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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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Twelve Ravens thoughts after first five camp practices

Posted on 30 July 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens enjoying their first day off from training camp and still more than a week away from the preseason opener, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I wrote about Lamar Jackson the other day, but one topic I didn’t address was ball security after he led the NFL in fumbles last season. Correcting that is critical, but his fumbling problems really only showed up in games, making it difficult to gauge progress there thus far.

2. Brandon Carr played some nickel filling in for Tavon Young at times last year, but he’s received plenty of reps at safety in camp. The 33-year-old admits his “head spins sometimes” playing multiple positions, but that versatility will be valuable to this secondary and for him extending his career.

3. There’s been no shortage of praise for Miles Boykin, who’s made plays against the starting defense and was even compared to a young Michael Thomas by Willie Snead. He’s looked good, but pumping the brakes on the hype until the first couple preseason games would be wise. It’s still early.

4. I remain more bullish on Mark Andrews, who has been the best pass catcher on the field and is playing with some attitude and swagger. Given the structure of this offense and Jackson’s passing strength being over the middle, Andrews could really take off after a promising rookie year.

5. Wink Martindale praised Pernell McPhee for his early play and bringing “that old Raven rough, tough mentality” to the outside linebackers, but this position remains a concern. Tim Williams has flashed a little — he’s done that in previous summers — but the rest of the group has been quiet.

6. After starting the final 10 games last season and serving as the starting right tackle all spring, Orlando Brown Jr. has worked with the second team since missing the first full-squad workout with a failed conditioning test. I understand sending a message, but four practices seems sufficient.

7. Jermaine Eluemunor missed the first practice after failing the conditioning test, which came after John Harbaugh wanted him to be in better shape in the spring. Perceived as a quiet favorite to play left guard, Eluemunor has also missed two practices with a muscle issue. He’s squandering early opportunities.

8. We expected a competition between Chris Board and Kenny Young at inside linebacker, but Board has taken virtually all first-team reps next to Patrick Onwuasor in the base and nickel packages. Young isn’t practicing poorly, but he’s clearly third behind Board and Anthony Levine when considering Baltimore’s frequent dime usage.

9. Two early concerns continue to be frequent pre-snap penalties and bad snaps from the centers. The precision required to run such a unique offense can’t be overstated — even in July. As Greg Roman described the many false starts, “It’s hard to turn that lemon into lemonade when you jump.”

10. With the Ravens enjoying the deepest secondary in the NFL, it’s easy to forget about guys further down the depth chart, but Chuck Clark and Maurice Canady have practiced well. DeShon Elliott received much hype for his spring play, but Clark has been steadier early in camp.

11. Seth Roberts has quietly had a solid start to camp, showing some chemistry with Jackson on shorter passes. He’s not spectacular and had a history of drops in Oakland, but he’d go into my top three wide receivers with Willie Snead and Boykin instead of Chris Moore so far.

12. The Robert Griffin III injury isn’t ideal, but Trace McSorley should continue receiving more reps behind Jackson, especially with Josh Johnson declining an offer and journeyman Joe Callahan signing instead. McSorley has a huge opportunity to prove he’s deserving of a 53-man roster spot. He’s held up OK so far.

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O. Brown, Eluemunor, Ray practice after passing conditioning test

Posted on 26 July 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens’ infamous conditioning test has victimized many players at the start of training camp in the John Harbaugh era, but the entire current roster has now passed.

After sitting out the first full squad workout of the summer, starting right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor, and outside linebacker Shane Ray were all activated from the non-football injury list and practiced Friday upon passing the conditioning test. Brown and Eluemunor — who worked as the starting left guard during spring workouts — were relegated to second-team duties in what appeared to be a temporary punishment for their early-camp conditioning woes.

A failed conditioning test garners much attention in the early days of training camp, but very rarely has fallout lingered beyond some short-term ridicule and embarrassment. Even potential future Hall of Fame safety Earl Thomas found the running test to be intimidating upon reporting for his first camp with the Ravens, a sentiment shared by numerous veteran free agents over the years.

“I feel like I trained pretty well in the offseason,” Thomas said, “but I thought I was going to throw up at the end.”

Center Matt Skura was the only new absence from Friday’s workout as he was excused from the team to attend a funeral, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

With players practicing in helmets, shells, and shorts for the first two days, workouts haven’t varied much from spring organized team activities, but that will change Saturday with pads and full contact being introduced. The threat of contact is frequently a separator between young players who have stood out playing in shorts in the spring and others who haven’t yet been able to use their physicality. As veteran safety Tony Jefferson remarked in the spring, that is when coaches begin finding out who the real players are.

The rookies will also get their first taste of playing at M&T Bank Stadium as the Ravens hold a free and open practice Saturday evening.

“They’re going to put the pads on, and they’re going to be in the stadium,” Harbaugh said. “OK, what is that going to look like? It could be a little off, but I talked to them. I said, ‘Let’s not get caught up in all of that. Let’s just keep it simple, keep it on football, get in our box, and do our job.

“The field will still be the same length and the same width. It’s still a 10-foot free throw. That’s a ‘Hoosiers’ reference. Remember that?”

Jackson adds “muscle, not fat”

Many have commented on Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson looking bigger than he did last season when he was listed at 212 pounds as a rookie, but that is by design.

The 22-year-old said he’s gained seven to 10 pounds of muscle this offseason “to put some more meat on” his bones, stressing that it was muscle and not fat and joking that he’d soon look like head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders. The body change hasn’t seemed to hinder his speed as Jackson has continued blowing past many teammates in practices.

“You take hits. Those guys are big out there,” said Jackson about his reasoning for adding weight. “The league is totally different. Grown men are trying to feed their families. Three-hundred-pounders coming at you running 4.5s. It’s different out there in the league.”

Lewis to begin practicing early next month

Like rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown, fourth-year guard Alex Lewis has been working out individually off to the side, but his practice debut is at least another week or two away after rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery.

“If everything stays the same, he should be full-go in early August,” Harbaugh said. “When is that, a week and a half, two weeks? He looks good. He’s strong. He’s over 320 pounds. Everything looks stable. He passed his conditioning test. He’s moving well, and we just have to get him to practice now.”

Currently on the physically unable to perform list, Lewis will be competing for the starting left guard spot in the final year of his contract, but injuries have limited him to just 20 games in his first three seasons.

Leach recognized

Retired fullback Vonta Leach played more games with the Houston Texas in his 10-year career, but he chose to officially retire as a Raven because no organization “glorified or embodied” his position in the same way.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection last played in 2013 and was recognized at a Friday press conference that included executive vice president and former general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh. Leach, 37, was named to two Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl in his three seasons with Baltimore.

“You don’t get a lot of praise unless you really know football,” said Leach about playing the bruising fullback position. “But when the fans yelled my name, ‘Leeeeach!’ no matter what I did on the field, when my name was called, that did something. That was very special to me. As I was walking out there today [at training camp], just when they say my name, they’re always going to stick with me for the rest of my life.”

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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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2019 Ravens training camp preview: Offensive line

Posted on 17 July 2019 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning in just over a week 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.

Cornerbacks
Running backs
Defensive line
Tight ends
Safeties

We continue on the offensive line, a group that was truly a tale of two halves last season as the Ravens ranked 31st in yards per carry over the first nine weeks and were the NFL’s best rushing team over the final seven games of 2018. Lamar Jackson taking over at quarterback played a colossal part in that improvement, of course, but Pro Football Focus ranked Baltimore as its 10th-best offensive line by the end of the season — and 11th in its 2019 preseason rankings — and Football Outsiders ranked the Ravens eighth in pass protection.

The Ravens have an offensive line that isn’t unique from most in the league in that they have three undisputed starters, another they’d probably like to upgrade in a perfect world, and a significant question mark at the fifth starting spot. That profile fits most teams — including plenty of playoff contenders — as overall offensive line play has suffered in recent years, but the Ravens have continuity on their side as all eight linemen to play 94 or more offensive snaps last season are returning, an advantage offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris will certainly enjoy going into the summer.

Below is a look at the offensive linemen who stand out for various reasons:

The Man — Marshal Yanda
Skinny: The Ravens sorely missed the 34-year-old after he suffered a season-ending ankle injury early in 2017, but it didn’t take Yanda long to shake off the rust last year as he graded as PFF’s fourth-best guard in the NFL and made his seventh Pro Bowl in the last eight seasons. The 2007 third-round pick from Iowa is another Pro Bowl or two away from really having an excellent case for induction in Canton one day, but the Ravens are happy to have him back continuing to lead a young offensive line.

