moving forward. Offenses will be looking to attack him now, but he has a good demeanor and all the talent he needs to contribute in Smith’s place.

6. Wallace was in the slot on the 66-yard bomb from Flacco, an example of personnel shuffling within a formation to create a favorable matchup against a safety. Mornhinweg also used a trips bunch formation to get Jeremy Maclin free on a crossing route. The Ravens need more of this.

7. Seeing Willie Henry scoop up a fumble and run 16 yards was amusing enough, but the second-year defensive tackle diagnosed a screen to make a tackle for a loss and registered a quarterback hit. “Big Earl” continues to be a significant contributor in the rotation.

8. Patrick Ricard registered his first touchdown since high school Sunday, but the converted defensive lineman also delivered several impressive blocks and matched a season high with 18 offensive snaps. The rookie is making more of an impact at fullback recently.

9. Maurice Canady appears to have overtaken Lardarius Webb as the primary nickel. In addition to five tackles and the hit on Jake Rudock’s interception to Weddle, Canady recovered Michael Campanaro’s fumble. He plays with much confidence and aggression for someone with such little NFL experience.

10. I’ve been clamoring for Tyus Bowser to receive more opportunities in this defense, but the rookie whiffing when he had a straight path to Matthew Stafford in the second quarter isn’t going to help his cause in the short term.

11. He only missed a couple plays after passing concussion screening, but C.J. Mosley suffered a stinger for the second straight week. You hope there’s no underlying cause for those because the Ravens can’t afford to be without him.

12. The Lions had nine players on the field for Flacco’s key third-down throw to a wide-open Chris Moore on the touchdown drive early in the fourth. That summed up the uninspiring football Detroit played for large stretches of a game they needed to have in a crowded NFC playoff race.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 23-0 win over Green Bay

Posted on 21 November 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens getting back to the .500 mark with a 23-0 victory at Green Bay, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Sunday marked the third time in 2017 that the Ravens defense has forced five turnovers in a game. That’s quite a change from two years ago when the group ranked 30th in the NFL with 14 takeaways for the entire season.

2. Jimmy Smith intercepting a pass in the end zone on the opening drive was the latest example why the cornerback has been the team MVP. You wonder how different this one might have been if the Packers finished that drive with a touchdown or at least a field goal.

3. The offense coming away with a total of three points off three turnovers on the Packers’ first three possessions sure doesn’t say much for the work put in by Marty Mornhinweg’s side of the ball during the bye week.

4. Brett Hundley was awful for Green Bay, but credit the Ravens defense for confusing the inexperienced quarterback with an abundance of looks. Eight different defensive backs played 18 or more snaps as defensive coordinator Dean Pees employed various sub packages.

5. Whether rushing the passer, setting the edge, or dropping into coverage, Matt Judon is steadily improving and was arguably the best player on the field with two sacks and a forced fumble. His development is encouraging with the still-dependable Terrell Suggs now 35.

6. Joe Flacco had an OK day despite being under duress, but his interception on a pass intended for Danny Woodhead was baffling. He wasn’t pressured on the throw, and at no point did Woodhead separate from Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. That can’t happen when approaching the red zone.

7. It was refreshing to see Mike Wallace grab a one-handed touchdown for a quarterback who hasn’t gotten enough help from his receivers. This isn’t the Big 12 where you can expect to get open with no one within 10 yards in coverage. Contested catches are a must to be successful.

8. Willie Henry is rapidly becoming a big part of sub packages as an interior rusher and even dropped into zone coverage on at least one occasion against the Packers. It’s crazy to think how important he’s become to the rotation when many wondered if he’d even make the 53-man roster.

9. Yes, Flacco should have been granted a timeout on the play, but Ryan Jensen still can’t snap the ball three feet over the quarterback’s head to torpedo a promising drive. The center has enjoyed a breakout season, but his shotgun snapping was also shaky in Tennessee.

