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Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon (99) reacts while holding a smartphone after an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Baltimore. The Ravens won 28-10. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Deadline passes as Ravens, Judon fail to strike long-term deal

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Luke Jones

Wednesday’s franchise tag deadline passed with the Ravens and outside linebacker Matthew Judon failing to reach an agreement on a long-term contract.

That means the 2019 Pro Bowl selection must play the upcoming season under the tag amount of $16.808 million and is scheduled to again become an unrestricted free agent next March. Both sides had been quiet about negotiations throughout the process with no indication that a deal was close.

The 28-year-old signed his franchise tender in late May, eliminating any real possibility of him holding out during training camp. Unlike fellow tagged edge rushers Shaq Barrett and Bud Dupree who filed grievances against their respective teams after being classified as linebackers, Judon was able to work out a compromise with the Ravens to split the difference between the linebacker ($15.828 million) and defensive end ($17.788) amounts. Earlier this offseason, the 6-foot-3, 261-pound linebacker said he was “blessed” to receive the tag, a more diplomatic stance than others prevented from hitting the open market.

“I want to stay here for as long as I play, but I understand that it’s a business and that they’ve kind of got a ‘bad-good’ problem to have,” Judon said last month. “We have a lot of young talent, and unfortunately, we can’t all stay on the rookie deal our whole careers. They have stuff that they have to address, and obviously, I have needs as well.”

Despite a career season in which Judon registered a team-leading 9 1/2 sacks and ranked fourth in the NFL with 33 quarterback hits, some have pointed to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s blitz-heavy system as reason to question whether the 2016 fifth-round pick from Grand Valley State is worthy of being paid among the league’s elite pass rushers. Still, Judon was easily Baltimore’s best performer at outside linebacker last year after the free-agent departure of seven-time Pro Bowl selection Terrell Suggs, and 2019 third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson is the only notable Ravens outside linebacker under contract beyond the upcoming season.

The climate for a long-term contract for Judon doesn’t figure to improve next offseason because of both the financial uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the pending free agency of Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who would be an obvious candidate for the franchise tag in the absence of a long-term extension. General manager Eric DeCosta must also weigh the long-term contract situations for 2019 MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, and Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., all players working toward top-tier contracts at their respective positions in the near future.

As Judon alluded to in his recent comments, the Ravens simply may not be able to pay everyone.

With 28 1/2 sacks, seven forced fumbles, seven pass breakups, and 185 tackles in 62 career games, Judon became the seventh player to receive the franchise tag in team history and will become the first to play out a season on the tag since Suggs in 2008. The Ravens awarded Suggs with a long-term contract the following summer and eventually reached long-term agreements with five of those previous six players who were tagged, the exception being interior offensive lineman Wally Williams after the 1998 season.

With Judon’s guaranteed salary now locked in barring a trade, the Ravens entered Wednesday with $8.886 million in salary cap space for the 2020 campaign.

Below is a history of how the Ravens have used the franchise tag in their 25 seasons:

1998 OL Wally Williams — played on a $3.062 million tag before signing a five-year, $18.5 million deal with New Orleans the following offseason
2003-04 CB Chris McAlister — signed a seven-year, $55 million extension in October 2004
2008-09 OLB Terrell Suggs — signed a six-year, $62.5 million extension in July 2009
2011 DT Haloti Ngata — signed a five-year, $61 million extension in Sept. 2011
2012 RB Ray Rice — signed a five-year, $35 million extension in July 2012
2016 K Justin Tucker — signed a four-year, $16.8 million extension in July 2016
2020 OLB Matthew Judon — will play on a $16.808 million tag and is scheduled for free agency in 2021

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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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Current Ravens speak on challenge of rookies not having spring workouts

Posted on 17 April 2020 by Luke Jones

Nine years ago, Ravens running back Mark Ingram was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the midst of an NFL lockout that extended into July of his rookie season.

Of course, those circumstances pale in comparison to the coronavirus pandemic that’s killed tens of thousands of Americans, drastically altered everyday life, and brought the sports world to a screeching halt indefinitely. But the three-time Pro Bowl selection can relate to the young players selected in next week’s draft not having the normal rookie development program, minicamps, and organized team activities to acclimate themselves to the NFL this spring.

