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No shortage of questions about play, leadership of Ravens defense

Posted on 30 September 2019 by Luke Jones

The post-game reaction was what you’d expect after the Ravens defense offered one of the worst home performances in franchise history in the 40-25 loss to Cleveland.

Tony Jefferson called it “disgusting.”

Matthew Judon described the “terrible” showing as unfit for “a standard that was set a long time ago.”

Earl Thomas labeled the day “frustrating as hell” after the Ravens had given up more than 500 yards and 33 points to Kansas City a week earlier.

Similar sentiments were offered throughout the locker room, but a comment made by Michael Pierce resonated for anyone who’s watched the Ravens surrender more than 500 yards and at least 33 points in back-to-back weeks for the first time in team history. The defensive tackle thoughtfully answered difficult questions from the podium outside the locker room, but he was eventually asked who had stepped up as leaders in the midst of a brutal day.

“Everyone knows who our leaders are.”

Do we though?

Do they?

It certainly isn’t Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, or C.J. Mosley. Their 17 combined Pro Bowls and three decades’ worth of institutional knowledge and football IQ are long gone, and the Ravens miss them. There’s no disputing that anymore.

To be clear, Pierce pointed to Thomas leading by example and Judon being more vocal, but the Ravens defense looked like a rudderless ship Sunday as the Browns punched the unit in the mouth repeatedly without resistance. There were more big plays surrendered, blown coverages and run-gap responsibilities, and some of the worst tackling ever observed from a Baltimore defense. The Ravens defense didn’t play tough or as a team, especially in the second half when the Browns scored 30 points.

Cleveland scored on five straight possessions from the end of the first half to midway through the fourth quarter. After Lamar Jackson’s touchdown pass to Mark Andrews and subsequent two-point conversion to cut the deficit to six with just under 10 minutes to go, the Ravens not only failed to make a stop, but they gave up a Nick Chubb 88-yard touchdown run on the next snap from scrimmage.

On that play, Thomas said he pulled up in an effort to avoid pulling his hamstring. To be clear, the six-time Pro Bowl safety and former Seattle Seahawk wasn’t going to run down the speedy Chubb — perhaps another issue entirely — but that business decision and an NFL Network report of “a heated discussion” between Thomas and Brandon Williams centered around the injured defensive tackle not playing Sunday are poor optics for someone who was signed to play at an elite level and help fill the leadership void.

But this isn’t about one player. The entire Ravens defense was a mess Sunday except for Marlon Humphrey, who was superb against three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for most of the game. That said, even the third-year corner admitted to being responsible for the busted coverage that led to Baker Mayfield’s 59-yard completion to Ricky Seals-Jones in the third quarter.

Entering Monday, the Ravens ranked 25th in total defense, 20th in scoring defense, and 29th in pass defense. Their 10th-ranked run defense is buoyed only by two still-winless teams not even challenging them on the ground in the first two games as Baltimore now ranks 26th in the NFL in yards per carry allowed (4.9). Point to the absences of Williams and Jimmy Smith as well as the season-ending neck injury to Tavon Young as much as you want, but the Browns defense has managed to not completely fall apart these last two weeks despite most of its starting secondary being out.

It’s unclear to what degree the defensive issues can be fixed during the season. The young inside linebackers have been lost in coverage and undisciplined against the run. The veterans and youngsters at outside linebacker have been too inconsistent setting the edge. After Tyus Bowser’s sack on the game’s opening drive, the Baltimore pass rush didn’t hit Mayfield once the rest of the day. The high-priced safety tandem of Thomas and Jefferson has done little to prevent big play after big play these last three games. And, yes, the Ravens have definitely missed Smith and Young at cornerback.

But even before addressing the many on-field issues, who’s going to lead through this trying time? Which player is telling a dazed and wounded group that everything will be OK — with everyone believing him? If necessary, which veteran can provide a verbal boot to the ass that will be taken the right way?

