Lamar Jackson Already Excelling At Ravens Camp

The Baltimore Ravens traded back into the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft to select rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson with the No. 32 overall pick. The Ravens offense has been in need of a jolt over the last few years.

Jackson’s dynamic playmaking ability led to him winning the Heisman Trophy in 2016. He tortured opposing defenses both throwing and running with the ball while at Louisville. Now, his goal is to do the same in Baltimore.

“When they see my running ability, they see me make people miss in the open field; they just try to label me. I don’t want to say as an ‘athlete’ but at the same time, they could say, ‘He could play running back or receiver,’ or something like that,” Jackson said during his first press conference in Baltimore back in April.

“That’s just a plus for me. I can throw the ball with the best of them like I always say. I can make any throw on the field, but I can bring something else to the table, and that’s dynamic running ability.”

The evidence is already has started to surface already as Jackson has made numerous deep throws for touchdowns to wide receivers such as undrafted rookie free agent Jordan Lasley. The effortless flick of the wrist that Jackson uses to launch the ball down the field is reminiscent of former Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

That is no coincidence. Jackson grew up watching Vick dominate football games.

“He’s been a big influence on me. My first Madden game was 2003, but I played with Michael Vick [in] 2004, and he was out of control,” Jackson said. “Just watching him on a video game and watching him on TV and seeing what he did, what he brought to the table with his team, winning games for Atlanta, it was like, ‘Man, I want to do some of the things he did on the field.’”

Jackson’s play has stood out to veterans on the Ravens already in camp. Veteran wideout Michael Crabtree called Jackson a ‘baller’ and said he plans to encourage the young quarterback to go out and make plays to prove doubters wrong.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg worked with Vick in Philadelphia. He likes what he’s seen from Jackson so far.

“He’s done an outstanding job up to date. He’s way ahead of the curve,” Mornhinweg said in a recent press conference. “You can see on the practice field; it’s coming now. He’s getter better every day. He’s done a fabulous job here of improving every day becoming a pocket passer.”

Jackson will get a chance to showcase his skills when the Ravens open the preseason at the Hall of Fame game in a couple of weeks.

Quarterback Robert Griffin, III Finds Himself In An Unfamiliar Backup Role

When the Baltimore Ravens took the field for the start of training camp, one of the players in the mix was a new face to the team. As a former No. 2 overall pick by the Washington Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft, quarterback Robert Griffin III finds himself in unfamiliar territory.

Once considered to be the cornerstone of a particular franchise down the road, Griffin now finds himself as a backup to Joe Flacco and a mentor for 2018 first-round pick Lamar Jackson.

For Griffin, this is his path back into the NFL after spending a year away from the game as an unsigned free agent. Griffin was supposed to be the next great thing for the Redskins. After a fast start, Griffin suffered a Grade 1 LCL sprain in a Week 14 game against the Ravens when he collided with then Baltimore defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

Griffin led the Redskins to a playoff birth but tore the ACL and LCL in his right knee during a divisional playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. That was pretty much the start of the end for Griffin in Washington. The injury robbed him of his dynamic playmaking ability, and after a series of injuries over the next couple of years, he was released by the Redskins in 2016.

After signing with Cleveland, a shoulder injury against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2016 season opener kept Griffin out until December. The Browns released him in March.

Now Griffin is in Baltimore. He has a new number and a new attitude entering his first season as a backup.

“There [are] a lot of guys that are sitting at home right now who want to be in this position,” Griffin said during his opening press conference as a Raven. “When you have the right perspective you cherish every moment and maximize your opportunity. My job is to go out and show them that I’m an asset to the team, not a detriment. Do what I have to do to make it to where they can’t afford to let me go.”

The Ravens are happy to have Griffin in the fold. Head coach John Harbaugh quickly realized that Griffin is an asset. This was before he got to see Griffin actually take the field.

“Robert Griffin in the quarterback room has been excellent,” Harbaugh said in April. “A pro’s pro in every way. Not just the quarterback room. We’re down here, and we do our early morning coaches workouts, and he’s the guy who’s down there working out extra. I love everything about the way he handles it.”

