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Twelve Ravens thoughts counting down to full-team practices

Posted on 10 August 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens only a week away from finally beginning full-team practices ahead of the 2020 season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Lamar Jackson describing himself as “Bubble Boy” prompted talk about isolating quarterbacks to reduce the odds of catching the coronavirus, but it’s just not practical from a competitive standpoint. A ton of work on and off the field goes into what we see for only three hours every week.

2. Even if the Ravens applied that idea to a backup with a great understanding of the offense, it’s a diminishing return when Robert Griffin III isn’t building any on-field chemistry with teammates. As we often say about offseason injuries, you can’t keep these guys in bubble wrap and expect success.

3. Jimmy Smith’s position is a popular topic, but are we too quick to assume Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey outside and Tavon Young at nickel is the superior alignment to Smith and Peters outside with Humphrey wreaking havoc all over the place like last year? An interesting question to track.

4. Calais Campbell was in Jacksonville last year, but his thoughts on handling major expectations fit this team appropriately. “You can’t win the Super Bowl today. I don’t care how good you are in August; you’ve got to go through the process. You can’t even win the first game today.”

5. This should be an interesting season for Willie Snead, who is seven pounds lighter, entering a contract year, and still only 27 years old. His blocking ability should help in trying to hold off younger options, but there are only so many targets from the slot to go around.

6. The Ravens waiving 2019 fifth-round pick Daylon Mack emphasized the age on which the defensive line is depending. With Campbell, Brandon Williams, and Derek Wolfe all 30 or older, rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington need to offer dependable depth as well as long-term upside.

7. Mark Andrews said he never considered opting out of the 2020 season despite dealing with Type 1 diabetes. The Pro Bowl tight end also offered high praise for Baltimore’s virtual offseason program, noting that he’s stronger and carrying less body fat than ever. Barring injury, I see a 1,000-yard season.

8. With no shortage of questions about the interior offensive line, the presence of All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley is as important as ever in terms of both play and leadership. For what it’s worth, Stanley says ongoing contract talks are “not really at the forefront of my mind.”

9. The pass rush remains a hot topic with Jaylon Ferguson being the only established outside linebacker under contract beyond 2020, but Football Outsiders ranked the Ravens third in pressure rate in 2019. Strong coverage allows defenses to scheme pressure, but poor coverage often negates pressure against today’s quick passing offenses.

10. The expected addition of Kenjon Barner provides an experienced option in the return game mix, but you’d still like to see rookie wide receiver James Proche win the punt returner job. Positional versatility is more important than ever with teams holding their breath over every virus test outcome.

11. John Harbaugh confirmed the plan to again keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, which makes more sense considering the learning curve for a system so different from what most of the league is running. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fourth quarterback on the expanded practice squad either.

12. Picturing fall without a college football season is difficult enough, but how would that impact the NFL draft next spring? How do you trust the game tape when there isn’t any? As NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah noted, the 2021 scouting combine could become more important than ever.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts approaching start of free agency

Posted on 05 March 2020 by Luke Jones

With the start of free agency now less than two weeks away, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Ravens knew Marshal Yanda was returning for 2019 by last year’s combine, so Eric DeCosta saying in Indianapolis last week that he hadn’t spoken to the 35-year-old since the Pro Bowl didn’t sound encouraging. A resolution before the start of the new league year would make sense.

2. With player voting on the new collective bargaining agreement now underway and lasting a week, we should start to see more movement on at least some minor signings. Even the announcement of compensatory picks has seemingly been held up by CBA uncertainty.

3. Jimmy Smith hitting the open market to determine his value makes sense for both sides. When healthy, the 10th-year veteran remains a starting-caliber cornerback deserving of starter money, realities that may not add up for the Ravens since he’d be their No. 3 outside corner.

4. Even if the Ravens are able to draft an inside linebacker such as Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray or LSU’s Patrick Queen in the first round, a veteran signing in the mold of a Josh Bynes still makes plenty of sense with L.J. Fort also still in the mix. You want options.

5. I’m interested to see how the Matthew Judon situation plays out, but Pro Football Focus isn’t as enthralled with this year’s free-agent edge rushers as much as others. We know these guys are going to get paid one way or another, but bang for the buck remains the real question.

6. Fellow 2016 first-round pick Laremy Tunsil recently firing his agent is a reminder that extending Ronnie Stanley won’t be easy or cheap as you’d expect both guys to want to be the NFL’s highest-paid left tackle. Neither will want to blink without his team making a very lucrative offer.

7. The Ravens have selected a cornerback in the fourth round or earlier in five straight drafts, a trend you’d expect to continue even if Smith re-signs or Brandon Carr’s option is picked up. The shaky development of Anthony Averett and Iman Marshall makes that more apparent.

8. The idea of trading Hayden Hurst makes little sense. It would cost nearly $3 million in additional dead money and weaken a critical position group. What would a team have to offer to motivate you to do that? Even a relatively early Day 2 pick is a “meh” for me.

9. I really like Daniel Jeremiah’s work and his insight shouldn’t be ignored given his history with the organization, but the Ravens taking a running back in the first round would be a tough sell. There’s only one football to go around, and this team barely got Justice Hill involved as it was.

10. Coaching title changes will always remind me of Dwight Schrute from “The Office,” but Harbaugh keeping last season’s staff intact will prove to be one of the biggest wins of the offseason and is a credit to how the 13th-year head coach and the organization treat their people.

11. Former first-round pick Matt Elam was waived by the XFL’s DC Defenders after only four games and hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016. Other first-round disappointments like Travis Taylor, Kyle Boller, and even Breshad Perriman at least continued their NFL careers elsewhere.

12. This has nothing to do with the Ravens, but bringing in a 43-year-old Tom Brady feels more like a move to create buzz — hello, Las Vegas Raiders — than to win. I wouldn’t bet on Brady playing elsewhere working particularly well, but I have been wrong before and will be again.


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