This isn’t an individual knock on Thomas, Judon, Jefferson, or even second-stint veteran Pernell McPhee. Having untapped leadership qualities isn’t the same as establishing yourself as a leader, which must happen organically. That trust and responsibility can’t be forced, but the defense has undergone its greatest leadership exodus since Lewis and Reed walked out of the building in 2013. The difference then was Suggs and five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata still being there.

If Ray Lewis and Ed Reed had suddenly bolted in 2005 or 2006, Suggs probably wouldn’t have been the same leader then as he would eventually become. Weddle and Mosley certainly carried more clout over time than when they first arrived, making it difficult to simply point to Thomas as the solution.

It’s a process, but the Ravens must figure out these defensive woes much sooner than later.

There’s no shame in struggling on the road against the explosive Chiefs offense, but being embarrassed in your own building by the Browns rocks the foundation of what you claim to be.

And the defense doesn’t have that obvious leader to pick it up in the meantime.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts at start of training camp

Posted on 25 July 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens beginning their 24th training camp in Baltimore, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Brandon Williams carried on the tradition of driving Steve Bisciotti’s golf cart onto the field, but it was very different not seeing or hearing Terrell Suggs on the first day of practice. His trash talk and carrying on largely represented the soundtrack of training camp. Practice was much quieter.

2. Michael Pierce deserves credit for his candor discussing his weight and conditioning problems and the work he’s put in. He took a scale on his pre-planned trip to Italy and ate only seafood and lighter fare. He’s a better man than I would have been for laying off the pasta.

3. The start of practice was pretty ugly for Lamar Jackson, but he knocked off rust to throw the ball much better in the latter half. He was picked by Chuck Clark while rolling to his right, but Jackson made some strong intermediate and deep passes and showed more accuracy.

4. John Harbaugh said the offense “looked like it was the first day” as the line struggled to protect and the unit committed way too many pre-snap penalties. That’s typical for this time of year, but a run-first attack will need do the little things well to stay on schedule.

5. Patrick Onwuasor seems to be taking to a leadership role as he is now playing “Mike” linebacker and even offered an opening statement at the podium Thursday, a rarity for a player interview. He says he listened and learned plenty in his first three years to prepare for this opportunity.

6. Marquise Brown not being cleared for the first day was disappointing, but it’s wise not to push with the soreness he still feels when cutting. The sense is he should at least be a limited participant by next week, but concern will grow if that doesn’t happen. He needs reps.

7. After a hamstring injury limited him this spring, Miles Boykin showed good speed in his snaps with the first-team offense. He dropped a pretty deep ball from Jackson, but he rebounded to haul in a contested catch for a touchdown against Earl Thomas in coverage and made some other plays.

8. Despite failing his conditioning test and sitting out the first day, Shane Ray has a real opportunity to revitalize his career and carve out a big role if healthy. I’m not sure whether that says more about his spring work or the lack of confidence in the younger options.

9. Fellow veteran Pernell McPhee lined up as the starting rush linebacker opposite Matthew Judon on the first day. I’m interested to see how the 30-year-old’s reps are managed with his injury history in mind, but I still anticipate him being more of a situational inside rusher than anything else.

10. Ben Powers reaped the benefits of getting to play left guard with Alex Lewis and Jermaine Eluemunor not practicing and James Hurst filling in for Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle on the first day. This competition is wide open, but the rookie fourth-round pick is definitely in the mix.

11. We’ve spotlighted the early-round draft misses in recent years, but the 2016 rookie class that included second- and third-round busts Kamalei Correa and Bronson Kaufusi also produced Judon, a fifth-round pick, as well as Onwuasor and Pierce, two undrafted free agents. Talk about terrific value.

12. One of the biggest surprises to begin camp was seeing a beard-free Marshal Yanda, a sight I couldn’t remember in my time on the beat. The seven-time Pro Bowl right guard appears to be in good shape entering his 13th season.

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Three Ravens held out after failing conditioning test, M. Brown “on schedule”

Posted on 25 July 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A projected starter and two other starting hopefuls were held out from practice as the Ravens officially began training camp Thursday morning.

Right tackle Orlando Brown, guard Jermaine Eluemunor, and outside linebacker Shane Ray didn’t participate in the first full-squad workout after failing the team’s conditioning test. All three observed Thursday’s practice in workout clothes and will remain on the active non-football injury list until being cleared to practice.