The chance to be on an NFL roster and to get his groove back during actual practices, even if it’s as a part of the scout team is much better than not being in an NFL facility at all. The disappointment of not being on a roster is a feeling that Griffin doesn’t want to once again experience any time soon.

The rise and fall early in his career has put things in perspective.

“It’s not that I wasn’t appreciative before,” Griffin said. “It’s not like I didn’t work hard before. But sometimes things have to happen to you in life. You have to face a little bit of adversity. Do you really want it?”

Ravens Cornerback Tavon Young Makes His Way Back From Knee Injury

Third-year Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tavon Young will be one of the players to watch when the team reports to training camp in the coming weeks.

After being selected in the fourth round (104th overall) by the Ravens in the 2016 NFL Draft, Young took over as the nickel corner for Baltimore. He posted two interceptions as a rookie.

Young tore his ACL during OTAs in May last year and he was out for the season. Now, the promising young defensive back is looking to return to form.

“I feel great. I spent a lot of time in the training room in the off-season, the whole off-season, during the season, just working on my knee— running, getting it strong,” Young said during a minicamp press conference. “Now, this is my first time playing football in almost a year, and I feel good, and I feel like I’m back to myself.”

Getting back on the field and moving around during OTAs a year after injuring his knee is a sign that things have come full circle for Young. He is more than thankful to be able to play the game he loves.

“I was happy. It felt like Christmas. It felt like a gift just to be back, and to be back with my teammates. There’s nothing like that. I feel like I’m almost at 100 percent, for real. I feel great. I feel good,” Young said.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh watched Young closely during minicamp practices this summer. He definitely saw progress from Young both physically and mentally.

“For the first time, it looked like— to me— he really got past the trepidation of coming back off the knee injury,” Harbaugh said following a minicamp practice. “But I thought today he let it cut loose a little bit more and looked really good.”

Knee injuries and specifically ACL tears are a major injury, but the recovery is quicker now thanks to modern technology that offers a more effective rehab process. Fortunately for Young he had the luxury of time. The expectation was not for him to return last year, so Young was able to gradually work his way back.

“After I got hurt, I realized I had a lot of time to get healthy. I didn’t have to rush back into it or come back midway through the season,” Young said. “I came back at comfort, and now I [can] just let loose. To be back out here with these guys is a blessing.”

The Ravens posted 18 interceptions as a team with Young in the lineup in 2016. That tied them with the Chiefs and Chargers for the most in the NFL.

Without him last year, the Ravens finished with 22 interceptions which was tops in the league. Now with Young returning to the nickel corner spot and a more aggressive defensive coordinator in Don ‘Wink’ Martindale, the Ravens look to continue their excellence defending the pass.

Ravens Need To Keep Linebacker C.J. Mosley For The Long-Term

The Baltimore Ravens got an outstanding player when they selected linebacker C.J. Mosley out of Alabama in the first round (No. 17 overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft. Mosley immediately took over as one of the leaders on the defense.

Edge rusher, Terrell Suggs was one of the few remaining players who played alongside Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis at the time. Having been a part of the Ravens 2012 Super Bowl team, Suggs has seen the impact a middle linebacker can have on the defense.

Suggs views Mosley as the next elite player to man the middle for the Ravens.

“He’s half-man, half-amazing. C.J.’s done some great things, and he’s getting better and better every time that he takes the field, coming into his own,” Suggs said via the Ravens’ team site last year. “That’s what we’re known for here. But C.J.’s play kind of speaks for itself.”

Baltimore picked up the fifth-year option for Mosley’s rookie contract in April, which assures that he will be in a Ravens uniform in 2019. However, if the team wants to do right by Mosley, they’ll sign him to a long-term deal.

Head coach John Harbaugh has grown close to Mosley over the past few years and wants to keep him around in the future.

“He’s a great player. He’s a great person. He’s special in every way,” Harbaugh told reporters in March. “I do expect him to be playing for us for a long time.”

Mosley has become a complete player and one of the top linebackers in the NFL. He posted a career-high 132 tackles last season, 96 of them were solo tackles.

