Tag Archive | "justin bethel"

lamarmain

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 09 November 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens going from an electric prime-time home win over New England to a half-empty Paul Brown Stadium on a sleepy Sunday in November is the proverbial setup for a letdown.

John Harbaugh’s team has emerged as a legitimate Super Bowl contender over the course of its four-game winning streak, but the NFL has a way of humbling you when you get too high, making it critical for the Ravens to be focused and energized against winless Cincinnati coming off its bye.

It’s time to go on the record as these division foes face off for the 48th time in the all-time regular-season series with the Ravens owning a slight 24-23 advantage. However, Baltimore is just 1-6 in its last seven trips to Cincinnati and is seeking a season sweep for the first time since 2011.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Lamar Jackson will rush for 100 yards against the Bengals — again. I’ve often compared Jackson’s speed to that unique pitcher with a 100-mph fastball and a slider with impossible bite. You have no idea what you’re dealing with until you step in the box, and your chances are unlikely to improve until you see that pitcher a few times. The Bengals are familiar with Jackson’s speed by now, had an extra week to prepare, and won’t let him set a career high like he did with 152 rushing yards last month, but Carlos Dunlap being on the field this time around only goes so far for the NFL’s worst run defense.

2. A long punt return will set up a score for Cincinnati. Much attention this week was on Cyrus Jones and his fumble that gave new life to the Patriots, but it was a kick return for a touchdown last month that kept the Bengals competitive in a game the Ravens totally dominated statistically. With Justin Bethel gone and Chris Moore dealing with a substantial thumb injury, the Ravens could be using two different gunners on the punt team than they used in that first meeting with the Bengals. That’s notable against a special-teams group rated first in the NFL in DVOA, according to Football Outsiders.

3. The Ravens defense will register a season-high four sacks and an interception. The combined three sacks collected over the last two games don’t tell the story of a pass rush showing recent improvement as Baltimore hit Russell Wilson eight times in Week 7 and Tom Brady 10 times last Sunday night. That pressure has been dependent on blitzing, something you’d expect Wink Martindale to use even more against a rookie quarterback. Unlike Wilson and Brady, however, Ryan Finley will hold the ball longer against tight coverage, allowing the Ravens to take him down in the pocket.

4. An up-tempo drive will lead to Finley’s first NFL touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd. The Patriots totaled 302 yards in the second and third quarters using a no-huddle attack that neutralized blitzes and prevented the Ravens from using their various sub packages, an approach likely to be copied in the coming weeks. Trusting Finley to operate without a huddle for the entire game would be too much to ask, but that strategy will help create some open throws. After being held to three catches for 10 yards in the first meeting, Boyd will have some modest success against Marlon Humphrey with a score.

5. Baltimore will again play “keep away” in the fourth quarter to prevail 24-16. The Ravens haven’t won three straight games by multiple scores since 2011 and are playing on the road against a team with nothing to lose coming off its bye, factors that should make one pause — at least a second — before simply expecting an easy win against a poor opponent. That said, the Ravens will have the chance to put together a nine-minute drive in the fourth quarter for the fourth straight game, a remarkable feat that drains any semblance of life from an opponent. This one won’t be the prettiest, but part of being a great team is handling inferior teams even when you’re not at your best, especially on the road. This is the kind of game that’s given the Ravens problems in recent years, but there will be no letdown as they extend their winning streak to five in a row, their longest within a single season since 2006.

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jimmysmith

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Ravens “on track” to welcome back trio of injured players

Posted on 28 October 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As general manager Eric DeCosta explores potential moves prior to Tuesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline, the Ravens remain optimistic about their health coming out of the bye week.

Head coach John Harbaugh reiterated his expectation that wide receiver Marquise Brown (right ankle), inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (right ankle), and cornerback Jimmy Smith (right knee) will make their respective returns for Sunday night’s meeting with undefeated New England. Brown and Onwuasor haven’t played since the Week 5 win at Pittsburgh while Smith has been sidelined since the season opener in Miami.

“They’re on track, yes. We’ll see how it goes this week,” Harbaugh said. “I’m pretty confident that they’ll be there, but you never know.”