All 32 teams are in the same boat with the current restrictions, but it’s quite a thought for a rookie to not yet be able to meet his coaches and new teammates in person, let alone know whether the 2020 season will take place as scheduled. First-year players in 2011 at least had the ability to work out with new teammates away from NFL facilities during the lockout, something from which Ingram benefited playing with a future Hall of Fame quarterback.

“That was definitely a challenge coming in in the lockout year,” said Ingram, who rushed for 474 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games his rookie season. “I got drafted, and essentially, my first day with the team officially was the first day of training camp. Actually, it was the second day of training camp. That’s something that will be difficult. The one good thing about it when I came in, Drew Brees would fly guys in and put them up, and we’d have kind of run-through practices just as players. But you can’t even do that right now.”

Having started 10 games as a 22-year-old rookie and blossoming into a Pro Bowl right tackle by his second season, 2018 third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. took advantage of a normal first offseason to get into better physical shape after a combine performance that drew much criticism and led to him falling in the draft. The Oklahoma product also began refining his skills working with offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris, allowing the 6-foot-8, 355-pound lineman to successfully take over a starting role in mid-October of his first season.

Brown hopes remote communication can help fill in some of those gaps as much as possible, but it won’t be the same as being at the training facility in Owings Mills.

“I grew so much between OTAs and minicamp,” said Brown about his rookie experience. “Just being able to communicate with the guy next to you, to being able to ask your coach questions in person, to being able to walk through things, step through things, get the chemistry and the feel for the speed of the game. It’s going to be tough for a lot of rookies coming in just because they won’t have the opportunity to do those things.”

Unlike the 2011 rookies who couldn’t have contact with coaches and staff while owners and the union fought over a new collective bargaining agreement for months, this year’s class will have remote access and communication for both workouts and football meetings in place of the normal program.

Ingram is confident rookies and veterans will make the best of the current climate with bigger problems than football out there right now.

“I think the virtual aspect that they put in, I think that’ll be key for the learning curve of young players,” Ingram said. “It’s just a tough situation that we’re all dealing with — the entire world really. We all want to make it better. We want everyone to get healthy. These are the circumstances that we’re dealing with, so I think with the virtual thing — the Zoom stuff and all that — I think we’ll find ways to keep our young players up to speed.”

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How did Ravens offensive linemen stack up to rest of NFL in 2019?

Posted on 27 February 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens recorded the best regular season in franchise history, but where did their individual players stack up across the NFL in 2019?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl — Baltimore had a record-tying 13 selections — or determining postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few watch every player on every team closely enough to form any real authoritative opinion.

Truthfully, how many times did you watch the Tampa Bay offensive line this season? What about the Atlanta Falcons linebackers or the Detroit Lions cornerbacks?

That’s why I respect the efforts of Pro Football Focus while acknowledging their grading is far from the gospel of evaluation. I don’t envy the exhaustive effort to evaluate players across the league when most of us watch one team or maybe one division on any kind of a regular basis.

We’ll look at each positional group on the roster in the coming days, but below is a look at where Ravens offensive linemen ranked across the NFL this past season followed by the positional outlook going into 2020:

Safeties
Running backs
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers
Defensive linemen
Tight ends
Inside linebackers

Ronnie Stanley
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 1,036
PFF ranking: fourth among offensive tackles
Skinny: PFF’s highest-graded left tackle and top-graded overall pass blocker for 2019, Stanley, 25, had the best season of his career as he was named to his first Pro Bowl and was a first-team All-Pro selection. The 2016 first-round pick also ranked 10th in run blocking among qualified tackles as the Ravens may need to make him the highest-paid left tackle in NFL history to extend his contract beyond 2020.

Marshal Yanda
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 1,068
PFF ranking: fourth among guards
Skinny: The 35-year-old continued to strengthen his case for Canton by making his eighth Pro Bowl in nine years and again ranking among the league’s best guards in his 13th season. Yanda led all guards in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency metric and remained the anchor for an offensive line that blocked for a ground game that set a new NFL record for rushing yards in a season.

Orlando Brown Jr.
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 1,204
PFF ranking: 25th among offensive tackles
Skinny: After starting 10 games as a rookie, the 2018 third-round pick from Oklahoma firmly established himself as a quality NFL starter as he started every game and played in his first Pro Bowl after initially being named an alternate. His historically poor combine testing two years ago feels like a distant memory as Brown has been everything the Ravens could have reasonably wanted at right tackle.

