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After 22-years, Ozzie Newsome makes his final draft day phone call as Ravens GM

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USA TODAY Sports

After 22-years, Ozzie Newsome makes his final draft day phone call as Ravens GM

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Working the phones and making shrewd picks that addressed the present and future needs of the Baltimore Ravens, Ozzie Newsome conjured one final fascinating draft for a team that has relied on his intuition since its inception.

After making six trades and selecting 12 players, Newsome declared Saturday night: "The Baltimore Ravens are a better football team after the past three days."

Newsome is stepping down as general manager after this season. He has owned the final say in the Ravens' draft room since 1996, when he chose future Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis in the first round.

The 2018 draft may not turn out to be as successful, but coach John Harbaugh -- who'd heading into his 11th year with Baltimore -- wouldn't bet against it.

"I told Ozzie just as we finished this thing up, I feel like this is his best draft since I've been here," Harbaugh said. "Heck, maybe the best ever."

Denying last month that he was carrying any nostalgic feelings into the draft, Newsome insisted he was focused solely on filling holes on a team that's missed the postseason for three straight years.

He did just that. For trivia buffs out there, his final draft pick was at defensive end: Zach Sieler of Ferris State in the seventh round.

His work done, Newsome was about to hang up the phone when he realized the significance of the moment.

"Yes, it was emotional," he acknowledged. "The kid told me he was going to make me proud."

Newsome will be succeeded by assistant GM Eric DeCosta. This may have been Newsome's final draft, but his work is not done.

"Even though there's a finality with that, there's not finality for what I'm going to continue to do with the Baltimore Ravens," he said.

Newsome was at his finest this week. He moved back twice in the first round before selecting South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst at No. 25, providing quarterback Joe Flacco with a downfield threat from the slot.

Then, Newsome made a bold move that ultimately will determine the success of this draft. He swapped three picks to choose at No. 32, where he snapped up Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the multifaceted 2016 Heisman Trophy winner.

The Ravens insist Flacco will remain the starter this season, but it might be hard to resist for long the temptation of playing an athlete who accounted for 119 touchdowns in three college seasons.

On Day 2, after two more trades, Newsome turned his attention back to the 2018 Ravens by taking right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. --whose father played with Baltimore -- and tight end Mark Andrews of Oklahoma.

For his last day as Baltimore's draft guru, Newsome had eight choices. Each was made with intense consideration, as always.

"A lot of work has gone into this, starting back last June," Newsome said. "I really, really feel very good about this class and how it came to be."

Some items of note from the Ravens draft:

HERE'S THE CATCH: The theme of this offseason for Baltimore has been to overhaul the receiving corps, and Newsome continued the process in the draft.

After signing free agent receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead in recent weeks, Newsome collared two tight ends in the draft and on Saturday used two straight picks on receivers: Jaleel Scott of New Mexico State in the fourth round and Jordan Lasley of UCLA in the fifth.

Scott and Lasley both topped 1,000 yards receiving last season and each scored nine TDs.

ON THE DEFENSIVE: After using the first two days of the draft to improve the Ravens' offense, Newsome turned his attention Saturday to the other side of the ball.

He selected Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett at 118th overall, UCLA inside linebacker Kenny Young at No. 122 and Texas safety DeShon Elliott at 190 and then, finally, Sieler.

HOLD THAT LINE: Extending his effort to make life easier for Flacco, Newsome attempted to shore up the offensive line in the draft.

After the Ravens lost right tackle Austin Howard and center Ryan Jensen during the offseason, they grabbed a few potential replacements.

In addition to Brown, the Ravens took tackle Greg Senat from Wagner, a 6-foot-6, 305-pounder who also played on the basketball team. In the seventh round, Newsome again tapped his alma mater, selecting Alabama center Bradley Bozeman.

STILL NEED: The Ravens are fine with running back Alex Collins but hoped to find at least one backup in the draft.

DeCosta said that just as Baltimore was ready to pounce, another team stepped in and took the Ravens' choice.

"There will be more opportunities for us," he said.

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Peter King awards Lamar Jackson with weekly honor for NFL start vs. Bengals

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Peter King awards Lamar Jackson with weekly honor for NFL start vs. Bengals

The Baltimore Ravens couldn't have drawn up a better NFL start for rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. 

With the weight of keeping his team in playoff contention against a division rival that crushed those hopes less than a year ago firmly on his shoulders, Jackson stepped onto the field at M&T Bank Stadium and not only got the win, but set records along the way.

