Facing depth concerns on offensive line, Ravens bring back Jeremy Zuttah

OWINGS MILLS, MD — Since the beginning of training camp, three Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman got lost for the season either due to injury (Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa) or retirement (John Urschel). On Friday, the team made up for some of those losses by signing free agent center Jeremy Zuttah.

The deal, according to NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport, spans over two years for $6 million.

Zuttah, 31, played the last three seasons with the Ravens, starting at center when healthy. Following a disappointing season, the Ravens traded Zuttah to the San Francisco 49ers in March for a sixth-round pick. That draft pick got used on Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark. On Aug. 9, two days before their first preseason game, the 49ers released Zuttah. He reportedly drew interest from both the Ravens and Colts. Ultimately, the Ravens won the bid and helped an offensive line that faces serious depth concerns.

Zuttah made his first Pro Bowl in nine seasons in 2016, but that transpired after several offensive lineman elected not to play in the game. 2016 was not a solid season for Zuttah. He committed multiple holding penalties in critical spots against the Raiders and Cowboys last season. He also allowed three sacks.

The Ravens traded Zuttah before the draft, and waited until the fourth round to address the offensive line. Baltimore feels good about 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen to take over the starting job at center. If the coaching staff sticks to that plan, Zuttah will either back up Jensen or play left guard. The coaches could also elect for Zuttah and Jensen to play their natural positions; Jensen at left guard and Zuttah at center.

This move needed to occur. 2016 first round pick Ronnie Stanley missed practice this week with an undisclosed injury. Marshal Yanda has yet to play in a preseason game after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason. Austin Howard got some playing time on Thursday night against the Dolphins, but he still needs time to get acclimated with the offense after getting signed two weeks ago.

In the second preseason game against the Dolphins, the Ravens’ starting offensive line featured three undrafted players – James Hurst, Matt Skura and Jarrod Pughsley. Starting running backs Terrance West and Danny Woodhead combined for zero yards from scrimmage on seven carries. Not good.

Hearing Zuttah’s name may cause some Ravens fans to sigh, but his addition brings an upgrade to what the team currently possesses along the offensive line. Head Coach John Harbaugh provided no timetable for Stanley’s return to practice. The coaching staff is bringing Yanda along slowly. Not to mention that quarterback Joe Flacco has yet to practice in training camp due to a back injury. No one knows when Flacco will return.

The Ravens need to protect their franchise quarterback now more than ever. Losing three offensive lineman in training camp so far makes for a scary situation. Zuttah may not provide a long-term answer, but he owns 117 career starts. Zuttah knows the Ravens’ offense. The addition of senior offensive assistant Greg Roman brings a learning curve for Zuttah, but the regular season does not start for another three weeks.

The Ravens cannot afford any more injuries on the offensive line. However, if more injuries occur, the depth at the position upgraded with the addition of Zuttah.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun 

Series Preview: Orioles return home from west coast trip to face Angels

BALTIMORE — When a Major League Baseball team finds itself right around .500 and in the thick of a Wild Card race, winning on the road becomes more important. Emerging victorious away from Camden Yards brought on a challenge for the Orioles in recent seasons, and it continues to plague the team in 2017.

When the Orioles left for Anaheim early last week, they sat one game below .500. The O’s knew that two of the three teams they faced out west sported similar records with playoff aspirations. That message, although clear, did not resonate on the field. Baltimore failed to win a single series on their trip, going 4-6 down the stretch.

Time still remains to make a run at the playoffs, but the Orioles need to find consistency. They played some good games out west, but consistency lacked. As the Birds reconvene at Camden Yards, 16 of their next 19 games will take place in Baltimore. Nine of those 16 home games will come against the three teams they competed against out west – the Angels, Athletics, and Mariners. The first team to enter the fray – the Angels.

Standings Update: In the American League East, the Orioles (59-62) come into the weekend with the fourth-place slot in the division, 10.5 games behind Boston (69-51). Los Angeles (62-59) owns the second-place spot in the AL West, 12 games behind the Astros (74-47).

