Ravens

Quick Links

Ravens roster preview: Defensive line

usatsi_8821788_141983962_lowres.jpg

Ravens roster preview: Defensive line

It's clear that coming off a 5-11 season, the Ravens have some tough decisions to make regarding their 2016 roster. To be sure, injuries were a huge part of the story this past season, but there figures to be significant roster turnover after one of the worst seasons in team history. And as always, the salary cap will have a major influence on how the Ravens go about constructing their 2016 roster.

Over the past two weeks, we have been examining each Ravens position group with an eye toward 2016. Who stays? Who goes? Today we look at the defensive line.

Note: For the purpose of this discussion, we will limit the roster to those players on the final 53-man roster and injured reserve. (Here's more detail on free agency terminology.)

Under contract: Chris Canty, Carl Davis, Lawrence Guy, Timmy Jernigan, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Brent Urban, Brandon Williams

Unrestricted free agents: None

Restricted free agents: None

Exclusive rights free agents: None

The fact that the Ravens have every defensive lineman under contract shows that this unit is in good hands. But that doesn't mean there won't be changes.

Chris Canty is probably going to be a salary cap casualty for the second straight year, but unlike last year, don't expect the Ravens to re-sign him. Canty, 33, missed seven games last season, and cutting him would free up about $2.1 million in cap space that the Ravens are going to need.

Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan figure to once again anchor the interior of the Ravens defensive front. Williams might have been the Ravens most consistent player last year, and set career highs with 53 tackles and two sacks. He was also one of the few who made it through the year without missing any time.

Jernigan is still just 23, and although he's found his way into the doghouse once or twice with lackluster play or dumb penalties, he's a force when he's on his game. He had 37 tackles and four sacks in 2015.

Second-year lineman Carl Davis started strong as a rookie but then saw little action over the final six weeks of the season. Still, he should be a factor in 2016.

Lawrence Guy should also be back. He capably helped fill the void left by Canty's injury, and Brent Urban, if he can stay healthy, should do so as well. Urban finally got on the field after essentially 1 1/2 years on injured reserve and showed promise in six games. The most notable play from the 6-foot-7 Urban was getting his big hand on the last-second field-goal attempt at Cleveland that was returned for a game-winning touchdown by Will Hill.

Time might be running out on Kapron Lewis-Moore, who saw limited action in five games. He faces an uphill battle to make this team given the crowd of incumbents and any influx of new defensive ends.

The Ravens have made it clear that pass rushers are a priority, so they will be looking for defensive ends who can do that. Those players would nicely complement an interior defensive front anchored by Williams and Jernigan.

MORE RAVENS: Three defensive playmakers Ravens could nab at No. 6

 

 

Quick Links

Wide receiver Willie Snead thriving with Ravens as man in the middle

snead-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Willie Snead thriving with Ravens as man in the middle

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Willie Snead has a knack for weaving through a row of linebackers in the middle of the field before making a clutch catch for the Baltimore Ravens.

Such was the case last Sunday against Tennessee, when Snead squeezed between two defenders for a 24-yard gain on a third-and-17 from the Baltimore 15.

"He's on the ground, he makes the catch, he's getting pushed back to the ground, stepped all over, and he just gets up and gives the first-down signal right there in the guy's face," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's the kind of competitor he is. He's all ball, all the time."

Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome rarely chases restricted free agents, but he made an exception with Snead this past offseason after it became apparent that the receiver's three-year run in New Orleans was done. One of Drew Brees' favorite targets in 2015 and 2016, Snead began last season with a three-game suspension for violating the NFL personal conduct policy. He then fought a hamstring injury and finished with just eight catches for 92 yards and no touchdowns.

Armed with a two-year, $10.4 million contract, Snead was delighted to arrive in Baltimore last April.

"Last year just left a really bitter taste in my mouth, the organization and how everything was handled," Snead said Tuesday. "To be a part of this organization was just a breath of fresh air. I wanted to go somewhere where I'm wanted."

It couldn't have worked out better for Snead -- and the Ravens.

"To see that you were right, to see all that come together and him play so well, being exactly what you thought you were going to get, is very rewarding," Harbaugh said.

Snead was one of three free agent receivers signed by Newsome in an effort to enhance a passing game that sputtered in 2017. Snead is the possession receiver, Michael Crabtree provides an outside threat and John Brown is the speedster.

Snead and Crabtree are tied for the team lead with 30 catches. Brown has 21 receptions for a team-high 424 yards and three touchdowns.

"I don't have the physical ability like John Brown to run by you, and I'm not big and strong like Michael Crabtree," Snead observed, "so I have to work harder than everybody else just to stand out."

That's how it's always been for Snead, who finally finds himself in a place where his talent is acknowledged and appreciated.

"This is a guy that's been doubted his whole career -- high school, college and the NFL," Harbaugh said. "So I'm fine if they keep doubting him."

After starring as a quarterback at Muskegon Heights in Michigan, Snead played three years as a receiver at Ball State before going undrafted in 2014. He finally made it to the NFL the following year.

"Coming out of college, (people said) I left too early, I wasn't ready to play in the NFL," Snead recalled. "And in the NFL, it was, `Is he fast enough to separate? Can he make those plays in clutch situations?' I've always been doubted."

Not anymore.

"I'll tell you one thing, Willie comes Sunday ready to play," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He's one of the toughest guys I've been around."

This Sunday, the Ravens (4-2) host the Saints (4-1). Snead insists this wasn't one of those games that he circled on the calendar.

"This is another team. I have to approach it that way just to stay focused," Snead said.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton has seen enough of Snead this season to know he's a threat with the ball, and without it.

"He has a tremendous amount of grit. You see him making plays on third down," Payton said. "He's an outstanding blocker. He'll come across in motion, he'll get to the point of attack in the run game, but he'll also find the holes in the zone and man-to-man coverages."

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Snead has no problem mixing it up with anyone, large or small, at any spot on the field.

"He can go inside or outside, but man, he makes some -- scouts call them blood area -- catches," Harbaugh said. "In the middle, that's where he thrives."

MORE RAVENS NEWS:

Quick Links

Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

zadarius-smith-ap.png
AP Images

Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

MORE RAVENS NEWS: