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May 25

Ravens celebrating Memorial Day

With Memorial Day officially upon us, we want to take the time to celebrate with loved ones. The Ravens are definitely no different, as the guys wearing helmets are just regular people in the offseason. Cooking great meals, cleaning up after themselves and hanging out with their friends and families.

With Memorial Day officially upon us, we want to take the time to celebrate with loved ones. The Ravens are definitely no different, as the guys wearing helmets are just regular people in the offseason. Cooking great meals, cleaning up after themselves and hanging out with their friends and families.

Some of the players have even taken to social media to discuss their plans.

A man as big as DeAngelo Tyson ain’t never cooked ribs… I’m calling fake right there. Justin Tucker diving into the Maryland spirit this holiday with some crabs and Old Bay. Maybe even some of the players are hosting a little flag football game in the backyard.

Hopefully all of the Ravens’ players, coaches and staff have a joyous holiday just like all you Ravens’ fans out there.

May 24

Madden Madness, a Stupid Simulation: Week 2 (Ravens @ Raiders)

It’s the boring offseason, and there’s not much to talk about. Let’s get excited for the next season by simulating it in everyone’s favorite football game, Madden.

This is the second of a sixteen-part series in which I simulate the Ravens 2015-16 season in Madden ’15. The difficulty is All-Pro, the rosters are accurate, and the stadium/time are the same as real life. Let’s get to it.

The Setting

A beautiful Northern California afternoon is the perfect weather for this West Coast showdown. The Ravens are playing at O.co Coliseum this week, in Oakland, Calif. It is their second back-to-back West Coast game. These two teams haven’t met since the 2012 season, where the Ravens pulverized the Raiders 55-20 at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Strategy

I don’t have a specific strategy going into this game. I’m rolling with a balanced attack, nothing fancy. Although I would like to try to get the ball to Maxx Williams, who I think can stretch the Raiders secondary horizontally.

First Quarter

This quarter was awfully boring, and disappointing. Many expected the Ravens to obliterate a weak Raiders defense, but they hold, allowing zero points in the quarter, and picking off Flacco once. The Ravens defense on the other hand, does its job and doesn’t allow Cooper & Carr to score.

Raiders 0 – Ravens 0

Daryl Smith on the hit

Daryl Smith on the hit

Second Quarter

Things got more interesting here. The Ravens got the ball to start the quarter, and on a streak route, Breshad Perriman found open field. He broke away from his man early, and with a flick of the wrist, Flacco lofted a pass over the safety to Perriman, who was about 25 yards from the line of scrimmage. It was a race to the end zone, and Breshad won. Following a dud of a Raiders procession, the Ravens received the ball with around two minutes to go. Flacco drove the team down the field, and with about 20 seconds on the clock, Flacco found a wide-open Marlon Brown on a beautiful fade route for what looked like a TD. After close review however, it was found he had just stepped out of the end zone. The Ravens had to settle for a FG.

Halftime

The Ravens have been executing well on both sides of the ball, they looked to extend the lead in the third quarter.

Raiders 0 – Ravens 10

Third & Fourth Quarter

I’m going to be honest with you, this game was really boring. All that happened from halftime on was three FGs from Justin Tucker, most of it was just running out the clock. The Raiders offense couldn’t get anything done, and the Ravens offense was simply getting Field Goals. There were a few noteworthy highlights however.

Maxx Williams Athleticism

Look familiar?

Jimmy Smith also showed off his skills by getting the only pick of the day.

Final Score

It was a very boring afternoon in Oakland, but the Ravens got it done. They improve to 2-0 on the year, and get to come home and play their opener in Baltimore vs. the Bengals. This one should be good, as divisional battles always are.

Stats

Last week, I stupidly forgot to record stats. This week I didn’t. I’ll combine them all at the end of this series.

J. Flacco: 11/23, 201 YDS, 47% COMP, 1 TD, 1 INT, 8.7 YPT

J. Forsett: 14 CAR, 74 YDS, 5.2 YPC, 2 REC, 10 YDS

M. Williams: 5 REC, 57 YDS

S. Smith: 2 REC, 29 YDS

C. Gillmore: 1 REC, 34 YDS

B. Perriman 1 REC, 71 YDS, 1 TD

Suggs: 7 TKL, 3 TFL, 3 SCK

Dumervil: 4 TKL, 1 TFL

Mosley: 3 TKL, 1 TFL, 1 SCK

Smith: 3 TKL

Hill: 2 TKL

Jernigan: 2 TKL, 2 TFL, 2 SCK

J. Smith: 2 TKL, 1 INT.

Arrington: 2 TKL

J. Tucker: 4/4 FG

May 24

Are the Ravens a dynasty?

