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Patriots solid run defense focused on Jackson

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Patriots solid run defense focused on Jackson

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Vince Wilfork likes to tangle in the trenches with big running backs. He'll face one of the biggest on Sunday.

The next load charging at the 330-pound defensive tackle of the New England Patriots will be 240-pound Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams, a durable player who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the last seven seasons.

The Rams ``can line up and run the ball three straight times, four straight times, if they're successful doing it,'' Wilfork said Thursday before the Patriots' red-eye flight to London for the game. ``They have no problem putting the ball in their running backs' hands to get tough yards, or even a long distance.''

Jackson is not having one of his better years. He's just 20th in the NFL with 380 yards rushing, a pace that would give him 869 yards for the season. And he didn't score his first touchdown until last Sunday's 30-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

He's only faced the Patriots once, when he was a rookie and gained one yard on three carries. But they know his size makes him dangerous.

``He's a big guy,'' New England defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. ``He's strong. When you have some size and speed it definitely makes it a lot harder to tackle somebody. So you've just got to make sure that you really get your hat on him.''

The Patriots' pass defense has gotten most of the attention, a lot of it negative. It has been vulnerable to big plays and has allowed the fourth most yards passing in the league. Opponents' eagerness to exploit that could be one reason they haven't rolled up big rushing numbers. Only seven teams have given up more yards on the ground than the Patriots.

Or maybe the Patriots have very talented run stuffers.

``We really pride ourselves on stopping the run first,'' Ninkovich said. ``As long as you do that and kind of make the game more one-dimensional it's just going to help your defense in the long run.''

So far the Patriots have faced six of the NFL's top 16 runners with only one rushing for more than 54 yards. That was Ray Rice, who gained 101 in the Baltimore Ravens' 31-30 win.

Last Sunday, the Patriots held Shonn Greene of the New York Jets to 54 yards on 16 carries one week after he rushed for a career-high 161. In their previous game, they limited Seattle's Marshawn Lynch to 41 yards on 15 carries, one week before he gained 103. And in the game before that, the Patriots kept Denver's Willis McGahee to 51 yards on 14 carries one week after he ran for 112.

There are more impressive numbers.

Opponents have averaged 3.3 yards per carry, second-fewest in the NFL. They've scored three touchdowns on the ground and have only 10 runs of more than 10 yards. The Patriots are averaging 4.2 yards with 10 touchdowns and 28 carries of more than 10 yards.

Last year, the Patriots gave up 4.6 yards per rush, tied for eighth-most.

Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo are two reasons for the new stinginess. What are some others?

``I'm a young buck. I'm not here to talk about that,'' rookie first-round linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. ``I'm doing my role and my role is to hit the dude with the ball. So that's what I'm doing. So as long as I do that and Vince and Mayo, they're not yelling at me, I feel like I'm doing my job.''

The Patriots also must contend with Daryl Richardson, whose 282 yards rank third among NFC rookies.

But the physical Jackson is the most dangerous.

``He dishes it out. I think he probably gives as much as he takes,'' New England coach Bill Belichick said. ``It's not like that with all backs, but he has the quickness to be elusive on the second level, avoid guys and he's also got the power to put his shoulder down and run through guys. He's a hard guy to tackle.

``His production in the passing game is very good too. Not just screens, but actual route running, going out there, getting open, beating linebackers and he's a great target for the quarterback to throw to. He's not a little 5-8 guy you're trying to find out there. He's a big, tall, strong guy that has a lot of range and a big catch radius and good hands.''

Jackson has only 10 receptions this year but had at least 38 in each of the past seven. His 90 catches in 2006 were tied for seventh in the league and were the most by a running back that year.

Leading up to the 2004 draft, Belichick recalled he spent nearly a full day with the running back from Oregon State.

``He's a very impressive individual. Obviously, a big, strong kid that runs well, that catches the ball very well, very good in the passing game,'' Belichick said. ``He definitely was a guy that we were very much interested in.''

But he was gone by the time the Patriots, who won the previous Super Bowl, made the last pick of the first round.

``He was an impressive guy coming out,'' Belichick said, ``and he's had, obviously, an outstanding career.''

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Ahead of NFL Draft, Ravens add to wide receiver corps with Willie Snead

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USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of NFL Draft, Ravens add to wide receiver corps with Willie Snead

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Receiver Willie Snead has bid farewell to the Saints, which means New Orleans apparently won't match the contract the Baltimore Ravens offered the restricted free agent.

Eager to add a target for quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens on Friday offered Snead a two-year, $10.4 million contract. The Saints had five days to match the deal. Snead indicated Monday on Twitter that he's headed out of New Orleans.

Snead tweeted: "What I'm going to miss most is the men in the locker room & the coaches."

He added: "Even though I'm sad to go, I'm even more excited for the next chapter in my life. I can't wait to strap it on as a Baltimore Raven."

Hampered by a three-game suspension and a hamstring injury, Snead was limited to eight catches for 92 yards last year.

In 2015, he had 69 receptions for 984 yards. He caught 72 passes for 895 yards in 2016.

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2018 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup 6.0: The final countdown

2018 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup 6.0: The final countdown

After months and months of talk and a lot of predictions, the 2018 NFL Draft is finally here.

