Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Williams

It looks like this has turned into Rick Wagner Day here on the Baltimore Ravens blog.

Wagner was tabbed as the early front-runner to win the starting right tackle job on an earlier blog, and he is now being listed as one of the top 25 breakout prospects by Football Outsiders.

This is what Football Outsiders had to say about Wagner, who came in at No. 21 on the list:
Wagner was a fifth-round pick last year out of Wisconsin, where the offensive linemen practically have "road-grader" tattooed on their foreheads. He played a couple snaps in each game last season in six-lineman packages, but now he will take over for Michael Oher at right tackle.

The criteria to qualify for this list is: drafted in the third round or later (or signed as an undrafted free agent), entered NFL no earlier than 2011, started fewer than five games and is 26 or younger in 2014.

The Ravens player who should have made the list is nose tackle Brandon Williams, a third-round pick from a year ago who worked with the starting defense this offseason. He is essentially taking Arthur Jones' spot on the defensive line. Williams has a great combination of size and athleticism.

The AFC North players who joined Wagner on the top prospects list are Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton (No. 9), Browns defensive end John Hughes (No. 11), Bengals outside linebacker Emmanuel Lamur (No. 19) and Browns guard Garrett Gilkey (No. 23).
The Baltimore Ravens didn't get much production out of their 2013 draft class, but the team may lean on its second-year players more this season.


Which second-year player will show the most significant improvement?


Discuss (Total votes: 1,200)

Which player is primed to make the biggest sophomore jump?
  • Inside linebacker Arthur Brown primarily played on passing downs after being selected in the second round last year. Brown was projected to start before the Ravens drafted C.J. Mosley in the first round last month. He has been impressive in offseason practices, and he'll compete for a starting job.
  • Marlon Brown was the best rookie on offense last season, making 49 receptions and catching seven touchdown passes. He won't have to start after the Ravens signed Steve Smith in free agency. But Brown will still play a major role as the No. 3 wide receiver.
  • Matt Elam was the only rookie draft pick to start last season. Elam, though, didn't consistently make plays because he played out of position at free safety. He has moved to strong safety this year and has embraced a leadership role.
  • Rick Wagner played 131 snaps last season in a backup role. The fifth-round pick from a year ago is now penciled in to replace Michael Oher as the starting right tackle.
  • Defensive tackle Brandon Williams was limited to seven games as a rookie, primarily due to a lingering toe injury. The third-round pick is competing for the open starting spot left by Arthur Jones' departure in free agency.

Record your vote on the second-year player who will make the biggest improvement this season. Then, send us your thoughts on that player to the Ravens mailbag. Your comments could be used on the blog later this week.
There was a time when the Baltimore Ravens built their teams by almost exclusively taking players from big programs like Miami, Arizona State and Alabama. These days, their starting quarterback is from Delaware and the second-highest paid player on the team is from Nicholls State.

Lardarius Webb
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliLardarius Webb is one example of the Ravens finding success within the ranks of the smaller schools.
The Ravens take pride in finding big-time players from small schools. In this week's draft, no one should be surprised if the Ravens select players from Towson, North Dakota State or Lindenwood. For the record, the Division II Lions of Lindenwood play in Saint Charles, Mo.

In the last two drafts, seven of the 18 players taken by the Ravens have come from programs below the Division I FBS (formerly I-A) level. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams, a 2013 third-round pick from Missouri Southern, could join quarterback Joe Flacco and cornerback Lardarius Webb as another small-school starter for the Ravens. Asa Jackson, a 2012 fifth-round pick out of Cal Poly, has a chance to be the team's third cornerback.

"We believe in it," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' assistant general manager. "We look at all players across the board, regardless of level of competition, division or conference, and pick the best players.”

The Ravens have been linked to small-school prospects this year. They had a pre-draft visits with Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Towson running back Terrance West. There's a chance that the Ravens, who need help on the offensive line and secondary, could take North Dakota State offensive tackle Billy Turner or Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir somewhere around the third round.

Ravens officials believe their success with small-school players comes from the fact that they put in the same amount of work as they do with big schools. Their scouts go to the schools and get to know the coaches.

"Obviously, the biggest challenge would be level of competition," DeCosta said. "How does that player play? How is he going to play against better players? Is he going to be able to adjust? All-Star games are a nice way of seeing that play out, so we get the chance to see a d-school guy at the Senior Bowl, you get a chance to see him at the combine to compare against the big-school guys. That's always a big challenge."

The Ravens have missed on small-school prospects, too. David Pittman, a 2006 third-round cornerback out of Northwestern State, started one game, and Christian Thompson, a 2012 fourth-round safety from South Carolina State, didn't last two full seasons.

But the Ravens' success rate with small-school prospects is similar to what they have with players from major programs. In some instances, the Ravens see a faster rate of growth with players from smaller schools.

"At small schools, sometimes they don't have the luxury of having a nice weight room, nutritional programs or support staff," DeCosta said. "We feel like sometimes these guys come into our facility, our building, with our coaches and our doctors and trainers, and get better quickly because they have the advantage of all these new things."
It's time to click open our Baltimore Ravens' Twitter mailbag ...

The Baltimore Ravens blog will take a look at the team's top five draft picks in 2013 this week and how they fared as rookies:


Position: Defensive tackle

Drafted: Third round, 94th overall (selected nine spots after Redskins TE Jordan Reed and two picks before Chiefs RB Knile Davis)

Key stats: Six tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery

His 2013 season: It was a slow start and a rough finish for the three-time Division II All-American. After being inactive for the first three games, Williams was part of the Ravens' defensive line rotation for the next five games. He recorded a tackle in each game and recorded his only tackle of the season during this stretch. Then, he was inactive for six of his final eight games, falling behind DeAngelo Tyson on the depth chart. Many assumed Williams would absorb the snaps left when Marcus Spears was released in the middle of the season. But it was Tyson who took advantage of it.