According to Brian Baldinger from the NFL Network, in order to be a dynasty, teams need to have a few things.

Elite level defense

The Ravens defense has been the standard of NFL play since the early 2000s. With big time players like Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, C.J. Mosley, Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, and so many others, Baltimore’s defense has no shortage of star players. Consistently a top 10 defense despite multiple defensive coaching changes over the last decade and a half, the Ravens have just been one of the NFL’s best for so long.

Franchise QB play

With the season bearing ever closer, we’ve had many discussions about the merits of Joe Flacco. For this though, the criteria is that the team has to have a franchise, championship caliber quarterback. That is Joe Flacco. A higher number of wins in the playoffs since 2008 than any other quarterback in the NFL, Flacco has done it at home, on the road and all the way through the SuperBowl, winning an MVP in the process. Regardless of if Flacco is “elite”, he sure as hell fits the criteria put in front of us for a dynasty.

A head coach that has a vision that is executed

Say what you will about head coach John Harbaugh. I don’t much like his Xs and Os knowledge and I don’t feel too great about his red flag challenges, but the man wins. He brought into Baltimore a system of hard work and accountability that was much needed after the softer days of Brian Billick. With the term “play like a Raven” coming around, players bought into Harbaugh’s system of no nonsense, hard-nosed football and we’ve seen an unprecedented level of success for Baltimore.

So with that criteria, Baltimore has absolutely been a dynasty. Multiple Super Bowl victories to go with the three major points that Baldinger made should go to show that Baltimore is one of the few elite teams in the NFL.

May 24

Another Nickname to the Ravens Forefront

“Quadzilla” joins the ranks for the Baltimore Club

With most people not tuning into the last three rounds of the NFL Draft, some missed out on one of the most intimidating features of the Ravens 5th round draft pick Robert Myers.

**QUADZILLA ALERT** Robert Myers is a LARGE man. “Legs busting out of shorts” large. WATCH: http://t.co/BiCJ8kHwSJ pic.twitter.com/UMKUunuD1r

— NFL (@nfl) February 20, 2015

“>

Myers legs measure in at a staggering 33 inches, and compared to my waistline is only an inch smaller than my frame. This man has two of my waistlines strapped to the bottom of his legs powering over defenders and smashing into opposing defenses who dare challenge Quadzilla to a shoving match. Seriously, look at his powerhouse lower frame. This is almost comic book overexaggeration strapped into a now Baltimore Raven football player.

This Tennessee State prospect wasn’t allowed by college strength and conditioning coaches to squat more than 500 pounds, and without a doubt in his mind believes he can “put up at least 600″. Robert took the joke of “Every day is leg day” to the most literal form it looks like.

As always, the toughest, most powerful players can be beat with true technique, but if this man/monster can build up strong technique, footwork, and remember assignments truly looks to be unstoppable. Let us hope that Juan Castillo can bring Quadzilla into the most dominant form, and Marshal Yanda gives the young rookie the tips to becoming the next best guard in our offensive line.

May 24

Steve Nash, Among Others, Praise Joe Flacco

Steve Nash, the basketball legend, praised Joe Flacco by calling him ‘elite’ in a Reddit AMA yesterday. Who else is praising Flacco?

From one legend, to another. Yesterday, in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on the popular internet site Reddit, legendary basketball player Steve Nash was faced with a very pressing, ‘hard-hitting’ question. One that is heavily debated, and could land Nash in some hot water if he didn’t answer correctly.

“is Joe Flacco an elite NFL quarterback?” asked Reddit user /u/mark_evans1.

Nash’s answer? “Pretty much.”

Looks like Nash is one of us, drinking the Flacco-flavored Kool-Aid.

In addition to Nash, ESPN NFL Insider KC Joyner published an ESPN Insider article declaring his support for Flacco, saying that Flacco will ‘break into the elite QB club’ under new OC Marc Trestman. Does this mean Flacco is finally garnering the support and praise he deserves from the media? Hard to say. We’re about to find out however, as this annual NFL offseason tradition has just begun.

Happy Flacco Solstice!

Yeah, that’s right, the ‘Flacco Solstice’ occurred just two days ago. Unknowingly, I published my contribution to the ‘Flacco Elite’ debate on the day of the Solstice. Now while Clue was being satirical, there seems to be some truth to the so-called ‘Flacco Solstice’. It seems that every offseason that the media runs out of things to talk about and puts of all their combined resources towards debating Joe Flacco’s ‘eliteness’. It’s almost as if this is a national crisis or something. Perhaps we need a Kickstarter campaign to fund research of Flacco’s eliteness.

