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NFL Draft preview: A look at the top defensive line prospects

US PRESSWIREMemphis Tigers defensive lineman Dontari Poe takes a break during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

There aren’t many position groupings in the NFL Draft that are judged by their versatility like defensive linemen. you have defensive ends that can project to 3-4 outside linebackers, and defensive tackles who need to be able to play with a hand in the dirt, then bounce across the line, depending on the scheme.

This year’s class has some solid options on both ends, with at least three, and up to six, NFL-ready prospects that are first-round eligible and can have an effect right away.

Few, though, made the same kind of splash as Memphis tackle Dontari Poe, who will be the most interesting commodity heading into the NFL Draft. his combine showing, which included a position-leading 44 reps on the bench press and a sub-5 second 40-yard dash, vaulted him from middle-of-the-road prospect to potential top 10 selection, depending on how much teams are willing to overlook some gaffes on tape.


For interior linemen, it’s something that Jets head coach Rex Ryan has said time and time again over the past few years. it doesn’t get much better than Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Similarly are Miami’s Paul Soliai and more recently, Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh. On the outside — judging solely by the past few years — Brian Orakpo and Jason Pierre-Paul define the mold, and overall versatility, that defensive coordinators are looking for at the position.


Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State6-4, 298 π 40 Time: 4.80Watching Fletcher Cox on film, you see a player that looks just as natural over center as he does splitting out and rushing a left tackle. And even though his highlight tape is stocked, one thing that stuck out to us was his ability to simply disrupt the flow of things in the backfield. Sometimes it’s not always about accrued statistics, but instead by the way a quarterback’s timing can be thrown off a little bit, or by a running back’s primary direction having to change in the backfield. He projects as a 4-3 defensive tackle or a 3-4 defensive end, which should help his stock, too.

Quinton Coples, North Carolina6-6, 283 π 40 Time: 4.73 There are times it looks like Quinton Coples has little to no interest regarding what’s happening on the field. He dogged enough plays over the last two years to raise questions about his maturity and commitment level. but the only reason he has pushed ahead of Melvin Ingram here is his off-the-charts measurements. At 6-6, 283 pounds and a scary 4.73 40-time, he has the wing span to disrupt countless plays in the backfield and the speed to be a difference-maker off the edge.

US PRESSWIREMississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox walks away after finishing the broad jump during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Melvin Ingram, South Carolina6-1, 265 π 40 Time: 4.66 Watching his highlight tapes, it’s almost impossible to tell what position Ingram plays. He’s running for touchdowns on fake punts, dropping back into coverage to intercept passes and he’s busting through the line to rough up quarterbacks. He could be the best overall athlete on this list and would make a perfect pick in the 10-to-15 range. At the next level, we see him as a 3-4 linebacker given his incredible speed (at the combine he registered a 4.66) and phenomenal hands. despite his size, he’s certainly strong enough to get around the edge.

Michael Brockers, LSU6-5, 322 π 40 Time: 5.34

To stand out on that LSU defense last year was no easy task, yet Brockers somehow managed to set his name apart. Watching him against Alabama, you see a player who still may be a step slow for the next level but is thick enough to hold his own during a double team, which is crucial if he’s going to play the interior at the next level. He’s got a great first step off the ball and can jump enough to be a factor when there’s a live ball.

Dontari Poe, Memphis6-3, 345 π 40 Time: 4.92His measurables have gotten him this far, and now it’s up to scouts and GMs to decide whether or not he’s worth the gamble. Poe will more than likely be gone by pick No. 20 and is a great fit for a team that plays a 3-4 scheme in search of a true defensive tackle to plug up the middle. He has received several comparisons to Ngata coming out of school, but his tape doesn’t exactly match the praise. Poe can take up a lot of space, though, and really allow the linebackers behind him to roam.

THE BEST OF THE REST: Chandler Jones;;Syracuse;;6-5 ½;;265;;4.85Whitney Mercilus;;Illinois;;6-3;;262;;4.64Derek Wolfe;;Cincinnati;;6-5;;297;;4.96Andre Branch;;Clemson;;6-4 ½;;260;;4.66Jerel Worthy;;Michigan State;;6-2 ½;;310;;4.99


Though it’s not as deep as it has been over the past few years, this position will be well-combed as teams look to bulk up their various defensive packages.

It will, however, be interesting to see how high or low teams have gotten on Poe since the initial combine hype has worn down. He could potentially be a late first-round steal or a top-10 stretch, which could really shake up the flow of the draft.


Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka will continue to harass quarterbacks next season but Osi Umenyiora’s situation is uncertain and Dave Tollefson signed with the Oakland Raiders. There probably will be a run on pass-rushers midway through the first round, so the Giants might not get the chance to add one at No. 32. a late-round tackle possibility is USC’s Dajohn Harris.

— Mike Garofalo


The Jets used two high picks on this position last year: First-rounder Muhammad Wilkerson was a solid rookie starter, and third-rounder Kenrick Ellis is still a project.

They have a good veteran presence with Sione Pouha, who was re-signed this offseason, and Mike DeVito, and a band of young contributors that also includes Marcus Dixon and Ropati Pitoitua.

