Ravens Draft Watch: CB Kevin Johnson

Tyler's BylineIt’s no secret that the Baltimore Ravens had serious issues with their secondary last season and it didn’t help that five defensive backs were placed on the IR. The biggest loss was Jimmy Smith, who had gained recognition as one of the best man-to-man corners in the NFL. Lardarius Webb had the full weight of the secondary on his shoulders and he wasn’t ready for it, as the Nichols State product struggled and didn’t look the same after his second torn ACL.

Webb will more than likely be asked to take a pay cut next season and will return with Smith, an often injured Asa Jackson and a raw product in Rashaad Melvin. This means the Ravens will have to address secondary needs in this upcoming draft and there are a few names to watch out for.

Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes and Washington cornerback Marcus Peters will be big names to look out for, but the two will likely be taken before Baltimore picks. A viable option at the No. 26 spot is Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson.

Johnson measures around 6’1” and is a physical cornerback. He played four years at Wake Forest and finished with career totals of 189 tackles and seven interceptions. Another great thing about the corner: He’s from Maryland.

The Clarksville native, who played high school and college football with wide receiver Michael Campanaro, shows off impressive traits on film, as he has knack at attacking the football. Johnson is also good against the run, as the highlight film displays him making plays down and across the field to make the tackle.

Johnson finished All-ACC this season and Mel Kiper had him being picked by the Steelers in his latest Mock Draft. ESPN Scouts Inc. rates the corner as the 32nd best player in the draft.

The Ravens have a tall cornernack in Smith, who measures at 6’2”, and pairing him with Johnson could create some nightmare matchups for opposing quarterbacks. Johnson would be able to take over as the No. 3 cornerback on the depth chart if he plays well in the preseason and could be a nice surprise if he uses his frame to his advantage in the NFL.

 

 

Ravens Draft Watch: WR Dorial Green-Beckham

Tyler's BylineIt seems like every year the complaint about the Ravens is that they need to provide quarterback Joe Flacco with a tall, physical target. There are plenty of receivers like that in this upcoming draft, but none have all the traits of Oklahoma wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.

The 6’6” receiver is very physical and also shows off nice speed for such a big receiver. The former five-star recruit started his career at the Missouri, where he had 395 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman. He improved even more his sophomore year, with 59 catches for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. Green-Beckham turned scouts heads quickly with his skill set, but the receiver soon dug a hole for himself by getting kicked off of Missouri’s football team.

Green-Beckham quickly transferred to Oklahoma, but was denied his appeal to play in the 2014 season. He decided to enter the 2015 draft with just two years of college football under his belt, but is a rare type of wide receiver. The knock on his draft status is going to be his character issues and whether he can keep it together in the NFL.

This would be a huge get for the Ravens if Green-Beckham can keep his act together because it would finally provide the Ravens with the big receiver they have always dreamed of having. He is a perfect red zone target and keeps good concentration on making the catch when matched up one-on-one in the end zone. He fits the Demaryius Thomas/Dez Bryant mold and could be a star if he lives up to his potential.

Green-Beckham’s draft stock is hard to judge, as some teams view him as a first round pick, while others do not want anything to do with him. It will be up to Ozzie and company if they want to go after him, but you have to think they remember the last time they almost had a physical receiver like this (one pick away from Dez Bryant).

Trestman Hire Helps Flacco

Tyler's BylineIt seemed that ex-Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase was set to become Baltimore’s new offensive coordinator on Monday. However, Baltimore changed directions the next day and hired ex-Chicago Bears Head Coach Mark Trestman instead.

Trestman had his struggles coaching the Bears, as he had locker room problems with the team and quarterback Jay Cutler seemed lost at times. However, he has a strong coaching past besides the Bears, including four years in the CFL.

He began his coaching career as a quarterbacks coach at Miami and had Hall of Famer Jim Kelly under his wing. Trestman has coached with many NFL teams as well, boasting a quarterback list that includes Steve Young, Rich Gannon and Josh McCown.

