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Twelve Ravens thoughts on Flacco trade to Denver

Posted on 13 February 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens set to trade longtime quarterback Joe Flacco to Denver for a fourth-round pick next month, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Credit Eric DeCosta for extracting value from an inevitable divorce, especially after the organization hadn’t even tried to be coy about its intentions. I was skeptical he’d find a trade partner. Taking the entire $16 million dead money hit in 2019 will leave a clean salary cap for 2020.

2. Flacco will be remembered in part for what he never became — below-average post-Super Bowl numbers bear that out — but he was the best quarterback in team history and, most importantly, a champion. The Ravens are lucky he passed their way after years wasted in the quarterback doldrums.

3. It’s easy to say Flacco didn’t live up to his historic contract signed after his 2012 postseason, but the organization never adjusted upon seeing he couldn’t do it by himself, continuing to prioritize defense and putting far fewer resources into the offense. The letdown was mutual at the very least.

4. He’d never admit something that’s subconscious anyway, but I don’t think Flacco has recovered mentally from his 2015 ACL injury. Some free-agent departures on the offensive line didn’t help, but his tendencies to check down and feel pressure even when it wasn’t there became more pronounced after the injury.

5. The Ravens dumping Anquan Boldin remains indefensible six years later, but the post-Super Bowl fall of Ray Rice was even more devastating to Flacco’s career considering what he produced as a receiver out of the backfield. Baltimore still hasn’t come close to replacing that element.

6. Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata are among the best Ravens ever, but they didn’t own a single playoff win until 2008. Flacco benefited greatly from them too, of course, but you wonder what could have been if he’d come along five years earlier instead of Kyle Boller.

7. Of the Ravens’ 17 Day 1 and 2 draft picks from 2013-17, Crockett Gillmore, Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams, and Ronnie Stanley were the only offensive players selected. Flacco’s hefty contract never explained that.

8. Durability was one of Flacco’s biggest strengths early in his career, but injuries have either disrupted his preparation or cost him games in each of the last four seasons. It’s tough seeing that trend improving as the 34-year-old enters his 12th year in the NFL.

9. I never understood the criticism of Flacco not making his receivers better. Steve Smith and Mike Wallace became 1,000-yard receivers again after appearing to be in decline elsewhere. Torrey Smith’s numbers crashed as soon as he departed. Who are these former Ravens receivers who suddenly blossomed elsewhere?

10. It’s strange to think exactly six years, two months, and one day after the “Mile High Miracle,” the Broncos will officially welcome Flacco to Denver. I’m guessing Rahim Moore and Jacoby Jones won’t be at the introductory press conference.

11. Flacco didn’t perform to his record contract, but he remained a good teammate and never complained about the aforementioned variables that didn’t help his cause. Yes, he made a ton of money, but that hasn’t stopped other high-priced athletes from being malcontents over the years.

12. What would you really change about the Flacco era? The Ravens weren’t letting the Super Bowl MVP walk, and he had extraordinary contract leverage. The success early in his career should far outweigh the last several years in which he and Baltimore remained competitive but weren’t quite good enough.

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Amid many doubts, Flacco trying to win the only way he can

Posted on 22 July 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In many ways, Joe Flacco can’t win at this point.

The writing appears to be on the wall with the Ravens drafting a quarterback in the first round, even if former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson needs some seasoning. Despite the proclamations of Flacco still being the franchise guy, an organization wanting to win now isn’t using two second-round picks to trade up to the 32nd overall selection simply for a better backup or someone seen as a project.

Even Flacco’s biggest supporters must acknowledge the need for him to show meaningful improvement after a third consecutive lackluster season in which Baltimore once again missed the playoffs and he finished dead last among qualified passers in yards per attempt. Some fans and critics are already clamoring for Jackson and will even louder at the first hint of trouble for the 11th-year quarterback and a passing game that ranked 29th in the NFL last season.

On the flip side, a Flacco renaissance will be chalked up by many solely to Jackson’s arrival motivating the former Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player. And even if Flacco does play better, he might still receive the Alex Smith treatment next offseason as Kansas City traded its Pro Bowl quarterback in March to clear the way for 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes.

