Baltimore Ravens: John Simon

Only half of the members of the Baltimore Ravens' 2013 draft class are part of the team's 53-man roster. That's just 17 months after drafting those players.

The initial reaction is that this class has been underwhelming. There's only one established starter (safety Matt Elam) among those 10 players drafted, and two of the first four picks are either buried on the depth chart (second-round pick Arthur Brown) or on the practice squad (fourth-rounder John Simon).

[+] EnlargeMatt Elam
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsMatt Elam is the only established starter from the Ravens' 2013 draft class thus far.
What can save this draft class is the expected emergence of a handful of starters this season. There are four projected starters from the remaining five players from this draft class: Elam, nose tackle Brandon Williams, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and right tackle Rick Wagner.

Getting that many starters out of a draft class is a strong accomplishment when you consider the number of multi-year starters from the Ravens' draft classes in 2009 (two, Michael Oher and Lardarius Webb), 2010 (three, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta and Arthur Jones), 2011 (two, Jimmy Smith and Torrey Smith) and 2012 (two, Courtney Upshaw and Kelechi Osemele).

When evaluating this class, it should be pointed out that the Ravens drafted at the bottom of each round because they were defending Super Bowl champions. The Ravens also did well after the draft, picking up undrafted receiver Marlon Brown, who tied a team rookie record with seven touchdown catches.

Let's go pick-by-pick in the Ravens' 2013 draft:

SS Matt Elam: The first-round pick didn't immediately live up to expectations of being the third safety taken in the 2013 draft. Elam finished with 76 tackles (fourth on the team), but he made only one interception and broke up three passes. He also missed 11 tackles and gave up two touchdowns. The Ravens are hoping Elam plays better after moving to strong safety, which is his more natural position.

ILB Arthur Brown: The second-round pick isn't close to becoming a starter anytime soon. Although he plays fast, Brown too often gets gobbled up by big-bodied guards. He got on the field last year in passing situations, but that may not happen with the addition of first-round pick C.J. Mosley. This isn't exactly what the Ravens envisioned when they traded three picks to move up to get Brown.

NT Brandon Williams: The third-round pick was inactive for six of the final eight games last season. There are heightened expectations for Williams this season. He is a first-year starter who made big plays in the preseason when the Ravens' defense was backed up. Williams doesn't want to be a space-eater inside. He wants to be a difference maker.

LB John Simon: The fourth-round pick was cut Saturday and later signed to the practice squad. He could eventually return to active roster, but he's had trouble playing in space.

FB Kyle Juszczyk: The second fourth-round pick wasn't able to handle the fullback job last season, which is why the team re-signed Vonta Leach. If the preseason is any indication, Juszczyk is primed for a breakout season. He led the team with 10 catches this preseason.

OT Rick Wagner: The fifth-round pick struggled mightily when he was forced to fill in for an injured Michael Oher in last year's opener. Wagner steadily improved throughout his rookie season, and he's been solid in his first preseason as a starter. He was the Ravens' highest-graded offensive lineman this preseason, according to Pro Football Focus.

DE Kapron Lewis-Moore: An injury sidelined the sixth-round pick for a second straight season. He was placed on injured reserve last week after being earmarked as the top backup to Chris Canty this season.

OL Ryan Jensen: The sixth-round pick took a step back and lost his roster spot to rookie John Urschel. Jensen was the Ravens' lowest-rated guard this preseason.

WR Aaron Mellette: The seventh-round pick spent last season on injured reserve and was released in June after failing a physical.

CB Marc Anthony: The Ravens' last pick in this draft was waived in the final major cutdown and spent last season on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad. Anthony was cut by the Tennessee Titans and Buccaneers this summer.
The Baltimore Ravens signed nine players to their practice squad Sunday, and the names should have a familiar ring. All were players who spent the entire offseason with the team and were recently cut.

There were three former draft picks added to the practice squad: linebacker John Simon (fourth round, 2013), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (sixth round, 2013) and quarterback Keith Wenning (sixth round, 2014).

