Fantasy: Ray Rice

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29


Christopher Harris analyzes Ray Rice's draft value.
The Baltimore Ravens started making their final major cutdown by waiving five players on Friday.

There were no surprises in the five released: tight end Nathan Overbay, outside linebacker D.J. Roberts, center Reggie Stephens and defensive tackles Levi Brown and Derrick Hopkins.

Three of the Ravens waived were undrafted rookies (Hopkins, Brown and Roberts) and no one had more than two years of experience. Hopkins, from Virginia Tech, received the biggest signing bonus ($10,000) of any of the Ravens' undrafted players.

The Ravens have to make 17 more roster moves to get down to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday.

Two of the moves will be placing running back Ray Rice (two games) and safety Will Hill (six games) on the suspended list. Another potential move is putting nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip) on the Physically Unable to Perform reserve list, which would sideline him for at least the first six games of the regular season.

The Ravens can sign 10 players to the practice squad, so they might only be cutting ties with four players Saturday.

Here is my projected 53-man roster for the Ravens.
[+] EnlargeHaloti Ngata
Kellen Micah/ICON SMIIt is believed that this is the third time Haloti Ngata was fined in the past four years.

Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was fined $8,268 by the NFL for kicking a Washington Redskins player in Saturday's preseason game.

Ngata put his right foot into the side of Redskins left guard Shawn Lauvao for what he described as retaliation for a late hit.

After a long run by Redskins running back Alfred Morris, Lauvao flew in to lay out Ravens cornerback Dominique Franks. With Lauvao laying face first in the ground, Ngata took a couple of steps toward the lineman and kicked him.

Ngata wasn't penalized on the play, and Lauvao wasn't injured.

It is believed that this is the third time Ngata has been fined in the past four years.

(Read full post)

The Baltimore Ravens haven't kept three quarterbacks since 2009. Don't expect that streak to end this year.

The Ravens will likely only keep quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Tyrod Taylor when they trim their roster down to 53 players on Saturday. This would mean waiving rookie sixth-round pick Keith Wenning and signing him to the practice squad.

There is always a risk in doing this because another team is free to sign Wenning to its 53-man roster. That's what happened in 2005, when the Cleveland Browns claimed quarterback Derek Anderson (a sixth-round pick) a day after the Ravens waived him.

Wenning showed improvement in the preseason finale (8-of-13 for 117 yards), but he doesn't have the size and arm strength like Anderson to entice another team to sign him. It's a relatively safe bet that he'll clear waivers and go on the Ravens' practice squad.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday that he'll keep three quarterbacks if Wenning is the 53rd-best player on the team. At this point, he wouldn't be any higher than 56th.

Not including Wenning on the final roster, the Ravens still may have to release a quality wide receiver (possibly Kamar Aiken or Deonte Thompson) and linebacker (like Albert McClellan). If the Ravens kept Wenning, they would have to cut a safety who could make an impact on special teams.

Wenning was drafted because the Ravens believe they can develop him into a backup. He's part of their future plan but not part of their current one.
Ray Rice is suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Bernard Pierce didn't make the trip to New Orleans for the final preseason game because of a concussion.

So if Pierce is unable to play in the season opener, who would start at running back for the Baltimore Ravens? Veteran journeyman Justin Forsett, who hasn't made a start since 2010, could be the one to step up.

Of the Ravens' 24 healthy scratches in the preseason finale, 18 are projected to be starters. The fact that Forsett didn't play as well could suggest the Ravens wanted to keep him healthy for the opener.

The Ravens might trust Forsett to handle the starting role because he's more experienced than rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro and is more familiar with Gary Kubiak's offense after playing in Houston in 2012.

But Forsett wouldn't be asked to carry the entire rushing load. He only had six carries all of last season, and the Ravens would probably split carries with Taliaferro, who led the team with 243 yards rushing this preseason.

A small back, Forsett has impressed the Ravens with his burst. He ran for 69 yards on 16 carries (4.3-yard average) and caught three passes for 37 yards in preseason games. His biggest problem has been holding on to the football (two fumbles this preseason).

None of this speculation will matter if Pierce is able to suit up for the Sept. 7 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Even though Pierce has been banged up throughout his career, he has never missed a game in his two seasons.

There is just no certainty that he'll be healthy enough this time to play.

"Nowadays, with those things, I don't take any stock in that until they tell me that he's back," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "The concussion thing is hard to predict."
Examining the Baltimore Ravens' roster:

Quarterbacks (2)

This should be the fifth straight year that the Ravens only keep two quarterbacks. Keith Wenning didn't do enough in his two preseason games that would entice another team to put him on its 53-man roster. So, the Ravens can get Wenning on the practice squad. Plus, the Ravens would like to use their last roster spot on a special teams player, not a third quarterback.