Anyways, PFT Commenter did a good job of profiling just how much Flacco is debated, and I was slightly embarrassed to find my article listed.

Until next time, see you again on ‘Flacco’s Wild (Elite?) Ride’. Happy Flacco Solstice everyone, I hope your holiday is elite.

May 23

Baltimore Ravens Set to Have NFL’s Most Productive Rookie Class

The post-NFL draft process that is filled with instant reaction and grades has passed, and it’s time to look more in depth at the results. Teams that are successful in the draft are able to identify what skills their roster needs to improve. One team that will get high production from their rookie class is the Baltimore Ravens.

Three of the Ravens’ first four picks were dedicated to bolstering their offensive playmakers. The first- and second-round selections were specifically added to help improve a passing offense that ranked 13th in the NFL last season.

Losing receiver Torrey Smith via free agency was a painful pill to swallow. Smith never developed into a true No. 1 receiver, but he was able to stretch the field and give quarterback Joe Flacco a proven deep threat. His departure ensured the Ravens would invest early into the receiver spot.

We’ll be focusing on the first three offensive players the Ravens selected in the 2015 draft. These three will help the Ravens’ rookie class be the most productive in the NFL. Let’s see why.

 

Breshad Perriman, WR

With the 26th overall pick, the Baltimore Ravens didn’t hesitate to select former UCF receiver Breshad Perriman. It was surprising that Perriman was still on the board, as he was receiving some top-10 hype prior to the draft. His incredible 4.24 40-yard dash time at his pro day was a huge stock booster.

Perriman’s speed was a big reason why he was selected to the 2014 first-team All-American Athletic Conference. He caught just 50 receptions in 2014, but averaged an impressive 20.9 yards per catch. Of nine receivers who averaged more than 20 yards a reception, Perriman was the only one with more than 37 catches.

The speed isn’t what Perriman relies on to be effective, though. He’s as big as most established NFL receivers already. At 6’2”, 212 pounds, Perriman is shredded. Some young receivers need time to bulk up to endure the NFL’s physicality, but Perriman is good to go right now.

And that’s what the Ravens are banking on. With Perriman’s impressive physical profile, he should have no issues working his way into the starting lineup. Filling Smith’s role should be mentally overwhelming, as Smith ran basic routes and won with speed.

What makes Perriman so dangerous is his tracking ability. Throughout his highlights, that is the constant skill that Perriman dominates with. This shouldn’t be taken for granted, either, as the ability to track and chase down deep balls is incredibly important. 

The big question mark with Perriman is his drops issues. Despite having 9.25” hands, Perriman struggles clasping the ball on underneath routes. This seems like an issue with focus more than bad hands, based off his tape.

At minimum, Perriman should be similar to Smith. His speed is on par with Smith, but there is significant potential to become great. Smith never showed that promise, and it is likely why the Ravens were fine replacing him in the draft.

If Perriman can shore up his drops issue, the sky is the limit for him. Even as a rookie, the only other receiver who could slow his production is Steve Smith. Smith is very good, but he’s also 36 years old. His reign as the top receiver on the team could end in 2015.

 

Maxx Williams, TE

With Dennis Pitta’s status unclear as his career has been derailed by injuries, the Ravens wisely added the draft’s top tight end. Getting a receiving threat like Maxx Williams in the second-round was a good reminder of why general manager Ozzie Newsome is one of the best in the business.

Williams was one of the most exciting players to watch throughout 2014. He is a great acrobat on the field. His ability to adjust to the ball mid-air is rarely seen from tight ends.

Working with quarterback Joe Flacco, Williams shouldn’t have to make such difficult catches to be productive. Flacco’s ball placement has improved throughout his career to the point of being above average. This should benefit the young Williams.

The raw numbers on Williams aren’t impressive. He had 986 receiving yards over two seasons. That would ideally be one year of production for most high-end prospects. But he was stuck in a run-until-you-can’t offense at Minnesota.

Despite playing so athletic, Williams tested as an average athlete at the combine. He ran a 4.78 40-yard dash, and his agility scores were poor. That performance could have been what caused his slide into the second round.

Nevertheless, Williams will quickly earn playing time with his receiving acumen. Great athlete or not, he knows how to get open and win at the catch point. His experience in the slot, H-back and tight end will help him earn playing time for the Ravens early on.

The biggest concern with Williams is his blocking ability. He’s 249 pounds, but his frame will massively benefit from spending time in the weight room. His ability to make impact blocks in the run game was underwhelming in 2014.