While Brown and Onwuasor haven’t practiced since finishing the Steelers game at less than 100 percent, Smith returned to practice on a limited basis two weeks ago, wearing a brace on his right knee in the portion of workouts open to media. His return coupled with the acquisition of two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters two weeks ago would give Baltimore significant reinforcements for the second half of the season.

The Ravens secondary was regarded as the best and deepest position group on the roster entering training camp, but season-ending injuries to slot cornerback Tavon Young (neck) and strong safety Tony Jefferson (knee) as well as Smith’s long-term absence have been difficult blows to a pass defense ranking an underwhelming 26th in the NFL entering Monday.

“It’s exciting anytime you get your guys back,” Harbaugh said. “We want to have guys that can cover. That’s important to us. We’ve got guys that can cover. Obviously, adding Marcus is a big plus for us, and it makes up a little bit for the injury shortfall. But getting Jimmy back, it’s been a long time now. He played what [six] plays in the Miami game and has been out since? And he had a really good training camp, so if we could get him back, that’d be huge for us. I am excited about it. I hope it works out.”

The Ravens hope an improved secondary will aid a pass rush that has managed only 12 sacks in seven games and lost versatile veteran Pernell McPhee to a season-ending triceps injury against the Seahawks. It remains unclear whether DeCosta will be able to make a trade for an impact pass rusher, especially with Baltimore entering Monday with just $1.8 million in 2019 salary cap space.

Of course, there’s been no shortage of trades around the league already with the Ravens themselves acquiring Peters from the Los Angeles Rams two weeks ago.

“There’s more talk. There have been years when there’s been no talk where nothing is going on,” Harbaugh said. “More in the National Football League, for whatever reason, this year seems to be the year where it kind of broke open as far as trades.

“I know there’s a lot of talk, but I don’t really know the details of too much of it. We’ll see what happens.”

Patriots-Ravens roster shuffling

Harbaugh admitted losing veteran cornerback and special-teams standout Justin Bethel to New England was “not ideal,” but the Ravens came away with two former Patriots by the end of last week.

The Ravens signed veteran safety Jordan Richards after he was waived to make roster room for Bethel.

“He was the best available special teams guy,” Harbaugh said. “It’s kind of ironic the way it worked out, but they had to let somebody go. They let him go, and it was a good addition for us.”

Baltimore also signed defensive end Ufomba Kamalu off the Patriots practice squad. The 6-foot-6, 295-pound lineman registered three sacks in 13 games with Houston from 2016-17 and appeared in two games with the Patriots last season.

His roster status could largely depend on what happens by Tuesday’s deadline, but the coaching staff is interested in taking a look at Kamalu, who’s shown some versatility in limited opportunities.

“He’s kind of trying to find his way right now, but we thought he was a good fit,” Harbaugh said. “He was a good fit in their system. He’s probably also a good fit in our system, the way he plays with his hands. He’s square. He’s a physical guy. He’s big and he can move, so it’ll be fun to watch him. He’s versatile. He has played outside linebacker, even the rush position that we have that Pernell was playing. He’s also played down as a 5-technique and a defensive end, even a 4-technique for them.”

Young undergoes neck surgery

Harbaugh confirmed Young had surgery to repair a disc problem that surfaced in early August and cost him the entire season.

Young had hoped to avoid surgery with a more conservative rehabilitation approach after he was placed on IR at the end of the preseason. The 2016 fourth-round pick signed a three-year contract extension in February that runs through the 2022 season and is worth $25.8 million with $13 million guaranteed.

“I was told it went well. I think he’s in and out right now with his rehab,” Harbaugh said. “I think he told me he’d see me soon. He has to take care of whatever his program is on that, but he’s on track.”

Rookie cornerback designated to return to practice

Sidelined since August with toe and hamstring injuries, rookie cornerback Iman Marshall was designated to return from IR and began practicing Monday.

The 2019 fourth-round pick from USC now has a 21-day practice window in which the organization will evaluate his progress and decided whether to move him to the active roster. The Ravens aren’t required to activate Marshall, but he now counts as the first of two designations to return they may use. He would remain on IR for the remainder of the year if not activated by the end of the window.

The Ravens’ only other return candidate at this point appears to be safety Brynden Trawick, who was placed on IR with an elbow injury on Oct. 3 and isn’t eligible to return to game action until December.

