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Apr 23

Breaking Down Potential Baltimore Ravens Draft Pick, Safety Calvin Pryor

Go take a look through the expert mock drafts and one name you’re going to see repeatedly selected by the Baltimore Ravens is Louisville safety Calvin Pryor. Since so many draftniks view Pryor as the pick general manager Ozzie Newsome will make, I thought I’d take a look at his film myself and come to my own conclusions.

Pryor is generally considered to be the second-best safety in this class, but I don’t think he’s a good fit for what the Ravens are looking for in their free safety. But that’s the purpose of these scouting reports—to sift through the noise of prospect rankings and sort out which players are the best fit for Baltimore.

This is the second scouting report in this series (you can check out the Jimmie Ward report here), and just like the last one, I will be evaluating four aspects of safety play: physical tools, tackling, run support and pass coverage.

 

Physical Tools

The first thing you notice about Pryor when you turn on the film is his speed. He ran an OK 4.58-second 40-yard dash at the combine, but he plays much faster in games.

He has a good combination of strength and speed, but his quickness in particular means he has great range and closing speed and can make plays out of nowhere. Pryor is the fastest (on film) safety in the class, which makes him an alluring prospect.

He measured in at 5’11” and 207 pounds at the combine, which is the same height as Ward—a surprising realization when you consider that one of the knocks on Ward is that he isn’t tall enough to cover NFL tight ends.

Pryor is definitely a first-class athlete, which is becoming a requirement for the safety position.

 

Tackling

This is an area that is somewhat of a concern. “Aggressive” is an adjective that you’re going to see a lot, but it’s most prevalent when you watch him tackle ball-carriers. Actually, tackle might not be the most accurate term.

Instead, Pryor launches himself at opponents like a missile—and that has its pros and cons. On the positive side, it means that he can make huge hits that pump up his teammates and create fumbles. Just see the first highlight on this video to see the physicality that he brings to the table:

On the flip side, however, it also means that he misses more than his fair share of tackles and can be a flag magnet of sorts. Unlike Ward, Pryor misses far too many open-field tackles because he’s attacking downhill so hard that he takes bad angles.

Furthermore, against NFL players with the agility and vision to make sharp cuts, Pryor will need to rein in his tackling and start to display better form by focusing on wrapping up when he makes a hit and keeping his eyes on the target.

Given Matt Elam’s propensity to fly at ball-carriers in a similar fashion, it would be a scary proposition for the Ravens to have two hyperaggressive safeties.

 

Run Support

Run support is the best aspect of Pryor’s game because his aggression generally plays in his favor. When he comes up into the box, he’s so explosive that he frequently knifes through blockers and makes plays in the backfield.

Even when he’s playing at normal safety depth, he has great instincts against the run and utilizes his elite closing speed.

Pryor uses his hands well to shed blockers, so he’s a very dangerous player to a running back regardless of where he is on the field.

As with every facet of his game, Pryor’s overaggressiveness means that he sometimes overpursues and gives up a big running play, but more often than not he’s able to find the running back.

 

Pass Coverage

This is the most important category for the Ravens’ new free safety, and it’s the area where Pryor has the most questions. That’s not to say that he can’t develop into a special player against the pass, but he hasn’t shown it consistently on film.

Let’s start with what he has shown: range and ball skills. When he reads the play correctly, Pryor can get to the ball in an instant. In that regard, he fits what the Ravens want since he has the sideline-to-sideline range to play as a true center fielder.

While Ward is better at making plays on the ball, Pryor is very good at converting interceptions thanks to his natural hands and ability to adjust to the ball midflight. Take a look at his ridiculous interception against Blake Bortles and UCF for evidence of this:

That said, he didn’t spend much time as a single-high safety for Louisville, and based on his film, it doesn’t look like he’d have the discipline to play as the lone last line of defense for the Ravens defense.

Furthermore, he didn’t make that many plays in deep coverage and his timing on pass breakups down the field is a little shaky, which results in some pass interference penalties.

On film, Pryor looks much more solid in coverage when he’s set in zone coverage and is driving toward the line of scrimmage as opposed to running downfield with receivers. Once again, that’s not to say that he can’t do it, but we haven’t seen a lot of it from his Louisville tape.