10. We may have witnessed the changing of the guard as Marlon Humphrey replaced Brandon Carr as a starting cornerback in the first half. It’s a good problem to have as Carr has played admirably, but it grows more difficult every week to keep the rookie first-round pick off the field.

11. Much focus was on James Hurst’s problems replacing Ronnie Stanley, but Austin Howard also had real difficulty against the Packers. He isn’t listed on the injury report, but he’s recently been wearing a harness on his left shoulder and hasn’t looked 100 percent. That’s something to monitor.

12. Anyone dismissing the defense’s accomplishments because of the poor quarterbacks they’ve faced this season should note that the 2000 Ravens’ four shutouts came against Kent Graham, Scott Mitchell, Tim Couch, and a broken-down Troy Aikman in his final season. Regardless of the opponent, give this 2017 unit credit.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 30-17 win over Oakland

Posted on 10 October 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens snapping their two-game losing streak with a 30-17 win over Oakland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It was encouraging seeing an aggressive offense effective in pass protection from the beginning of the game, but these aren’t exactly novel concepts outsiders have only recently been clamoring for. The Ravens need to continue that to prove it wasn’t simply an aberration.

2. Mike Wallace made up for his drop on a deep throw last week with two receptions of over 50 yards, one on the game’s first play. It’s criminal when the Ravens don’t throw at least a couple deep balls his way trying to draw pass interference at the very least.

3. After being inactive the first two weeks and not playing a single snap as a rookie, Willie Henry may have been Baltimore’s best defensive player on Sunday. He’s batted down four passes at the line of scrimmage over the last two weeks and is playing strong inside.

4. It’s apparent that Patrick Onwuasor has seized control of the weak-side inside linebacker job after Kamalei Correa played only one defensive snap. Onwuasor’s aggressiveness and physicality were apparent from his very first training camp, and he forced the fumble that Jimmy Smith returned for a touchdown.

5. In Terrance West’s absence, Buck Allen and Alex Collins combined for 140 total yards and a touchdown. Allen is becoming a trustworthy contributor while Collins averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 12 attempts without a fumble and effectively used Tiki Barber’s old high-and-tight grip on the football.

6. The run defense tightened up in the second half, but the Ravens still surrendered 4.3 yards per carry against an underwhelming Oakland ground game. Baltimore ranks 23rd in rushing yards per game allowed and 20th at 4.3 yards per carry. Brandon Williams or not, that needs to get better.

7. After an underwhelming start to the season, Matt Judon played well against Oakland, effectively defending two passes and finishing with four tackles. The Ravens need more consistency from their outside linebackers, and that was a step in the right direction.

8. You had to feel good for the rarely-used Vince Mayle scoring a touchdown to finish off the opening drive. John Harbaugh describes Mayle as “a serious dude” who was all smiles getting his moment in the spotlight after playing only three offensive snaps over the first four games.

9. With the Ravens struggling to generate pressure from a standard four-man rush, Dean Pees used the dime package to unleash Tony Jefferson and Anthony Levine for drive-killing sacks. I’ll continue to believe Jefferon’s skill set is best used playing close to the line of scrimmage as often as possible.

10. Kudos to Las Vegas native Ronnie Stanley for donating $26,000 to shooting victims and their families based on his strong performance against Oakland. He’s really starting to come on after a slow start to the season.

11. Remember how seemingly every Ravens game the last few years was decided by a single possession? All five of their contests in 2017 have been decided by double digits after 26 of their previous 32 games were single-score affairs.

12. As mercurial as their performances have been from week to week, the Ravens now face four straight opponents currently sporting murky quarterback situations. If they want to be taken seriously as a playoff contender, a 6-3 record entering the bye is a very reasonable expectation.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 14-13 win over New Orleans

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens concluding a 4-0 preseason with a 14-13 win over New Orleans, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Ryan Mallett playing in the exhibition finale can be taken as a good sign regarding Joe Flacco’s status, but it also reflects how disappointing his play was this summer that the coaching staff wanted to see him take more snaps after starting the first three preseason games.

