Dennis Pitta

NFL Notes: Jets QB Christian Hackenberg ignores critics, focuses on progress

NFL Notes: Jets QB Christian Hackenberg ignores critics, focuses on progress

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Christian Hackenberg has plenty of critics, many of whom think the New York Jets' second-year quarterback will never be an NFL starter.

And that's before the former Penn State starter has even played in a regular-season game.

"That's their opinions," Hackenberg said of the naysayers. "I can't really speak for them, whoever it is."

Hackenberg was drafted in the second round last year, a pick some thought was a reach because of his struggles with the Nittany Lions in his last two seasons following a fabulous freshman campaign. He was widely considered a project who needed work on his mechanics, footwork and overall approach.

It didn't help that Hackenberg went 17 of 47 for 159 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in his two preseason appearances last summer. And, even as the quarterbacks carousel spun with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty taking turns under center during the regular season, Hackenberg never saw the field.

"I know what I can do," Hackenberg said. "And I know what my coaching staff feels I can do, so I'm just confident in my abilities. And when I get my opportunity to play, I'm going to do that."

Sounds like a guy who knows he has lots to prove -- to everyone other than himself.

"I'm confident that I can play at this level, and play at a high level," he said. "So, when I get my opportunity, I'm going to take advantage of that."

Ravens: Pitta released after 3rd hip injury
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have released tight end Dennis Pitta with an injury waiver after he hurt his right hip for a third time in practice last week.

The injury occurred during an offseason practice session Friday. Each time Pitta hurt the hip previously, the injury was serious enough to be considered career-threatening.

That appears to be the case again following his release Wednesday.

The 31-year-old Pitta began his career with Baltimore in 2010 and caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl when the Ravens won the 2012 NFL title.

Pitta first injured his hip in 2013 and hurt it again in 2014. He played in four games in 2013, three in 2014 and sat out the entire 2015 season.

Last year, however, he returned to catch 86 passes, most by a tight end in franchise history.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said last week: "Dennis is one of the great Ravens, and he has done everything he can to make our team better."

Cardinals: QB Palmer disputes notion he’s over the hill
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The national perception seems to be that Carson Palmer's skills have eroded with age, that he's lost some zip off his fastball and therefore the Arizona Cardinals are doomed to another mediocre season.

Las Vegas oddsmakers peg the Cardinals for eight wins.

The 37-year-old Palmer said he doesn't read such summertime predictions. He acknowledged that aging affects every football player, but quarterbacks less so than others.

"I think it's easier to play the quarterback position later on in your career because of the repetition," he said Wednesday after the second day of the Cardinals' three-day minicamp.

"There have been a handful of quarterbacks that have had success early in their careers," he said, "but you just look at the history of the game. Guys can have success into their 30s just because you rely so much on experience, so much on `been there, done that' type of situations."

A prime example, of course, is Tom Brady, who turns 40 this summer.

They are two distinctly different style of quarterbacks, though. Brady rarely throws deep. Palmer made his reputation on his powerful right arm.

To preserve Palmer's arm strength, coach Bruce Arians started giving him Wednesdays off midway through last season. The difference was apparent and Palmer had the Arizona offense moving late in the season.

Now, for the first time in his career, Palmer didn't throw in the winter months this year or in the early OTAs.

NFL: Police investigating assault complaint against Rex Ryan
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville police are investigating a misdemeanor assault complaint made by a man who says former Buffalo Bills and New York Jets coach Rex Ryan grabbed him by the neck.

Police spokesman Don Aaron said that Matthew Havel, a 30-year-old from Pueblo, Colorado, made the complaint Sunday night.

Havel told police that he saw the Ryan brothers -- Rex and former NFL defensive coordinator Rob Ryan -- at the Margaritaville restaurant in downtown Nashville near Bridgestone Arena. Aaron said Havel indicated he went up to the Ryans' table and was there for over an hour before Rex Ryan "reached across and grabbed at his neck."

Havel told police the incident was unprovoked.

Aaron said no arrests have been made and no charges are presently outstanding.

Rex Ryan is a longtime Nashville Predators ticket holder who has been seen at many of their playoff games, including one of their second-round road matchups in St. Louis. He also was shown Saturday smashing a Pittsburgh Penguins car for charity in front of Bridgestone Arena while Rob looked on before the Predators' Game 3 victory in the Stanley Cup Final.

Rex Ryan coached the Jets from 2009-14 and the Bills from 2015-16 before being fired in December. Rob Ryan has been a defensive coordinator for several NFL teams and was on his brother's staff in Buffalo last year.

NFL Notes: Ravens TE Dennis Pitta injures hip again

NFL Notes: Ravens TE Dennis Pitta injures hip again

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta has reinjured the same troublesome right hip that already has been surgically repaired twice.