If the season ended today, the two AL Wild Card slots would belong to the Yankees (65-55, four games behind Boston) and the Angels. The Orioles sit three games back in the Wild Card hunt, with the Royals, Twins, Mariners, Rangers, and Rays all ahead of them.

Season Series vs. Angeles: Last week, Los Angeles seized two of three from Baltimore in Anaheim. The Orioles grabbed the first game, 6-2, behind seven solid frames by Dylan Bundy (2ER/5H/0BB/10K). Tied 2-2 in the seventh inning, Manny Machado hit his first of two grand slams of the west coast trip to lift the O’s to victory.

In game two, a 3-2 win for the Angels, it was former Orioles pitcher Parker Bridwell’s turn to toss a seven-inning gem (1ER/6H/4K). L.A. took another win and the series in game three, a 5-1 win in which the Birds got held to just four hits. The Orioles struck first on Welington Castillo‘s 12th home run of the season, but Kevin Gausman lasted just 5.1 innings and gave up four runs (8H/2BB/6K).

Game Times and Pitching Matchups: 

Game 1Friday, Aug. 18, 7:05 pm – Andrew Heaney vs. Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 4.70 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan.

Game 2Saturday, Aug. 19, 7:05 pm – J.C. Ramirez (10-10, 4.26 ERA) vs. TBD – MASN, WJZ, 105.7 The Fan.

Game 3Sunday, Aug. 20, 1:35 pm – Parker Bridwell (7-1, 2.88 ERA) vs. TBD – MASN, WJZ, 105.7 The Fan.

Notes on the Angels:

  • In last week’s series against the Orioles, Mike Trout went 4-for-9 with a home run, three walks, and an RBI. In his career, Trout owns a .288 average and 12 home runs in 160 at-bats against Baltimore. It’s safe to say that his Hall of Fame stock is rising.
  • Cameron Maybin’s 25 stolen bases ranks seventh in MLB, and fourth in the AL.
  • On Friday, Heaney returns to the majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery last July. He only made one start last season before landing on the disabled list. Friday marks his first big league appearance since April 5, 2016.

Notes on the Orioles: 

  • Jonathan Schoop‘s 86 RBI ranks second in the AL, and eighth in MLB. He is tied with Khris Davis of Oakland in the AL rankings, Seattle’s Nelson Cruz leads with 96.
  • Bundy’s 12 wins ranks him second on the AL. That ties Bundy with James Paxton (Mariners), Drew Pomeranz (Red Sox) and Ervin Santana (Twins). Chris Sale (Red Sox) and Jason Vargas (Royals) possess 14.
  • Just how amazing has Tim Beckham played for Baltimore? Since joining the Orioles at the end of July, Beckham recorded 30 hits, seven doubles, two triples, four home runs, 10 RBI, and two walks in 62 at-bats. His batting average in an Orioles uniform is .484 and his OBP is .500.

Up Next: The Orioles remain at home for three games against another team they faced out west: The Oakland Athletics.

Image Credit: Sports Chat Place

 

 

Podcast: Purple Painted Roundtable Episode 3

Welcome to episode 3 of Purple-Painted Roundtable, a Baltimore Ravens podcast brought to you by Ebony Bird and Fansided.

On this episode, Chris Schisler, Joe Schiller and Jake McDonnell break down the Ravens’ 23-3 win over the Redskins in the preseason opener. What players impressed? Which players need to improve?

Unfortunately, following the Redskins game, the Ravens lost both Alex Lewis and Tim white for the season due to injuries. How significant are these injuries? How do the guard and receiver positions shape up without Lewis and White? The guys discuss.

The episode continues with a thorough analysis of both the running back and receiver positions. In this segment, Chris, Joe, and Jake give their lists of which backs and wideouts make the 53-man roster.

Finally, the Ebony Bird gang take a look at the second preseason game against the Dolphins. What are the top storylines heading into the game? What should Ravens fans keep an eye on? Listen and find out.

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Follow Chris on Twitter @footballman58

Follow Joe on Twitter @joeschillerr

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Preview: Ravens head to Miami; hope to avoid injuries vs Dolphins

OWINGS MILLS — The Ravens kicked off the 2017 preseason with a convincing 23-3 win over the Washington Redskins. The team undergoes their first road test this week with a trip down south to Miami.