As a run stuffer, it’s almost like Mosley has a built-in GPS device to track the football and turbo boosters to run down ball carriers. Mosley also managed to register a career-high three forced fumbles in 2017.

The ability to defend the pass is equally as impressive. Mosley managed to break up seven passes last season. He finished last season with two interceptions, one of which was returned 63 yards for a touchdown.

The body of work is evident. Mosley has checked in with at least seven pass breakups every year of his career. He had four interceptions in 2016.

As a rookie, Mosley had three sacks and two interceptions. He followed his rookie season with four sacks in his second year.

Simply put, Mosley is the heart of the Ravens defense and arguably their defensive MVP. Baltimore will have to commit a substantial amount of money to sign Mosley to a long-term deal.

Signing Mosley will likely lead to a deal similar to the five-year, $50 million contract the Minnesota Vikings used to lock up inside linebacker Erik Kendricks.

Fortunately, the Ravens won’t have to worry about the looming contract extension hanging over Mosley’s head. He is focused on being a great football and letting everything else work itself out.

“I’m not really worried about it. I’m here just like everybody else to get better, to get ready for the new season and try to accomplish our goals,” Mosley said during a press conference in April. “All the contract stuff that’s what upstairs and my agent do. That’s why I pay him that three percent for it. I just play football.”

Taking A Look At The Ravens Running Back Situation

Dating back to the days of Jamal Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens have always been known as a ground and pound football team. Lewis gained 2,066 yards on the ground in 2003.

Ray Rice was the next outstanding Ravens running back going over 1,300 yards twice during his seven-year career in Baltimore. Next up was Justin Forsett who took over in 2014 and led the team with 1,266 yards rushing.

Over the last few years, the Ravens have not been able to develop the running game. Terrence West, Buck Allen, Alex Collins and Kenneth Dixon have all taken turns at jumpstarting the running game. For various reasons, none of them were able to emerge as the feature back.

West has moved on but Allen, Dixon and Collins remain in the mix. Rookies Gus Edwards (Rutgers), Mark Thompson (Florida) and De’Lance Turner (Alcorn State) will be in training camp hoping to do enough to land on the 53-man roster next month.

The running backs coach, Thomas Hammond will be charged with finding someone to become the bell cow back during the preseason. Allen is entering the final year of his rookie deal.

The fourth-year back didn’t start any games in 2017, but he posted a career-high 591 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Allen has shown that he is a capable pass catcher throughout his four-year career. He finished last season with 46 receptions, surpassing his previous career high of 45 receptions during his rookie season.

His slashing running style suits the Ravens scheme so he should get a shot to get the bulk of the carries in 2018.

Dixon showed promise as a rookie in 2016. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry as a rookie, finishing with 382 yards and two touchdowns. He was considered to be a contender for the starting job in 2017 before suffering a bucket-handle meniscus tear while working out at Louisiana Tech before training camp. The injury required season-ending surgery.

The third-year back was delighted to be back on the field during OTAs this year.

“It feels amazing to be back. You never know what you take for granted until you lose it. Losing football for a year opened my eyes to a lot of things,” Dixon said, after practice during OTAs. “The knee feels very good. I’m battling some things you have to battle when you get back on the field with flexibility and all those things, but the knee feels totally well and I’m just ready to play.”

Collins is the favorite to take over. He led the Ravens with 972 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season after being claimed from the Seahawks on waivers last September.

After a full off-season with the team and training camp, Collins is primed to have an even better season in 2018. It’s likely that Baltimore will feature a three-headed monster that is Allen, Dixon and Collins.

Ravens Have Established A Quarterback Incubator For Lamar Jackson

Former Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome had a specific idea in mind when he traded back into the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft to select quarterback Lamar Jackson. The plan all started when he signed the former No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III.

Griffin has been through a similar situation, as Jackson is getting ready to face.

Once hailed as the present and future of the Washington Redskins, Griffin thrilled the fans at FedEx Field by making a series of dynamic plays. The once-boring offense came alive with Griffin under center. Now he is in place to help another young, explosive playmaking quarterback in Jackson.