While Brown is expected to be the full-time starter after starting 10 games as a rookie, Eluemunor is competing for the open starting left guard job and Ray, a former first-round pick of the Denver Broncos, is vying for playing time in a wide-open competition at edge rusher. With Eluemunor and Brown not practicing, rookie Ben Powers was playing left guard and veteran James Hurst was manning right tackle for the first-team offense Thursday.

“It’s a failed physical and conditioning test, so those guys have to either pass the test or we will have certain conditioning protocol that they will have to go through,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Really, we want to make sure that they’re ready to practice the way we want to practice and make sure they’re safe and make sure they’re productive and ready to go. We have a standard for that, and we stick to it.”

As expected, rookie first-round pick Marquise Brown did not take part in Thursday’s practice, but Harbaugh said it was a “great sign” the speedy wide receiver had passed his conditioning test and is now running at full speed, something he wasn’t yet doing in mid-June. Brown did extensive running and agility work on a side field and caught passes from the Jugs machine, but the Ravens appear committed to bringing him along slowly in his recovery from a Lisfranc foot injury sustained while playing for the University of Oklahoma last December.

General manager Eric DeCosta said the organization “conservatively” expected Brown to be ready for training camp on the night he was selected with the 25th overall pick in April’s draft.

“That’s in the doctors’ hands right now in terms of the healing process,” Harbaugh said. “No setbacks. He’s on schedule. They want to make sure ‘this cut’ and ‘that cut’ don’t make him feel pain. They’re probably erring on the side of caution to some degree, but I don’t want to put a time frame on it because it’s never in the coaches’ hands.

“I’m hopeful, and I’m really expecting him back here pretty soon.”

Defensive tackle Michael Pierce didn’t appear to be limited in his first practice since last season and addressed the weight and conditioning problems that kept him out of mandatory minicamp, saying he apologized to his teammates and coaches for “letting them down” last month. The 26-year-old praised the efforts of head athletic trainer Ron Medlen, head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders, and director of sports nutrition Sarah Snyder for devising workout and diet plans to get him back into playing shape over the last six weeks.

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Pierce said he’s lost “a little over 20” pounds since minicamp and wants to lose more between now and the start of the season. The former undrafted free agent from Samford passed his conditioning test Sunday, noting that “you can’t fake that.” His playing weight was listed at 340 pounds last season.

“I delayed my dieting. I wasn’t diligent in my dieting. I wasn’t diligent in my conditioning,” said Pierce about an offseason in which he didn’t participate in the team’s voluntary workout program. “That’s a mistake I learned from. It really, really won’t happen again. That’s going to be my mission to prove to the guys that I’m here to work.”

Punt returner and cornerback Cyrus Jones was also practicing fully after not being cleared for spring workouts due to a medical condition he declined to disclose Thursday.

Veteran guard Alex Lewis remains on the active physically unable to perform list while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but he was working out individually on a side field. Rookie guard Patrick Mekari (back) was activated from the PUP list for the first full-team practice after missing time late in the spring.

The Ravens waived wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, a former undrafted free agent who has struggled to stay healthy since showing promise two summers ago. The transaction was given a non-football injury designation, which likely means he failed his conditioning test.

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Marquise Brown passes conditioning test, still not cleared to practice

Posted on 24 July 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown won’t take part in the first full-squad workout of training camp Thursday, but his practice debut should be right around the corner.

The 2019 first-round pick from Oklahoma has passed the team’s rigorous conditioning test, but he hasn’t yet been cleared to practice and remains on the non-football injury list. The expectation is for Brown to be eased into workouts in the coming days as he works his way back to full strength from left foot surgery in January. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound speedster did not take part in spring organized team activities, which was always the expectation in his recovery from a Lisfranc injury sustained last December.

The Ravens host the preseason opener against Jacksonville on Aug. 8, which won’t leave Brown much time to be ready for the first exhibition game.