Old Reliable — Yanda
Skinny: Despite signing a one-year extension through 2020, Yanda is playing on a year-by-year basis at this point with his health being a major factor determining how much longer he will suit up. His understated leadership will be even more important this year with key veterans such as Terrell Suggs, Joe Flacco, C.J. Mosley, and Eric Weddle no longer on the roster.

Under Fire — Alex Lewis
Skinny: All things equal, the 27-year-old may still be the best option at left guard, but his career has been marred by injuries and he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract. Recovering from offseason shoulder surgery is a challenge by itself, but the 2016 fourth-round pick’s decision to rehab away from the team facility probably doesn’t help him in any tiebreaker situation for a roster spot in the eyes of decision makers. It’s now or never for Lewis to stay healthy and realize his potential.

Up-and-Comer — Orlando Brown Jr.
Skinny: The 2018 third-round pick wasn’t dominant as a rookie, but he was solid in his first 10 starts and graded as PFF’s 47th-best offensive tackle. Brown may not be a great athlete — his combine numbers spelled that out — but what he lacks from a measurable standpoint is made up for with intellect and an advanced understanding of angles, which is such a critical part of line play. The Ravens are right to have high expectations for Brown entering his first full year as a starter.

Sleeper — Greg Senat
Skinny: The former college basketball player from Wagner missed his rookie season with a foot injury, but the Ravens could use a backup left tackle — and have a starter entering the penultimate year of his rookie contract — and clearly liked Senat’s upside when drafting him in the sixth round last year. The 6-foot-6, 305-pound lineman largely remains an unknown, but the Ravens don’t have as many options at offensive tackle as they do for the interior spots, making his roster chances better than you think.

The Rest — Ronnie Stanley, Matt Skura, Jermaine Eluemunor, James Hurst, Ben Powers, Bradley Bozeman, Randin Crecelius, R.J. Prince, Marcus Applefield, Patrick Mekari, Patrick Vahe, Darrell Williams
Skinny: This season could determine whether Stanley will remain in the solid-to-above-average tier of left tackles or put the Ravens on notice that they’ll need to make him one of the highest-paid left tackles in the game in the not-too-distant future. … Skura is maligned by fans and media and is far from an All-Pro center, but the Ravens have a higher opinion of the former practice-squad member than most of the outside world. He was graded as the NFL’s 23rd-best center by PFF. … Eluemunor was the surprising choice to line up as the first-team left guard this spring, but John Harbaugh wasn’t impressed with his conditioning and downplayed any notion of him being the favorite to start in the fall. … Hurst’s $4.75 million salary cap number is on the high side if he doesn’t win the starting left guard job, but the Ravens have always valued his versatility across the offensive line. … Bozeman will get practice reps at center and the guard spots, but spring workouts offered no indication of him being in serious contention for Skura’s starting job as some predicted early in the offseason.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 2019 NFL draft

Posted on 30 April 2019 by Luke Jones

With the 2019 NFL draft now in the rear-view mirror, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After undergoing their biggest roster turnover on defense since the offseason after Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens still went offense with four of their first five picks. That’s quite a change from the 2013 draft when their first four selections were defensive players. I approve for Lamar Jackson’s benefit.

2. Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young were winners of the weekend with none of Baltimore’s eight picks being used on an inside linebacker. With Eric DeCosta having just over $15 million in salary cap space, however, a veteran addition could still be in the cards at some point.

3. Another winner was Matt Skura despite many predicting the Ravens would come away with an early-round center. There’s certainly room for improvement and Bradley Bozeman could push him with a strong offseason, but I don’t get the sense the organization is as down on Skura as some outsiders.

4. DeCosta said the visit with edge rusher Ezekiel Ansah was “great,” but a potential signing likely won’t come until after May 7 when unrestricted free agents no longer impact the compensatory pick formula. Ansah visiting Seattle Monday should dismiss any idea of a handshake agreement being in place.