Another similarity they share is the challenge of being a black quarterback in the NFL.

“Is it different being an African-American quarterback in the NFL?” Griffin told Sports Illustrated. “Yes, it’s different. But you can’t look at it as a burden. You can’t look at it as something that is going to hold you back. It’s a challenge.

“You have to accept the challenge and move forward with it. Anytime you are athletic enough at the quarterback position and have similar traits to a wide receiver or running back, it’s going to be talked about. You have to eliminate that noise and understand that, because I have that ability, I am going to be even greater.”

Although Griffin is working to get his own career back on track, he understands the importance of being a mentor to Jackson. Griffin says he wants to nurture Jackson, so he is ready when it’s time to ‘leave the nest.’

Jackson will eventually take over for starting quarterback Joe Flacco and when he does, it will be Griffin on the sideline waiting for him with pointers.

However, the nest that the Ravens have in place in Baltimore extends beyond just Griffin as the backup.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and offensive assistant Greg Roman are experienced when it comes to working with dual-threat quarterbacks. Mornhinweg coached Michael Vick with the Philadelphia Eagles while Roman coached Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. They know how to maximize the play-making ability that Jackson brings to the table. Jackson will be brought along gradually as he transitions to the NFL.

The weapons put in place around Jackson will help him as well.

Quarterbacks tend to favor their tight ends because they work the middle of the field, mostly between the hash marks. Throws to tight ends tend to be more high-percentage passes, which help quarterbacks settle into a rhythm.

With that in mind, Newsome and the Ravens selected South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst in the first round (No. 25 overall) before Jackson at No. 32. They also added Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews with the second of their two, third-round picks.

Both tight ends are outstanding receiving options. They’ll get to grow with Jackson for years to come.

The mentor, the weapons, and the coaches are all in place for Jackson to succeed— it should be a bright future for the Heisman Trophy winner.

End of an Era for Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome

When Art Modell and the Cleveland Browns packed up and headed to Baltimore, Ozzie Newsome was one of the leaders in the front office. The Browns were coming off of a 5-11 season.

Newsome’s first draft in Baltimore included two first-round picks that launched the Ravens towards respectability and eventually a Super Bowl victory in 2001. Left tackle Jonathan Ogden was selected with the No.4 pick in the 1996 NFL Draft and linebacker Ray Lewis was selected with the No. 26 pick that year.

Both players became a cornerstone for the franchise on offense and defense. Ironically, Newsome made two first-round selections in the 2018 NFL Draft before retiring.

Grabbing a much-needed tight end to help the passing game in Hayden Hurst and adding a dynamic quarterback in Lamar Jackson could be the springboard towards a return to glory for the Ravens. Newsome’s final pick was a defensive end named Zach Sieler of Ferris State.

“We are in the seventh round, and you’re a Raven. You know what else? I’ve been doing this for 22 years, and you are my last pick. You going to make me proud…,” Newsome said to Sieler in a clip posted on

The Ravens were able to make a seamless move to Baltimore and find success on the field thanks to Newsome’s prowess as a talent evaluator. They’ve won two Super Bowls during his tenure.

Newsome’s success extends beyond the field, however. A number of front office executives have blossomed under his tutelage. Eric DeCosta is now the main man in the Ravens’ personnel department after Newsome stepped down.

DeCosta worked closely with Newsome over the years after graduating from the original “20/20” club made up of scouts that were around 20 years old making about $20,000 annually. The club also yielded Philadelphia Eagles VP or player personnel, Joe Douglas.

Douglas feels Newsome should be in the Hall of Fame as both a player and front office executive. He has taken the things that he learned from Newsome and applied it to his job in Philadelphia. It’s no coincidence the Eagles won a Super Bowl two years after Douglas’ arrival.

The Ravens would like to get another Super Bowl of their own. With Joe Flacco still under center, there is no reason why the Ravens can’t be competitive this season.

As the Ravens have done many times in the past, they brought in a veteran wide receiver to help revitalize the passing game. Michael Crabtree and Flacco have already started working on being a productive tandem.