The NFL preseason often features out-of-conference matchups. This game marks the first time the Ravens and Dolphins face off in the preseason. On Oct. 26, the Dolphins travel to Baltimore for a week eight Thursday-night game against the Ravens.

Details:

Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami, Florida.

When: Thursday, Aug. 17, 7:00 pm.

Tune in: Ravens fans can catch the game on WBAL-TV, 1090 WBAL (AM), and 98 Rock (FM). Gameday audio will also stream live on the Baltimore Ravens website.

Humphrey set for NFL debut: Ravens 2017 first round pick, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, will make his NFL debut on Thursday night. Humphrey missed six practices and the first preseason game with an undisclosed injury. This week, Humphrey practiced with no setbacks, making Thursday a good indicator of how ready he is for action.

Recent first-rounders dealing with injuries: 2016 first-round tackle Ronnie Stanley, will not play against the Dolphins after missing three practices. His injury is undisclosed. Another first-rounder, 2015 receiver Breshad Perriman, missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury and will not play this week either. Head Coach John Harbaugh did not rule Perriman out for the rest of the preseason, but called Perriman’s injury “long-term.”

On the bright side, offensive lineman Austin Howard, signed by the Ravens on Aug. 4, looks ready to play after practicing four straight days. Howard will likely play right tackle, and James Hurst will probably line up at left tackle in the wake of Stanley’s injury.

For more on who’s playing or not playing on Thursday, check out this article on the Ravens website written by Garrett Downing.

Quarterback battle looming? On Monday, the Ravens added some quarterback depth by signing veteran Thad Lewis. Undrafted out of Duke in 2010, Lewis owns six career starts in the NFL, one with the Browns and five with the Bills. In those starts, Lewis threw five touchdown passes and four interceptions to a 82.2 rating.

Last week against the Redskins, current backup quarterback Ryan Mallett looked, at best, pedestrian. Mallett completed 9-of-18 passes for 58 yards. The Ravens scored 13 points with Mallett at the helm, but the offense got help from penalties committed by the Redskins on the touchdown drive. Baltimore added two field goals at the end of the first half, resulting from Mallett going one-for-five with a three-yard completion.

If Mallett continues to struggle in preseason games, the Ravens could consider keeping Lewis instead. Lewis, in limited playing time, showed that he can start in a pinch. Of course, the Ravens hope to not use a backup quarterback all season with a healthy Joe Flacco, but it all comes down to how Flacco’s back holds up.

With signing Lewis, the Ravens released quarterback Dustin Vaughan, who got sacked three times against the Redskins.

Notes on the Dolphins:

  • On Aug. 7, Miami brought quarterback Jay Cutler out of retirement and signed him to a one-year, $10 million contract to replace Ryan Tannehill, who’s out for the season with a knee injury. Cutler did not play in Miami’s preseason opener against Atlanta, but the Dolphins will start him on Thursday against the Ravens.
  • Adam Gase enters his second season as the head coach of the Dolphins. Gase’s prior gig came in Chicago as the Bears’ offensive coordinator. Cutler, of course, played for the Bears over eight seasons from 2009-2016. In 2015 under Gase, Cutler put up his best stats, throwing for 3,659 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. His QB rating was 92.3.
  • On Monday, the Fins signed wide receiver Trey Griffey, son of MLB Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey, undrafted out of Arizona, spent time with the Colts this summer. Griffey adds depth to a thin Dolphins receiving core, but luckily their top three receivers – Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills – are not hurt.
  • At this point in camp, the Dolphins, like the Ravens, face injury concerns on offense. Tight end Julius Thomas (back) missed practice on Monday. During Monday’s practice, running back Kenyan Drake suffered a head injury after colliding with defensive back Torry McTyler. He entered the concussion protocol and will not play on Thursday. Starting running back Jay Ajayi dealt with a concussion last week, but returned to the practice field on Sunday. He, unlike Drake, has cleared the concussion protocol.
  • Miami defeated Atlanta 23-20 last Thursday from Hard Rock Stadium.