The injury occurred during an offseason practice session Friday. Each time Pitta hurt the hip previously, the injury was serious enough to be considered career-ending.

It's too soon to determine whether that's the case this time.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Pitta is undergoing tests to determine the severity of the injury.

Pitta sustained his first hip injury in 2013 and injured it again in 2014. He played in four games in 2013, three in 2014 and sat out the entire 2015 season.

He appeared to put his hip troubles behind him last year, leading the Ravens with a career-high 86 receptions -- most by a tight end in franchise history.

Newsome said: "Dennis is one of the great Ravens, and he has done everything he can to make our team better."

It's the second straight day in which one of the Ravens suffered a serious injury. On Wednesday, cornerback Tavon Young tore his ACL (see full story).

Seahawks: Carroll says Kaepernick a starter, but not in Seattle
RENTON, Wash. -- Pete Carroll saw Colin Kaepernick's rise as a starting quarterback firsthand and the Seattle Seahawks coach still believes Kaepernick is capable of being a starter.

It just won't be in Seattle

Carroll had high praise for Kaepernick on Friday as the Seahawks wrapped up their first week of OTAs. The former 49ers quarterback was in Seattle last week to meet with the front office but left still unemployed.

While Seattle has seemed the most logical destination -- from its style of offense to the outspokenness of its locker room -- Kaepernick won't be signing with the Seahawks at this time.

"Colin has been a fantastic football player and he's going to continue to be. At this time, we didn't do anything with it, but we know where he is and who he is, and we had a chance to understand him much more so," Carrol said. "He's a starter in this league. We have a starter, but he's a starter in this league and I can't imagine that somebody won't give him a chance to play."

Carroll wasn't willing to speculate why Kaepernick remains unsigned after opting out of his contract in San Francisco and becoming a free agent.

"That's not my issue, I don't know," Carroll said. "We brought him in here to check him out, and I think it was very productive for us to get to know him better. I had never really sat down and talked to the guy" (see full story).

Broncos: Parks facing domestic violence charges
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Broncos backup safety Will Parks could face a suspension from the NFL following a domestic violence arrest earlier this offseason.

Parks is scheduled to appear in Adams County court on June 30. He faces misdemeanor harassment and non-physical domestic violence charges involving a former girlfriend.

KUSA-TV in Denver reports that Parks' ex-girlfriend said she went to his home in Englewood to pick up her belongings following the breakup of their yearlong relationship. She said Parks, 22, later accused her of taking some of his personal belongings and made threatening phone calls to her. Parks denied he threatened the woman.

In a statement, the Broncos said the team was informed of the situation shortly after Parks' arrest March 31, which they "promptly reported to the league office and we are continuing to monitor this matter."

Parks could be punished under the league's personal conduct policy whether or not he's convicted.

Parks' agent didn't return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Parks' legal matter came to light the same week he drew criticism for posting video from team practices on his Snapchat account. The video shows two incompletions by Paxton Lynch, the Broncos' 2016 first-round draft pick who is trying to unseat Trevor Siemian for the starting quarterback job this summer.

Parks was a sixth-round draft pick last year out of Arizona who played in all 16 games his rookie season, collecting 17 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups. His biggest play was returning a blocked extra point for two points in the Broncos' 25-23 win at New Orleans.

Bengals: Mixon signs rookie contract
CINCINNATI -- Second-round draft pick Joe Mixon has signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Oklahoma running back who was suspended for his freshman season after he punched a woman, breaking bones in her face, signed Friday.

Bengals owner Mike Brown acknowledged the risk of taking Mixon in a letter last month to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Brown said Mixon "did a terrible thing" when he hit Amelia Molitor in 2014, adding it was "unacceptable for a man to strike a woman."

His comments came in response to public backlash against the Bengals selecting Mixon. Brown also called Mixon "a rare football talent."

The 6-foot-1, 228-pound Mixon played in 25 games with nine starts in two seasons for Oklahoma. He rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. He added 894 yards receiving on 65 catches. Mixon ranked second nationally in all-purpose yards last season, setting a single-season school record with 2,331.

One day after Mixon was drafted, a local television station published an editorial on its website saying it was a "disgraceful" decision. WCPO-TV said fans should stop buying tickets and instead donate money to organizations that work to prevent domestic violence (see full story).

Eagles-Ravens scouting report: Can't rely on the tight ends in this one

Eagles-Ravens scouting report: Can't rely on the tight ends in this one

Eagles at Ravens
Sunday, 1 p.m. on Fox
Ravens favored by 5.5; over-under 40

Losers of four straight and six of seven, the Carson Wentz-led Eagles travel Sunday to a stadium where no opposing rookie quarterback has won a game since 2008.

The Ravens' perennially stout defense has held rookie QBs to an 0-7 record, a 52.4 percent completion rate, 211 passing yards per game, three TDs, nine INTs and a QB rating of 60.6 since John Harbaugh took over as head coach.