Is the rookie’s presence the reason why some see more of a bounce in Flacco’s step this offseason?

“I don’t know. Does it matter what I say?” said Flacco as he smiled. “I think you guys will probably link it to Lamar anyway.”

It’s human nature in any line of work to feel more urgency when your employer hires a threat to your job, but perhaps he’s pleased with the organization making more than its typical halfhearted effort — at times, less than that — to improve the offensive side of the ball. Much is made about Flacco’s expensive price tag while the front office has frequently received a pass for investing resource after resource after resource into a defense that’s still come up too small in defining moments of the last five years.

Flacco’s hefty contract may justify more free-agent dollars going toward the defense in recent years, but using all but four of 17 total picks in the first three rounds of the 2013-17 drafts on defense was asking a quarterback to do more with less than anyone in the NFL. Exactly one of those four offensive picks (left tackle Ronnie Stanley) has made a lasting impact while the other three are either gone (tight end Crockett Gillmore) or likely soon on their way out the door (wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams).

So little cheap labor with upside in addition to few impact free agents on his side of the ball for years, but it’s still all about his contract in the minds of many.

That the free-agent additions of wide receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead — three players all coming off down seasons — and the early-round selections of tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews are viewed as a Herculean effort speaks to the lukewarm commitment to building a good offense since Super Bowl XLVII. These offseason additions still don’t make Baltimore anywhere close to a top 10 offense on paper, but they at least bring a more diverse skill set to the passing game to give Flacco a better chance to succeed in this make-or-break year.

“I know we brought in a lot of pieces, a lot of draft picks to help him do that,” said Snead, who has shown early chemistry with Flacco and caught a combined 141 passes in his first two seasons with New Orleans. “I think that’s all he needed — weapons. I think it’s all on him now to be able to make those plays, which I know he can.”

Perhaps even more important than the possibility of improved weapons is the veteran quarterback’s health. Flacco is another year removed from his 2015 knee injury and appears to be over the back injury that cost him all of last summer and hindered him well into the 2017 regular season.

Asked this past week to reflect on how challenging it was to step right into Week 1 last year after missing all of training camp and the preseason, Flacco still wasn’t interested in making excuses for his poor numbers. After registering just eight touchdown passes, 10 interceptions, a 72.7 passer rating, and just 5.3 yards per attempt over the first nine games of 2017, the Delaware product posted 10 touchdowns, three interceptions, an 89.1 passer rating, and 6.2 yards per attempt the rest of the way.

But it wasn’t enough to get the Ravens back to the postseason for the first time since 2014 or to prevent general manager Ozzie Newsome from drafting his likely successor.

“Hey, I wish we went out there last year and made the playoffs and won more games and wouldn’t have to deal with it,” Flacco said. “I wouldn’t have to deal with answering stuff, questions like that about making excuses and not getting that part of camp. That’s all in hindsight and it’s not the most ideal situation, but we should have made it work.”

The most observable difference with Flacco this spring and summer has been his mobility as his movement within the pocket has been more fluid and he’s looked faster on those rare occasions when he takes off running. That’s a reflection of better health and the arrival of new quarterbacks coach James Urban, who has emphasized improving his footwork that has slacked in recent seasons. No one ever accused Flacco of being a mobile quarterback, but better movement will be key with the Ravens trying to incorporate more run-pass options this season, another harbinger of Jackson.

With Stanley and right guard Marshal Yanda not practicing on Sunday, Flacco effectively stepped up in the pocket and moved his feet in response to constant pressure from the defensive front, even taking off once or twice to gain positive yardage.

“Many of those subtle movements are important, and once again he looks really healthy,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who estimated that a quarterback must deviate from his designed drop roughly half the time. “If you remember now, it’s been a couple years since he’s been healthy. He was really a fine, fine athlete [before the injuries], and he is a fine, fine athlete, especially for his size.”

