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Twelve Ravens thoughts entering 2020 draft week

Posted on 20 April 2020 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of Michigan Athletics)

With the Ravens counting down to their 25th draft in Baltimore beginning Thursday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Logistics alone make this one of the most interesting drafts ever, but the cancellation of pro days eliminated forums in which scouts and coaches around the league informally exchange opinions on prospects. Less groupthink could lead to bigger surprises on draft boards. I’m all for it.

2. Eric DeCosta and Ozzie Newsome before him have always maintained the sanctity of trusting game tape when evaluating prospects, which is more important than ever with the other gaps in this year’s evaluation process. Teams with continuity and a trusted process have a bigger edge than normal.

3. With general managers completing a dry run for the draft on Monday, DeCosta offered a look at his war room on ESPN’s NFL Live. He has his TV and computer screens in order as well as contingency plans and a generator in case of a power failure. What a time.

4. It’s impossible to anticipate which 27 players will be gone when Baltimore is scheduled to pick, but I’ll go with Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray for my prediction, which means you can expect someone else now. Given the depth and value in this draft, however, trading back wouldn’t surprise me at all.

5. As others have noted, how teams handle the signing of undrafted free agents — a hectic endeavor under normal circumstances — should be interesting. This is another area in which the Ravens should have an advantage while recognizing their reputation for giving real opportunities to undrafted talents.

6. Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz has been mentioned as a possibility for the Ravens at the end of the first round, but would you simply keep him at the center position with Matt Skura’s status uncertain? For what it’s worth, Skura did start 12 games at right guard in 2017.

7. The Ravens will presumably take at least one swing in the deepest wide receiver classes in recent memory, but they used more than one tight end on 42 percent of their plays last year. An option like Dayton’s Adam Trautman in the third or fourth round would make sense.

8. Isaiah Simmons of Clemson will be long gone by the time the Ravens pick in the first round, but Wisconsin’s Zack Baun is another “positionless” defensive player who’d be an intriguing toy for Wink Martindale, especially if DeCosta would trade back. Defense is trending more and more this way.

9. Leonard Fournette being on the trading block is the latest example why investing heavily in the running back position just isn’t wise. A back with a career 4.0 yards per carry average and a $4.167 million salary for 2020 isn’t at all appealing.

10. The top four offensive tackles won’t be on the board long, but the thought of moving a tackle inside to guard is intriguing, especially with a Ronnie Stanley extension looming and Orlando Brown already having a Pro Bowl under his belt. Will the Ravens be able to pay both?

11. With New England being the latest team to change its uniforms, I’d be leery if the Ravens wanted to switch theirs. How many in recent years — hello, Tampa Bay and Cleveland — have been more about fixing ugly mistakes? Wrinkles like the purple pants have freshened up Baltimore’s look enough.

12. The draft brings hope for the future, something we need from the last major sporting event for the foreseeable future. As was the case with Sunday’s debut of “The Last Dance” Michael Jordan documentary, it’s fun for sports fans to have an event to be excited about in this climate.

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Ravens-Jaguars: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 23 September 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens face a familiar opponent in unfamiliar territory on Sunday.

Playing Jacksonville for the fourth consecutive season, Baltimore will play its first ever game in London at the famous Wembley Stadium. The Ravens seek their third 3-0 start of the John Harbaugh era while the Jaguars try to rebound from an embarrassing home loss to Tennessee.

Of course, poor health continues to be a major part of the story for the Ravens as a staggering 15 players have already been placed on injured reserve — along with practice-squad member Jeremy Langford — and four additional players have already been ruled out for Week 3.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore seeks its second consecutive win over the Jaguars, who still lead the all-time series with an 11-9 mark that largely stems from the days of the old AFC Central. The Ravens have won nine of the last 12 meetings dating back to the 2000 season.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Even without Brandon Williams, Baltimore will hold Leonard Fournette to less than 3.5 yards per carry. The Jaguars rank ninth in the NFL in rushing yards per game while the Ravens defense has been leakier against the run than you’d expect at 4.0 yards per carry allowed. There was plenty of debate in the offseason about whether giving Williams a lucrative deal was the best use of cap resources when you considered the young depth on the defensive line that includes nose tackle Michael Pierce. We’ll find out how that group looks against a rookie running back with exceptional talent.

2. Mike Wallace and Allen Hurns will catch touchdown passes for their respective teams. The Baltimore receiver was sure to emphasize that he wants to win more than anything when he talked about wanting the ball more this week, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg does need to get the downfield passing game going. Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey is dealing with an ankle injury, which should leave his secondary vulnerable to a big play. Meanwhile, Hurns has been forced to pick up the slack for the injured Allen Robinson, and the Ravens have given up some yards through the air so far.

3. The Ravens will finish with under 100 rushing yards in their first full game without Marshal Yanda. Only Denver recorded more carries than the Ravens over the first two weeks of the season and the Jaguars have given up 136.0 yards per game on the ground, but the loss of a six-time Pro Bowl guard will impact any team’s ability in the trenches. Harbaugh has expressed confidence in new right guard Tony Bergstrom, but he struggled last week and will have his hands full with defensive tackle Malik Jackson. It also doesn’t help that starting running back Terrance West is dealing with a calf issue.

4. Tony Jefferson will record his first interception for one of two Ravens’ takeaways on the day. It’s incredible to think Baltimore has already surpassed its interception total from the entire 2015 season, but Jefferson is the lone member of the starting secondary not to grab one thus far, which has earned him plenty of ribbing from defensive teammates. The Jaguars will do everything they can to keep the game out of the hands of maligned quarterback Blake Bortles, but he’s thrown 53 interceptions in 48 career games and will be picked off by Jefferson at a critical moment of a low-scoring game.

5. Justin Tucker will shine in a grind-it-out 16-13 victory for Baltimore. The Jaguars’ experience playing overseas and the need to adjust to the five-hour time change are legitimate concerns for the Ravens, who were 2-6 on the road last season and haven’t played well away from M&T Bank Stadium for years now. It won’t be a pretty performance, but Tucker will hit a field goal from beyond 50 yards and add two more to put on a good show for the soccer faithful in London. With Pittsburgh and Oakland looming in the next two weeks, the Ravens would very much like to win this one.

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