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Ravens add ex-Patriot Richards after Bethel signs with New England

Posted on 24 October 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens and New England have indirectly swapped special-teams contributors.

After releasing veteran cornerback and three-time Pro Bowl special-teams player Justin Bethel in a decision driven solely by the NFL’s compensatory pick formula earlier this week, Baltimore signed veteran defensive back Jordan Richards on Thursday morning. Richards was released by the Patriots Tuesday to make roster room to sign Bethel.

A 2015 second-round pick out of Stanford, Richards had appeared in three games for New England this season, playing 60 snaps exclusively on special teams and making two tackles. The 26-year-old was originally drafted by the Patriots and has made 19 starts in 59 career games with New England and Atlanta. Richards signed a one-year deal with Oakland in April before being released at the end of the preseason, eventually re-signing with New England on Oct. 2.

General manager Eric DeCosta had released Bethel to keep the organization in position for a projected 2020 fourth-round compensatory pick. Tennessee’s release of former Baltimore defensive end Brent Urban last weekend had removed the pick from the Ravens’ compensatory ledger, leading to a difficult choice to cut Bethel despite him leading the team with five special-teams tackles.

The Richards signing still leaves the Ravens with one open spot on the 53-man roster after outside linebacker Pernell McPhee was placed on injured reserve with a torn triceps. Defensive line coach Joe Cullen mentioned practice-squad edge rusher Aaron Adeoye as an option, but Baltimore fans will continue to hope for a trade for an impact pass rusher between now and Tuesday’s deadline.

The Ravens also signed outside linebacker Demone Harris to their practice squad earlier this week. Harris was most recently with Tampa Bay and shared his whirlwind week on his official Twitter account.

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mcphee

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Ravens lose McPhee for season, cut Bethel to recoup compensatory pick

Posted on 21 October 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Coming off their best performance of the season in which two takeaways were returned for touchdowns, the Ravens still can’t catch a break on defense.

After leaving the game early in the second quarter of Sunday’s 30-16 win over Seattle, veteran outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is expected to miss the remainder of the season with what’s believed to be a torn triceps, according to head coach John Harbaugh. It’s a major blow to a pass rush that has recorded just 12 sacks over the first seven games of the season and has struggled to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks.

The 30-year-old had collected three sacks and started all seven games after signing a one-year, $1.03 million contract in May to return to Baltimore to help fill the void left by free-agent departures Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith and rejuvenate a career plagued by injuries in recent years. Expected to be more of a situational rusher before younger edge defenders struggled in the preseason, McPhee was averaging a career-high 42.5 defensive snaps per game through the first six weeks, serving both as an edge defender and as an interior rusher in obvious passing situations.

“He wanted to prove himself. He wanted to get back on track and demonstrate that he still could play,” Harbaugh said. “And to do it here, to be the leader that he was, he’s been instrumental. He’s been instrumental with the young guys. He’s been a very good player for us.

“I see no reason why he can’t recover from a triceps injury and be back next year stronger than ever.”

McPhee’s injury creates even more urgency for general manager Eric DeCosta to add pass-rushing help by the Oct. 29 trade deadline, but the Ravens started Monday with just $1.933 million in 2019 salary cap space, according to the NFL Players Association. With McPhee playing only 12 defensive snaps against Seattle, rookie Jaylon Ferguson played 46 defensive snaps, third-year outside linebacker Tyus Bowser played 22, and situational rusher Jihad Ward saw 39.

With limited resources available and not knowing how much other teams might ask for an impact pass rusher in a potential trade, the Ravens’ best bet for meaningful improvement might be the continued development of Ferguson, who was drafted in the third round out of Louisiana Tech in April and holds the NCAA Division I career sacks record previously set by Suggs. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Ferguson finished with three tackles (one for a loss) and a quarterback hit against the Seahawks.

“He played his best game, a very physical game and against a couple of really big, grabby tackles to say the least,” Harbaugh said. “He was strong at the point of attack and applied pressure, ran to the ball. He played really well.”

Sunday marked the third straight game in which a Baltimore defensive player was lost to a season-ending injury after starting strong safety Tony Jefferson sustained a torn ACL in Week 5 and reserve safety DeShon Elliott hurt his knee in Week 6.