Good luck, Carson — you're going to be dropping back a lot again on Sunday.

Don't run on the Ravens
What makes the Ravens' defense so good? It starts with stopping the run. Baltimore has allowed just 981 rushing yards in 13 games, the only team in the NFL under 1,000. They Ravens have allowed an NFL-low 3.4 yards per rush and an NFL-low five rushing TDs. 

Baltimore allows just 75.5 rushing yards per game, 26 fewer than the Eagles, who are middle-of-the-pack.

The Ravens, who use a 3-4, rotate five defensive linemen and all have been above-average in the run game. Starting defensive ends Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy rank 5th and 7th among all 3-4 defensive ends against the run at Pro Football Focus. Jernigan's had two very good weeks in a row, also affecting the passing game against the Patriots and Dolphins.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs can still get after the quarterback, but pass rush has been the one overall weakness of this Baltimore D. Suggs, in Year 14, has eight sacks and three forced fumbles.

Eyes on Ertz
The Ravens are among the NFL's best at stopping opposing tight ends. No TE has eclipsed 70 yards against them and only three have scored — Martellus Bennett, Tyler Eifert, and Browns backup Seth DeValve.

The main reasons the Ravens are so successful stopping tight ends are inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and safeties Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb, a converted corner.

Mosley, a dynamic LB, has three interceptions and three pass breakups in addition to being a sound tackler. 

And Weddle, in his first year in Baltimore after nine in San Diego, is playing some of the best football of his career approaching his 32nd birthday. He's been targeted 20 times this season and allowed just 12 catches, intercepting four passes and breaking up three others. He's rejuvenated his career after fleeing a weak San Diego defense for this strong unit in Baltimore.

Zach Ertz has been the Eagles' most consistent weapon lately. He had 10 catches for 112 yards against Washington, giving him 42 receptions for 414 yards and two TDs over his last six games. Those 42 catches are most by a tight end over the last six weeks and fifth-most by any pass-catcher.

Ertz's average game over this span has been seven catches for 60 yards. That's going to be tough to come by vs. the Ravens, considering only two tight ends have had more than five catches against them all year. (One was Jordan Reed, an athletic marvel who also lines up out wide. The other was Larry Donnell, who turned his six catches into only 34 yards.)

Still, with the weakness of the Eagles' outside receivers and the inconsistency of their running game, they'll likely need to target Ertz and Trey Burton anyway. 

Burton has flown under the radar but been one of the Eagles' more reliable players of late. Wentz has targeted him a whopping 19 times the last two weeks and Burton has 12 catches for 118 yards. 

Altogether, Wentz has targeted his three tight ends exactly 50 times the last two games. Hardly seems possible. He and Doug Pederson will need a different plan of attack at M&T Bank Stadium.

Receivers vs. DBs
Tavon Young, the rookie from Temple, has had an impressive NFL introduction on the opposite side of Smith. He did struggle against the Giants, Cowboys and Steelers, but the Eagles don't have an Odell Beckham, Dez Bryant or Antonio Brown. 

In the slot, the Ravens usually roll with Jerraud Powers, though Weddle comes down on certain occasions. Based on QB rating allowed, Powers has been the fourth-best slot corner in the NFL this season, per PFF.

Even without CB Jimmy Smith (ankle), this is the third-best secondary the Eagles have faced, behind the Seahawks and Vikings.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens' top receivers are Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and tight end Dennis Pitta.

Wallace and Perriman do most of their work on deep balls — Joe Flacco's specialty — so three-receiver sets will be challenging for the Eagles to defend. Especially given their recent ineffectiveness limiting X-plays.

Smith is still as physical as any WR in the game. Even at 37, he still has enough shake to make a DB look silly, and tackling him can be an adventure. He's going to draw Nolan Carroll most of the time, with Perriman or Wallace on Leodis McKelvin.

Smith and Wallace also move into the slot, but Kamar Aiken is usually the inside man on three- or four-receiver sets. 

Pitta is a checkdown option. He catches a lot of six-, seven-yard passes. 

Flacco has also involved rookie running back Kenneth Dixon a lot lately in the passing game. Dixon, who has been outsnapping Terrance West (a bigger, one-cut RB), has 16 catches in his last three games.

Prediction
Just don't see a path to victory for the Eagles. The Ravens are going to make them one-dimensional early and have more talent on defense than the Eagles do on offense. 

With Baltimore's strength against tight ends, at least one and probably two Eagles wide receivers need to have a big day. Not exactly something to count on.

I do think the Eagles' defensive line will bounce back and get to Flacco a few times in addition to limiting Dixon and West, but the Ravens have one of the better pass blocking O-lines in the NFL with Marshal Yanda on one side and Ricky Wagner the other.

Ravens 24, Eagles 13