One player who will be ready for the first full practice is defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who passed his conditioning test and was removed from the NFI list Sunday. The fourth-year defensive lineman was held out of mandatory minicamp in mid-June due to weight and conditioning concerns, but he received positive reviews upon returning to Owings Mills.

“Was I worried? No, because I know he’s a professional,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “Sometimes it gets away from you. It’s happened to me before also. I’m not going to fault him for that. If he had come in and not looked as good as he does now and didn’t pass his conditioning testing, then there would have been a problem. Other than that, I love him. He’s ready to go, and I can’t wait to step on the field with him.”

Safety Tony Jefferson also deemed himself “100 percent” ready to practice after being limited in spring workouts while recovering from offseason ankle surgery.

“I don’t really like sitting out. I’m always trying to rush and get back, but [head athletic trainer Ron Medlin] and the staff did a great job of keeping me patient,” Jefferson said. “I got the opportunity to really hone in on training in the summer, being able to really get to it, get ready for this run test that we did, so it was a good time for me. I really trained pretty hard, so I’m excited how that’s going to translate.”

Veterans reported for the start of training camp Wednesday, but it remains unclear if all players passed the conditioning test. No Ravens players were placed on the NFI list, according to Wednesday’s transaction sheet.

Guards Alex Lewis (shoulder) and Patrick Mekari (back) remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

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Ravens defensive tackle Pierce cleared from non-football injury list

Posted on 21 July 2019 by Luke Jones

Two days after being placed on the non-football injury list, Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce has apparently been cleared to begin practicing.

The fourth-year defensive lineman was listed on Sunday’s league transaction sheet as having passed his physical, meaning he has been removed from the NFI list and is eligible to practice this week. The Ravens haven’t commented on Pierce’s status since last month’s mandatory minicamp when head coach John Harbaugh pulled him from the field due to weight and conditioning concerns. It’s unclear exactly where Pierce is physically compared to his 2018 listed playing weight of 340 pounds or whether he has additional work to do from a conditioning standpoint, but the removal of his NFI designation is obviously good news for both him and the Baltimore defense.

Scheduled to make $3.095 million this season after receiving a second-round tender as a restricted free agent, Pierce is entering a contract year and has become one of the NFL’s best run-stopping nose tackles over his first three seasons. He finished with 32 tackles, a fumble recovery, four tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits, and a pass defensed in 14 regular-season games last year and graded as Pro Football Focus’ fifth-best interior defender in the league.

“Don’t forget what a great football player he is, and he’ll get back there [physically],” said defensive coordinator Wink Martindale the day after Pierce was pulled from minicamp in mid-June. “I can’t tell you when, but he’ll get back there. He’ll get back to that.”

Pierce wasn’t the only Raven to be cleared Sunday as rookie third-round outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson and rookie fifth-round defensive tackle Daylon Mack were also removed from the NFI list. Both players presumably failed the conditioning test upon reporting to Owings Mills last week, but each can now begin practicing.

With Pierce, Ferguson, and Mack all passing their physicals, rookie first-round wide receiver Marquise Brown is the only Baltimore player currently on the NFI list while guards Alex Lewis (shoulder surgery) and Patrick Mekari remain on the physically unable to perform list. Those three are eligible to begin practicing at any point upon being cleared by the team.

Remaining veteran players will report to the team facility Wednesday with the first full-squad workout of training camp taking place Thursday morning.

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Ravens put Pierce on non-football injury list, Lewis on PUP list

Posted on 20 July 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens won’t conduct their first full-squad training camp practice until Thursday, but questions remain whether standout defensive tackle Michael Pierce will be ready to take the field.

Pierce was placed on the non-football injury list Friday as injured veterans and quarterbacks were required to report to the team facility in Owings Mills. The organization hasn’t commented on his status, but it’s assumed the designation is tied to the weight and conditioning concerns that prompted head coach John Harbaugh to pull Pierce from the field on the first day of mandatory minicamp in June. A restricted free agent who received a $3.095 million second-round tender in March, Pierce is entering a contract year and chose to skip the team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program in the spring.