Business decision with Bethel

The Ravens signing unrestricted free-agent cornerback Justin Bethel in the opening week of free agency was always surprising because of the negative impact on the compensatory pick formula, but it spoke to how they valued the three-time Pro Bowl special-teams player.

Their hand was forced over the weekend, however, when Tennessee released former Baltimore defensive end Brent Urban, a move that would have stripped the Ravens of a projected 2020 fourth-round compensatory pick had Bethel remained on the roster through Week 10. Despite the 29-year-old leading Baltimore with four special-teams tackles this season, DeCosta simply couldn’t justify passing on an early Day 3 draft pick to keep someone who’s played only 16 defensive snaps this season.

Bethel was released Monday, giving the coaching staff time over the bye week to account for his departure.

“That’s tough for us because he’s playing [so well],” Harbaugh said. “I told him I think he’s the best special-teams player in the NFL, and he’s playing that way. That’s going to be a blow, and we’re going to have to find a way to overcome that.”

Full strength after bye week?

Despite the McPhee injury, Harbaugh expressed optimism about his team’s health coming out of the Week 8 bye with an exciting Nov. 3 showdown with New England looming.

Wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle) and inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (ankle) have missed the last two games while cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) has been out since the season opener, but all are on track to return against the Patriots, according to Harbaugh. Reserve cornerback Maurice Canady also missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury suffered against Cincinnati in Week 6.

“We feel very confident we should have all those guys back barring a setback, so to speak, and I can’t even imagine what that would be right now,” Harbaugh said. “Very optimistic that we’ll be full strength coming out of the bye.”

Smith worked out on a limited basis last week before missing his sixth straight game, but neither Brown nor Onwuasor have seen the practice field since being injured in the Week 5 win at Pittsburgh.

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judon

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Twelve Ravens thoughts entering start of 2019 season

Posted on 03 September 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens counting down to Sunday’s kickoff of the 2019 regular season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Lamar Jackson heard the criticism all offseason and put in the work to improve his passing by all accounts. How big a step forward he takes remains to be seen, but he was in command of the offense and threw more consistently all summer. I can’t wait to watch him.

2. The 22-year-old will be surrounded by plenty of youth as 14 of Baltimore’s 24 offensive players (not including hybrid defensive tackle/fullback Patrick Ricard) are in their first or second season. That could make for an uncomfortable downside, but the ceiling is exciting, especially at the skill positions.

3. The Wink Martindale effect eases some concern with the pass rush, but you still need individuals to win 1-on-1 matchups. Beyond Matthew Judon, I’m not confident the defensive front has the rushers to consistently do this, which is going to put more pressure on their secondary than the opposing quarterback.

4. Willie Henry went from looking like he could start and be a major part of the interior pass rush to being waived and going unclaimed by the other 31 teams. Dropping 20 pounds from his listed 2017 playing weight (308 pounds) clearly didn’t pay off for a once-promising player.

5. Chris Wormley being the only true 5-technique defensive end on the roster says much about the evolution of NFL defenses. You’ll still hear “front seven” in conversation, but the league used base personnel only 25 percent of the time last year, creating less need to carry so many interior linemen.

6. It was a tough summer for Baltimore’s heralded 2016 fourth round. Henry and Alex Lewis are gone, Tavon Young and Kenneth Dixon are on injured reserve, and only Chris Moore remains on the active roster. The group was very promising, but even the above-average Young has missed two whole seasons.

7. All eyes are on left guard, but did anyone else find it strange that Orlando Brown Jr. played 18 snaps in the preseason finale while the likes of Chris Moore, James Hurst, and even rookies Miles Boykin and Justice Hill were held out? Brown didn’t play in last summer’s finale.

8. I’m surprised how many questioned whether three-time Pro Bowl selection Justin Bethel would make the roster despite the Ravens — who were already deep at cornerback — giving him $1 million guaranteed in the opening week of free agency. This is the 12th year of the John Harbaugh era. Special teams matter.

9. Jaleel Scott was in danger of not making the team as a fourth-round rookie last year if not for a hamstring injury that landed him on IR. A team official noted this spring how much he’d improved, and Scott carried that over with a strong preseason. Good for him.

10. Members of the practice squad serve varying functions, but De’Lance Turner and Maurice Canady are solid insurance policies should a need arise at running back or cornerback. Re-signing them was a plus for organizational depth.