Bradley Bozeman
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 1,204
PFF ranking: 32nd among guards
Skinny: Left guard was a concerning position battle last summer as others failed to take the reins before the Ravens turned to the 2018 sixth-round pick from Alabama in the final days of the summer. Many wondered if Bozeman would be a liability at the position, but his play was solid throughout the season as he played every offensive snap and was rarely a topic of conversation, a good sign for a young lineman.

Matt Skura
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 717
PFF ranking: 17th among centers
Skinny: The former practice-squad lineman solidified his place as a starting-caliber NFL center before sustaining ACL, PCL, and MCL tears as well as a dislocated left kneecap in late November. The 27-year-old is still expected to be tendered as a restricted free agent, but it remains unclear whether Skura’s surgically-repaired knee will be ready for the start of training camp.

Patrick Mekari
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 530
PFF ranking: 14th among centers
Skinny: The undrafted free agent from Cal-Berkeley had a strong preseason to earn a 53-man roster spot and was active as a reserve every week until Skura’s knee injury threw him into the starting lineup. Baltimore didn’t skip a beat over the final five regular-season games before the 22-year-old Mekari was one of many Ravens players to have a bad night against Tennessee in the playoff loss.

James Hurst
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 194
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The versatile veteran set a career low for snaps, but he filled in effectively at left tackle for the injured Stanley in Week 15. The Ravens value Hurst’s ability to play four different positions, but his four-game suspension to start 2020 could compromise his roster standing as he’s scheduled to make a steep $4 million in base salary as a backup and Baltimore signed veteran Andre Smith to a one-year deal.

Parker Ehinger
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 54
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The former fourth-round pick signed with Baltimore’s practice squad in September and was promoted to the active roster in late November, faring pretty well in limited snaps. Ehinger will be a restricted free agent and could return to compete for a 53-man roster spot.

Ben Powers
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 30
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The fourth-round pick from Oklahoma graded quite well in his lone action of the season at right guard in Week 17, but Powers being inactive for every other game as a rookie leaves plenty of questions regarding his ability. Regardless of what happens with Yanda or others, the spring and summer will be critical for Powers’ development as an NFL-caliber guard.

Hroniss Grasu
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 1
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: Claimed off waivers in early December for his second stint with the Ravens, the 28-year-old served as an active reserve for the final few games and is unlikely to return on anything but a league-minimum deal with a chance to compete for a roster spot in the preseason.

2020 positional outlook

The current state of the offensive line begins with the status of Yanda, who still hasn’t informed the Ravens whether he plans to return for a 14th season and chase another Super Bowl ring. Yanda retiring would create a major void at right guard — and from a leadership standpoint — that the Ravens won’t easily replace. The interior offensive line is further complicated by the uncertain health of Skura, making it ideal for general manager Eric DeCosta to add a starting-caliber option to the inside mix. On the bright side, the Ravens boast one of the best offensive tackle duos in the NFL with two Pro Bowl selections under age 27. Signing Stanley to a contract extension beyond 2020 should be one of the top priorities of the offseason as the Ravens searched nearly a decade for a franchise left tackle after the retirement of Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden. Even if Yanda decides his football days are over, the mere presence of dual-threat MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson puts so much pressure on defensive fronts that the offensive line remains at a clear advantage.

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Ravens re-sign veteran offensive tackle Andre Smith to one-year deal

Posted on 06 February 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens retained a veteran depth option for their offensive line by re-signing offensive tackle Andre Smith to a one-year deal on Thursday.

The 33-year-old has appeared in 116 contests (98 starts) in an NFL career spent primarily with Cincinnati and signed with Baltimore last month before being inactive for the divisional playoff loss to Tennessee. The sixth overall pick of the 2009 draft from Alabama, Smith has primarily played right tackle in his career, but he started five games at left tackle for the Bengals in 2019 and would have graded 74th among offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus had he played enough snaps to qualify.

Veteran James Hurst served as the primary backup to Pro Bowl starting tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. last season, but the 28-year-old is scheduled to make $4 million in base salary and the Ravens could save $2.75 million in salary cap space by releasing him this offseason. Smith would be a cheaper option if he proves to be reliable enough in the spring and summer as he enters his 12th NFL season.

The 6-foot-4, 325-pound lineman had brief stops with Arizona and Minnesota in addition to having three different stints with the Bengals over his career.