Doubts surrounding his future will remain as Flacco is set to carry a $26.5 million cap figure with an $18.5 million base salary in 2019. Short of him being selected to his first Pro Bowl or making a deep playoff run, the Ravens may choose to move on from their longtime quarterback next offseason, especially if the gifted Jackson looks like the real deal in his development.

But Flacco has every intention of silencing such talk and at least delaying what many see as the inevitable in the only way he can — on the field.

“I think we’re going to win,” said Flacco, exuding the same confidence he had six years ago when he bet on himself as a pending free agent and led the Ravens to a championship. “And we’re not going to hear about it.”

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How did Ravens tight ends stack up to rest of NFL in 2017?

Posted on 26 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 tight ends ranked across the league, according to those outlets:

Running backs
Defensive linemen

Benjamin Watson
2017 offensive snap count: 699
NFL1000 ranking: 7th
PFF ranking: 55th
Skinny: The 37-year-old led Baltimore in receptions returning from last year’s Achilles injury, but he gained just 8.6 yards per catch and nearly a third of his 522 receiving yards came against Cleveland. His true value falls somewhere between these two rankings, but the free agent is considering retirement.

Nick Boyle
2017 offensive snap count: 696
NFL1000 ranking: 34th
PFF ranking: 27th
Skinny: Boyle became a linchpin blocker for Greg Roman’s diverse run-game schemes, but he is limited as a receiver, making him no better than a solid No. 2 tight end. The 2015 fifth-round pick caught a career-high 28 passes, but a 7.3 yards per catch average reflects his lack of speed.

Maxx Williams
2017 offensive snap count: 315
NFL1000 ranking: 71st
PFF ranking: 24th
Skinny: Injuries have derailed the former second-round pick’s career as he was little more than a glorified fullback, catching 15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in 11 games. Breshad Perriman headlines the painful shortcomings of the 2015 draft, but Williams has been nearly as disappointing.

Vince Mayle
2017 offensive snap count: 21
NFL1000 ranking: n/a
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The former wide receiver was a solid special-teams contributor, but he didn’t catch a pass and carried the ball twice all season, scoring a touchdown in Oakland. Given his lack of opportunity despite the position needing more speed, Mayle can’t be viewed as anything more than organizational depth.

2018 positional outlook

My big question after Dennis Pitta’s hip injury last spring was whether the Ravens had real depth or only inventory at tight end, and the latter proved to be true by season’s end. Darren Waller’s suspension and Crockett Gillmore’s season-ending knee injury were unfortunate developments, but neither was surprising when considering their respective histories. Watson was a good story coming back from a major injury and has tremendous character, but the veteran leading the Ravens in catches says all you need to know about the state of this passing game. Boyle is a good blocking tight end, but Williams lacks the speed and athleticism to be a difference-maker at the position like the Ravens envisioned when they traded up to draft him three years ago. One of the major priorities of the offseason must be to add a tight end with some game-changing ability, whether it’s through the draft, free agency, or a trade.

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Examining the Ravens’ 2018 class of free agents

Posted on 03 January 2018 by Luke Jones

Free agency won’t begin until March 14, but the Ravens face arguably the most pivotal offseason in team history after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years and seeing fan support dwindle in 2017.

As has become Baltimore’s annual story, salary cap space will be a problem as the Ravens currently hold an estimated 2018 Rule of 51 commitment of just under $170 million, according to Spotrac.com. The 2018 salary cap won’t be set until March, but it is projected to rise from $167 million in 2017 to somewhere between $174 million and $178 million. Since the aforementioned commitment doesn’t include any of their pending free agents, the Ravens will clearly have difficult decisions to make with some cap analysts already painting a very gloomy picture about their lack of cap space and their limited flexibility.

This comes with the reality that the Ravens have substantial work to do to their roster — especially on the offensive side of the ball — if they want to escape the land of mediocrity in which they’ve resided since Super Bowl XLVII.