11. Perhaps a deal is being completed as we speak, but I was a little surprised Eric DeCosta didn’t make a trade for a veteran offensive lineman or a pass rusher with so much activity throughout the league over the weekend. Of course, he had already pulled off three August trades.

12. The Kaare Vedvik saga reinforces how desperate contenders can be for a kicker and how blessed the Ravens have been — one nightmare aside. Baltimore got a fifth-rounder, the New York Jets wound up with a kicker they’d previously attempted to acquire for nothing, and Minnesota has egg on its face.

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imanmarshall

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Ravens place rookie cornerback Marshall on IR, re-sign safety Trawick

Posted on 02 September 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens made the first change to their 53-man roster Monday by placing rookie cornerback Iman Marshall on injured reserve and re-signing veteran safety Brynden Trawick.

Marshall, a fourth-round pick from USC, hasn’t practiced since Aug. 10 with an undisclosed injury, but Baltimore initially kept him on the active roster to maintain his eligibility for a potential designation to return later in the season. The Ravens now have six cornerbacks on the active roster and re-signed veteran Maurice Canady to the practice squad Sunday. Marshall joins slot cornerback Tavon Young on IR, but the latter will miss the entire 2019 season with a neck injury.

Trawick was waived Saturday, but he immediately became a free agent as a vested veteran, making it likely the sides had a handshake agreement that the special-teams standout would be re-signed once Marshall was moved to IR. The 29-year-old began his career in Baltimore as an undrafted free agent from Troy in 2013 and spent three seasons with the Ravens before eventually being named a 2017 Pro Bowl special-teams player as a member of the Tennessee Titans. Trawick should be a core special-teams player and adds depth as a backup dime back.

The Ravens prioritized improving their personnel on special teams this offseason, leading to the signing of cornerback and three-time Pro Bowl selection Justin Bethel in March and the return of Trawick on Aug. 1.

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hill2

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 26-13 preseason win over Green Bay

Posted on 16 August 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens topping Green Bay in a 26-13 final for their 15th straight preseason win, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Established veterans often coast through the early weeks of the preseason, but Matthew Judon reminded everyone he’s playing for a contract with two back-side pursuit plays resulting in a sack and a third-down stop on a screen pass. The closing speed he showed was very impressive.

2. Tavon Young’s neck injury brings much attention to the nickel corner position, but neither Cyrus Jones nor Anthony Averett impressed in that spot Thursday. I’m confident defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will make it work, but the Ravens will miss Young’s talents in that important role.

3. Jermaine Eluemunor’s strong performance is why coaches have been patient with him despite the well-documented growing pains. He rebounded from last week’s struggles in a major way, even if he still needs to block through the whistle more consistently. Eluemunor also held up pretty well as the backup left tackle.

4. The lack of separation at outside linebacker behind Judon was telling as Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams, Jaylon Ferguson, and Shane Ray all saw action into the fourth quarter. Ferguson seeing action much earlier than last week speaks to his stock rising while Ray still hasn’t distinguished himself.

5. We knew about the speed with his 40-yard dash time, but Justice Hill continues to show physicality not indicative of a 200-pound running back with so many broken tackles. Hill, Lamar Jackson, and a healthy Marquise Brown all on the field together could be an unsettling sight for defensive coordinators.

6. Coverage is his primary focus, but Marlon Humphrey shedding a block from veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga to make a tackle for a loss is another reason why he’s becoming one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. His dominant play on the outside is even more critical now after the Young injury.

7. I wasn’t positive Chris Moore was a lock to make the roster after his quiet start to camp and Seth Roberts’ early performance, but Moore likely removed any lingering doubt Thursday. Meanwhile, Roberts isn’t helping his case being sidelined with an injury while Jaleel Scott pushes for a job.

8. The Ravens may forgo keeping a fourth inside linebacker, but Otaro Alaka continued to position himself nicely with a game-high six tackles and two for a loss. Alaka shows good closing speed and would be an obvious practice-squad candidate if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster.

9. Miles Boykin not catching a pass on three targets isn’t alarming, but his failure to curl toward the line of scrimmage on Jackson’s third-down rollout on the first drive reminds that he still needs polish, which is OK. Despite the summer hype, he wasn’t drafted as a finished product.