The veteran coach may have lost his way in Chicago, but should be a blessing for Joe Flacco, as Trestman has been known to work magic with quarterbacks. Trestman will be Flacco’s fourth offensive coordinator, but the two should mesh well with each other.

He had the second highest scoring offense in 2013 with the Bears, which showed off a well-balanced offense. Flacco has done well learning from each of his offensive coordinators and he should do the same in this case.

The Trestman hire also gives the Ravens a quick fix for Gary Kubiak’s departure and keeps the team from hitting the panic button. The offense is coming off of a high note from last season and Trestman will help the team continue to climb. Trestman could help Joe Flacco take an even bigger step next season, which would make the Ravens a contender again.

Ravens vs. Steelers Recap

Tyler's BylineJohn Harbaugh reached another milestone in his tenure with the Ravens on Saturday night. It’s taken a while, but the Ravens have finally beaten the Steelers at Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

Baltimore came into Pittsburgh as the No. 6 seed and was faced with the tough matchup with their division rival. The only good news was that star running back Le’Veon Bell was out because of injury. Bell finished with the second most rushing yards this season and had allowed Ben Roethlisberger to open up the passing game more, with defenders keying in on the running back.

The Ravens came into the game with a plethora of injuries of their own though, with starting tackles Eugene Monroe and Ricky Wagner being the most notable. The team had also lost six cornerbacks throughout the year, which had caused many quarterbacks to take advantage of a weak secondary.

However, the story of the game was not about injuries, but of the great team-play by the Ravens. Joe Flacco lived up to his “Joe Cool” nickname and limited mistakes. He finished with 259 yards and 2 touchdowns, but most notably; zero turnovers. Flacco continued his historic playoff play and picked apart the Steelers secondary in the second half.

The second best player for Baltimore was offensive guard Kelechi Osemele, who made some incredible blocks in the game. One block opened up a huge hole for Bernard Pierce’s five-yard touchdown run. The other block allowed Joe Flacco to spin out of trouble and toss an 11-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith.

Justin Tucker came through as usual for the Ravens, as he hit three field goals, including a 52-yarder in the fourth quarter. Tucker has proven to have ice in his veins when kicking in the playoffs and the Ravens would not have won without him.

The offense took care of their part by putting up 30 points and the defense continued its bend but don’t break tendency. Baltimore pressured Big Ben all night and didn’t allow a touchdown to the Steelers until the fourth quarter. Big Ben was sacked five times in the game and he also threw two interceptions, including a crazy pass caught between Terrell Suggs’ legs.

John Harbaugh and the Ravens showed that they are a different team when the playoffs come around and that they are still very competitive; even with so many injuries. The Ravens are now tied with the Packers for the most road wins playoff history, which goes to show the young franchise’s winning nature.

Baltimore heads to Foxborough next to take on the Patriots and legendary quarterback Tom Brady. However, Joe Flacco is starting to build up a legacy of his own, as he has outplayed Brady in their last couple playoff meetings. Joe Cool now has 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his playoff career, including 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last five playoff games. Baltimore will need Flacco to keep up this type of play in order to beat the Patriots.

 

Ravens vs. Steelers Key Players: Justin Forsett

Byline MattThe Ravens came into the 2014 season with a giant hole at the running back position, but it didn’t take long for Forsett to enter into the starting role. He ran for over 100 yards five times this season, ending with 1,266 yards total and eight touchdowns to go with it.

Forsett rushed for four yards per carry in nine of the Ravens’ 10 wins and often controlled the offense late in games. Without a healthy Forsett, the Ravens could struggle against the Steelers front-seven. Certainly Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro won’t carry the load like Forsett can.

If the offensive line can hold up enough to find lanes for Forsett, he could have a successful day. With the erratic pass offense of the last couple weeks, a solid run game is essential if the Ravens want to win.