The former undrafted free agent from Samford looked noticeably heavier than the 340 pounds at which he was listed during the 2018 season. Harbaugh didn’t shy away from that perception five weeks ago when telling reporters they “can probably tell” he wasn’t in shape.

“He’s not ready to practice just from a safety standpoint — for his own health and safety,” Harbaugh said on June 11. “We recognized that, and we pulled him off for that reason. … It’s a problem, absolutely. We want guys practicing. We want them ready to practice, physically able to practice. That’s very important.”

It’s unclear whether Pierce was even permitted to take the Ravens’ rigorous conditioning test, which he’ll need to pass to be cleared to take the field in training camp.

Baltimore also placed veteran left guard Alex Lewis on the active physically unable to perform list as he continues recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Scheduled to make $2.025 million in base salary, Lewis is not only competing for a starting job, but his roster spot is in jeopardy as he enters the final year of his rookie contract and faces plenty of young competition. Injuries have limited the 2016 fourth-round pick to just 20 games in his first three seasons.

Lewis rehabbed his shoulder away from the team facility, a curious decision for a player whose roster status is far from secure. Harbaugh had little clarity on the offensive lineman’s status during last month’s minicamp in which Lewis didn’t participate.

“I think he’s progressing well. We hadn’t seen him until two days ago, so I really can’t answer that,” Harbaugh said. “I think it would be a good question for Alex. He’s been in charge of his own rehab.”

Both Pierce and Lewis are eligible to begin practicing at any point and still count against the 90-man preseason roster. Pierce joins wide receiver Marquise Brown (foot), outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, and defensive tackle Daylon Mack on the NFI list while Lewis joins guard Patrick Mekari (back) on the PUP list.

Rookie wide receiver Jaylen Smith was removed from the NFI list Friday, an indication that he passed his conditioning test.

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2019 Ravens training camp preview: Defensive line

Posted on 11 July 2019 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning in 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.

July 9 — Cornerbacks
July 10 — Running backs

We continue on the defensive line, a group that includes one of the best run-stopping duos in the NFL and only two players over age 25. However, with the free-agent departures of Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs, and Brent Urban, the Ravens are looking for viable pass-rushing options both off the edge and inside. Smith and Urban frequently lined up as interior rushers last season, so defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will need at least a couple interior linemen to create pressure in the pocket. Returning veteran Pernell McPhee also has a chance to be part of that equation as someone moving to an interior spot in sub packages, but he’s officially listed as an outside linebacker.

It’s worth noting usage of the defensive line is certainly evolving in today’s game as the Ravens ran their “base” 3-4 defense just 16 percent of the time last season, according to Football Outsiders. With at least five defensive backs on the field an overwhelming majority of the time, there are fewer and fewer instances of the nose tackle, 3-techinique tackle, and 5-technique end all being on the field at the same time. Defensive linemen capable of both rushing the passer and stopping the run have always been valuable, of course, but one-dimensional run stoppers are finding fewer snaps with the ever-increasing emphasis on the passing game.

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

The Man — Brandon Williams
Skinny: One could certainly argue the 30-year-old hasn’t played up to the five-year, $52.5 million deal signed in 2017, but he remains one of the better run-stopping nose tackles in the NFL and anchored a defense that allowed only 3.7 yards per carry in 2018. Williams played in every game for the fourth time in the last five years while his 517 defensive snaps led all returning Baltimore defensive linemen.

Old Reliable — Williams
Skinny: With the second-oldest defensive lineman on the current roster just 26 years old, there’s no choice here other than the 2013 third-round pick, who was named to the 2018 Pro Bowl as an alternate.

Under Fire — Michael Pierce
Skinny: Before showing up with weight and conditioning concerns that prompted John Harbaugh to pull him off the practice field last month, the run-wrecking Pierce had a strong argument as “The Man” of this position group. Instead, he’s under the microscope in a contract year despite grading as Pro Football Focus’ fifth-best interior defender in the NFL in 2018. Assuming the 26-year-old gets into ideal shape, his next step will be further improving his pass-rush ability to enhance his market value.