Running backs (4)

Nothing has changed with this position all summer. Rice, Pierce, Taliaferro and Juszczyk are locks to make the team. Rice has been suspended for the first two games of the season, which allows the Ravens to carry Forsett. Fitzgerald Toussaint's 103 yards in the preseason finale earns him a spot on the practice squad.

Receivers (6)

This was the toughest position to project. The Ravens have to keep at least six because of the strength of the depth. The locks here are Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Brown and Jones. When you look at the No. 5 receiver, his ability on special teams outweighs his impact as a receiver because his role is going to primarily be on the coverage and return teams. That's why Aiken still gets the nod here. Campanaro has more upside as a receiver than Deonte Thompson, which is why he gets the last spot. How can the Ravens cut Thompson? Well, the Ravens cut running back Bobby Rainey last year after he led the team in rushing, punt returns and kickoff returns. Perhaps, the Ravens could trade Thompson.

Tight ends (3)

The Ravens say Daniels' leg fatigue won't affect his status for the regular season so there is no drama at this position. Pitta is the clear cut No. 1, and Gillmore should see time as a rookie third-round pick.

Offensive linemen (9)

Monroe, Osemele, Zuttah, Yanda and Wagner are the starters. Gradkowski and Shipley, two starters from last season, are safe. Reid is the top backup tackle, but he is still dealing with a concussion. Urschel should have secured a spot over Ryan Jensen, who committed two holding penalties in the preseason finale.

Defensive linemen (5)

Ngata, Canty and Williams have been the starters throughout training camp and the preseason. Jernigan and Tyson are the Ravens' top two backups. It looks like Terrence Cody will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The Ravens can go with five linemen because Pernell McPhee can move to defensive end in a pinch. Nose tackle Derrick Hopkins can be stored on the practice squad.


Simon likely saved his spot with a strong performance in the preseason finale. The Ravens also don't get rid of fourth round picks a year after drafting them. They give them time to develop. The need for veteran depth at cornerback, where the Ravens are banged up, pushes out Albert McClellan. It's a tough call because McClellan led the Ravens in special teams tackles last season. The Ravens could bring back McClellan later in the season.

Cornerbacks (6)

Injury issues at cornerback force the Ravens to carry a sixth cornerback. The Ravens anticipate their top three cornerbacks (Smith, Webb and Jackson) to be healthy enough to play in the regular season. But none were practicing this past week. The Ravens have to keep veterans like Franks and Cox for insurance. Cox made some plays in the preseason finale despite not practicing with the team. Undrafted rookies Tramain Jacobs and Sammy Seamster can go on the practice squad.

Safeties (6)

Elam and Stewart remain the starters. Brooks, a rookie third-round pick, has generated buzz recently from his play at nickelback. Miles struggled on defense in the preseason finale, but he gets a spot because of his special teams play. Levine is a core special teams player who increased his value by playing cornerback as well. Trawick is probably the 53rd player, although the Ravens may go with a linebacker like McClellan instead. Hill is on the suspended list until the middle of October.

Specialists (3)

There's no decision to be made on the specialists. Tucker, Koch and Cox team up for the third straight season.
On the day the NFL announced stricter discipline for offenders of domestic violence, the Baltimore Ravens entered into a three-year partnership with the House of Ruth, one of the nation's leading centers for helping victims of domestic violence.

This agreement includes a $600,000 donation from the team, training for the players and staff and promotional work on behalf of the centers for abused women and children.

The Ravens' partnership with the House of Ruth comes after the team has publicly supported starting running back Ray Rice, who received a two-game suspension in July for assaulting his then-fiancee in February.

“The Ravens recognize the outstanding service the House of Ruth Maryland provides to our community and we want to help increase its influence,” Ravens president Dick Cass said in a statement. “We also look forward to the education the House of Ruth Maryland will provide to members of our organization.”

The Ravens will participate in the launch of the House of Ruth's “Man Up!” campaign to help raise awareness.

"We are thrilled to partner with the Baltimore Ravens on such an important initiative,” said Sandi Timmins, the House of Ruth Maryland’s executive director. “The reaction in our society has always been ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ The Baltimore Ravens have pledged to assist us in shifting the paradigm to change that question to: ‘Why does HE think it is OK to abuse her?’ It’s time for men to speak up, to take responsibility for their behavior, and to hold each other to having partner relationships that are healthy. It’s time to ‘Man Up!’”
The Baltimore Ravens ran over the New Orleans Saints in a 22-13 win Thursday night in the preseason finale for both teams.