Forecasting 2014: Williams will have an expanded role, especially if starting defensive end Art Jones and backup nose tackle Terrence Cody aren't re-signed.

What the Ravens are saying about Williams: "Brandon Williams should be in the rotation at least as a defensive tackle. He proved that he can play. We had a lot of depth there this year. He had a little maturing to do, and he should be in the mix." -- Head coach John Harbaugh

No surprises with Ravens' inactives

November, 28, 2013
BALTIMORE -- There were no surprises with the inactives for the Baltimore Ravens, who play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night (8:30 ET, NBC).

Defensive end Chris Canty, who was probable with a shoulder injury, is active and will start. For the second straight week, the Ravens decided to go with wide receiver Brandon Stokley and defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson, and they made wide receiver Deonte Thompson and defensive lineman Brandon Williams inactive.

Here are the Ravens' official inactives: safety Brynden Trawick, linebacker John Simon, defensive lineman Brandon Williams, wide receiver Deonte Thompson, running back Bernard Scott, safety Omar Brown and center Ryan Jensen.
There were no changes to the Ravens' injury report Thursday.

Four players didn't practice: wide receivers Jacoby Jones (knee, already ruled out) and Deonte Thompson (foot); nose tackle Brandon Williams (toe); and center Ryan Jensen (foot).

Defensive lineman Arthur Jones (illness) and backup running back Bernard Pierce (thigh) were limited again. Offensive tackle Michael Oher (ankle) had full participation for a second straight day.

"(Oher) is an unusual guy -- extremely tough, extremely dedicated and disciplined," offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said Thursday. "He has a very, very high tolerance for pain. He’s been able to get back out. He’s obviously committed to this team, and he’s working at it extremely hard.”
Here is the Baltimore Ravens' injury report for Thursday's game in Denver:

OUT: DT Art Jones (non-football illness).

DOUBTFUL: C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe).

PROBABLE: TE Ed Dickson (hamstring), DE Pernell McPhee (knee).
Baltimore Ravens tight end Ed Dickson had his second full practice, a sign that he'll play in Thursday's regular-season opener in Denver.

Dickson has been dealing with a hamstring injury throughout the preseason. On Monday, Dickson sounded optimistic about his chances of suiting up.

"I’d go with what Ed said," coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday. "He knows himself as well as anybody, and he’s had good practices.”

Wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), nose tackle Brandon Williams (toe) and center Ryan Jensen aren't expected to be available after missing Tuesday's practice. Linebacker Pernell McPhee was limited with a knee injury.

Starting defensive end Art Jones, who was ruled out Monday with an illness, addressed his situation on Twitter on Tuesday.
"As many of you know i'm having personal health issues. Please respect my privacy. We as athlete's go through real life problems also.Thank You all for your love and support. Ravens fans are the best!! See you all on the field soon!!! : ) #Onelove"

Harbaugh said he would leave it to Jones to discuss the specifics of his illness.

"It’s not anything that’s life threatening or anything like that, but it’s non-football related," Harbaugh said. "We’ve just got to get some tests done to make sure he’s OK. And until the tests come out the right way, he’s not going to be able to play. It’s something that I’ve been told now that they can’t tell you how long it’ll be. It could be a week. It could be indefinitely. We don’t think it’s going to be the second part of it, but he’s going to see a specialist here on Wednesday."
Let's start the Wake-up caw with a stroll down memory lane with your favorite Dancing With The Stars athlete ...
  • Wide receiver Jacoby Jones relived the dramatic 70-yard touchdown, which he caught behind Broncos safety Rahim Moore and tied the AFC divisional playoff game in the final minute. "I think he was trying to make a play and we caught him slipping," Jones told The Baltimore Sun. "They weren't up for us. Bingo." I was surprised that Jones was able to get behind the secondary. I am shocked that Moore remains a starting safety in Denver.
  • Tight end Ed Dickson is upbeat about playing Thursday night, according to The Baltimore Sun. ’"Im pretty optimistic about my chances of playing this game and working toward playing," Dickson said. "I always feel like I’m playing so I’m working towards it that way. We’ll see what the trainers and the coach say.” The Ravens really need Dickson in the lineup after seeing Dallas Clark do basically nothing in the preseason.
  • Echoing coach John Harbaugh's comments from earlier in the week, cornerback Lardarius Webb is set to play in Denver after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in October. "Knowing all the hard work I put myself through, I miss it to the fullest," Webb said, via Comcast SportsNet. "I just can't wait to touch my foot on that field."
  • Being the underdog is a familiar spot for the Ravens, The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston writes. "No, it doesn't surprise me at all," Ravens running back Ray Rice said of the Broncos being favored.
  • Backup nose tackle Brandon Williams is out indefinitely after being seen in a walking boot, according to The Press Box. With defensive end Art Jones already out, the Ravens have five healthy defensive linemen: Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Terrence Cody and DeAngelo Tyson. Meanwhile, rookie linebacker John Simon switched his jersey number from No. 47 to No. 94, which was last worn by Sergio Kindle. Obviously, Simon isn't superstitious.
  • Starting cornerback Corey Graham doesn't get much attention but plays a big part. In his last trip to Denver, he picked off Peyton Manning twice in the AFC divisional playoff game. Here's the full story in the Carroll County (Md.) Times.