The Jets have a need for an explosive pass-rusher, but in their 3-4 scheme, they’ll likely look to fill that role with a player who projects as an outside linebacker. but that doesn’t mean they won’t be on the lookout for a playmaker on the defensive line.

— Jenny Vrentas

Conor Orr:;

NFL Draft preview: A look at the top defensive line prospects

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    Posted by admin - April 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm

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    Things That Have Gone Unnoticed With Joe Flacco

    The recent news of Derrick Mason’s retirement isn’t shocking. He’ll be 38 next week and his 2011 season was pretty much a disaster. and that’s a real shame. If you recall, when the Ravens cleaned house at the start of training camp — cutting Mason, Todd Heap, Willis McGahee and Kelly Gregg — they did that to clear some cap space with, from what I read, the intentions of re-signing some of those guys to smaller contracts. Gregg wound up in Kansas City, Heap went home to Arizona, McGahee was reborn in Denver and Mason chose the Jets over the Titans and the Ravens. That was a little heartbreaking.

    Mason’s run in New York was short lived and he was traded to Houston and was cut two months later. The main point here is the second he decided not to return to Baltimore, his career ended. The Jets are a mess and Mark Sanchez is very, very middling quarterback. Houston was stacked with wide receivers, but you figure a veteran like Mason could have helped out the young Texans. He obviously didn’t.

    This all got me thinking about how underrated Joe Flacco really is. sure, he had so-so numbers this year (3,610 yards, 20 TDs, 12 INTs, 80.9 rating) but he’s had more wins (48) since 2008 than any other quarterback, including the postseason. and honestly, what has the guy had to work with, receiver-wise?

    In 2008, Flacco’s rookie season, the Ravens ran the ball better than any other team and Flacco wasn’t asked to do much. His top three receivers that year were Mason (1,037 yards, 5 TDs), Mark Clayton (695, 3) and Heap (403, 3). The third receiver on the depth chart was Demetrius Williams. I’ll pause for a minute while you Wikipedia him.

    The following year, Flacco’s top three receivers were Mason (1,028, 7), Ray Rice (702, 1) and Heap (593, 6). The receiving corps was so bad in 2009, Flacco had to rely on a running back and a tight end to make plays in the passing game. I hope you kept the Wikipedia tab up if you’re wondering who the third wide receiver on the depth chart was. a guy by the name of Kelley Washington. you might want to try to Google him because someone probably hasn’t taken the time to create him a Wikipedia page.

    Finally, in 2010, Flacco got some help. The Ravens traded for Anquan Boldin. He was a proven receiver in Arizona and provided some much-needed help to the receiving unit. Baltimore also wasted $950k on Donte’ Stallworth and had to deal with T.J. Houshmanzadeh’s murmuring about not getting enough targets. oh, and the whole “dropping a perfectly thrown ball that hit him right in the numbers on 4th-and-18 against Pittsburgh that would have surely been a first down” in the Divisional round last year. thanks, Housh. (I’m tempted to replace the “H” with a “D”).

    This year, Flacco had Boldin, newly-acquired receiver Lee Evans and rookie Torrey Smith. Evans was hurt for most of the year, which caused Smith to step his game up. but in Evans’s absence, the Ravens needed a third wide receiver who turned out to be an undrafted rookie, LaQuan Williams. The only person Flacco had any semblance of continuity with was Boldin. Obviously, he had second-year tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta to work with, but both saw limited time in 2010 so Flacco really had to get acquainted with five new pass-catchers while still working on his timing and anticipation with Boldin.

    The driving point here is if it wasn’t for Flacco, most of the aforementioned guys would not have had jobs. once Mason declined Baltimore’s offer, his career fizzled. Mark Clayton hasn’t been heard from in ages. Demetrius Williams might be a bar back at some establishment in Eugene, Oregon. I think Kelley Washington runs a U.S. Cellular kiosk somewhere in Tennessee nowadays. Houshmanzadeh played in nine games for Oakland this season and registered just 11 receptions. All these guys were semi-relevant in Baltimore, once they were cut or chose not to return, they were done.

    So what does that say about Flacco? He is the only reason some of those guys were even a thought the past few years. yet no one gives him any credit. sure, his completion percentage was down this year. but for most of the year he was throwing to two rookies and a guy he’s only known for two years. before that, he was slinging the ball to a bunch of no names and the Ravens still made the playoffs every year. Look at the “elite” quarterbacks: Brady, Brees, Rodgers. Those guys have had a certain kinship with their receivers. They’ve been with them for multiple seasons. they have developed chemistry that makes them so dangerous. I’m not saying Flacco is or even needs to be one of those guys, but what he’s done over the first four years of his career is pretty remarkable.

    Now, finally in his fourth year, Flacco has some weapons. The possession guy is Boldin, he has two burners in Smith and Evans. Dickson and Pitta are budding stars. and you still have Rice coming out of the backfield. it takes time to develop a relationship with receivers. This type of thing doesn’t happen over night. People are going to still hate on Flacco, and that’s OK. but if you really sit down and look at what he’s done in his first four years, it’s quite fascinating.