On Thursday, Ozzie Newsome and Co. will enter the draft room prepared for battle. A lot of questions await them and most of them can not be answered until the ten minutes leading up to their pick. 

Even with the additions of Michael CrabtreeJohn Brown and Willie Snead, will the Ravens continue to add to their wide receiver corps? 

Will they trade down and scoop up a tight end or will they address the offensive line and snag Mike McGlinchey? 

All of our questions will be answered in no time, but for now, sit back and enjoy the wild ride that is the first-round of the NFL Draft. 

NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig (Link) Charley Casserly (Link

— Mike McGlinchey (OL)

With the exit of Ryan Jensen, the Ravens are now in need of an offensive lineman. 

At the combine, McGlinchey put up 24 reps on the bench press, had a 28.5 inch vertical and a 105 inch broad jump. 

"The offense lacks playmakers which is why wide receivers Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore work," Standing says. "Right tackle also in play. McGlinchey seems to have moved ahead of the other tackle prospects."

ESPN's Mel Kiper (Link) CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso (Link) Sporting News (Link) Rotoworld (Link

— Calvin Ridley (WR)

Ridley is one of the few wideouts in this draft projected to go in the first-round. While his combine performance didn't help his stock, running a 4.43 40-yard dash, recording a 31-inch vertical, a 110-inch broad jump and a 6.88-second 3-cone drill, many are still predicting he lands with the Ravens or somewhere in the first-round. 

"Ridley underwhelmed at the combine, but his college tape shows a player who’s nearly uncoverable," Kiper says. "I’m going to trust the tape in this case and still make him my top-ranked wideout (Maryland’s D.J. Moore is not far behind). Baltimore could also target an offensive tackle at pick No. 16."

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah (Link)

— Hayden Hurst (TE) 

The Ravens haven't addressed their need at tight end in free agency and the reason could be because they're holding out for the draft. 

QB Joe Flacco has a tendency to favor Ravens tight ends and Hayden Hurst out of South Carolina is being considered by many the top TE in this draft. 

The ex-minor league baseball pitcher, who walked on at South Carolina at 21-years old, is being compared to Dallas Clark. "His fearless play demeanor combined with size, strength and athleticism make him a well-rounded prospect with the versatility to line up all over the field," according to his draft profile

Jeremiah, who once was a scout for the Ravens, predicts they will be looking to draft back for Hurst.

NFL.com's Bucky Brooks (Link) 

— Lamar Jackson (QB) 

It was reported last week that Jackson would be making a visit to the Ravens' facility during the final week of pre-draft visits, and with Joe Flacco nearing the end of his contract, now could be the time to find his successor. Jackson provides support on the ground and in the air, but scouts are concerned about his accuarcy. 

"With Joe Flacco viewed as a potential salary cap casualty in 2019, the Ravens can secure their future QB by grabbing Jackson if he is available at No. 16," Brooks says. "Remember, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and assistant head coach Greg Roman have experience nurturing athletic quarterbacks into dynamic playmakers (see Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Colin Kaepernick), so the Ravens could be the perfect fit for the 2016 Heisman winner."

Bleacher Report (Link

— Mike Gesicki (TE) 

Gesicki is another tight end option for the Ravens. Standing tall at 6' 5", Gesicki ran a 4.54 40-yard dash and recorded a 41.5 vertical jump at the combine. He also ended his time at Penn State as their tight end leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. 

His draft profile describes him as a "pass-catcher who can get open and has the ball skills to win against linebackers and safeties." Scouts are also comparing him to the likes of Jimmy Graham. 

Land of 10 (Link

— Christian Kirk (WR)

Kirk provides another wide receiver option if Ridley is gone at 16, even though his draft profile has him projected in Rounds 2-3. 

The 5-10, 201-pound junior finished with 71 receptions, 919 yards and 10 touchdowns at Texas A&M.

At the combine, Kirk ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, recorded a 35.5 vertical jump and a 7.09 second 3-cone drill. 

His bottom line states, "Kirk is a well-built, mentally tough slot target whose game is built around pace more than explosiveness. His lack of speed and length make him less likely to impact games down the field, but his footwork, route tempo and hands should give him an opportunity to find catches underneath. Kirk's ability to help in the return game is a plus, but the difference between average and good as a receiver could depend on finding the right fit."

CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson (Link)

— D.J. Moore (WR)

As the draft has slowly approached, Maryland's D.J. Moore has risen in the rankings. 

Many pundits are ranking him narrowly behind Alabama's Calvin Ridley as the top WR in the draft. 

The 6'0"  junior ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, a 6.95 3-cone drill and recorded a 39.5 vertical jump. 

"Moore is bigger than former Terrapin wideout Stefon Diggs, but their playing style and athletic ability while at Maryland are similar," states his draft profile.

"Moore doesn't have the height and length teams look for outside and may become a full-time option from the slot. He clearly has the short-area quickness and talent after the catch to handle those duties, but his route-running needs to become more focused and fast to unlock his potential. Teams are high on Moore's potential and believe he has the talent and traits to become a good WR2 in the league."

Moore is being compared to the likes of Pierre Garçon. 

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