 

Conclusion

In a vacuum, Pryor’s athletic gifts, high motor and punishing hits might make him the second-best safety prospect in this draft, but the Ravens aren’t drafting in a vacuum. Newsome is adding players who fit the Baltimore defense, and Pryor bears too many similarities to Elam and isn’t a good fit as a result.

The Ravens need a safety who can come in and be a pass-first defender. Obviously, versatility is important, but a center fielder to shore up the back line is crucial. Asking Pryor to do that would be taking away from his biggest skill as a disruptive force near the line of scrimmage.

Pryor’s talent and physical gifts are undeniable, but he doesn’t make sense for the Ravens in the first round. He plays more like a strong safety who is good in coverage—like Elam—as opposed to a free safety who’s good against the run.

 

Note: All heights, weights and combine results are courtesy of NFL.com’s official draft page

 

Shehan Peiris is B/R’s Lead Featured Columnist covering the Baltimore Ravens and a co-host of Ravens Central Radio, a weekly podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network that focuses on all things Ravens-related. For the latest Ravens news, draft analysis and links to episodes of Ravens Central Radio, follow me on Twitter:

Read more Baltimore Ravens news on BleacherReport.com

Apr 23

A Look at Titans 2014 Schedule: September

Week 1 Titans at Chiefs Noon | Sunday Sept. 7 | Arrowhead Stadium Regular season series results: Titans trail 27-20 Last time in regular season: Chiefs won 26-17 at LP Field on Oct. 6, 2013; Last t…

Apr 23

A Look at Titans 2014 Opponents: September

Week 1 Titans at Chiefs Noon | Sunday Sept. 7 | Arrowhead Stadium Regular season series results: Titans trail 27-20 Last time in regular season: Chiefs won 26-17 at LP Field on Oct. 6, 2013; Last t…

Apr 23

A closer look at the Baltimore Ravens 2014 schedule

Breaking down each of Baltimore’s 16 games, with a few notes sprinkled in.

Here’s a rundown of Baltimore’s upcoming season, game by game:

Week 1, Bengals: The last time these two opened the season against each other, Baltimore throttled Cincinnati in a 44-13 win. The Bengals will likely enter the season as preseason favorites to win the AFC North. It will be a good test for the Ravens early.

Week 2, Steelers: Le’Veon Bell’s best games were against the Ravens a year ago. We’ll see if Baltimore is better prepared for him and Pittsburgh’s running game early on.

Week 3, at Browns: We’ll have to wait and find out whether the Browns trot Brian Hoyer or a rookie quarterback out there for this game. Either way, it’s an upgrade over what Cleveland was working with a year ago once Hoyer went down.

Week 4, Panthers: This game will likely get some national attention due to Steve Smith facing his former team. Blood, guts, whatever, this should be a good game featuring a stellar Carolina defense trying to stop what should be a much-improved Baltimore offensive attack.

First quarter of the season notes: The schedule-makers gave the Ravens a huge favor by letting them start the year with three home games in the first four weeks. Opening the season with three consecutive AFC North teams isn’t rare, by the way. The Ravens did so in 2004 and 2008. Each year, they opened the season 2-1.

Week 5, at Colts: If the Colts’ line improves, and if Hakeem Nicks plays like his old self, this team could be a dangerous squad in 2014. Better for the Ravens  to get them early than later.

Week 6, at Buccaneers: Tampa Bay is still rebuilding, though they made a major coaching upgrade by replacing Greg Schiano with Lovie Smith (that might qualify for understatement of the year). There are plenty of weapons, such as Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson. But it all hinges on whether Josh McCown can recreate last year’s success from Chicago, or if either Mike Glennon or a potential rookie quarterback can improve the offense.

Week 7, Falcons: If there’s one team that has a great chance at improving considerably from last year it’s the Falcons. The offensive skill position players are talented, and the franchise as addressed both the offensive and defensive lines this offseason. On another note, the Ravens will surely want revenge for that crazy game in 2010.

Week 8, at Bengals: Here’s the second meeting against the Bengals, and it’s right around the midpoint of the season. Both teams should be rounding into true form and play a close and competitive game.

Second quarter of the season notes: This could be a deceivingly tough stretch for Baltimore. After a favorable start, the Ravens will play three of four on the road, with two of those road games against playoff teams from a year ago. And then the Falcons could easily get back in the conversation this year. This stretch could go a long way as far as the end-of-season record is concerned.