Newsome will still be available to them for advice. Baltimore is in good shape now with their quarterback of the future and the defense still intact.

Ravens Flacco and Crabtree already off to good start

— When the Baltimore Ravens signed wide receiver Michael Crabtree, the team followed what has become a tradition over the years.

The Ravens have struggled to develop young receivers, so they’ve taken the route of getting already proven pass catchers. The trend includes past additions such as Anquan Boldin, Derek Mason, Steve Smith Sr., and most recently Jeremy Maclin. Injuries kept Maclin from having an impact last year, but the other three veterans Baltimore added yielded excellent results.

Entering his tenth NFL season, Michael Crabtree is the latest veteran to be added to the Ravens roster. He is coming off a down year but still managed to score eight touchdowns on 58 receptions for 618 yards.

Crabtree is known for his precise route running and elite pass-catching ability. Having spent a brief time with quarterback Joe Flacco, Crabtree has already made a great impression.

“He’s got a little different way that he runs the routes. He’s really crafty with it. He knows when to break away from guys and how to get open,” Flacco said after OTAs last week.

Flacco has a big arm, which is good for delivering the ball down the field. Having played with quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and Derek Carr in Oakland, throwing power is something that he is used to from his signal callers.

However, Crabtree thinks what Flacco brings to the table is different from what he has experienced before.

“That deep ball, I haven’t seen anything like that in the air,” Crabtree said after his first OTA practice. “That spin is just nice. Being able to catch the ball from Flacco— it’s just amazing. That’s a good quarterback, man.”

Crabtree describes his time with the Ravens as similar to the first day at a new school. He is enjoying the hard work that he has experienced since joining the team.

In his mind, his job is to do whatever it takes to help the quarterback. He plans to run, as many routes with Flacco so the two can get more familiar with each other. Crabtree wants to develop a relationship with Flacco in the locker room as well.

“You need to have that relationship to have accountability on the field. If we are talking in the locker room and we’re talking about this and talking about that when game time comes, he’s going to expect me to do what we talked about,” Crabtree said.

Flacco echoed Crabtree’s suggestion of developing a close relationship to help with their chemistry. To do so, they will take it a step further by working out together on their own with the other receivers before training camp.

“There’s no doubt that stuff is important and we’ll do it. I’ve already talked about it with John and Mike. I think sometimes those things are just as much, or more, about developing a relationship with those guys and developing that trust,” Flacco explained. “For those to see that I really like who they are as football players and for them to see that, hopefully, they like who I am as a football player. I think when you can get that relationship going, that’s going to help your football team out a ton.”

If Crabtree can develop into a trusted target for Flacco, big numbers should be in the future, and together they will strive to elevate the Ravens offense in 2018.

Baltimore Ravens finally have Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson together at OTAS

— There is a beginning and an end to everything. Joe Flacco took over as the Baltimore Ravens quarterback years ago and helped to deliver a Super Bowl win in 2012.

The magical run that Flacco and the Ravens went on resulted in a huge contract that made him the highest paid player in the NFL. Unfortunately, the deal made it difficult for the Ravens to make significant additions to the offense.

Over the last few seasons, Flacco and the Ravens have struggled. The writing was clearly on the wall that Flacco was going to have to be replaced eventually. As the offense sputtered, the need for a jolt became more evident— enter former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Jackson, a Heisman Trophy winner in 2016, is exactly what the Ravens offense need. He is a dynamic playmaker who adds an explosive element.

Having Jackson and Flacco in the building at the same time will be a first for the Ravens.

Flacco has not truly had any competition since he has been in Baltimore. The likes of Ryan Mallett and others have not been able to challenge him. However, that will change when Jackson takes the field this week.

As a first-round pick, the pressure will be on to get Jackson on the field. The coaching staff is in a good place with him having worked with the likes of Colin Kaepernick and Michael Vick in the past.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg worked with Vick in Philadelphia. The same can be said for quarterbacks coach James Urban.

Greg Roman was the offensive coordinator with Kaepernick in San Francisco. They all know how to properly manage a quarterback with the versatile skill set that Jackson possesses.