2. Receiving his only extensive action of the preseason, Marlon Humphrey was strong in run support and showed the signs of why he’s a first-round talent. He was flagged twice, but that many live-game reps were valuable for the 21-year-old cornerback going into the regular season.

3. Chris Moore caught a 1-yard touchdown, but seeing him on the field in the fourth quarter of the final preseason game says a lot about his status. Even with Breshad Perriman missing a month, the second-year receiver did little to establish himself as a trustworthy option in the passing game.

4. It was a disappointing summer for the entire batch of young receivers behind veterans Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin. Yes, the quarterback play was poor, but this group got very little separation in routes, something Brian Billick observed repeatedly in Thursday’s telecast.

5. Carl Davis has been identified as a bubble player because of the depth on the defensive line, but he did everything he could to put that discussion to rest. His interception showed off his athleticism, and he was disruptive at the line of scrimmage.

6. Willie Henry also applied pressure in the pocket with three quarterback hits, but he committed his fifth penalty of the preseason. His talent makes him worthy of the 53-man roster, but that lack of discipline quickly lands you in the coaching staff’s doghouse.

7. With Albert McClellan suffering a season-ending knee injury last week, Bam Bradley had a great opportunity to state his case for a roster spot and responded with five defensive tackles and three special-teams stops. The Ravens could use a veteran inside backer for depth, but Bradley has impressed.

8. So many are rooting for Keenan Reynolds to play in the NFL, but his fumbled punt return was disappointing to see. Perhaps he’ll be invited back to the practice squad for another season, but I’m just not seeing it with the former Navy quarterback. I hope I’m wrong.

9. Tim Williams didn’t register a tackle or a sack, but you could again see how disruptive he can be as a pass rusher. His limitations as a special-teams player could hinder his game-day status to start the season, but the potential is there coming off the edge.

10. The top three are set, but the remaining short-term cornerback depth suddenly looks shaky with Sheldon Price sustaining a concussion Thursday and Jaylen Hill and Robertson Daniel apparently banged up as well. Brandon Boykin also missed the final three preseason games.

11. Bobby Rainey had a strong night running the football, but the veteran’s playing time throughout the summer doesn’t suggest he’s even on the bubble. At least he comes away with some solid tape for other teams to consider after cut-down day.

12. I had to chuckle when John Harbaugh started walking toward the center of the field after Saints kicker Wil Lutz missed a 59-yard field goal try and then realized there were still 13 seconds remaining. I can hardly blame the head coach for wanting fake football season to be over.

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five bubble players to watch

Posted on 31 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have reached the final chapter of a difficult preseason.

Having already endured a number of season-ending injuries and the summer-long absence of quarterback Joe Flacco, Baltimore concludes its exhibition schedule against New Orleans on Thursday night. Since teams are no longer required to trim their roster from 90 players to 75 before the final preseason contest, very few notable players are expected to see action.

The rule change certainly won’t make for a better product in the eyes of most casual fans, but head coach John Harbaugh appreciates having the extra roster flexibility with the season opener now only 10 days away.

“There is no way you are going to play certain guys in this game,” Harbaugh said. “This gives us a chance to put a good game out there, for one thing, but it also gives guys a chance to play. Young guys who are fighting for a spot on this team still or on other teams, they get a chance to get out there and play more reps rather than be sitting home looking at the phone.”

The Ravens and New Orleans are meeting in the preseason for the fourth straight year and the fifth time overall with Baltimore having won all four of the previous contests. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens own a 27-12 record in preseason games.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Thursday’s game.