10. Justin Bethel missed two tackles on special teams and was playing cornerback late in the second half. I’ve dismissed previous questions about his roster status since the Ravens guaranteed him $1 million early in free agency for his special-teams ability, but Thursday wasn’t a good showing.

11. Many were critical of the illegal blindside block penalty on Willie Snead that negated Jackson’s highlight touchdown run, but the call seemed to be in line with the NFL’s expanded blindside block rule (2:00 mark). We’ll see just how vigilant officials are about calling this in the regular season.

12. If you need a reminder of how little the preseason resembles real games, Jackson has yet to target Mark Andrews in two games with the pair not even being on the field together that much. The rapport they’ve shown in camp suggests that’s some sandbagging from Greg Roman.

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humphrey

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2019 Ravens training camp preview: Cornerbacks

Posted on 09 July 2019 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning in a little over two weeks and the preseason opener less than a month away, we’ll look at each Ravens position group before players begin reporting to Owings Mills for the first full-squad practice on July 25.

We’ll start at cornerback, which is the deepest and most talented position group on the entire roster. Over the last five years, the Ravens have handed out a few sizable contracts at this position and used meaningful draft capital by selecting a cornerback in the fourth round or earlier in five consecutive drafts. In other words, we’ve seen quite a shift from the days of Baltimore needing to sign street free agents such as Rashaan Melvin and Shareece Wright to immediately fill prominent roles because of poor depth.

The abundance of talent includes multiple options to play the slot or outside and allows defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to rotate his cornerbacks much like you typically see with defensive linemen and pass rushers. Despite dealing with no long-term injuries at the position last season, the Ravens had four starting-caliber corners play over 600 snaps, but none took more than 876. It’s the kind of rotation that help keeps everyone fresh and opposing offenses guessing.

That’s a luxury few teams enjoy in today’s pass-crazy NFL, but secondary depth has become more important than ever with the Ravens defense using five or more defensive backs 83 percent of the time last season. Simply put, the nickel has really become their base defense rather than the traditional front seven.

Below is a look at several cornerbacks who stand out for various reasons:

The Man — Marlon Humphrey
Skinny: Having just turned 23, the former first-round pick was voted team MVP by the local media last year and appears on the cusp of Pro Bowl stardom entering his third season, evident by Pro Football Focus naming him one of the NFL’s top 25 players under age 25 this offseason. He ranked third in the NFL in forced incompletion percentage and graded seventh among qualified cornerbacks in coverage, according to PFF. If he stays healthy, Humphrey could be one of the NFL’s best for years to come.

Old Reliable — Brandon Carr
Skinny: If his remarkable streak of never missing a game — while starting each one — in his first 11 seasons weren’t enough, the 33-year-old registered the eighth-lowest passer rating allowed in the NFL and was one of only three cornerbacks playing at least 500 coverage snaps not to surrender a touchdown in 2018, per PFF. Carr also filled in capably as a slot corner at times despite rarely playing there over the course of his career. The veteran isn’t a star, but he oozes dependability, an underrated trait in the NFL.

Under Fire — Jimmy Smith
Skinny: Many wondered if Smith would be back as he sports the second-highest salary cap number and 18th-highest cash payout among NFL cornerbacks in 2019, but Baltimore continues to bet on the upside of the 2011 first-round pick who’s played more than 12 games in the regular season only twice in his career due to injuries or suspensions. We’ve seen Smith, who turns 31 later this month, play at a superb level when right physically, but he needs a healthy and productive campaign with free agency looming.

Up-and-Comer — Anthony Averett
Skinny: The 2019 fourth-round pick from Alabama saw only 71 defensive snaps as a rookie, but most of that action came in the Week 14 loss at Kansas City, which was an impressive showing for the 24-year-old against an explosive offense. With Smith in the final year of his contract and Carr entering his 12th season, Averett is a candidate to step into a starting role as early as next season, but he’ll be asked to be a versatile game-day reserve capable of playing outside and inside in the meantime.

Sleeper — Terrell Bonds
Skinny: Formerly of the Memphis Express in the defunct Alliance of American Football, Bonds signed only after trying out during rookie camp and is a long shot to crack the 53-man roster in this deep group of cornerbacks. However, the 5-foot-8, 182-pound slot corner from Tennessee State was solid in the spring and intercepted Lamar Jackson twice in the same red-zone period during last month’s minicamp, which garnered plenty of attention. He’ll be fighting for a job in Baltimore or elsewhere this summer.