Week 9, at Steelers: Throw the records out, especially once plenty of games are under each team’s belt. This game will be a slug-fest, likely decided by three or less points.

Week 10, Titans: This team has a quarterback issue at the moment, so it remains to be seen if Jake Locker or a rookie will be lining up under center by this point. Shonn Greene is first in line to be the primary back, with the jury still out on whether he can be affective as a starter in Tennessee. The defense should field a solid unit, with Bernard Pollard looking to exact revenge for being released last offseason.

Week 11, bye

Week 12, at Saints: The Ravens will want to accrue plenty of wins by this game. It’s never easy heading down to the Big Easy and taking on Drew Brees and the Saints. That high-octane offense can score on anyone at any moment. The defense improved under Rob Ryan and should get better. The Saints should be one of the NFL’s premier teams in 2014.

Week 13, Chargers: The Ravens seem to always have problems with the Chargers. In 2011, they were blown out on the road. A season later, it looked bleak before Ray Rice’s 4th-and-29 miracle. Somehow, Baltimore went on to win, beating an inferior team. This time, San Diego travels east, which is never easy for the West Coast teams.

Third quarter of the season notes: This is another stretch that could be difficult. The Chargers improved leaps and bounds last year under coach Mike McCoy, with Philip Rivers looking like the quarterback that excelled at a high level earlier in his career. Ryan Mathews also had a solid year, with Keenan Allen breaking out as a rookie at receiver. The Titans game is the only one that sticks out where Baltimore has a clear advantage at this time — and of course, we’re ridiculously early in this analysis.

Week 14, at Dolphins: The Ravens picked up a three-point road win against Miami a year ago and will look to come away with another victory this time around. Last season, the two teams came down to the wire for a playoff spot, with both failing to get in. With both squads looking to be back in the postseason conversation once again, this game could wind up having a lot of importance.

Week 15, Jaguars: The last time the Ravens played the Jaguars … never mind. I won’t go there. Point is, never doubt an NFL team, even when they look pathetic in previous weeks. That said, the Jaguars are still rebuilding and seem to be a year or two away from competing for an AFC South division title.

Week 16, at Texans: Similar to the Falcons, Houston could have a major turnaround season under coach Bill O’Brien. Barring injuries, the defense has plenty of pieces in place to be successful. There’s also the chance they draft Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack with the first overall pick, too. Then again, they could go with a quarterback. And by this point of the season, a rookie quarterback is no longer a rookie.

Week 17, Browns: The Ravens are playing their other two division opponents fairly close together, at least compared to the Browns. After Week 3′s game, the Ravens won’t see Cleveland again until the end of the season. Unless the Browns become sudden contenders, this is a great game for the Ravens to close out with, especially if a playoff berth hasn’t been sealed yet.

Fourth quarter of the season notes: This is by far the easiest stretch of the season and it comes at a great time. Neither of thee teams reached the playoffs a year ago, with the Jaguars, Texans and Browns all picking in the top four of this year’s draft. This could be a great opportunity for the Ravens to finish the season strong.


Apr 23

2014 Tennessee Titans Schedule: Full Listing of Dates, Times and TV Info

The Tennessee Titans will be hungry for a playoff berth in 2014.  

Following their third losing season in five years, the Titans are desperate to return to the postseason for the first time since 2008. With a new head coach in Ken Whisenhunt running the show and the second-easiest schedule on tap in terms of opponents 2013 win percentage (.438), Tennessee will have an excellent chance to do just that. 

They’ll do so without a familiar face, as longtime Titan Chris Johnson is now with the New York Jets. The team also parted ways with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kenny Britt, Alterraun Verner and Damian Williams.

Those departures will create opportunities for other players, however, and with a new head coach in place, 2014 offers a sense of hope, optimism and new directions.

Below is a full breakdown of the Titans’ 2014 regular-season schedule (via NFL.com):

 

Analysis

If the Titans are going to record double-digit wins or have a shot at the playoffs in 2014, they’re going to have to find a way to win within the division, especially against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. Tennessee went 2-2 against its two AFC rivals in 2013 and lost two game to the Indianapolis Colts to finish 2-4 against the league’s worst division.

To put it simply, the Titans will have to be much better against the AFC South this season in order to have any hope of making a postseason run. 