Of course, the Ravens can create cap space by renegotiating, extending, or terminating veteran contracts and will surely do some combination of that. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, cornerback Brandon Carr, running back Danny Woodhead, right tackle Austin Howard, defensive back Lardarius Webb, and linebacker Albert McClellan stand out as veteran candidates who could become cap casualties this winter.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The Ravens will have the opportunity to retain any of the following 12 unrestricted free agents before they can officially sign with any other team beginning on March 14 at 4 p.m.

CB Brandon Boykin: Once considered one of the better slot corners in the league, Boykin was placed on injured reserve in early September and is not expected to return.

OL Luke Bowanko: The veteran saw action in all 16 games and made one start, but the returns of guards Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis, and Nico Siragusa from injuries make him expendable.

WR Michael Campanaro: The River Hill product played in a career-high 13 games and did nice work as a punt returner, making him a candidate to be re-signed at a cheap price.

TE Crockett Gillmore: The 6-foot-6, 266-pound Gillmore showed intriguing potential in 2015, but he’s missed 29 of Baltimore’s last 36 games due to injury, making his return highly questionable.

OL James Hurst: The once-maligned reserve offensive tackle found a niche as a serviceable starting left guard in 2017, but the aforementioned returning depth inside probably makes him expendable.

C Ryan Jensen: His emergence as a formidable starting center was a godsend with two backups handling the guard spots all year, but did the rest of the NFL also take notice in the process?

LB Steven Johnson: The veteran journeyman did a solid job on special teams in 10 games, but his spot and opportunity will likely go to a younger and cheaper player in 2018.

QB Ryan Mallett: With Joe Flacco turning 33 later this month and battling inconsistency and some health concerns in recent years, the Ravens should be looking to draft a backup with more upside.

DE Brent Urban: The 6-foot-7 specimen looked poised for a strong year during the preseason, but he’s missed 39 games in four seasons, making him a poor candidate in which to invest any real money.

WR Mike Wallace: Market demand will be a major factor here, but the Ravens will be looking at needing to add two to three impactful receivers if Wallace exits and the disappointing Maclin is cut.

TE Benjamin Watson: The 37-year-old was a good story coming back from last year’s torn Achilles tendon to lead the team in catches, but the Ravens really need more of a play-maker at this position. 

RB Terrance West: The Baltimore native and Towson product turned his career around with the Ravens, but he will likely be seeking a better opportunity elsewhere in 2018.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS – none in 2018

EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

These seven 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. The Ravens usually tender all exclusive-rights free agents with the thought that there’s nothing assured beyond the opportunity to compete for a spot. Exclusive-rights tenders are not guaranteed, meaning a player can be cut at any point without consequence to the salary cap.

WR Quincy Adeboyejo: The rookie turned some heads early in training camp and received a Week 17 promotion from the practice squad, but he’ll need to earn his way onto the 2018 roster.

RB Alex Collins: Given the present challenges with the cap, Collins falling into the Ravens’ laps was a major development of the season as he’ll be the clear favorite to be the 2018 starter at a cheap cost.

CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste: Promoted to the active roster after Jimmy Smith tore his Achilles tendon in early December, Jean-Baptiste will be in the mix next summer to try to make the roster.

TE Vince Mayle: Though not a factor as an offensive player, Mayle was a consistent special-teams contributor and has a chance to reprise that role next season.

LB Patrick Onwuasor: With the disappointing development of Kamalei Correa, Onwuasor started 12 games at the weak-side inside spot, but the Ravens could use some more competition here.

OL Maurquice Shakir: Promoted from the practice squad at the end of October, Shakir was inactive for eight games and will have the chance to compete for a job next summer.

G Matt Skura: The former undrafted free agent and practice-squad member did a respectable job filling in for the injured Yanda and could be in the mix at center if Jensen departs via free agency.

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Ravens still trying to get healthy with start of preseason looming

Posted on 06 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are counting down to Thursday’s preseason opener knowing franchise quarterback Joe Flacco will not play against the Washington Redskins.

Head coach John Harbaugh says he’s still not sure when the 10th-year veteran will even take the practice field after missing the first nine full-team workouts of training camp with a back injury. His absence has left backup Ryan Mallett to run the first-team offense while the discussion has persisted about free agent Colin Kaepernick.