The Rest — Tavon Young, Justin Bethel, Iman Marshall, Cyrus Jones, Maurice Canady, Stanley Jean-Baptiste
Skinny: Young’s three-year, $25.8 million contract extension reflects how highly the Ravens think of the slot corner, but the deal was panned elsewhere as a market setter for a relatively unproven player and others noted most of his success dating back to college has come as an outside corner. Agree or not, Baltimore sees a higher ceiling for the 25-year-old that will need to be reached. … The 29-year-old Bethel will really have to shine on special teams to justify the Ravens guaranteeing him $1 million despite the deep depth that was already in place at the position. … Jones, a Gilman School product, provided a spark as a punt returner down the stretch last season, but he may need to expand his return duties to kickoffs as well to secure his roster spot for 2019. … Canady has been a productive slot option in the past, but his injury history and expiring rookie contract are working against his roster chances.

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dixon

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Sizing up the 2019 Ravens roster after mandatory minicamp

Posted on 19 June 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens won’t trim their roster to 53 players until the end of the preseason, but the conclusion of mandatory minicamp offers a much better idea of what the coaching staff has to work with in 2019.

This exercise will carry more meaning as we advance to the preseason, but my all-too-early look at the roster is still based more on track record, contract status, draft standing, and positional need than observations from a handful of non-contact practices this spring. For now, I estimate 44 players to be safely on the roster, leaving nine spots up for grabs. We’ll get a much better idea of where players stand starting with the snap distribution when training camp begins next month.

In other words, don’t read too much into who is deemed a bubble player now as much will change between now and even the start of preseason action. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain position groups lacking quality depth and others enjoying so much talent that could fall victim to the numbers game.

Though general manager Eric DeCosta, head coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the staff and front office are cognizant of the numbers at each position, trying to arbitrarily pinpoint a certain number of tight ends or inside linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. You always look for reserves who will excel on special teams, so coaches will look carefully at players’ other attributes in addition to what they bring to their individual position groups when filling out the back of the roster.

The numbers in parentheses indicate how many players are currently on the roster at that position. As we move deeper into the summer, I’ll provide updated looks as well as projections of who’s in and who’s out at different stages of the preseason.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
IN: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III
BUBBLE: Trace McSorley
LONG SHOT: none
Skinny: McSorley showed growth over the course of the spring and should feel much better about his chances, but I’m not quite ready to say he’ll definitely be on the roster when you look at the logjam at some other positions. I’d still expect a fourth quarterback to be added to share the summer reps.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
IN: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
BUBBLE: Kenneth Dixon, De’Lance Turner
LONG SHOT: Tyler Ervin, Christopher Ezeala
Skinny: Little has changed with this position group, but Ervin’s return ability at least puts him on the radar to potentially steal a spot. Dixon took issue with how his absences from voluntary workouts were perceived, but he needs a strong and healthy preseason to stick in the final year of his rookie deal.

WIDE RECEIVERS (13)
IN: Willie Snead, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Seth Roberts, Jaleel Scott, Jordan Lasley, Michael Floyd
LONG SHOT: Sean Modster, Antoine Wesley, Quincy Adeboyejo, Jaylen Smith, Joe Horn Jr.
Skinny: Scott, Modster, and Wesley flashed during workouts, but this group looked very ordinary overall, which wasn’t a big surprise as Brown and Boykin were sidelined. The numbers game will be interesting as you wonder how many receivers the run-heavy Ravens will even feel compelled to keep.