5. Fifth-round defensive tackle Daylon Mack was considered a disappointment entering his senior year at Texas A&M as a five-star recruit who hadn’t yet become a starter, but 5 1/2 sacks and 9 1/2 tackles for a loss changed that perception. That “sneaky” inside rush ability could be a nice addition.

6. Orlando Brown Jr. attending the draft party for fourth-round guard Ben Powers had to be a cool moment for the reunited Oklahoma teammates and speaks to their close friendship. You’d assume the Ravens had a great scouting report on Powers, who is expected to compete at left guard initially.

7. I’ll be curious to see how the Ravens handle Marquise Brown as he recovers from a Lisfranc injury that could keep him off the practice field until training camp. You don’t want to rush what can be a tricky foot ailment, but developing on-field chemistry with Jackson will be crucial.

8. The Ravens haven’t yet made their undrafted rookie signings official, but the addition of Louisville wide receiver Jaylen Smith made too much sense, especially after he worked with Jackson this offseason. At the very least, it’s a nod to your starting quarterback giving his college teammate a look.

9. Jaleel Scott was a forgotten man after a disappointing summer that ended with him on injured reserve, but the 2018 fourth-round pick has turned some heads this spring with improved speed and fitness. The 6-foot-5 wideout from New Mexico State needs a big preseason to secure a roster spot.

10. Joe Flacco has more important things to worry about after Denver selected Missouri quarterback Drew Lock in the second round, but it’s crazy the Ravens drafted as many wide receivers for Jackson in the first three rounds this weekend as they did over Flacco’s entire 11-year run.

11. Watching the inspiring Miles Taylor and Mo Gaba announce draft picks this weekend was a reminder of how superb the Ravens’ community outreach continues to be. The efforts of so many in the organization really make a lasting impact, including plenty of examples that aren’t publicized.

12. Despite Steve Bisciotti ceremoniously switching the seats of DeCosta and Ozzie Newsome at the conclusion of last year’s draft, the two kept their old spots. I hear Newsome enjoyed himself while DeCosta didn’t let the pressure of running his first draft stop him from playing a practical joke or two.

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How did Ravens offensive linemen stack up to rest of NFL in 2018?

Posted on 07 February 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, but where did their players stack up across the NFL in 2018?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl 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 extensively enough to form any type of an authoritative opinion.

Truthfully, how many times did you watch the offensive line of the Detroit Lions this season? What about the Oakland Raiders linebackers or the San Francisco 49ers cornerbacks?

That’s why I appreciate the grading efforts of Pro Football Focus while acknowledging these rankings shouldn’t be viewed as infallible or the gospel of evaluation. I can respect the exhaustive effort to grade players across the league when most of us watch only one team or one division on any kind of a consistent basis.

Below is a look at where Ravens offensive linemen ranked at their positions followed by the outlook going into 2019:

OT Ronnie Stanley
2018 offensive snap count (including postseason): 1,085
PFF ranking: 17th among offensive tackles
Skinny: Stanley was fourth among qualified offensive tackles in PFF’s pass-blocking grades and was named a second alternate to the Pro Bowl in his third season. The sixth overall pick of the 2016 draft may never become a perennial Pro Bowl tackle, but he’s been solid and reliable despite some nagging injuries.

G Alex Lewis
2018 offensive snap count (including postseason): 707
PFF ranking: 67th among guards
Skinny: Hopes were high for Lewis as he returned from shoulder surgery that cost him all of 2017, but injuries and disappointing play led to him being inactive for the final five weeks of the season. After another shoulder surgery this offseason, he likely finds himself on the roster bubble entering 2019.

C Matt Skura
2018 offensive snap count (including postseason): 1,189
PFF ranking: 23rd among centers
Skinny: The former practice-squad member and undrafted free agent probably held up as well as the Ravens could have expected in his first year as the starting center and was one of only two Baltimore linemen to start all 16 games. That doesn’t mean the organization shouldn’t seek an upgrade, however.

G Marshal Yanda
2018 offensive snap count (including postseason): 1,163
PFF ranking: fourth among guards
Skinny: After shaking off early rust from missing most of 2017 with an ankle injury, the 34-year-old reclaimed his spot as one of the NFL’s best guards and was named to his seventh Pro Bowl in eight years. Yanda is entering the last year of his deal and has been noncommittal about how much longer he’ll play.