“We just do not know the time frame. They have not given us a time frame yet,” Harbaugh said in Annapolis Saturday night. “We know he is getting better every single day. Obviously, we have a plan for him, football-wise, when he gets back, but we haven’t been told when yet.”

The Ravens had hoped that Flacco might only miss one week of practice, but that was always the best-case scenario as they’re being cautious with the start of the season still five weeks away. If he doesn’t return to the field this week, it would be difficult envisioning him playing in the second preseason game at Miami on Aug. 17.

Flacco isn’t the only notable starter currently sidelined, however, as cornerback Jimmy Smith missed his third consecutive practice on Saturday. First-round rookie Marlon Humphrey has also missed three straight workouts with an undisclosed ailment, but he was seen doing some agility work on the sideline at the Naval Academy, leaving one to believe he isn’t far away from a return.

Smith’s return to practice is apparently imminent, which is good news for a player with a frustrating history of injuries.

“Jimmy just [has] a little tweak in there,” said Harbaugh, refraining from specifying the location. “I decided to keep him off the turf today, and I actually held him out [Friday], too. He should be back Monday.”

Harbaugh also appeared to take a conservative approach with veterans Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, and Jeremy Maclin, who all sat out the practice at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium after practicing without incident on Friday. Cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz was also a new absentee on Saturday.

Newly-signed right tackle Austin Howard was not with the team for Saturday’s practice, but he is likely to be on the field when the team reconvenes Monday morning in Owings Mills. The 30-year-old spent part of the 2011 season on Baltimore’s practice squad before being signed by the New York Jets, an interesting footnote as he was inked to a three-year, $16 million deal on Friday

“We were disappointed to lose him; I remember it well when we lost him,” Harbaugh said. “We wanted to keep him at the time, too, and that is how it works in this league. He did a great job, but a lot of times guys like to come back to Baltimore. They get out and see that this was a pretty good place.”

Others remaining sidelined Saturday included wide receivers Breshad Perriman (hamstring), Kenny Bell (hamstring), and Chris Matthews (undisclosed), guard Alex Lewis (undisclosed), and cornerbacks Sheldon Price (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee).

Tight end Larry Donnell returned to practice after hurting his hand on Thursday.

As expected, tight end Crockett Gillmore (knee) cleared waivers Saturday and reverted to injured reserve. He will no longer count against the 90-man roster limit and is in the final season of his four-year rookie contract signed in 2014.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on first week of training camp

Posted on 01 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winding down their opening week of training camp, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Injuries have been a story for years, but the current run since June 1 is staggering. The Ravens revamped their training program over the last two offseasons in response to having a combined 39 players on injured reserve in 2014 and 2015. They’re not turning a blind eye to this.

2. The offense has definitely fared poorly with Joe Flacco sidelined, but let’s not shortchange the defense through all the criticism for Ryan Mallett and company. The collective quarterback play has often looked inept, but this Baltimore defense has much potential. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

3. Crockett Gillmore had lofty expectations in the final year of his rookie contract, making his latest injury a disappointment for a player who showed much promise in 2015. Assuming he doesn’t make a miraculous return this season, he will have missed 31 games over the last three campaigns.

4. The award for biggest change in body type goes to Matt Judon, who looks 20 pounds lighter than he did as a rookie. Aiming to be the strong-side outside linebacker, Judon dropped weight over the summer to be better in coverage. He’s looked the part in the first few practices.

5. Don’t sleep on Matt Skura, who is a reserve center and has filled in for Marshal Yanda during full-team drills. After spending last season on the practice squad, the Duke product has a big opportunity with John Urschel retired and Nico Siragusa now out for the year.

6. I’ve counted as many as 10 different players taking reps as a punt or kick returner so far. Undrafted rookie wide receiver Tim White is a name to watch, but this appears to be a wide-open competition, which is nothing new since Jacoby Jones’ release a couple years ago.