Now, it will come down to how they go about integrating Jackson into the game plan. It won’t be easy since his skill set is vastly different from that of Flacco.

Fortunately, they also have Robert Griffin III in place to help mentor Jackson. It doesn’t seem like Flacco is interested in doing so and to be honest, it’s not his obligation to help bring along the guy who is going to replace him.

Flacco will cost the Ravens $24.7 million against the salary cap this year and the number jumps to $27 million in 2019. At some point, they will have to pull the plug and let him move on. They’ will suffer a $16 million hit in dead money if they do so next year.

In the meantime, Flacco will push to keep his job and try to find the magic that allowed him to have such a successful playoff run in 2012 but time is of the essence. Head coach John Harbaugh’s years with the team may be running short. There is a lot of pressure to win now in Baltimore. It all starts with OTAs this week.

Ravens Biggest Off-Season Needs

The Baltimore Ravens came close to making the playoffs in 2017 but fell short once again. It all came down to one play on defense against the Cincinnati Bengals at home in the season finale.

What appeared to be a playoff-clinching win went sour when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton dropped back on a 4th and 12 with 44 seconds left in the game. He scanned the field and found wide receiver Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown that won the game and eliminated the Ravens from the playoffs.

The 2018 season can’t be a carryover from this past season. Head coach John Harbaugh has to find a way to get his team back into the playoffs. Ravens fans are not used to so many seasons ending this early. This team is not too far away from being a playoff contender.

Here are their needs:

Right tackle: Ronnie Stanley was a solid pick in 2016. He has solidified the left tackle position for years to come. However, Baltimore needs someone to be the bookend tackle on the right side if they want to keep the pocket clean for quarterback Joe Flacco.

At this point, Austin Howard and James Hurst are their options on the right side. Neither of them offers any long-term security there. The Ravens need to look towards the 2018 NFL Draft or sign a free agent to fill that void.

Offensive Guard: The return of Marshall Yanda will undoubtedly give the Ravens stability on the inside. However, they need another player that can hold it down on the interior.

If Baltimore wants to get back to the power running game that won them a Super Bowl in 2012, they’ll need to add a player such as Quentin Nelson from Notre Dame or Will Hernandez from UTEP in the first round of the draft.

Nelson will likely be gone when Baltimore is on the clock with pick No. 16 overall, but Hernandez would be a prime candidate for that spot.

Wide Receiver: The wide receiver position has always been a tough nut for the Ravens to crack. They’ve managed to hit on a few free agents such as Derrick Mason and Steve Smith Sr. over the years. They even traded for Anquan Boldin.

Their latest move was to sign Jeremy Maclin, but that hasn’t truly panned out. Maclin caught 40 passes for 440 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. That’s just not good enough.

On top of that, the Ravens will likely see Mike Wallace leave via free agency. A player such as Jordan Matthews would be an ideal signing for the Ravens. They should also look to add a wide-out in the draft. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley in the first round makes sense.

Tight End: Flacco is always at his best when he has a top tight end to throw to. Tight ends such as Dennis Pitta and Todd Heap have been his go-to players in the passing game.

The Ravens have missed on quite a few tight ends recently. Selecting Crockett Gillmore in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft never panned out because of injury. Baltimore seemed like they had a good one when they took Maxx Williams in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but he has not been able to make the transition to the next level so far.

While it’s early to give up on Williams, there will still be options for the Ravens in the draft. At pick No. 16 and No. 52, Baltimore will have a shot at some of the top tight ends such as Mark Andrews from Oklahoma, Dallas Goedert from South Dakota State, and Hayden Hurst from South Carolina.

Defensively, the Ravens are in good shape. They will be bolstered by the return of 2016 rookie standout cornerback Tavon Young. Young will team up with second-year corner Marlon Humphrey and veteran Brandon Carr to give Baltimore a solid group.

No team can ever have enough pass rushers, so don’t be surprised if the Ravens bring in someone that can get after the quarterback. Linebacker is another area that will need to be addressed.

It’s going to be an interesting off-season in Baltimore. Free agency is less than a month away, and the NFL Combine is in less than two weeks. Stay tuned.