TIGHT ENDS (5)
IN: Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst
BUBBLE: Charles Scarff
LONG SHOT: Cole Herdman
Skinny: Knowing how much offensive coordinator Greg Roman values this position, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fourth tight end with blocking ability stick with the 249-pound Scarff having the current edge. However, the Ravens could also use the versatile Patrick Ricard in that role.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr., Matt Skura, Ben Powers, James Hurst, Bradley Bozeman
BUBBLE: Jermaine Eluemunor, Alex Lewis, Greg Senat
LONG SHOT: Randin Crecelius, R.J. Prince, Patrick Mekari, Marcus Applefield, Darrell Williams, Patrick Vahe
Skinny: Eluemunor lining up as the starting left guard this spring was surprising, but Harbaugh saying his conditioning needs to improve keeps me from moving him to the “in” line just yet. Lewis missing the spring program while rehabbing his shoulder on his own leaves him with much to prove.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Daylon Mack
BUBBLE: Zach Sieler, Gerald Willis, Patrick Ricard
LONG SHOT: none
Skinny: Sieler is probably safe because of the shortage of 5-technique options on the roster, but Willis is an interesting name to watch as a rookie free agent. Ricard’s ability to play on both sides of the ball always improves his roster chances, but he was a healthy scratch for the final six games last season.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (8)
IN: Patrick Onwuasor, Chris Board, Kenny Young
BUBBLE: Matthew Thomas, Otaro Alaka
LONG SHOT: Alvin Jones, E.J. Ejiya, Silas Stewart
Skinny: There is very little clarity in this group beyond the top three, but you would think the Ravens prefer keeping at least one more inside linebacker. Any lingering doubt about Board’s status was erased this spring as he arguably moved ahead of Young in the competition to start next to Onwuasor.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (9)
IN: Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser
BUBBLE: Pernell McPhee, Shane Ray, Tim Williams
LONG SHOT: Aaron Adeoye, Markus Jones, Michael Onuoha
Skinny: Bowser’s ability to drop into pass coverage gives him an edge over the other outside linebackers vying for a roster spot, but McPhee being able to slide inside in sub packages really helps his chances. Ray flashed during the spring, but the proof will be when the pads come on.

CORNERBACKS (11)
IN: Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Justin Bethel, Anthony Averett, Iman Marshall
BUBBLE: Cyrus Jones, Maurice Canady
LONG SHOT: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Terrell Bonds
Skinny: Barring injuries, Baltimore is almost guaranteed to lose a quality player or two from this group. However, I’m not buying Bethel being on the bubble after the Ravens gave him a $1 million bonus and took a compensatory pick formula hit to sign him despite their established depth here.

SAFETIES (6)
IN: Earl Thomas, Tony Jefferson, DeShon Elliott, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Chuck Clark
LONG SHOT: Bennett Jackson
Skinny: The standout play of Elliott was one of the highlights of the spring as he showed impressive range in coverage to go with the physicality he flashed as a rookie last summer. Clark is a rock-solid backup entering his third season, but could the roster crunch at other positions squeeze him out?

SPECIALISTS (5)
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Kaare Vedvik, Matthew Orzech
Skinny: Vedvik really struggled with his kicking accuracy during spring practices open to reporters and will need to rebound in the preseason to build his potential trade value.

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Ravens waive pair of former preseason standouts

Posted on 19 March 2019 by Luke Jones

Former undrafted free agents Jaylen Hill and Bam Bradley were feel-good stories of the 2017 preseason, making the Ravens’ initial 53-man roster before injuries derailed the start of their NFL careers.

Their time with Baltimore came to an end Tuesday with both being waived with failed physical designations, according to the NFL transaction sheet. Hill, a slot cornerback from Jacksonville State, and Bradley, an inside linebacker from Pitt, missed the entire 2018 season while recovering from ACL injuries sustained during their rookie campaign.

Hill’s strong preseason play put him on the radar two years ago as the Ravens were searching for a replacement for nickel back Tavon Young, who had suffered a torn ACL that spring. The 24-year-old Hill appeared in six games before tearing his ACL in Week 16 and began the 2018 season on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from the injury. Soon after returning to practice last November, Hill suffered a hip injury that ended his season.

Even if healthy, Hill would have faced a steep climb to earn a roster spot as general manager Eric DeCosta officially signed veteran special-teams standout Justin Bethel Tuesday to add to a deep group of cornerbacks that already includes Young, Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Anthony Averett, Maurice Canady, and Cyrus Jones.

Bradley, 24, suffered a significant knee injury in only his second NFL game and was slow to recover, spending all of last season on the PUP list. If healthy, Bradley could have been a name of interest as the Ravens move on from four-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who signed a record $85 million contract with the New York Jets last week. Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young currently project as Baltimore’s starting inside linebackers with special-teams contributor Chris Board also expected to be in the mix.

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