Up-and-Comer — Chris Wormley
Skinny: Urban didn’t sign with Tennessee until after the draft and received only a small one-year commitment, making it clear the Ravens had more than enough confidence in Wormley stepping into a bigger role at the 5-technique spot after injuries prompted him to be more of a 3-technique option in his second season. PFF graded the 2017 third-round pick as the NFL’s 67th-best interior defender last year, but he should receive plenty of opportunities as an inside rusher.

Sleeper — Zach Sieler
Skinny: The 2018 seventh-round pick from Ferris State was Ozzie Newsome’s final draft selection as general manager and played only 17 snaps as a rookie, but the Ravens love his 6-foot-6, 290-pound frame and didn’t keep him on the 53-man roster all last season without having bigger plans in mind. If Wormley doesn’t take a step forward, Sieler could easily push for some of his snaps. 

The Rest — Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard, Daylon Mack, Gerald Willis
Skinny: Hernia surgery and then a season-ending back injury limited Henry to just three games and 82 snaps in 2018, but he appeared on the verge of securing a starting spot last summer and was coming off an impressive 2017 campaign in which he collected 3 1/2 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, and five batted passes. Baltimore is counting on him to be healthy enough to serve as one of its primary interior rushers in the final year of his rookie deal. … Ricard’s versatility as a two-way player makes him more valuable, but he’s yet to stand out in limited defensive opportunities over his first two seasons. … Willis is a rookie free agent to watch after a turbulent college career that included multiple problems off the field and a 2018 campaign in which he recorded 18 tackles for a loss and four sacks to earn second-team All-America honors at Miami.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts in middle of “dead” season

Posted on 29 June 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens and the rest of the NFL in the midst of their “dead” season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The unknown is what makes 2019 so intriguing with training camp weeks away. The many veteran departures do leave Baltimore with a lower floor, but the emphasis on youth potentially creates a higher ceiling. There’s no sense in being too sentimental after one playoff victory in the last six seasons.

2. With more analyst hires and a priority on pass coverage over pressure, the Ravens continue embracing analytics, which makes their run-first offense even more fascinating with “smart” football all about the pass today. It may not prove revolutionary or even successful, but I respect trying to find a hidden edge.

3. Even during this time away from the team facility, players put in a tremendous amount of work just to maintain their strength and fitness. That’s why I don’t envy Michael Pierce these next several weeks, but any “catching up” he does will be critical for his free-agent value come March.

4. I’m reminded of Steve Bisciotti’s candid comments this spring that he had “no idea” what to expect from Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, who both missed extensive spring reps. I can’t buy the passing game being good enough without meaningful contributions from at least one rookie.

5. We’ve discussed the left guard position extensively and will continue to during training camp, but Ben Powers seizing the job instead of there being a battle of attrition would do wonders for the long-term upside of the offensive line. You can’t expect that from a fourth-round rookie, however.

6. I’ve mentioned this before, but always take note of contract status, financial guarantees, and draft standing when sizing up the 53-man roster. Even if the performance isn’t completely equal, teams often prefer someone with more years remaining on his rookie deal — and upside — than a guy soon hitting the market.

7. It was good to see former Ravens scout Chad Alexander receive the opportunity to become Joe Douglas’ director of player personnel in New York. With former Ravens executive Phil Savage also on staff, the Jets could have a good thing if — and it’s a colossal if — ownership doesn’t ruin it.

8. I expect comparisons to continue, but it’d be refreshing to see both Lamar Jackson and Joe Flacco succeed in their respective situations to put the debate to rest. It’s fine to root for the latter, but not as ammunition against a 22-year-old in his first full year as a starter.

9. I’m already dreading subjective pass interference reviews bringing any flow of an enjoyable game to a halt. I’d like egregious calls to be corrected as much as anyone, but I can’t help but feel watching the same replay over and over and over is quietly becoming our new favorite pastime.

10. Just 12 players on the current roster were born in the 1980s and the last two first-round picks — Jackson and Brown — weren’t yet born when the Ravens played their first game at old Memorial Stadium. Either the Ravens are really young or I’m just getting old.