Most of the players ruled out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider the many starters and key reserves who will be held out of the final preseason game due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: QB Joe Flacco (back), WR Breshad Perriman (hamstring), RB Danny Woodhead (hamstring), CB Maurice Canady (knee), RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), OL Nico Siragusa (knee), CB Tavon Young (knee), OL Alex Lewis (shoulder), LB Albert McClellan (knee), WR Tim White (thumb)
DOUBTFUL: OT Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), CB Brandon Boykin (undisclosed), OT Stephane Nembot (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Marlon Humphrey (hamstring), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (knee), LB Donald Payne (undisclosed)

Five bubble players to watch Thursday night

RB Taquan Mizzell

The undrafted free agent from Virginia leads the Ravens in both rushing and receiving in the preseason to put himself on the radar. His skill as a receiver out of the backfield is intriguing with Danny Woodhead currently sidelined, and he fared well when given snaps against Buffalo’s starting defense last week. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound back shows some upside in a group not having much of it.

DT Carl Davis

The 2015 third-round pick has had a solid preseason, but there may not be enough roster space for him, 2016 fourth-round selection Willie Henry, and rookie free agent Patrick Ricard. The fact that the latter two are under team control for a longer period of time could work against Davis, but he showed early promise as a rookie before missing the entire 2016 season due to injury.

WR Chris Matthews

Nothing beyond Matthews’s 6-foot-5 frame stands out as it relates to being a wide receiver, but he’s been a mainstay on most special-teams units this summer and at least looks the part of a red-zone target, something the Ravens are lacking right now. Other young receivers have failed to distinguish themselves, leaving the door open for Matthews’ special-team prowess to break any ties.

CB Robertson Daniel

Signed to the practice squad last October, Daniel is someone the Ravens have liked enough to keep in the organization, but the depth at outside cornerback ahead of him is stout. His 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame has allowed him to take a few reps at safety, the kind of versatility that doesn’t hurt a player’s chances. He and Sheldon Price could be competing for one spot on the 53-man roster.

OT De’Ondre Wesley

The 6-foot-6, 331-pound specimen really hasn’t done much this summer, but left tackle Ronnie Stanley just returned from injury this week and reserve left tackle James Husrt may end up starting at left guard, presumably creating a need for another offensive tackle. The Ravens have to be disappointed that Wesley and Stephane Nembot haven’t stepped forward in their development, but finding tackle depth isn’t easy.

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Sizing up the 2017 Ravens roster before the third preseason game

Posted on 21 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the first two preseason games in the books, it’s again time to examine the Ravens’ 53-man roster as we move closer to final cuts being made at the end of next week.

My current look at the roster suggests 41 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My assessment of the players currently on the 90-man preseason roster lists 23 players on the bubble with a few young players making a push. Not all bubble players are created equal, however, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying more talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of maintaining a reasonable number of players at every position, trying to boldly designate a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers or safeties isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of the roster, the Ravens look carefully at players’ special-teams contributions in addition to what they bring to their respective positions.

Unlike the past few years, teams are no longer required to trim their 90-man roster to 75 prior to the final preseason game. The Ravens must determine their initial 53-man roster by 4 p.m. on Sept. 2, but changes frequently come in the days leading up to the season opener on Sept. 10.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are part of the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 21. You can check out last week’s projection HERE.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Josh Woodrum, Thaddeus Lewis
Skinny: Even if the Ravens ultimately choose to replace Mallett, I’m still not close to buying Woodrum as the one to do it, but he’s been a fun preseason story.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (8)
LOCK: Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
BUBBLE: Ricky Ortiz, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Taquan Mizzell
LONG SHOT: Bobby Rainey
INJURED RESERVE: Kenneth Dixon
Skinny: It appears that Ortiz has leapfrogged Taliaferro in the fullback competition, but it’s not a great sign for either one that defensive lineman Patrick Ricard is seeing extended looks in that role.