7. The injury was lost in the wash, but the indefinite loss of Maurice Canady is a tough blow after slot cornerback Tavon Young went down for the season in the spring. Lardarius Webb has been working in the slot with veteran newcomer Brandon Boykin off to a slow start.

8. The first-round selection of Marlon Humphrey didn’t receive much enthusiasm in April, but the 21-year-old has shown impressive composure and has made plays early in his first training camp. The presence of Brandon Carr eases the immediate need, but the Alabama product has impressed.

9. Maxx Williams deserves ample time to get his football legs back under him, but he hasn’t moved particularly well so far in his return from a secretive knee surgery that had never been performed on an NFL player. The Ravens could really use contributions from their 2015 second-round pick.

10. Young pass rushers take time to develop, but Tim Williams has stood out in individual drills. His quickness is evident as he blew past a rookie offensive tackle who hadn’t even gotten out of his stance Tuesday, and he’s even gotten the best of Ronnie Stanley from time to time.

11. Rookie free agents to watch in the preseason include defensive end Patrick Ricard and cornerback Jaylen Hill as well as White. It wouldn’t shock me to see Ricard become the next undrafted defensive lineman to stick, but we still have a long way to go.

12. How rough has the first week of training camp been? Justin Tucker even missed consecutive field goal tries from 49 yards on Tuesday, something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him do in practice. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that he’ll be OK, however.

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Rookie offensive lineman Siragusa becomes Ravens’ latest injury victim

Posted on 01 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the preseason opener still over a week away, the season-ending injuries keep coming for the Ravens as rookie offensive lineman Nico Siragusa tore three knee ligaments in Tuesday’s practice.

According to NFL Network, the fourth-round pick from San Diego State suffered tears to the ACL, MCL, and PCL of his left knee in a pileup during an 11-on-11 goal-line drill. Siragusa confirmed the news of the devastating injury via his Twitter account as he becomes the seventh Baltimore player lost for the season since June 1, a staggering development for a team seeking its first playoff berth since 2014.

Siragusa was the first offensive player taken by the Ravens in the 2017 draft and was expected to serve as interior depth for an offensive line with new starters at center and right tackle. His injury comes less than a week after fourth-year lineman John Urschel surprisingly announced his retirement from football, leaving the Ravens very thin at both center and guard.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not have an immediate update on Siragusa’s condition after Tuesday’s workout, but he confirmed tight end Crockett Gillmore was likely to miss the entire season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn MCL in his right knee Monday. Second-year cornerback Maurice Canady is also out indefinitely after knee surgery, but he could still return this season, according to Harbaugh.

Undrafted rookie wideout Quincy Adeboyejo was carted off the field Tuesday morning with what appeared to be a back ailment.

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman left Tuesday’s practice early with what Harbaugh described as hamstring tightness that wasn’t believed to be serious. The 2015 first-round pick tweaked the hamstring while running a pass route and consulted with head athletic trainer Mark Smith for several minutes before walking to the locker room less than an hour into the session.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (back), wide receiver Kenny Bell (hamstring), cornerback Sheldon Price (undisclosed), and center Brandon Kublanow (undisclosed) were absent on Tuesday. As expected, wide receiver and return specialist Michael Campanaro (toe) returned to practice after being activated from the physically unable to perform list.

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Hurting at tight end, Ravens add former New York Giant Larry Donnell

Posted on 30 July 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens arguably had more inventory at tight end than any other position on the roster, but that’s changed substantially in less than two months.

A right knee injury to Crockett Gillmore prompted general manager Ozzie Newsome to sign former New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell on Sunday. It remains unclear just how long Gillmore will be sidelined after he left the field in the final minutes of Friday’s practice and didn’t participate on Saturday. The Ravens lost Dennis Pitta to a career-ending hip injury on June 2 and Darren Waller to a yearlong suspension announced on June 30.

Donnell, a former rookie free agent from Grambling, had a four-year run with the New York Giants in which he caught 110 passes for 969 yards and nine touchdowns in 54 games. His 2014 campaign was his best as the 6-foot-6, 265-pound target caught 63 passes for 623 yards and six touchdowns.