Image Credit: Russell Street Report 

Podcast: Baltimore Ravens Staff Writer Ryan Mink

Welcome to the latest edition of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On Today’s episode, Baltimore Ravens staff writer Ryan Mink joins Jake McDonnell to talk about the Ravens.

Following Baltimore’s 23-3 preseason-opening win against the Redskins, what impressed Mink? Are key offensive players like Joe Flacco and Breshad Perriman close to returning to practice?

One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Ravens is the offensive line. With James Hurst in line for a starting job, hear Mink passionately defend Hurst, who has been heavily scrutinized during his time with the Ravens. Mink also gives his take on if the Ravens will make another move on the offensive line before the regular season.

On Thursday, the Ravens face the Miami Dolphins in their second preseason game. Mink will be there, and tells us what to expect on Thursday.

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on either Soundcloud or iTunes. Rate us 5 stars on iTunes and leave us a review. Thanks for listening!

Orioles stand pat after disappointing split with Athletics

OAKLAND, CA — After losing a series to the Angels 2-1, the Orioles needed to make up some ground this weekend against the second-to-worst team in the American League. That did not happen, and Baltimore comes out of the weekend in the same situation they went into Oakland with: two games below .500 (58-60), and in the back seat of the AL Wild Card Race.

Game one: 7-2 Orioles

The entire series went up and down for both teams. Thursday began with Baltimore slamming four home runs off Oakland starter Chris Smith. Those home runs featured two back-to-back sequences that both involved Trey Mancini. In the fourth inning, Mancini followed Adam Jones, and in the sixth inning the 25-year-old infielder was shadowed by Mark Trumbo.

Mancini finished the game with three hits. Jones completed the game with three RBI; one on the solo homer and two on a seventh-inning double.

Wade Miley tossed seven innings, allowing one run on three hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts. The last time Miley lasted seven innings came on June 1 against the Red Sox. Zach Britton racked up his 10’th save of the season in the win.

Game two: 5-4 Athletics

After not allowing a run in his three prior appearances, Brad Brach struggled on Friday night. The Orioles held a 3-2 lead going into the eighth inning, but things would unravel quickly. Left-fielder Matt Joyce, batting leadoff, got the inning started with a double off Brach. Shortstop Marcus Semien singled to left, advancing Joyce to third. Joyce scored and tied the game when second baseman Jed Lowrie hit a ground-rule double. After Brach earned the first out on a strikeout, Chris Davis dropped a pop-up in foul territory. Oakland got the winning run in on a sacrifice fly by Chad Pinder.

The loss yielded Brach a record of .500 at 3-3. Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez gave up three runs over 5.1 innings. He tallied 11 strikeouts on Friday night, which beat his previous season-high of nine on July 26 against Tampa Bay.

Jones hit a solo home run and scored Manny Machado on a double-play RBI. Machado scored again on a double by Jonathan Schoop.

Game three: 12-5 Orioles 

The Birds scored seven runs in the first inning off A’s starter Sean Manaea, who recorded just one out before being pulled from the game. The O’s sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning. Saturday became the first time since May 20, 2008 that the Orioles scored seven or more runs in the first inning, according to Rich Dubroff of PressBoxOnline.com.

The Orioles pounced on the A’s on Saturday, finishing with 20 hits and eight doubles. Eight doubles goes down as a season-high for Baltimore. Amazingly, the Orioles accomplished all of the offensive production without a home run. Tim Beckham went 4-for-5 at the plate with three RBI on two doubles. Both Jones and Joey Rickard tallied three hits, with Jones notching three RBI on a double and a single. Machado and Davis contributed by both finishing with two RBI – Machado on a double and a single, and Davis on two singles.

Despite the offensive onslaught, the Orioles did not play a perfect game. Starter Dylan Bundy gave up three home runs in the first two innings on home runs by Khris Davis and Matt Olson. However, Oakland never truly threatened in the game. The Orioles kept the A’s at bay, and Oakland did not get on the board again until they eighth inning.

Saturday indicates the second time Baltimore scored 12 runs in August. The Orioles defeated the Detroit Tigers, 12-3, on Aug. 6 at Camden Yards.