Outside of the division, Tennessee will play the AFC North, the NFC East, the Chiefs from the AFC West and the Jets from the AFC East. The Jets game will mark the return of CJ2K, so this will certainly be a game both fans and players will be excited to see.

In addition to challenging road games against Baltimore, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, the Titans will travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play Kansas City, which is always a difficult environment.

However, all eight of Tennessee’s home games are winnable, with only Indianapolis having won more than eight games in 2013. The Titans’ other seven home opponents combined to go 41-71. According to ESPN.com, Tennessee’s home opponent 2013 win percentage is .406, the worst of any team in the league.

Football writer Benjamin Steefel puts Tennessee’s home slate in perspective:

Tennessee’s favorable schedule, combined with the hiring of Whisenhunt and a slew of free-agent signings, have many within the Titans organization excited for 2014. General manager Ruston Webster is certainly looking forward to the Whisenhunt era in Nashville, per TitansOnline.com:

I look for this to be a really fine marriage. Ken is an outstanding offensive coach, but also an outstanding head coach.  He has a background with several successful franchises, and we look forward to a new day and creating a new culture with the Tennessee Titans.

It’s certainly not hard to see why front-office folks are optimistic. After all, the last time the Titans were suiting up for playoff football, Whisenhunt was leading the Arizona Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII.

With an established NFL head coach leading the way and one of the league’s easiest paths to the playoffs, anything short of a postseason berth in 2014 will be a disappointment for Tennessee.

 

Pivotal Matchups

If the Titans want to be competitive in the AFC South, they have to make a statement against the defending division champion Colts in 2014. Beating Indianapolis at home would allow Tennessee to take a big step in what many would consider to be a winnable division. 

It’s no secret that Indy has had Tennessee’s number of late, but if the Titans are able to reverse the trend this coming fall and reel off wins against Houston and Jacksonville, they could contend for a wild-card spot. 

The Baltimore game will also be a crucial contest. The Ravens are no longer the defending champions, but that doesn’t mean it’s suddenly easy to win in Baltimore. For a team looking to challenge in the AFC like the Titans and in a division that figures to boast multiple playoff hopefuls, earning a hard-fought victory behind enemy lines against a recent Super Bowl champion would be monumental.

Conference road games at Cincinnati and Kansas City will be critical as well, but neither of those teams has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy within the past two seasons, making the Ravens contest a good measurement for Tennessee.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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Read more Tennessee Titans news on BleacherReport.com

Apr 23

Ravens schedule 2014: Team opens with Bengals

The Ravens 2014 schedule has finally been released. Here it is in all its glory.

The Ravens schedule has arrived.

This year’s slate features three prime time games, two of which are against rival Pittsburgh, signaling that even though both teams had down years a season ago that it’s still a game that garners a ton of attention nationally.

The Ravens open the season against all three AFC North opponents in consecutive weeks. The quick turnaround for a Thursday night game in Week 2 against the Steelers, of all teams, could be problematic. But it’s better to have the Thursday game early on than when everyone is beat up later in the year.

The Monday night game given to the Ravens is against the Saints, with both teams getting a small look at each other in Week 4 of the preseason.

Here’s the full schedule. We’ll break it down more in subsequent posts:

Week 1; Sunday, Sept. 7, 1 p.m.: Cincinnati Bengals (CBS)

Week 2; Thursday, Sept. 11, 8:25 p.m.: Pittsburgh Steelers (CBS)

Week 3; Sunday, Sept. 21, 1 p.m.: at Cleveland Browns (CBS)

Week 4; Sunday, Sept. 28, 1 p.m.: Carolina Panthers (CBS)

Week 5; Sunday, Oct. 5, 1 p.m.: at Indianapolis Colts (CBS)

Week 6; Sunday, Oct. 12, 1 p.m.: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (CBS)

Week 7; Sunday, Oct. 19, 1 p.m.: Atlanta Falcons (FOX)

Week 8; Sunday, Oct. 26, 1 p.m.: at Cincinnati Bengals (CBS)

Week 9; Sunday Nov. 2, 8:30 p.m.: at Pittsburgh Steelers (NBC)

Week 10; Sunday, Nov. 9, 1 p.m.: Tennessee Titans (CBS)

Week 11: bye

Week 12; Monday, Nov. 24, 8:30 p.m.: at New Orleans Saints (ESPN)

Week 13; Sunday, Nov. 30, 1 p.m.: San Diego Chargers (CBS)

Week 14; Sunday, Dec. 7, 1 p.m.: at Miami Dolphins (CBS)

Week 15; Sunday, Dec. 14, 1 p.m.: Jacksonville Jaguars (CBS)

Week 16; Sunday, Dec. 21, 1 p.m.: at Houston Texans (CBS)

Week 17; Sunday, Dec. 28, 1 p.m.: Cleveland Browns (CBS)


Apr 23

2014 Baltimore Ravens Schedule: Full Listing of Dates, Times and TV Info

The 2013 season didn’t go according to plan for the Baltimore Ravens, but there’s reason for hope in 2014.