Rookie running backs Lorenzo Taliaferro and Fitzgerald Toussaint combined for 191 yards rushing, as the Ravens sat most of their starters. Toussaint, who is likely headed to the practice squad, rushed for 103 yards on 17 carries. Taliaferro, who could be the Ravens' No. 2 or 3 running back to start the season, gained 88 yards on 25 attempts.

The Ravens didn't play their top three running backs: Ray Rice, who will soon start a two-game suspension; Bernard Pierce, who didn't make the trip to New Orleans because of a concussion; and Justin Forsett, who was given the night off.

This marked the first time since 2009 that the Ravens (4-0) finished the preseason undefeated.

Here are some other thoughts in the Ravens' final preseason game:
  • Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor continued to put up points. He led the Ravens for scores on four of five drives. For the preseason, he has produced points on 12 (four touchdowns, eight field goals) of 21 drives. His worst throw was chucking the ball downfield into double coverage and getting it intercepted. Taylor finished 10-of-17 for 105 yards and one touchdown. Two of Taylor's passes were batted down at the line while the Ravens were in Saints territory.
  • It's going to be difficult to keep wide receiver Deonte Thompson off the 53-man roster after he scored a touchdown in his third straight game. He took advantage of a coverage breakdown to catch an 8-yard pass from Taylor in the end zone. Rookie seventh-round pick Michael Campanaro, who had 153 total yards, and Kamar Aiken, who led the Ravens with 57 yards receiving, also are in the mix at wide receiver. Could the Ravens keep seven receivers?
  • Second-year linebacker John Simon was the best player on defense. He set the edge against the run and had a handful of quarterback hits. Simon, a fourth-round pick from a year ago, needed a big game to make the roster. He entered the preseason finale on the bubble and put an exclamation on his strong night with a fourth-quarter sack.
  • Undrafted rookie Tramain Jacobs made a costly mistake when he ran into the kicker. Derek Dimke, who had missed the 54-yard field goal attempt, then hit from 49 yards to end the first half. Jacobs is still likely headed for the practice squad.
  • In the fourth quarter, cornerback Derek Cox, who was signed a day before the preseason finale, made an open-field tackle and broke up a third-down pass while covering the slot. It was impressive for a player who hasn't even practiced with the Ravens.
  • Backup guard Ryan Jensen, who is battling rookie John Urschel for a roster spot, was flagged twice for holding, although the last one was questionable. Still, Jensen needed to shine in this game after falling behind Urschel on the depth chart. Jensen was later hurt in the fourth quarter.
  • Justin Tucker was in midseason form, kicking field goals from 36, 27, 45, 32 and 24 yards. His only mistake was throwing his shoulder into a returner and making a tackle on kickoff coverage. Who cares if the Saints scored a touchdown in a preseason game? The Ravens can't afford to lose Tucker to an injury.

Grantland's Bill Simmons and Cousin Sal look at the AFC North, a division with three legitimate contenders and one team that's "built for next year". Bill and Sal agree the Bengals will likely win the division, which usually means they won't.
With the Baltimore Ravens' final preseason game quickly approaching, let's click open a special edition of the Twitter mailbag ...

@jamisonhensley: These are two different situations. With Jah Reid, he's the team's best option at backup offensive tackle, unless you want to move Kelechi Osemele from left guard when either Eugene Monroe or Rick Wagner get hurt. Reid hasn't lived up to expectations of being a third-round pick and he gets injured a lot. In fact, he's dealing with a concussion right now. But he is better than James Hurst and Parker Graham. As for nose tackle Terrence Cody, he's on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from offeseason hip surgery. Cody won't count against the 53-man roster if he remains on PUP. The Ravens, though, could use Cody for depth. Right now, the backup nose tackle is undrafted rookie Derrick Hopkins, who may not make the final cuts. The Ravens can use Cody this season with all the injuries to the defensive line. @jamisonhensley: I admit that I've been waffling on John Simon's roster status. For most of the roster projections this summer, I've had Simon making the team. He's a hard-nosed outside linebacker who was drafted in the fourth round a year ago. But, after analyzing the roster again, I'm not sure if Simon makes the 53-man roster this year. The Ravens have quality backups at both outside linebacker spots in Pernell McPhee and Courtney Upshaw (who actually splits time with Elvis Dumervil). There's also reserve linebackers on the team (Josh Bynes and Albert McClellan) who are better special teams players than Simon. So, Simon is definitely on the bubble. @jamisonhensley: The Ravens' running game looked really good early in the preseason. The Ravens actually led the NFL in rushing after two games. But the ground game took a step backward Saturday against the Washington Redskins. The Ravens didn't look prepared for the Redskins stacking the line and sending several run blitzes. That's why offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak altered the plan and started throwing the ball more, because that's what the Redskins defense was giving the Ravens. When a defense is that committed to stopping the run like the Redskins were, I'm not sure there is an improvement to make. An offense has to start throwing the ball to force the defense to back off. That's what the Ravens did.
The NFL announced a new domestic violence policy that calls for a six-game suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban from the league for a second offense.