The Ravens can sign one more player to complete their practice squad.

Here's a rundown on the nine who have been signed:

QB Keith Wenning: The rookie sixth-round pick was expected to be added to the practice squad after the Ravens kept two quarterbacks for the fifth straight year. Wenning improved throughout the summer and he showed potential by the preseason finale. He finished 10 of 17 for 140 yards for a 85.4 passer rating this preseason. Pro Football Focus graded him at No. 57 among quarterbacks, just two spots behind Tyrod Taylor.

LB John Simon: The 2013 fourth-round pick failed to make the cut, even though the Ravens kept 10 linebackers. Simon finished strong in the preseason finale with four quarterback hits. What works against Simon is he struggles making plays in space and he isn't a top special-teams player.

OL Ryan Jensen: The Ravens were so high on the 2013 sixth-round pick last year that they didn't place him on injured reserve after he broke his foot and kept him on the roster the entire year. Jensen, though, took a step back this year and slid behind rookie John Urschel on the depth chart.

CB Tramain Jacobs: The undrafted rookie out of Texas A&M became a favorite of the coaching staff. The Ravens believe Jacobs has great upside as a cover corner. His biggest problem is reducing penalties, which were a problem in the preseason and training camp.

DT Jamie Meder: The undrafted rookie out of Ashland was under the radar for most of the summer. Meder generally played on the third-team defensive line. He finished with four tackles this preseason.

CB Deji Olatoye: The undrafted rookie from North Carolina A&T generated buzz in spring workouts but he was unable to maintain that this summer. His struggles in coverage in the second preseason led to him getting waived in the first round of cuts. Olatoye, a former teammate of Jimmy Smith at Colorado (before he transferred to North Carolina A&T), has intriguing size and length for the position.

DT A.J. Pataiali'i: The undrafted rookie from Utah State was signed to the practice squad over nose tackle Derrick Hopkins, who received the biggest signing bonus of all the Ravens' undrafted rookies. Like Meder, Pataiali'i played most of the time on the third-team defensive line. He had one tackle this preseason.

TE Phillip Supernaw: The first-year player spent most of last season on the Houston Texans' practice squad before getting signed to the active roster in late December. Supernaw was signed by the Ravens in May, only five days after being released by the Texans. He didn't have a catch this preseason. Supernaw did work at fullback for the final preseason game after the Ravens cut Shaun Chapas.

RB Fitzgerald Toussaint: The undrafted rookie out of Michigan flashed his explosiveness in the preseason finale with several big runs. Toussaint ran for 103 yards at New Orleans, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. The Ravens hope he doesn't get signed away like Bobby Rainey did last year.

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.
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.

Ravens Camp Report: Day 14

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Baltimore Ravens training camp:
  • The play of the day came from an unlikely source. Backup linebacker John Simon made a leaping one-handed interception toward the end of practice. Simon, a 2013 fourth-round pick, is known for his toughness but he often struggles to make plays in space.
  • Biggest rule for all rookies: Don't tick off the owner. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro almost did that Monday, when his parents parked in owner Steve Bisciotti's parking spot (which stands out because his initials "SB" are on it). Security had to get Campanaro to point out his parents in the crowd so the vehicle could be removed before Bisciotti arrived for practice.
  • With both backup defensive ends out for the season, DeAngelo Tyson took over that spot and made a nice play in his new role. Tyson leapt up and authoritatively knocked down a pass with both hands.
  • It was surprising to see wide receiver Torrey Smith fielding punts. Smith brings explosive speed and sure hands to that role. But it's a risk to expose the team's best deep threat to getting injured on special teams. Smith also has virtually no experience in covering punts. He returned one punt in college and has never fielded a punt in three NFL seasons.
  • Rookie third-round pick Terrence Brooks is getting a lot of reps in practice. He worked at nickel back with the first-team defense and moved back to free safety with the second team.
  • The Ravens and 49ers ended their three days of joint practices with a non-contact workout. This came after two days of padded practices for the teams.
  • Schedule: The Ravens are off Tuesday. They hold practices Wednesday and Thursday before wrapping up training camp Friday.
  • Injury wire: Tight end Dennis Pitta missed his second straight practice with what coach John Harbaugh described as a "little ankle sprain." Pitta did individual drills for about 30 minutes before being told to sit out the rest of practice. ... Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles) is scheduled to have season-ending surgery by the end of the week. ... Cornerback Asa Jackson (ankle) was sidelined for his second straight practice. ... Cornerback Lardarius Webb (back) missed his 12th straight practice. He last practiced July 25. ... Guard Will Rackley (head), guard Ryan Jensen (ankle) and safety Brynden Trawick (back) also didn't practice. ... Nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip) is on the physically unable to perform list. ... Defensive end Brent Urban (torn ACL) is out for the season.
The Baltimore Ravens' team page continues to a take a position-by-position review of the team's 2013 season and give a sneak peek of what lies ahead:


Under contract (2014 salary-cap number): OLB Terrell Suggs ($12.4 million), ILB Jameel McClain ($4.4M), OLB Elvis Dumervil ($3.375M), OLB Courtney Upshaw ($1.444M), OLB Arthur Brown ($807,780), OLB John Simon ($591,413), OLB Pernell McPhee ($681,140).

2014 free agents: ILB Daryl Smith (unrestricted), ILB Albert McClellan (restricted), ILB Josh Bynes (exclusive rights), OLB Adrian Hamilton (exclusive rights), OLB D.J. Bryant (exclusive rights).

The good: Smith made everyone forget that Ray Lewis was gone. He led the Ravens with 123 tackles and finished with five sacks, three interceptions, 19 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Suggs and Dumervil combined for 19.5 sacks, which was nearly half of the team's total. McClain made an admirable comeback from a spinal cord contusion and recorded 52 tackles in 10 games.

The bad: Suggs disappeared in the second half of the season, contributing 20 tackles and one sack in his final eight games. Dumervil was equally non-effective with nine tackles and one sack in his last six games. Brown was projected to start as a rookie, but he was limited to passing downs.

The money: The Ravens want to sign Suggs to an extension to reduce his $12.4 million cap hit and increase his chances of retiring as a Raven. It'll be interesting to see whether the Ravens can re-sign Smith. He exceeded expectations but he'll turn 32 in March. The Ravens are expected to cut McClain because they can free up $3.2 million in cap space.

Draft priority: Low, at this point. If the Ravens can't reach an extension with Suggs and decide to release him, the need for an edge rusher increases significantly. But right now, linebacker is a low priority. The Ravens are banking on Brown to step up and fill McClain's starting spot. There is solid depth (and quality special teams play) from the likes of Bynes, McClellan and Simon.

Ravens' draft review: John Simon

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
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: Outside linebacker

Drafted: Fourth round, 129th overall (selected one spot after 49ers WR Quinton Patton and one pick before Ravens FB Kyle Juszczyk)

Key stats: Four tackles (all on special teams).

His 2013 season: Much like third-round pick Brandon Williams, Simon played the first half of the season before sitting out most of the second half. He was active for five of the Ravens' first seven games and then was scratched for seven of the last nine games. Simon was almost exclusively a special-teams player, which is the role many envisioned for him this season. He was the fifth outside linebacker behind Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw and Pernell McPhee. Simon played a total of four defensive snaps as a rookie and all came against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 9 , when Dumervil missed his only game of the season.

Forecasting 2014: Simon could become a core special-teams player for the Ravens. If Suggs returns, Simon will remain behind those same four linebackers. He could follow the same career path as linebacker Jarret Johnson, another fourth-round pick. Johnson didn't make an impact on defense until his third season.

What the Ravens are saying about Simon: "Nobody practices harder, works harder than John Simon. I think he’s just going to make himself into a player. He’ll find a way to get on the field, one way or another. He’s got some pass-rushing talent." -- Head coach John Harbaugh