WIDE RECEIVERS (11)
LOCK: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Michael Campanaro, Quincy Adeboyejo, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Griff Whalen, C.J. Board
INJURED RESERVE: Tim White
Skinny: I don’t get the sense that Moore’s job is in danger, but you’d like to see more from the 2016 fourth-round pick, especially with Perriman still sidelined with a hamstring injury.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
LOCK: Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams
BUBBLE: Vince Mayle, Larry Donnell
LONG SHOT: Ryan Malleck
Skinny: Williams showed explosiveness in Miami that we hadn’t seen since his knee surgery, but I still believe the Ravens will try to carry a fourth tight end on the 53-man roster if possible.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (17)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor
BUBBLE: Jeremy Zuttah, Matt Skura, De’Ondre Wesley
LONG SHOT: Stephane Nembot, Jarell Broxton, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir, Derrick Nelson
INJURED RESERVE: Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa
Skinny: The re-signed Zuttah might be a lock, but he’s not a great fit for Greg Roman’s scheme and has essentially been cut by two teams in the last five months, meaning he still needs to prove himself.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Chris Wormley, Bronson Kaufusi
BUBBLE: Carl Davis, Patrick Ricard, Willie Henry
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: The depth here is a great problem to have, and I’ll still predict that the Ravens ultimately trade a defensive lineman before potentially being forced to waive a talented one like Henry.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Albert McClellan, Patrick Onwuasor
BUBBLE: Bam Bradley
LONG SHOT: Brennen Beyer, Donald Payne
Skinny: A good showing in the preseason has nudged Bradley onto the roster radar, and the Ravens still need to see more consistency out of Correa in a starting role.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams
BUBBLE: Za’Darius Smith
LONG SHOT: Boseko Lokombo, Randy Allen
Skinny: A strong start to the preseason has improved Smith’s stock, but he still feels like a candidate to be traded for help at another position of need.

CORNERBACKS (11)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey
BUBBLE: Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Trevin Wade, Brandon Boykin, Robertson Daniel
LONG SHOT: Reggie Porter
INJURED RESERVE: Tavon Young, Maurice Canady (designated to return candidate)
Skinny: Hill is as close as a rookie free agent gets to being a roster lock, and Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine are slated to play the nickel and dime spots to minimize the need for an extra corner.

SAFETIES (6)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Chuck Clark
LONG SHOT: Otha Foster
Skinny: Clark has remained a regular on the special-teams units and remains in good shape to secure a 53-man roster spot as a 2017 draft pick.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Kenny Allen
Skinny: There’s still nothing to see here.

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Defensive line

Posted on 19 July 2017 by Luke Jones

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

Quarterbacks

DEFENSIVE LINE

Projected depth chart:
DE – Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley
NT – Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce
DT – Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard

Why to be impressed: Williams is one of the best run-stopping nose tackles in the NFL, evident by Ozzie Newsome’s decision to give him a five-year, $52.5 million contract in March. Pierce was one of the surprises of the 2016 season as the undrafted rookie free agent ranked second among NFL defensive tackles in run-stop percentage, according to Pro Football Focus.

Why to be concerned: Offseason departures Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy were solid contributors against the run and as interior rushers in passing situations. Urban was underrated in his 150 defensive snaps last year, but Davis, Henry, and Kaufusi were all injured and combined for zero snaps in 2016 and — along with the rookie Wormley — will be expected to make meaningful contributions.

2017 outlook: The Ravens ranked fifth in the league in holding opponents to 3.7 yards per carry last year and should remain stout against the run with Williams staying put for the long haul. There is plenty of talent in this group on paper, but the lack of overall experience is a concern entering the preseason and the Ravens need some combination of young players to emerge as impactful inside pass rushers.

Prediction: Given more extensive opportunities to get after the quarterback this season, Williams will collect a career-high five sacks.