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Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. added to Pro Bowl roster

Posted on 15 January 2020 by Luke Jones

Right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. became the record-tying 13th Ravens player to be named to this month’s Pro Bowl, replacing Oakland’s Trent Brown on the AFC roster on Wednesday.

The 2018 third-round pick from Oklahoma became the third Baltimore offensive lineman to be named to the all-star game, joining right guard Marshal Yanda and left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Pro Football Focus graded Brown as the 25th-best offensive tackle in the NFL and the ninth best in pass blocking this season. The 23-year-old started all 16 games in the regular season as the Ravens set a new NFL record for rushing yards on their way to an NFL-best 14-2 record.

Baltimore’s 13 Pro Bowl players tie the NFL record set by the 2007 Dallas Cowboys, who had 11 original selections and two injury replacements for the game.

Brown’s addition came with the news that Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters would drop out of the Pro Bowl and be replaced by Pittsburgh cornerback Joe Haden. The 27-year-old Peters was named to his third Pro Bowl in his five NFL seasons and recently signed a three-year, $42 million contract extension with Baltimore despite being acquired from the Los Angeles Rams just three months ago.

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As honors pour in, Jackson keeps sights on bigger prize for Ravens

Posted on 04 January 2020 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With Lamar Jackson always quick to credit teammates for his individual success, it’s no wonder another Ravens player would try to accept the quarterback’s latest honor.

As the announcement was being made that Jackson had been voted as team MVP unanimously by the local media, Matthew Judon made a beeline to the podium at the conclusion of Baltimore’s bye week, drawing much laughter. You get the sense Jackson wouldn’t have minded the Pro Bowl outside linebacker receiving the honor, which speaks to the gravitational pull of his leadership within the organization.

“Anyone could have been MVP, I feel. Everyone is MVP because without them, there’s no me,” said Jackson, who was also named to the Associated Press first-team All-Pro team Friday. “I thank the coaching staff, [reporters], my teammates. It’s a team award to me.”

The honors have continued to pour in for the NFL MVP favorite in his second season, but Jackson remains focused on fulfilling the promise he made the night he was drafted less than two years ago — bringing the Ravens their next Super Bowl. Last January’s playoff loss continues to motivate Jackson as he’ll finally have his next postseason chance in the divisional round next Saturday.

Jackson says that hasn’t altered his preparation this week — though an illness did — but his individual accolades and a 14-2 regular season don’t mean anything if the Ravens don’t feel the urgency to play their best football after their bye week.

“You have to go into each and every game the same way,” Jackson said. “This playoff game is a Super Bowl game because if you don’t win, you’re out. You’re going home until next season. I’m treating every game like it’s a Super Bowl game until I’m in there and it says ‘Super Bowl’ across.”

Coordinator interviews

Head coach John Harbaugh said Wink Martindale’s Saturday meeting with the New York Giants and Greg Roman’s meeting with Cleveland on Thursday are the only head coach openings for which his coordinators have scheduled to interview as of yet.

However, the organization granting those requests hasn’t stopped players from trying to keep their coordinators in Baltimore.

“I think he would make a great head coach,” said Judon about Martindale. “But I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t want to lose him. We’ve got some unfinished business. At the end of the season, whenever it happens, talk to me then about it and you’ll see how I feel.”

In his second season as defensive coordinator, Martindale navigated his unit’s early struggles and in-season changes for the Ravens to finish fourth in total defense, third in scoring defense, and fourth in Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric.

Meanwhile, Roman has orchestrated a record-setting offense that’s indeed revolutionized the NFL as Harbaugh predicted in the offseason. With the Ravens setting a single-season league rushing record and becoming the first team in NFL history to average 200 rushing yards and 200 passing yards per game in the regular season, Jackson wants other teams to get in line for their shot at hiring his offensive coordinator.

“They need to chill out. We have something to do right now,” said Jackson as he smiled. “We need him to focus because we need to focus. We’re trying to get somewhere. Let us do ours. You guys are going to have your turn when the season is over with. Just chill — we’re trying to get somewhere.”

Injury report

Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram missed practice all week while continuing to recover from a left calf injury sustained in Week 16, but the Ravens remain optimistic about a return for the divisional round.

“He’s on track to play,” Harbaugh said. “He should be practicing next week full speed.”

Wide receiver Marquise Brown, defensive tackle Brandon Williams, and offensive linemen Ben Powers and Parker Ehinger were also absent from Friday’s practice as players now enjoy the weekend off.