The 21-year-old's performance caught the attention of local and national pundits, earning him one of two Offensive Players of the Week honors in Peter Kings' Football Morning in America:

Hey rook. We know you went to the hospital with a stomach ailment on Thursday, but would you mind making your first career start Sunday? Against a team that hates us? Oh, and stop a three-game losing streak too? That was what was facing Jackson as he stepped in for injured Joe Flacco (hip) and started Sunday’s game against the Bengals. Jackson set a single-game record for a Ravens QB with 117 rushing yards, tacked on 150 yards in the air on 13-of-19 passing and simply played “winning football,” according to coach John Harbaugh. He also kept Baltimore’s feeble playoff hopes alive for another week.

Those 117 rushing yards were the second-most by a rookie quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger with 46 of them on the Ravens' opening drive alone. Coincidentally, Robert Griffin III holds the record for most rushing yards by a rookie QB with 138 back in October of 2012 with the Redskins.

His speed was an issue all afternoon for the Bengals as well. Jackson is so fast that according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jackson reached 15+ mph on 14 rushing attempts. No other player has hit 15+ mph on more than nine rushing attempts this season. 

"The way he bounced back and his composure," safety Eric Weddle told reporters after the game on what impressed him about Jackson's performance.

"He threw that pick [to start the second half], and what did he do next drive? He went down and scored. And it was like nothing happened and you can't teach that. It's something that you see in him, he's very even-keeled, cool calm and collected...that's what impressed me. His physical ability and the way he plays; we see it everyday so I expect him to play like that. But just to overcome some adversity early on in his first start and to come back and lead a huge drive and make some big plays...I just think his composure."

Now the Heisman Trophy winner will have to maintain that same composure when the Oakland Raiders come to town in what will likely be his second NFL start.

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With season on the line, rookies Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards carried Ravens to another week

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With season on the line, rookies Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards carried Ravens to another week

This was one of the most interesting weeks the Baltimore Ravens have experienced in a very long time.

Coming off three-straight losses and preparing to face division rivals with their season on the line, their starting quarterback was likely out with an injury, their backup spent an afternoon in the hospital with a stomach illness and job security was the buzz around town. 

But when the clock read one at M&T Bank Stadium and it was do-or-die, two rookies took their team and carried them to a win, literally and figuratively. 

In his NFL start, first-round draft pick Lamar Jackson was 13-of-19 for 150 yards in the air while rushing for 117 yards on 27 attempts.

All afternoon long we were in awe of his speed, and probably at times nervous, by just how confident the rookie was in taking the game into his own hands.

"I thought he played spectacular," head coach John Harbaugh said after the win. "I thought he played winning football. It's tough being a quarterback in this league."

"For a first-time-out rookie in an environment like that...All those operation things, I think, speak to his intelligence, his studiousness, and just his ability to run the show. And that's everything. The playmaking — that comes from God. He made use of that, too. Very proud of that."

Jackson hasn't been one to put his feelings into many words, and in the week leading up to his NFL start, the Heisman Trophy winner continuously remained humble.

When asked how it felt to lead the Ravens to a 24-21 win over the Bengals, Jackson said, "I don't know. Come out with a win. It was pretty good, I guess."

On the Ravens' opening drive, Jackson rushed five times for 46 yards while converting two third downs that ended with a seven-yard touchdown run from Alex Collins. The QB is so fast that according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jackson reached 15+ mph on 14 rushing attempts. No other player has hit 15+ mph on more than nine rushing attempts this season. 

Plus, his 27 carries were the most by a quarterback in an NFL game since Pittsburgh Steelers' Joe Geri's in 1950. 

"I think he brings a different dynamic to the game. As you can tell, our offense looks totally different, obviously from when Joe [Flacco] is in. It's hard for defenses to game plan for Lamar. And I think that shows with Gus [Edwards] having 100 yards as well. It's good to see, and it's a great win."

That brings us to our next rookie speedster; Gus Edwards.

The undrafted free agent out of Rutgers put up 115 rushing yards on 17 attempts averaging 6.8 yards-per-carry and one touchdown.

"I've got a great coaching staff," Edwards said on getting his big chance and playing well. "I've got a great group of veteran running backs [that] told me to always be prepared, from day one when I came in here, they told me what it was going to be like. This game, a lot of things played into it, and you;you've always got to be ready."

The last time the Ravens had two 100+ rushers in a single game was December 23, 2012 against the New York Giants when Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce ran for 107 and 123 yards respectively. Sunday also marked the first time in NFL history that a team had a rookie quarterback and running back each surpass 100 rushing yards in a game, per Elias Sports Bureau.

For a team that had many daunting questions surrounding them just a week ago, two young bloods came out and managed to change the aura in the city of Baltimore, at least for now. 

"It's just a confidence builder to be honest," Willie Snead said on having a quarterback like Jackson. "When we were running the ball how we were, it just gives us so much momentum and a lot of flexibility to do what we want. It was awesome to see that today, and [we] look forward to keep doing it."

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