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Five questions for start of Ravens organized team activities

Posted on 23 May 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens now holding their first week of organized team activities and opening up Thursday’s workout to the media, below are five questions surrounding John Harbaugh’s team in late May:

1. What will the offensive line look like?

Many have said the Ravens are returning to their roots with such an offseason focus on improving their defense, but the accompanying thoughts of relying on the running game have come without any high-profile additions to an offensive line that no longer sports above-average right tackle Rick Wagner or center Jeremy Zuttah. Is John Urschel or Ryan Jensen even as good as Zuttah, let alone better? Is there a real solution at right tackle in a motley crew of candidates that includes James Hurst, Jermaine Eluemunor, De’Ondre Wesley, and Stephane Nembot? The biggest wild card could be where Alex Lewis ends up despite an internal belief at the end of last season that his best position was left guard. New senior offensive assistant Greg Roman and new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris deserve the chance to leave their mark on this group, but you need a dominant offensive line to play ball-control football and the Ravens have a long way to go to prove they can have that kind of a group.

2. Are the front office and coaching staff really this confident in their wide receivers?

This offseason feels similar to 2013 when veteran Anquan Boldin was traded away for a sixth-round pick and nothing meaningful was done to replace him, leading to substantial problems for quarterback Joe Flacco and the passing game. There is no shortage of speed with Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, and Chris Moore, but who is going to be that short-to-intermediate receiver who moves the chains and makes tacklers miss like Steve Smith did over the last three seasons? With general manager Ozzie Newsome having not signed a free-agent wideout to this point and not taking one in last month’s draft, it’s become clear that the Ravens are counting on Perriman to live up to his first-round billing and Moore to emerge as another gem from last year’s impressive fourth-round haul. No matter how the likes of Perriman, Moore, and Michael Campanaro look practicing in shorts over the next few weeks, however, it remains almost inconceivable that the Ravens are again going down this path at this position.

3. How will new safety Tony Jefferson be used?

A four-year, $34 million contract is awfully rich for a traditional strong safety, so the bet here is that Jefferson will be deployed in a way unlike any other safety we’ve seen during defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ tenure. With the re-signing of veteran safety Lardarius Webb and the uncertainty at the weak-side inside linebacker spot due to the unfortunate retirement of Zach Orr, it makes sense for the Ravens to use the dime as their primary sub package with Jefferson essentially lining up as a hybrid linebacker in passing situations. His greatest strengths in Arizona were the ability to stop the run and to cover tight ends, which are critical responsibilities for a linebacker in a more conventional nickel alignment. Considering Webb played well in the second half of 2016 and will now be relegated to a part-time role, Jefferson needs to be a difference-making presence to justify the Ravens throwing him so much money that could have been used to address a below-average offense from a year ago.

4. Who steps into starting roles along the defensive line?

The Ravens have plenty of young options up front, but they will be replacing two starters in Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy who also served as useful interior rushers in passing situations. Michael Pierce, Carl Davis, and Willie Henry will be vying for the starting 3-technique defensive tackle job previously held by Jernigan while 2017 third-round pick Chris Wormley will compete with Brent Urban and Bronson Kaufusi for Guy’s old 5-technique defensive end spot. We’ve heard a lot about these names, but Pierce is the only one who saw extensive playing time a year ago and even he is only entering his second season. There isn’t a ton to take away from the non-contact nature of these spring practices, but it will be interesting to see who will be receiving the early reps with the first-team defense. The good news is that re-signed nose tackle Brandon Williams will be there to anchor the rest of a defensive line that will look quite different than it did in 2016.

5. Will Kamalei Correa begin living up to his second-round billing?

The Ravens passed on a few highly-touted prospects such as Myles Jack and Noah Spence to take Correa with the 42nd overall pick of the 2016 draft, making his rookie season that included only 48 defensive snaps that much more disappointing. With Orr having retired, the Ravens need someone to emerge as the starter in the base defense next to C.J. Mosley with Correa appearing to be the most logical candidate on paper. Outside opinions have been split on whether the Boise State product is better off playing inside or outside, but Newsome drafting edge defenders Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams last month signals where the Ravens stand in that debate. The coaching staff acknowledged that they may have put too much on Correa’s rookie plate by having him work at both inside and outside linebacker, but the Ravens need him to make a major leap in his second season or the groans from fans and media about another failed second-round pick will grow even louder. He has to at least begin looking the part this spring.