Tight end Hayden Hurst returned to the field Friday after being one of several players under the weather this week, according to Harbaugh. Jackson practiced for the second straight day Friday and says he’s fully recovered from the illness with which he’d been dealing since last weekend.

“I really don’t get sick. It was like a stomach bug, kind of, but it was weird — nasty feeling, numbness,” Jackson said. “But I was good; I just couldn’t practice. I didn’t want to get around anybody on my team, especially when we need to work. We need to get better each and every day we can. But I’m over it. I’m good, I’m 100 [percent] right now.”

“Good Guy” award

In addition to Jackson predictably being voted team MVP, the local media chose right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. as the “Good Guy” winner.

The honor goes to a Ravens player who goes above and beyond regular media obligations to help reporters do their jobs. It was a tight vote among Brown, right guard Marshal Yanda, and wide receiver Willie Snead.

“You guys are very invested in us as a team and as individuals,” Brown said. “I just try to do my best to deliver. I do my job as a football player, which is talking to you guys and expressing my emotions.”

As a token of appreciation, local reporters will make a donation in Brown’s name to the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation.

Below is a history of the team MVP and “Good Guy” selections (in that order) dating back to the awards’ introduction by the local media in 2003:

2003: Jamal Lewis, Gary Baxter
2004: Ed Reed, Anthony Weaver
2005: Adalius Thomas, Jamal Lewis
2006: Steve McNair, Bart Scott
2007: Willis McGahee, Derrick Mason
2008: Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs
2009: Ray Rice, Jarret Johnson
2010: Haloti Ngata, Chris Carr
2011: Ray Rice, Bernard Pollard
2012: Ray Rice, Arthur Jones
2013: Justin Tucker, Joe Flacco
2014: Justin Forsett, Torrey Smith
2015: Marshal Yanda, Jimmy Smith
2016: Justin Tucker, Zachary Orr
2017: Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle
2018: Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr
2019: Lamar Jackson, Orlando Brown Jr.

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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, right, is tackled by Los Angeles Rams defensive end Dante Fowler during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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NFL milestone could come exactly as Lamar Jackson prefers it

Posted on 05 December 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The records and achievements have come at such a prolific rate for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson that they’ve almost become white noise in an MVP-caliber season.

On Wednesday, the 22-year-old became the first Ravens quarterback to ever be named AFC Offensive Player of the Month after an incredible November that included 13 touchdown passes, three touchdown runs, a 76.2 completion percentage, a 143.7 passer rating, 777 passing yards, 300 rushing yards, no turnovers, and — what he cares about most — a 4-0 record. But his next potential feat isn’t a run-of-the-mill weekly award or an obscure record you’d need the Elias Sports Bureau to confirm.

A week after surpassing Randall Cunningham and Bobby Douglass on the single-season list, Jackson needs only 63 rushing yards — a total he’s eclipsed in nine of his last 11 games — to break Michael Vick’s NFL record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season. Vick rushed for 1,039 yards in 2006, but Jackson is currently on pace to run for an amazing 1,302 yards in his first full season as a starter. For context, a player rushed for 1,300 yards only eight times over the previous four NFL seasons and no Raven has reached that mark since Ray Rice (1,364) in 2011.

For a young player who’s tried to downplay weekly awards and MVP hype in favor of team-oriented goals throughout the season, this record certainly carries meaning.

“It would be an honor. Like I’ve said, Michael Vick is my favorite player,” Jackson said. “For me to do such a thing, it’s incredible. He had that record for a long time, and it will be pretty cool. But I’m focused on the win regardless.”

With winning always at the forefront of Jackson’s mind, breaking Vick’s record on the same day the Ravens can clinch a playoff spot with a win at Buffalo — and possibly their second straight AFC North division championship if Pittsburgh also loses at Arizona — would be exactly how he likes it.

Jackson has now rushed for at least 60 yards in nine straight games, the kind of consistency for which the best running backs in the league strive. That he’s continued to run at such a historic pace while also being a top 10-caliber passer — if not even better than that — is why he’s the clear favorite to be NFL MVP. It’s the stuff of video games if a game of Madden were as fun as watching the electrifying Jackson make defenders look silly in the open field.

“Lamar is a generational talent in my opinion running the ball, and a lot of people understand that,” right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said. “People want to stop him. People want to slow him down and all those different things. People haven’t really figured out how to do it yet. I’m sure there isn’t an answer.”