It was clear that there would be at least a season of transition for the franchise as it moved on from Ray Lewis and Ed Reed among other difference-makers on the roster. Removing such inspirational players is bound to have a deleterious effect on a team.

Much of the team’s performance next season hinges on Joe Flacco. After signing a ridiculous contract last offseason, he threw 22 interceptions—his highest total ever—and completed 59.0 percent of his passes, the second-lowest percentage of his career.

Head coach John Harbaugh thinks that Flacco will be much improved in 2014.

“It doesn’t matter about last year,” he said, per BaltimoreRavens.com’s Ryan Mink. “Joe’s responsibility is to learn from it and he learned from every mistake, he learned from every game.”

The hiring of Gary Kubiak should help the former Super Bowl MVP regain his old form.

With Steve Smith‘s arrival and Dennis Pitta and Jacoby Jones remaining in Baltimore, Flacco should have enough weapons to pull a major turnaround in 2014.

Don’t be surprised if Baltimore as a whole does the same thing.

 

Analysis

At least the Ravens didn’t draw the NFC West. That would’ve been a worst-case scenario.

The NFC South isn’t much easier, though. The New Orleans Saints are one of the best teams in the league, the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers should see reversals of fortunes and the Carolina Panthers should still have one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Baltimore at least knows that every other team in the AFC North is in the same boat. There’s no major disadvantage to be had in that regard.

The Ravens will feel a little unlucky for having drawn both the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts away and the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars at home. The former teams should be stronger opponents than the latter in 2014, so facing them on the road is a bit of a disadvantage in that regard.

On the whole, the schedule isn’t particularly daunting. Nobody can expect to get a cakewalk in today’s NFL.

But the chance is certainly there for the Ravens to make a quick turnaround and once again be the class of the AFC North.

 

Pivotal Matchups

The intra-division battles will absolutely be huge for the Ravens.

The AFC North looks pretty wide open for 2014. The Cleveland Browns are the Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have some issues that still need to be addressed. Their defense isn’t getting any younger.

That leaves the Cincinnati Bengals. Both games against Cincy will be big for Baltimore, but the most important one will be at Paul Brown Stadium, where the Ravens have lost in each of the last two seasons.

If you want to win your division, you pretty much have to beat the toughest competition on the road. In this case, it means the Ravens winning in Cincinnati.

The most intriguing inter-conference games for the Ravens are at home to the Falcons and on the road against the Saints.

Atlanta should be a lot better than it was last season. The Falcons ran into every injury possible and nothing but bad luck. That has to turn around in 2014. They should be contenders in the loaded NFC South.

If the Ravens want to be taken seriously as an elite team, they should beat Atlanta.

The same can’t be said for their meeting with the Saints. New Orleans’ defense made huge strides in 2013, and it got even better with the addition of safety Jairus Byrd. It’s still pretty early, but the Saints have to be considered contenders for Super Bowl XLIX.

Going into the Superdome and winning will be tough for the Ravens, but the way they perform will serve as a barometer for where they can go in the regular season and possibly the playoffs.

Read more Baltimore Ravens news on BleacherReport.com

Apr 23

Titans 2014 Schedule Opens at Kansas City, Includes Monday Night Game vs. Pittsburgh

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Titans open the 2014 season at Kansas City on September 7, and they will be featured on Monday Night Football against long-time rival Pittsburgh at LP Field on Nove…

Apr 23

Titans Preparing for 2014 NFL Draft

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans own the 11th overall selection and six total picks in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft, which begins May 8.  Over the course of three days, the NFL will conduct the seven-…

Apr 23

Cover 2: Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio & Missouri DE Kony Ealy

Cover 2 is a daily look at players on NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s top 50 prospects in the 25 days leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.

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