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Ravens receive compensatory pick in third round of 2017 draft

Posted on 24 February 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens officially learned Friday that they will receive a third-round compensatory pick in the 2017 draft in April.

This marks the first time since 2010 that Baltimore will not have multiple compensatory picks in the draft. The maximum number of compensatory picks allotted to a team in a single draft is four.

Trying to revamp a roster that missed the postseason for the third time in four years, general manager Ozzie Newsome will have a total of eight selections — his standard choice in each round as well as the third-round compensatory pick at 99th overall — in this year’s draft. It’s worth noting that compensatory picks are permitted to be traded beginning this year.

The Ravens lost guard Kelechi Osemele, quarterback Matt Schaub, and linebacker Courtney Upshaw as unrestricted free agents and signed unrestricted free agents Benjamin Watson and Eric Weddle last offseason, a net loss of one free agent that put them in line for the single compensatory pick. Osemele signed a five-year, $58 million contract with the Oakland Raiders, which fetched the Ravens the third-highest overall compensatory pick in this year’s draft and their earliest one since 2014.

Determinations for compensatory picks are based on a formula considering the salary, playing time, and postseason honors earned by unrestricted free agents who left their teams the previous offseason.

Since the compensatory pick program started in 1994, the Ravens have led the NFL in receiving 48 compensatory choices as the organization has often resisted signing unrestricted free agents over the years while losing many of their own. Green Bay is second with 38 compensatory picks over that same period of time.

Compensatory choices have been used on the likes of Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk and starting right tackle Rick Wagner in recent years. Baltimore selected defensive tackle Willie Henry (fourth round), running back Kenneth Dixon (fourth round), and cornerback Maurice Canady (sixth round) with three compensatory choices last year.

Below is a history of the Ravens’ compensatory picks since 1996 with the round in which the player was selected noted in parentheses:

1996: none
1997: LB Cornell Brown (sixth), QB Wally Richardson (seventh), S Ralph Staten (seventh), DT Leland Taylor (seventh)
1998: TE Cam Qualey (seventh)
1999: G Edwin Mulitalo (fourth)
2000: none
2001: none
2002: WR Javin Hunter (sixth), RB Chester Taylor (sixth), S Chad Williams (sixth)
2003: FB Ovie Mughelli (fourth), OT Tony Pashos (fifth), C Mike Mabry (seventh), S Antwoine Sanders (seventh)
2004: WR Clarence Moore (sixth), WR Derek Abney (seventh), G Brian Rimpf (seventh)
2005: QB Derek Anderson (sixth)
2006: RB P.J. Daniels (fourth), TE Quinn Sypniewski (fifth), P Sam Koch (sixth), CB Derrick Martin (sixth)
2007: LB Antwan Barnes (fourth), FB Le’Ron McClain (fourth), QB Troy Smith (fifth), LB Prescott Burgess (sixth)
2008: OL Oniel Cousins (third), OL David Hale (fourth), S Haruki Nakamura (sixth), RB Allen Patrick (seventh)
2009: none
2010: none
2011: CB Chykie Brown (fifth), DE Pernell McPhee (fifth)
2012: S Christian Thompson (fourth), CB Asa Jackson (fifth)
2013: FB Kyle Juszczyk (fourth), OT Rick Wagner (fifth), OL Ryan Jensen (sixth), CB Marc Anthony (seventh)
2014: TE Crockett Gillmore (third), DE Brent Urban (fourth), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (fourth), G John Urschel (fifth)
2015: CB Tray Walker (fourth), TE Nick Boyle (fifth), G Robert Myers (fifth)
2016:
DT Willie Henry (fourth), RB Kenneth Dixon (fourth), CB Maurice Canady (sixth)

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