He simply needs more bulk. That could lead to a receiving specialist role in 2015. That’s good for his production outlook early on. His ability to be a complete tight end is something to watch for 2016 and beyond.

 

Javorius Allen, RB

The Ravens’ fourth-round pick, Javorius Allen, was a breakout star for USC in 2014. He nearly doubled his career production in 2014 by running for 1,489 yards. His 25 career touchdowns also help show his running power.

Allen will not be a starter for the Ravens if veterans Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro stay healthy. That’s the plan. However, he has the talent to steal carries from that duo, even if they’re able to handle the full workload.

Each back brings a varying skill set to the table. Forsett broke out in 2014 behind the Ravens’ fantastic offensive line. His patience and quickness proved to be a good fit for the Ravens. He is the unquestioned starter.

Taliaferro is the biggest back of the bunch at 229 pounds. He has decent power and earns positive yards effectively. His best trait so far is his pass blocking. He was a plus pass-blocker entering the league, which is rare for collegiate tailbacks.

Allen is more powerful than both. He plays lower to the ground than Taliaferro, which is partially why he was a touchdown magnet in college. His ability to get tough yards when the Ravens need it the most will undoubtedly earn him playing time.

Although Allen is missing that second gear to turn upfield for bigger gains, he has a clear role on the Ravens. When the clock is being run down or it is 3rd-and-goal on the 2-yard line, it’s Allen’s time. He may end up being a touchdown vulture in Baltimore this season.

With the rookie trio of Perriman, Williams and Allen, the Ravens are going to see solid production from their class. They all have clear-cut roles that require their talents. Baltimore has been drafting effectively for more than a decade, and their 2015 class will continue that trend.

Expect big things from this trio early on. Flacco and Co. needed this injection of talent for the offense to get back to the Super Bowl. These three rookies could provide that boost that will elevate the Ravens as soon as 2015.

 

All stats used are from Sports-Reference.com. Draft information courtesy of MockDraftable.com.

Ian Wharton is an NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. 

Read more Baltimore Ravens news on BleacherReport.com

May 23

Marcus Mariota Reportedly Tops NFL’s Jersey Sales for May

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is already one of the NFL’s most popular players and he hasn’t even taken a snap.

Paul Kuharsky of ESPN noted Saturday that “according to the Titans’ director of finance, Stuart Spears, Mariota’s jersey currently ranks as the NFL’s top seller in May.”

The Titans planned an entire marketing movement around the draft’s No. 2 pick and put up digital billboards throughout Nashville. Tennessee (and Oregon Ducks) fans clearly responded and scooped up his jersey months before even the start of the preseason. The team has not been to the postseason in six years and finally has a bright future ahead of it with Mariota at the helm.

It is somewhat surprising that an impending rookie topped this list over established stars, but Mariota is already a household name from his time at Oregon. He won the Heisman Trophy this season, boasts an impressive image off the field and played at one of the most popular football programs in the country.

What’s more, Mariota led the Ducks to the national championship game and was under the spotlight throughout the season.

Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk suggested as much while also hinting at what’s to come:

That may sound rather shocking for a player who hasn’t played a professional game yet, but Mariota was a popular Heisman Trophy winner at Oregon who enters the NFL with a significant fan base. It also helps that Mariota (unlike the only player drafted ahead of him, Jameis Winston) has a squeaky-clean image off the field.

So for now, Mariota is among the NFL’s top stars. But that popularity won’t last long unless he can prove himself on the field.

If Mariota wants to parlay this popularity into a starting quarterback spot in 2015, he must beat out incumbent Zach Mettenberger for the job. From a financial standpoint, it makes sense to start the Oregon product, because the Titans will sell more tickets and keep eyeballs trained on Tennessee throughout the season if his jersey numbers are any indication.

However, it is all about winning football games at the NFL level. A winning season will also keep Tennessee in the spotlight and sell tickets, and Mariota must prove that he represents the best chance at those wins.  

Read more Tennessee Titans news on BleacherReport.com

May 23

Sports Salary Survey Showcases Smart Spending

ESPN and Sportingintelligence released their annual salary survey of international professional sports teams just a couple of days ago. The Ravens ended up about right in the middle of all teams, and are roughly the median of the NFL teams too.

You don’t have to spend to succeed. That sure seems to have been the unofficial motto of the Ravens front office these past few years. Led by GM Ozzie Newsome and Assistant GM Eric DeCosta, the Ravens front office has practiced smart, patient spending, and growing its own crop of talent. The Ravens aren’t known for big signings, but rather waiting it out and taking what’s given to them. This strategy has paid off, as the Ravens are one of the most successful teams in recent NFL history, all while maintaining generous cap space.