This comes after the league was heavily criticized for only banning Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games.

Because Rice was disciplined before the new policy was instituted, it's unknown whether he would be subject to a lifetime ban if he has another domestic violence incident.

An NFL spokesman said "each case would be addressed individually," adding that there is no "blanket answer" on Rice's status if there was a second offense.

For now, Rice will miss the Ravens' games against the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. He can practice again with the team on Sept. 12.

Under the new policy, Rice would've missed over one-third of the season and wouldn't have returned to the team until Oct. 13.

W2W4: Baltimore Ravens

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
The Baltimore Ravens (3-0) and New Orleans Saints (3-0) face off in the preseason finale Thursday night (8 ET) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

1. Wide receiver battle. The Ravens have four players (Michael Campanaro, Kamar Aiken, Deonte Thompson and Jeremy Butler) fighting for one or two spots. It all depends on whether the Ravens are keeping five or six receivers. At this point, Campanaro and Aiken have the edge. The Ravens traded back into this year's draft to get Campanaro, so it's obvious the team likes him. Aiken had an impressive training camp, and he is a valuable special teams player. But Thompson could force his way onto the team by scoring a touchdown for the third straight preseason game. Butler seems headed to the practice squad unless he puts together a tremendous performance in the finale. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the wide receiver battle remains bunched up. "It’s still very competitive because all those guys are doing so well," Harbaugh said. "Nobody has dropped out of the race, and they’re all proving they can play.”

2. Pecking order at cornerback. Newly signed Derek Cox is expected to play, and when he gets on the field, it could indicate where he initially stands with the team. For the past two preseason games, Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks have started and rookie safety Terrence Brooks has worked at nickelback with the first-team defense. Cox hasn't practiced with the team, so the Ravens may bring him along slowly in this game. But, if Cox cuts into the playing time of Brown or Franks, this would be a sign that the Ravens want him to play meaningful snaps to start the season. As I wrote Wednesday, Cox isn't the answer at cornerback for the Ravens.

3. Keith Wenning's status. The rookie sixth-round quarterback appears headed to the practice squad. Will the Ravens give him a chance to prove he deserves to be on the 53-man roster? No one really knows. Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor is starting the final preseason game because the Ravens are sitting Joe Flacco. It's possible the Ravens will let Taylor finish the game because he doesn't get many live reps during the regular season. Wenning has only appeared in one preseason game, and he looked very shaky in his three drives. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 23 yards and fumbled after getting sacked. Harbaugh said the decision to keep two or three quarterbacks is not difficult. "You just decide who your best 53 players are," Harbaugh said. "If the third quarterback is in the top 53, he’s on the team. If he’s not, he’s not. It’s simple.”
Let's take a look at where all 75 players stand with the Baltimore Ravens heading into Thursday night's preseason finale.

By my projection, there are 45 players who have made the 53-man roster. I have 14 players on the bubble competing for the last eight spots. There are 13 players who are considered long shots.

Remember, running back Ray Rice and safety Will Hill won't count against the 53-man roster because they'll be on the suspended list. Also, nose tackle Terrence Cody is on the physically unable to perform list, which means he'll only count against the 53-man roster if he is activated.

For the players on the bubble, I designated who is the favorite at this point.


In (2): Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor.

On bubble (1): Keith Wenning.


In (4): Ray Rice*, Bernard Pierce, Kyle Juszczyk, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Justin Forsett.

Long shot (1): Fitzgerald Toussaint.


In (4): Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown.

On bubble (3): Michael Campanaro-x, Kamar Aiken-x, Deonte Thompson.

Long shot (1): Jeremy Butler.


In (3): Dennis Pitta, Owen Daniels, Crockett Gillmore.

Long shot (2): Phillip Supernaw, Nathan Overbay.


In (8): Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, Jah Reid, Gino Gradkowski, A.Q. Shipley.

On bubble (2): John Urschel-x, Ryan Jensen.

Long shot (3): James Hurst, Reggie Stephens, Parker Graham.