    It’s really a shame how under-utilized Mason and Heap were this season, but it just goes to show what a good quarterback can do. without Flacco, Mason, Heap, Demetrius Williams, Clayton and Washington have all fallen by the wayside. with Flacco, I believe Smith, Dickson and Pitta will all become stars while Boldin and Evans will, if healthy, flourish in Baltimore.

    P.S. The Ravens — offense, defense, special teams and coaches — need to bring their A-game this Sunday and for (hopefully) the two games that follow. Bring it, Houston.

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    Things That Have Gone Unnoticed With Joe Flacco

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      Posted by admin - January 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm

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      Thanks for leftovers, NBA

      Hope the Thanksgiving holiday served you well as we get into these random thoughts for a Tuesday:

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        Posted by admin - November 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm

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        James Harrison via Twitter: “Looks like I won’t be playing this weekend” » Steelers Gab

        Not long after his agent said “unless something happens, he will play this week,” linebacker James Harrison said he will not.

        Harrison in a Twitter message this evening:

        “Saw the doctor today. looks like I won’t be playing this weekend but at least I’m cleared for practice.”

        Earlier, agent Bill Prise said “I think that is possible” that Harrison wojuld play against Baltimore Sunday night.

        “unless something happens, he will play this week,” Parise said.

        Harrison went on to write on his Facebook page: “Worst case scenario, I’ll be back after the bye for sure.”

        Injury-riddled LB corps: On top of Harrison missing the showdown with the Ravens and LaMarr Woodley possibly sitting out the big game, 15th-year linebacker James Farrior has a torn calf muscle that could keep him out another month.

        Young bucks: Looks like defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will have to count on rookie fifth-round selection Chris Carter (Fresno State) at linebacker come Sunday night.  The 6-foot-1, 248-pound Carter, who was the WAC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2010, registered his first regular season tackle last week in Arizona and tallied a pair of stops Sunday against new England.

        As for the other young buck, Jason Worilds, he has been inactive the past four weeks with a quad injury.  Worilds is a 6-foot-2, 262-pound second-year pro who was drafted out of the second round from Virginia Tech.

        James Harrison via Twitter: “Looks like I won’t be playing this weekend” » Steelers Gab

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          Posted by admin - November 7, 2011 at 3:01 am

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          2010 NFL Predictions – Baltimore Ravens

          The Baltimore Ravens have rebounded from a disappointing 2007 season with back-to-back playoff appearances. A strong running game and a dominant defense have helped them achieve their recent success. However, the organization has acknowledged that the passing game must improve in order to take the next step, and it has brought in Anquan Boldin to help make that happen. in this article, we’ll take a quick look at the offense and the defense. Then, I’ll make my prediction on Baltimore’s finishing position in the AFC North.

          Offense: Third-year quarterback Joe Flacco has impressed through his first two seasons. he threw for 3,613 yards and 21 touchdowns with 12 interceptions last season. he was on pace for even better numbers before leg and hip injuries limited him down the stretch. with his size and great arm strength, Flacco has the potential to become an elite passer. he has already shown that he is a winner, leading the Ravens to three playoff victories in five career playoff games. More wins will most certainly follow as he continues to mature. we could see him take a huge stride in 2010 with the addition of Boldin, who finally gives the Ravens a true no. 1 receiver.

          Despite dealing with injuries, Boldin hauled in 84 passes for 1,024 yards last season. he and Derrick Mason, who is coming off a 73-catch, 1,028-yard season, should help the offense improve on the 213.7 yards per game it averaged through the air in 2009.

          Boldin and Mason will certainly get their opportunities to star as defenses stack the box in hopes of limiting Ray Rice. Rice is coming off a Pro Bowl season, during which he amassed 2,041 total yards from scrimmage. 1,339 of those yards came on the ground.

          Tackles Michael Oher and Jared Gaither lead a formidable offensive line.

          Defense: Baltimore ranked no. 3 in the NFL in scoring defense last season, giving up only 16.3 points per game. Baltimore also ranked no. 3 ranked in terms of total defense, giving up just 300.5 yards per game.

          Middle linebacker Ray Lewis continues to be the emotional leader of this unit. he teams with fellow linebackers Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson, and defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg, to anchor one of the best front sevens in football. Draft picks Sergio Kindle and Terrence Cody add additional depth.

          Safety Ed Reed was contemplating retirement while dealing with a painful nerve impingement. But that talk has subsided, and it appears the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year will be back to lead Baltimore’s secondary.

          Prediction: 1st AFC North – Bringing in Boldin should instantly improve a passing attack that was lacking playmakers. since Baltimore already has a strong running game, and one of the NFL’s best defenses, I don’t see anyone standing in their way of an AFC North title. Pittsburgh must deal with the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger, and it is hard to imagine Cincinnati not dealing with chemistry issues after signing Pacman Jones and Terrell Owens.

          Do yourself a favor and play alongside world champion handicapper Jimmy Boyd for consistent winners against the NFL odds

          2010 NFL Predictions – Baltimore Ravens

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            Posted by admin - October 3, 2011 at 3:00 am

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