11. John Harbaugh is entering his 12th season, which will tie the combined tenures of Brian Billick and the late Ted Marchibroda. Not too bad for a special teams coach known as the older brother of former Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh when he was hired.

12. The decision to stop holding training camp in Westminster was unpopular, but the Ravens deserve credit for going to great lengths to accommodate up to nearly 2,000 fans per practice at their Owings Mills facility while other teams continue scaling back access to practices and charging money.

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Five Ravens players whose stock fell during spring workouts

Posted on 20 June 2019 by Luke Jones

After taking a look at which Ravens players appeared to be on the rise at the conclusion of mandatory minicamp, it’s time to determine which ones didn’t help their cause this spring for various reasons.

You never want to make too much out of spring workouts, whether it’s chastising someone for being a little out of shape or trying to bury a player who was out of sync in one or two of only a handful of workouts open to media. It’s particularly difficult judging offensive and defensive linemen without pads, which leads to even more scrutiny on players at the skill positions.

Acknowledging those limitations, below are five players who didn’t help their stock this spring:

DT Michael Pierce

It’s important to be sensitive to the various circumstances that could lead to an individual’s weight gain and conditioning concerns, but Pierce’s decision to skip the entire voluntary workout program preceded his abrupt dismissal from the practice field on the first day of minicamp, an embarrassing headline for a good player entering a contract year. How Pierce — and those advising him — didn’t make sure a trainer and nutritionist were keeping on top of his livelihood was a major blunder. The talented nose tackle has plenty of time to get in shape and still have a strong season, but if this episode scares away even one team from making a lucrative offer next March, he’ll have likely cost himself some money.

G Alex Lewis

Lewis was never expected to take part in spring practices as he recovers from January shoulder surgery, but head coach John Harbaugh revealing the organization hadn’t seen him until mandatory minicamp week was a red flag. It was the 2016 fourth-round pick’s right to handle his own rehabilitation, of course, but that’s a questionable strategy when you are entering the final year of your rookie contract, have played in just 20 games in three seasons, and will face plenty of competition for the left guard job. Lewis looked like one of the steals of his draft class over the first half of his rookie season, but his inability to stay healthy coupled with his spring absence will leave him with much to prove this summer.

WR Michael Floyd

The former first-round pick owns as many career touchdown receptions (25) as the rest of Baltimore’s wide receivers combined, but he did little to stand out in a pedestrian group that didn’t have 2019 draft picks Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin on the field for much of the spring. Floyd’s statistical decline since being cut by Arizona in 2016 has been dramatic, but the Ravens’ shortage of outside receivers and Boykin’s hamstring injury seemed like an ideal scenario for him to make a strong statement. The 29-year-old wasn’t awful by any means as he made some plays, but there were also too many drops for a veteran battling a number of younger options and recent draft picks for a roster spot.

K Kaare Vedvik

Some of the hype surrounding Vedvik was always overblown — it’s not like an unproven kicker is going to fetch anything but a late Day 3 draft pick anyway — but there was no question the Ravens had designs of trading him before he was assaulted in Baltimore late last summer and spent the entire 2018 campaign on the non-football injury list. Vedvik made a full recovery and still shows off a very strong leg, but he was inaccurate throughout the spring, missing kicks of various distances in various ways. Assistant special teams coach Randy Brown still has plenty of time to straighten out Vedvik enough to have a chance to shine in the preseason, but his spring wasn’t very pretty.

CB/PR Cyrus Jones

The timing of the Gilman product’s undisclosed health issue was unfortunate as he’s part of an incredibly deep group of cornerbacks and only handled punt returns for the Ravens last year, circumstances that make him far from a lock to be on the 53-man roster. Jones provided a spark and some stability after Baltimore cycled through other punt returners in the first half of 2018, but he’ll need a strong and healthy summer to solidify his roster standing. The good news is Harbaugh said he’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp, but he will still need to be cleared to practice. Jones being able to handle both punts and kickoffs would go a long way toward securing himself a roster spot.

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Ravens conclude spring workouts with few injury concerns

Posted on 13 June 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The best news for the Ravens at the end of spring workouts was the avoidance of any serious injuries with the start of the 2019 campaign still almost three months away.