In (5): Haloti Ngata, Brandon Williams, Chris Canty, Timmy Jernigan, DeAngelo Tyson.

On bubble (1): Derrick Hopkins.

Long shot (3): Levi Brown, Jamie Meder, A.J. Pataiali'i.


In (8): Terrell Suggs, Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Pernell McPhee, Josh Bynes, Arthur Brown.

On bubble (2): Albert McClellan-x, John Simon.

Long shot (2): Zachary Orr, D.J. Roberts.


In (4): Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson.

On bubble (3): Derek Cox-x, Dominique Franks-x, Tramain Jacobs.

Long shot (1): Sammy Seamster.


In (4): Matt Elam, Darian Stewart, Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine, Will Hill*

On bubble (2): Jeromy Miles-x, Brynden Trawick-x.


In (3): Justin Tucker (K), Sam Koch (P), Morgan Cox (LS).

x -- Favorite to win roster spot

* -- Will start season on suspended list
In what has been a trend for Baltimore Ravens players, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and linebacker Terrell Suggs dropped this year in ESPN's defensive player rankings.

Ngata plummeted 13 spots, going from No. 9 last year to No. 22 this year. The fall is warranted for Ngata, who is no longer the top interior defensive lineman in the NFL.

He failed to crack 60 tackles in back-to-back seasons, the first time that's happened in his career. His 1.5 sacks last season were his fewest since 2009.

Ngata could have a good rebound season because he's healthy and he's back playing defensive tackle (after a year of playing nose tackle).

Suggs slipped in the rankings, but not as much as Ngata. Suggs tumbled five spots, falling from No. 23 last year to No. 28 this year.

Last season, Suggs looked like the best player in the league for the first two months, making 60 tackles and nine sacks in his first eight games. He just couldn't sustain that dominance and finished with 20 tackles and one sack in the last eight games.

On the rankings so far, eight Ravens players have made the list: Ngata, Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Torrey Smith, Lardarius Webb, Marshal Yanda, Joe Flacco and Steve Smith. All but one -- Yanda -- dropped in the rankings from the previous year.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- In his fourth preseason with the Baltimore Ravens, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor has produced a respectable passer rating, some impressive runs and as many touchdown passes as Joe Flacco.

But the Ravens are judging Taylor by a more straight-forward barometer.

[+] EnlargeTyrod Taylor
AP Photo/Gail BurtonTyrod Taylor has led the Ravens to scores on half of his 16 drives during the preseason.
"The main thing Tyrod has done is he’s moved the team," coach John Harbaugh said. "Tyrod has moved the team; he’s scored points. My brother [49ers coach Jim Harbaugh] has told me many times how you evaluate a quarterback: Can you envision and see how he’s going to move your football team? We can all see how Tyrod can move the football team. That’s how we’re evaluating him, and he’s done a very good job.”

These are encouraging words from Harbaugh, who once described Taylor's past performances as "disappointing" last March.

In three preseason games, Taylor has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 240 yards, throwing two touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating is 89.8.

Taylor has made his share of mistakes, which includes missing a wide open receiver in the end zone in the second preseason game. He also struggles with patience in the pocket, which has led to 12 runs for 100 yards this preseason.

But, in using the Ravens' basis for evaluation, Taylor has been successful. He has led the Ravens to scores on half of his 16 drives, totaling 36 points. Of the eight scoring drives, five have ended in field goals and three resulted in touchdowns.

In fact, the Ravens have only punted three times with Taylor as quarterback. The other drives were ended by fumbles (twice by running backs), a missed field goal, an interception and the end of a game.

"You have to treat the job as if you’re coming in to be the starter," Taylor said. "That’s one thing that I’ve always had the mindset [of], as far as my work ethic [goes]. I’m prepared to be the starter. But you never know what can happen or when it may happen, so you have to be ready. [There] can’t be a loss of confidence [from] your teammates or your coaches, that this guy can’t go out there and prove that he can play. My job is to prove that to them each and every day I step on this field.”

Taylor is hoping to impress other teams as well. A sixth-round pick in 2011, Taylor is entering the final year of his contract.

The Ravens drafted their potential backup of the future this year when they used a sixth-round pick on Keith Wenning. So, if Taylor leaves the team in free agency at the end of the season, this could be the last time Taylor plays a significant amount for the Ravens.

“I feel like every time you step on the field, not only are the eyes of the organization that you play for [on you], but every other team is watching, because everything is filmed," Taylor said. "Anytime you get a chance to play, you’re definitely building your résumé and showing other teams, as well as the team that you’re with, what you can do.”