OT Orlando Brown Jr.
2018 offensive snap count (including postseason): 760
PFF ranking: 47th among offensive tackles
Skinny: Considering how disastrous Brown’s showing was at last year’s scouting combine, the Ravens should be thrilled with the play of the third-round rookie over his first 10 starts. It’s fair to note Brown received help in many pass-blocking situations, but he still looks the part of a solid NFL starter.

OL James Hurst
2018 offensive snap count (including postseason): 676
PFF ranking: 68th among offensive tackles
Skinny: Many were surprised by the four-year, $17.5 million deal Hurst signed last March, but a back injury cost him the right tackle job and he struggled at left guard upon returning in December. He’s always been best suited for a backup role, but he carries a $4.75 million salary cap hit for 2019.

OL Bradley Bozeman
2018 offensive snap count (including postseason): 214
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: After being a two-year starter at Alabama, the sixth-round rookie flashed in limited playing time at left guard. Depending on what the Ravens do in free agency and the draft, Bozeman could compete for a starting job and has a strong chance to stick around as a versatile interior backup at the very least.

OL Jermaine Eluemunor
2018 offensive snap count (including postseason): 94
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: Eluemunor spent a few weeks on the practice squad, but he elevated his organizational stock slightly and showed some versatility when he filled in for an injured Stanley at left tackle. The 2017 fifth-round pick will still need a strong spring and summer to secure a roster spot as a backup.

2019 positional outlook

Trying to evaluate the 2018 offensive line is difficult when considering the moving parts due to injuries and the dramatic shift in playing style when an injured Joe Flacco was replaced by Lamar Jackson at quarterback. The Ravens ranked 31st in the NFL at just 3.6 yards per carry through the first nine weeks of the regular season — a greater indictment of the line and running backs than Flacco — but they became the most prolific rushing team in the league over the final seven weeks of the regular season with Jackson at quarterback and young running backs Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon replacing Alex Collins and Buck Allen. The offensive line certainly deserves credit, but it’s fair to ask how much with Jackson’s special athleticism putting great pressure on opposing run defenses. Baltimore’s offensive line was 10th in PFF’s season-ending rankings and ranked eighth in pass protection by Football Outsiders, but it’s difficult to look at the individual grades and not believe the Ravens would benefit greatly from an interior upgrade or two, especially factoring in Yanda’s advancing age and uncertain future.

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 18 November 2018 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 12:35 p.m.)

The Ravens come out of the bye week trying to snap a three-game losing streak and save their season against Cincinnati while starting a new quarterback.

With 11th-year starter Joe Flacco officially deactivated with a right hip injury, rookie Lamar Jackson will make his first NFL start, becoming the last of the five 2018 first-round quarterbacks to start a game this season. Jackson will also be the first quarterback other than Flacco to start a meaningful game for Baltimore since Kyle Boller midway through the 2007 season.

No pressure, right?

With Flacco on the game-day inactives list for the first time in his career — he was immediately placed on injured reserve after he tore his ACL in 2015 — veteran Robert Griffin III is active for the first time this season. How much he might play remains to be seen, but you’d expect offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to continue to occasionally use two-quarterback formations — only this time with two mobile options on the field.

After missing the Pittsburgh game with an ankle injury, left tackle Ronnie Stanley is active, but it was Jermaine Eluemunor lining up as the starting left tackle during pre-game warmups. Stanley was talking to members of the training staff as well as head coach John Harbaugh and offensive line coach Joe D’Allesandris, making it unclear if he was always going to be the emergency backup or potentially tweaked his ankle warming up.

Offensive lineman James Hurst remains sidelined with a back injury, meaning rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. will make his fourth straight start at right tackle.

Running back Ty Montgomery will be making his Ravens debut. The former Green Bay Packer was acquired at the trade deadline late last month, but he was a healthy scratch against the Steelers in Week 9. He joins starter Alex Collins, veteran Buck Allen, and rookie Gus Edwards to form a quartet of active running backs against Cincinnati.

While the Ravens will be without their starting quarterback for Week 11, the Bengals will be without seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green (toe) as well as starting linebackers Preston Brown (knee) and Nick Vigil (knee). The impact of Green not playing speaks for itself, but the absences of Brown and Vigil will put pressure on reserves Hardy Nickerson and Vincent Rey to keep Jackson and the Baltimore running game in check. The good news for the Bengals, however, is the return of outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who missed the last two games with a hip injury.