Few developments are more deflating than losing a key player or two for the season as Baltimore did two springs ago when cornerback Tavon Young and tight end Dennis Pitta suffered serious injuries on back-to-back days.

All but five players on the offseason roster participated in all three days of mandatory minicamp this week, but one of the non-participants was 2019 first-round wide receiver Marquise Brown, who has not yet been cleared to practice despite taking a couple reps in a position drill Wednesday that created some out-of-market media buzz. General manager Eric DeCosta said during the NFL draft that the organization “conservatively” projected Brown to be ready to practice by training camp after undergoing surgery for a Lisfranc injury in his left foot in January.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed the speedy 22-year-old is not yet running at full speed on flat ground despite the agility work he began doing earlier this month, but he remains “hopeful” Brown will be ready to go when players report back to Owings Mills in late July. The Ravens drafted the former Oklahoma star to make an immediate play-making impact in an offense needing more speed.

“My expectation is the opening of training camp,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “I don’t think you can say that for certain because you just don’t know how things are going to progress and where he’s going to be. But, from what I’m told, there have been no setbacks.”

In addition to Brown, defensive tackle Michael Pierce (conditioning), guard Alex Lewis (shoulder), cornerback and punt returner Cyrus Jones (illness), and guard Patrick Mekari (back) missed all of this week’s three-day minicamp.

Lewis’ status remains unclear as he recovers from January shoulder surgery and wasn’t in the building for the voluntary offseason training program. It was a questionable decision for someone who has missed 28 games in his first three seasons and is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

The 2016 fourth-round pick has started 18 of his 20 career games and showed much promise in the past, but Harbaugh made it clear the competition for the starting left guard job is wide open this summer.

“I think he’s progressing well. We hadn’t seen him until two days ago, so I really can’t answer that,” Harbaugh said. “I think it would be a good question for Alex. He’s been in charge of his own rehab.”

Pierce hasn’t been made available to reporters since being pulled off the field by Harbaugh Tuesday because of concerns about his weight and conditioning, but defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and safety Tony Jefferson were among those offering their support to the fourth-year defensive tackle in the midst of much disappointment this week.

“What I said to him and I said it in front of the whole defense, ‘Life is about choices. Just don’t make that choice make your life,’” Martindale said Wednesday. “He’s a dominant player, and he has a challenge to get from here until training camp to hit a certain stage. That’s [up] to the trainers and Eric and ‘Harbs’ on where they want him to be, and I know he’ll be there. I know he will.”

Safety Earl Thomas wasn’t making many splash plays in his first practices since fracturing his lower left leg for the second time in three years last September, but he showed his new team he’s recovered and ready to resume a brilliant career that’s featured six Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl championship as part of Seattle’s dominant “Legion of Boom” defense. His challenge now is getting used to the complexity of Martindale’s system that puts responsibility on the players to make and communicate pre-snap adjustments.

The 30-year-old said he’s “in the right spot” physically and offered praise to Baltimore’s training staff for helping him get back into football shape.

“I have my days. But, for the most part, like today, you never want to get off the field when you’re feeling good,” said Thomas, who’s missed 19 regular-seasons games over the last three years. “I didn’t want to come out. Usually, I’ll take three reps a period, four reps, but I didn’t want to come out today. I felt really good. I’m just taking it day by day.”

The sight of veteran right guard Marshal Yanda taking part in mandatory minicamp has been a rarity in recent years because of a variety of injuries and offseason surgeries, but the seven-time Pro Bowl selection said he never doubted he’d return for 2019 upon finishing last season healthy. Yanda, 34, signed a one-year contract extension through 2020 earlier this offseason, but he isn’t changing his mindset from last year when he acknowledged he was now viewing his career on a season-by-season basis.

“I’m healthy, I’m feeling really good about playing this fall, and I don’t look any further down the road,” Yanda said. “I’m worried about playing this fall and playing good football. The best thing is that I didn’t have to recover from an offseason surgery, so I didn’t have to rehab this offseason. I could lift and I could do some shoulder maintenance, but I didn’t have to get any range of motion back.”

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