There really isn’t one at this point, but Jackson would gladly take a quiet day with his legs against the Bills as long as the Ravens officially punch their ticket for January football. And that mindset is part of what makes him so special.

Cleaning up run defense

The 174 rushing yards allowed — 146 by Raheem Mostert — in last Sunday’s 20-17 win over San Francisco grabbed the Ravens’ attention preparing for Buffalo’s fifth-ranked ground attack this week.

The Bills rank 10th in the NFL in rushing efficiency while the Baltimore run defense will try to bounce back from its worst game since the Week 4 loss to Cleveland. The Ravens did limit the 49ers to just nine yards on five carries in the fourth quarter after San Francisco had much success running outside.

“There were some edge issues that we had with Jaylon [Ferguson], and it was just a different look that a rookie hasn’t seen,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. “We worked on it because we know how this league is. If they see a scab scratched, they’re going to keep trying to attack it and we’ve worked on it. That’s been a point of emphasis for us going into this game. We just had too many missed tackles on that [40-yard touchdown run], and what I liked is how we bounced back in the second half.”

Should Ferguson’s Week 13 problems holding the edge carry over against Buffalo, veteran Jihad Ward seeing more snaps at outside linebacker wouldn’t be surprising.

Special moment for Humphrey

Marlon Humphrey said he’d never blocked a field goal in practice, college, or even high school, but his deflection of 49ers kicker Robbie Gould’s 51-yard attempt to end the first half proved to be a critical play in the three-point win.

The play sparked an enthusiastic embrace as part of a big day for the Baltimore special-teams units.

“We prepared, we talked about it. We said, ‘We have an opportunity,’ if we got in that situation,” special teams coach Chris Horton said. “I was really excited for him. It was our first blocked kick as a staff, so it was just a really exciting moment. And I think it was deserving of a big hug.”

Thursday’s injury report

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams was the only player on the 53-man roster not to practice on Thursday as he received a veteran day off.

Wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle) was added to the injury report as a limited participant, which hasn’t been uncommon over the course of the season.

Below is the full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Brandon Williams (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Marquise Brown (ankle), CB Marlon Humphrey (thigh), LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), WR Seth Roberts (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Nick Boyle (illness), CB Brandon Carr (non-injury), RB Mark Ingram (non-injury), CB Jimmy Smith (non-injury), S Earl Thomas (non-injury)

BUFFALO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Lorenzo Alexander (non-injury), RB Frank Gore (non-injury), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), G Quinton Spain (illness), RB T.J. Yeldon (illness)

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Lamar Jackson leads all players in Pro Bowl fan voting

Posted on 20 November 2019 by Luke Jones

Lamar Jackson has not only become the favorite for league MVP in his first full season as a starter, but the Ravens quarterback is currently leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting.

The Ravens lead all 32 teams in total votes received with Jackson, fullback Patrick Ricard, guard Marshal Yanda, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., cornerback Marcus Peters, and kicker Justin Tucker leading AFC voting at their respective positions. Jackson has received 146,171 votes compared to 116,325 for Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes for the top two spots overall and in the AFC quarterback race.

Jackson enters Week 12 ranked fourth in the NFL in passer rating (106.3) and first in yards per carry (6.9) while ranking 11th or better in the league in rushing yards, completion percentage, touchdown passes, and passing yards per attempt, illustrating the dynamic dual-threat impact he’s brought to a Ravens team off to its best start since 2012. He would become the first Baltimore quarterback to play in the Pro Bowl since Vinny Testaverde after the Ravens’ inaugural 1996 campaign.

The 22-year-old missed out on his third straight AFC Offensive Player of the Week award to Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen on Wednesday, but news of Jackson leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl voting speaks to his remarkable rise in his second season.

“Football is No. 1 in his life,” said Yanda, who is in the running for his eighth Pro Bowl selection of the last nine years. “Some guys that come through, they like what the game gives them, but they don’t necessarily like the game all the time. This kid loves ball. He loves football. He loves getting better. He’s a competitive guy.

“On Sunday, he’s a competitive son of a gun, and that’s what you need.”

Peters and Tucker are each aiming for their third Pro Bowl nod while Ricard and Brown haven’t been selected before.

Fan voting concludes on Dec. 12 while players and coaches cast their choices on Dec. 13 with each group counting for one-third in determining the 88 players selected to the game. Pro Bowl rosters will be announced on Dec. 17.

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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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