In this week’s survey, the annual ESPN/SportingIntelligence Global Salary Survey. The Ravens came in at 158th of 333 international sports teams. This ranking was six spots below last year.

All NFL teams ended up clumped between Nos. 124 and 176 for average per-player salary, with the Miami Dolphins being the biggest spenders at $2.3 million, and the New York Jets the ‘cheapskates’ at $1.7 million. The Ravens ended up at $2 million, about the median for NFL spending. The Ravens ranked 21st among all NFL teams and spent the least among their AFC North rivals, who finished at Nos. 126, (Bengals) 138, (Steelers) and 142 (Browns).

In terms of total payroll, NFL teams obviously ranked higher, ranging from Nos. 20 – 73. The Ravens total player payroll of $108.6 million ranks 50th. Divisional rivals were ranked Nos. 21, (Bengals) 33, (Steelers) and 39. (Browns)., Ravens fans likely remember free agent signings like Elvis Dumervil, Justin Forsett and Steve Smith as being the players that come to the Ravens for pennies on the dollar and end up churning out huge production. A part of it clearly has to do with players wanting to come to a winning organization and the rest goes right to general manager Ozzie Newsome for knowing what a player is truly worth.

Hats off to the ‘Wizard of Oz’ and his future successor Eric DeCosta, for once again showing that you don’t need to spend to win. Smart spending, and good home-grown talent are the keys to success in this league.

#InOzzieWeTrust

May 23

Baltimore Isn’t A Good Fit For Ray Rice

Contrary to what Stephen A. Smith said, the Ravens aren’t a good fit for Ray Rice.

Stephen A. Smith tweeted out yesterday that he believes that the Baltimore Ravens are the best fit for Ray Rice to revitalize his career.

He’s wrong and that comment is more of the same old commentary that we’ve grown to hear from Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless.

Ray Rice doesn’t look like he’s going to get signed by any team, least of all the Ravens.

First off, if any team was going to sign Rice, they would’ve done it by now. Deflategate is overshadowing any negative PR that a team would get from signing someone like Rice. Just look at the Cowboys and Greg Hardy. Any other offseason, critics would be tearing into them for signing a domestic abuser. This offseason the Cowboys haven’t received much criticism outside of the Dallas mayor.

Second, Rice would be taking snaps away from younger running backs who might be the better players at this point in their careers. In his college and pro career, Ray Rice accumulated much more wear and tear than Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Javorius Allen. If the Ravens signed Rice, it’s likely that they would be giving a lesser player more carries at the expense of better players.

And finally, Rice burned his bridges with the organization months ago. Rice sued the Ravens last year, and while they reached an out of court settlement, that still isn’t going to increase any goodwill between the Ravens and Ray Rice. After that it’s safe to say that the Ravens are the last team in the NFL that would sign Ray Rice.

Stephen A. Smith made a polarizing declaration without putting any thought behind it. But of course, that’s nothing new to him.

May 23

AFC North Rivals Weaknesses

Examining the weaknesses of the divisional rivals.

Cincinnati Bengals:

Pass Rush

This could very well change in the coming season. Geno Atkins could return to form, Michael Johnson could be the Michael Johnson from 2013, Margus Hunt could show something, and the Bengals pass rush could improve on its’ disastrous 2014 campaign. But right now, we’re calling it a weakness.

Cleveland Browns:

Passing Offense

Dwayne Bowe didn’t catch a single touchdown in Kansas City, and he isn’t going to revitalize his career in Cleveland. Brian Hartline is a solid receiver, but he’s not going to scare any defenses, especially with his quarterback situation. Andrew Hawkins is a good receiver, but not a bonafide #1 option. Neither is any wide receiver on Clevelands roster.

The Browns have some good blocking tight ends, but none to replace the pass catching ability that Jordan Cameron provided.

Quarterback

Quarterback is not looking any better.

Josh McCown was only able to succeed when he was throwing to Pro Bowl receivers, something that Cleveland doesn’t have.

Johnny Manziel looked completely overwhelmed in live action.

Connor Shaw is a career back-up at best.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Secondary

The Steelers have some issues in the secondary right now. Cortez Allen and William Gay are currently the starting corners for the Steelers. Allen struggled during 2014 and lost his starting spot, and Gay is best used as a nickel corner. At Safety the Steelers have Mike Mitchell, who struggled in 2014, and they hope that Shamarko Thomas can step up and replace the retired Troy Polamalu. The Steelers will also likely be counting on at least one of their rookie defensive backs to make a contribution this season, which could be a lot to ask of them.

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