Bengals wide receiver John Ross is also active after being limited with a groin injury this week.

Sunday’s referee is Walt Coleman.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for cloudy skies and temperatures reaching the high 40s with winds five to 10 miles per hour and no precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing their black jerseys with black pants while Cincinnati dons white tops with black pants for Week 11.

Sunday marks the 46th all-time meeting between these teams with the Bengals holding a 23-22 series advantage. Cincinnati has won eight of the last 10 against the Ravens and is seeking its third season sweep in the last five years. That is one of the more telling factoids of the post-Super Bowl XLVII era that features just one playoff appearance for Baltimore.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Joe Flacco
OT James Hurst
LB Tim Williams
WR Jordan Lasley
OL Hroniss Grasu
TE Maxx Williams
DL Zach Sieler

CINCINNATI
WR A.J. Green
CB KeiVarae Russell
LB Preston Brown
LB Nick Vigil
OT Cedric Ogbuehi
WR Josh Malone
DT Adolphus Washington

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Five Ravens predictions for rest of 2018 season

Posted on 09 November 2018 by Luke Jones

(Editor’s note: This post was completed before news broke about Joe Flacco’s hip injury Friday afternoon.)

The story is all too familiar with the Ravens.

An encouraging start followed by a dreadful October leaving Baltimore too little margin for error down the stretch. Only this time around feels like the final stand for 11th-year head coach John Harbaugh and a number of aging veterans with high salary-cap numbers.

A look back at my preseason predictions brings mixed reviews at best as I envisioned the Ravens having their best year since 2014, but a return to the playoffs isn’t yet out of the question with a seemingly pedestrian field competing for the second AFC wild card. At the same time, this hasn’t been the ideal year to face a very strong NFC South after the 2014 Ravens went undefeated against that same division, the difference in them making the playoffs.

Will the Ravens miss out on the postseason for the fourth straight year and fifth time in six tries since their victory in Super Bowl XLVII that feels like a long time ago?

Below are five predictions for the remainder of the 2018 season:

1. Lamar Jackson will see increased snaps and even throw a couple touchdown passes. This one isn’t exactly going out on a limb based on Harbaugh’s recent comments, but how it looks is key. I don’t expect the rookie to become the starter — then again, I also didn’t expect the organization to draft a first-round quarterback this year — as long as the Ravens are in the hunt, but Marty Mornhinweg needs to be willing to call for Jackson to throw the ball more frequently if he’s going to be taking upwards of 10 to 12 snaps per game. The current offense is too predictable, so why not mix it up and allow Jackson to take a deep shot to John Brown? If it means he’s the only quarterback on the field at times, so be it.

2. The running game will perform at a league-average rate the rest of the way. The Ravens have quietly improved running the ball by averaging just under 4.1 yards per carry over the last five games, but that’s coincided with four losses. Baltimore must find a way to run effectively from its “traditional” offense because it’s becoming too obvious that Joe Flacco is passing the ball when he’s at quarterback and the Ravens are running when Jackson lines up there. The recently-acquired Ty Montgomery will provide some help to go with Alex Collins while the Ravens will keep Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle and move James Hurst to left guard. Those changes will bring steadier production.

3. More takeaways and sacks will finally come — at home. I’ve written at length about these subjects recently, but I still believe this defense is too talented and has also been unlucky to have only five interceptions — despite ranking second in the NFL in passes defended and first in batted balls at the line of scrimmage — and two fumble recoveries in nine games. Opportunities will come at home with Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland ranking in the top 11 in giveaways, but the problem is their three road opponents (Atlanta, Kansas City, and the Los Angeles Chargers) have committed a total of just 19 turnovers. My confidence in the pass rush isn’t as high as 22 of their 28 sacks came against Buffalo, the Browns, and Tennessee, whose lines rank in the bottom five in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate.