His 2016 season in New York was a quiet one as Donnell caught 15 passes for 92 yards and one touchdown in 14 games, six of them starts.

He joins a group of healthy tight ends that includes Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Ryan Malleck, and wide receiver hybrid Vince Mayle. The 36-year-old Watson is coming back from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last August while Williams, a 2015 second-round pick, is returning from a rare knee cartilage surgery that had apparently never been performed on an NFL player.

To make room for Donnell on the 90-man preseason roster, the Ravens waived undrafted rookie wide receiver Tim Patrick.

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Gillmore, Canady new absences at Ravens training camp

Posted on 29 July 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As quarterback Joe Flacco missed his third straight practice with a back issue, the Ravens had two new absences as they took the field on Saturday.

Tight end Crockett Gillmore and cornerback Maurice Canady did not participate in the first full-pad workout of training camp, joining Flacco and wide receiver Michael Campanaro (toe) on the sideline. Gillmore left in the final minutes of Friday’s session with what appeared to be a right leg injury, but head coach John Harbaugh didn’t have an update on his condition after that workout and wasn’t available to media on Saturday. It remains unclear why Canady didn’t practice after he was a full participant the day before.

The Ravens will hope it’s only a brief absence for Canady, who emerged in the spring as the early favorite to be the nickel corner after second-year cornerback Tavon Young suffered a season-ending knee injury. In Canady’s absence, veteran defensive back Lardarius Webb was defending the slot for the first-team defense.

As you’d expect, it’s been a rough start for the offense without Flacco under center. In addition to the countless turnovers and difficulty moving the ball, the unit had an embarrassing moment when quarterback Ryan Mallett, running back Terrance West, and motioning wide receiver Mike Wallace all collided in the backfield on a run play.

For now, the offensive coaching staff is taking its situation in stride while Flacco recovers.

“He’s getting himself right in the training room with [head athletic trainer Mark Smith], the staff, and all those doctors and things,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “We’ll get him back out here at some point. In the meantime, we get our work done. We get our timing down. It’s a great opportunity for the other fellows.”

Mallett did improve somewhat from Friday’s brutal showing that included several interceptions, but he was still picked off by safeties Eric Weddle and Chuck Clark on Saturday. Weddle also intercepted Dustin Vaughan during another 11-on-11 period.

The four-time Pro Bowl safety wasn’t the only defensive standout as rookie Tim Williams soundly beat starting tackles Ronnie Stanley and James Hurst as well as reserve Stephane Nembot in isolated pass-rush drills. The third-round pick from Alabama has shown good burst out of his stance and is a candidate to serve as a situational pass rusher in his first NFL season.

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Tight ends

Posted on 25 July 2017 by Luke Jones

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

Quarterbacks
Defensive line
Running backs
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers
Linebackers

TIGHT ENDS

Projected depth chart:
TE – Crockett Gillmore, Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle, Ryan Malleck
SUSPENDED – Darren Waller

Why to be impressed: Even with Dennis Pitta suffering a career-ending hip injury in the spring and Waller being suspended for the entire 2017 season, the Ravens have three tight ends who have been envisioned as starters as some point over the last couple years. Gillmore and Boyle are both strong blockers, which bodes well for Baltimore’s desire to improve the running game.

Why to be concerned: Gillmore, Watson, and Williams all have substantial injury concerns while Boyle is a failed drug test away from potentially being suspended for two years, leaving the Ravens with plenty of baggage at the position. Pitta was the most productive tight end on the roster in 2016 while Waller possessed the most athletic upside, making it difficult to know what to expect from the rest of this group. 

2017 outlook: You could put the top four names in a hat and pick one out as the leading receiver for the season and I wouldn’t be surprised, but an unforeseen name being in the mix wouldn’t be a shock, either, considering the number of injury concerns. The biggest key to the future at this position might be the health of Williams, a 2015 second-round pick who underwent a mysterious knee procedure last fall.

Prediction: Boyle will play the most snaps, Gillmore will lead the group in receptions, and Watson will record the most touchdown receptions of any Ravens tight end.

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