4. Flacco will not just lose his job lying down. His future in Baltimore largely depends on what the organization is seeing with Jackson’s development, but I don’t expect the 33-year-old to play out his potential final weeks with the Ravens without a fight. Flacco has historically performed better in the second half of most seasons, and his next five opponents rank in the bottom 10 in Football Outsiders’ weighted defense metric, meaning there’s little excuse not to improve after averaging just 5.8 yards per passing attempt over the last five games. Flacco won’t get to 25 touchdown passes as I originally predicted, but he’ll play well enough to keep the door open for his 2019 return or create optimism about his offseason trade value.

5. History will repeat itself as the Ravens finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs, prompting substantial changes. Didn’t I sound so optimistic in the previous points? Baltimore is 16-29 on the road since the start of the 2013 season after going 21-19 in away games from 2008-12. Since 2013, Pittsburgh is 27-16-1, New England 31-13, Kansas City 28-17, and Cincinnati 21-23 on the road, a sampling that illustrates how this franchise has fallen behind even the Bengals in terms of AFC relevance. I expect the Ravens to take care of business in their remaining home games and to play hard as they almost always have under Harbaugh, but they own a total of five road wins against opponents finishing a season with a record of .500 or better since 2013. They’ll need at least one against the Falcons, Chiefs, or Chargers just to get to 9-7, and that’s needing a perfect 4-0 home mark. I just don’t see it, which is why I thought the Ravens needed to be 6-3 at the bye to finish 10-6. We’ll look back at the Week 5 road loss to the Browns as the dagger sparking Steve Bisciotti to begin a reboot.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 23-16 loss to Pittsburgh

Posted on 06 November 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens suffering their third straight loss and fourth in their last five games in a 23-16 final against Pittsburgh, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore will never take the next step by settling for 23-yard field goals against a high-scoring offense. The analytics did support those decisions to kick, but I would have considered going for the fourth-and-3 from the 5 in the second quarter. “Take the points” isn’t always the best strategy.

2. As I’ve written other times, Joe Flacco is far from the only reason for the recent offensive struggles, but he hasn’t been a big enough part of the solution either. He was under duress quite a bit Sunday, but he easily missed a half-dozen throws working from a satisfactory pocket.

3. Insinuating Flacco didn’t throw to Lamar Jackson out of spite is taking quite a leap to trash the character of someone who’s never done anything to warrant such treatment. It’s not like his ability to see the field or go through progressions has never been criticized, so why get personal?

4. How the middle of the field continues to be such a problematic area for the pass defense when C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle, and Tony Jefferson account for $22.625 million on the 2018 salary cap is a tough pill to swallow.

5. Orlando Brown Jr. continues to be a bright spot. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t allow a pressure against Pittsburgh and has yet to allow a sack or quarterback hit this season. The right tackle spot should be his with James Hurst potentially moving to left guard when healthy.

6. Matthew Judon hasn’t taken the leap many predicted this season, but he registered Baltimore’s lone sack as well as two hits and two hurries against the Steelers, according to PFF. The Ravens need to see more of that with Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith scheduled to hit free agency.

7. Like Drew Brees’ third-down completion while in the grasp of Jefferson in Week 7, I thought the defense forcing a three-and-out right after Alex Collins’ touchdown might be the turning point. Instead, a holding penalty, a sack, two passes short of the chains, and a punt quickly dashed that thought.

8. I don’t believe it was a coincidence that Jimmy Smith played better with Marlon Humphrey back in action and Wink Martindale once again rotating those two and Brandon Carr on the outside. The defense has certainly had its recent issues, but that luxury should still pay off down the stretch.

9. Those saying Jackson’s use is disrupting offensive rhythm received ammunition when he entered for a run of no gain immediately following Flacco strikes to Michael Crabtree and Chris Moore. If you want to run there, why not hand to Collins on an uptempo play instead of broadcasting what you’re doing?

10. Brandon Williams noted after the game that teams are approaching the Ravens defense differently and aren’t playing “actual football” by running so many sweeps and screens to take interior players like him out of the equation. There’s that whole “needing to adapt” theme popping up again.

11. Don’t look now, but the Ravens are on track to lead the NFL in passing attempts for the third time in the last four years. They also rank in the bottom five in yards per passing attempt for the fourth straight season. Jamal Lewis weeps.

12. Regardless of what happens over these next two months, I’ll maintain that John Harbaugh is a good football coach. However, he doesn’t do himself any favors with a rookie mistake like not using his timeouts ahead of the two-minute warning to conserve more clock.

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