Game four: 9-3 Athletics

The Orioles scored one run apiece in the first two innings on RBI singles by Schoop and Davis. Baltimore controlled early, but a five-run fourth inning put the game in Oakland’s favor. After making his way through three innings unscathed, Jeremy Hellickson imploded in the fourth.

The A’s played small ball to get their first two runs on the board, but infielder Matt Chapman‘s three-run home run awarded Oakland the lead. Semien and Joyce homered later in the game, and eventually Baltimore found themselves down by six. Machado added a solo home run in the eighth inning, that came when the O’s trailed by six.

Sunday represents Hellickosn’s worst outing since coming to Baltimore in late July. Chris Tillman made his first career relief appearance on Sunday, registering two strikeouts. He threw 20 pitches, 11 strikes.

Notes:

  • Beckham played all four of these games from the leadoff position in Baltimore’s lineup. That did not impact his play. Beckham did not record a hit on Sunday, but in this series he notched eight hits, four doubles, a triple, and three RBI.
  • Also at the plate in Oakland, Jones went 7-for-17 with two doubles, two home runs, and seven RBI.
  • J.J. Hardy, the Orioles’ starting shortstop prior to Beckham’s arrival, will not return from the 60-day disabled list on Friday, Aug. 18. Hardy suffered a fractured wrist against the Cardinals on June 18 when he got hit by a pitch. Even if Hardy returns with a decent amount of time left in the season, its hard to envision manager Buck Showalter putting him back in the lineup on a regular basis. Hardy turns 35 on Saturday, owns a .211 batting average in 2017, and his contract expires after the season.

Up Next: Baltimore wraps up their 10-game road trip with a three-game series in Seattle against the Mariners. Going into the weekend, Seattle held the second Wild Card spot in the AL. After getting swept by the Angels in four games at home, the Mariners (59-60) now find themselves on the outside looking in, with the Angels, Twins and Royals all overtaking them in the race.

Seattle sits two games back in the Wild Card standings, with Baltimore right behind them at 2.5 games.

Image Credit: Mercury News 

Series Preview: Orioles continue west coast trip in Oakland

OAKLAND — Going into a 10-game road trip out west featuring match-ups against two teams in the American League Wild Card Race, the Orioles knew they needed to come out strong against the Angels. Well, that did not happen. Baltimore started off the trip out west losing two of three to Los Angeles. The Angels held Baltimore to three runs in the final two games, ending an offensive onslaught that began with the signing of Tim Beckham.

The Oakland Athletics face a plethora of struggles too. They currently represent the second-to-worst record in the AL, and just got swept by division rival Seattle over two games.

Now, the Orioles and Athletics will lock arms in a four-game weekend series at the Oakland Coliseum.

Last Meeting: In 2016, the Orioles played 3-4 baseball against the A’s. Baltimore took two of three from Oakland at Camden Yards. One of those wins featured an 11-3 offensive explosion. Manny Machado finished that game with six RBI on a grand slam and another two-run homer. Jonathan Schoop, Mark Trumbo, and Joey Rickard also found the long ball in that game.

In Oakland, the Orioles struggled, going 1-3. All losses were by one run, 0-1, 1-2, and 2-3. Despite great performances by Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley, and Yovani Gallardo, Oakland limited the O’s to three runs in as many games. The O’s went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 14 runners on-base. The O’s did pick up a 9-6 win at the Coliseum, but the offensive struggles in the other three games overshadowed that win.

Standings Update: The Orioles (56-58) come into Oakland 2.5 games back in the AL Wild Card Race. The Red Sox (64-49) currently man the first place slot in the AL East. The A’s (50-64) sit in the cellar of the AL West, 22 games behind the Astros (71-41).

Game Times and Pitching Matchups:

Game 1Thursday, Aug. 10, 10:05 pm – Wade Miley (5-9, 5.51 ERA) vs. Chris Smith (0-1, 4.82 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2Friday, Aug. 11, 10:05 pm – Ubaldo Jimenez (5-7, 6.31 ERA) vs. Paul Blackburn (3-1, 2.60 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3Saturday, Aug. 12, 9:05 pm – Dylan Bundy (11-8, 4.15 ERA) vs. Sean Manaea (8-6, 4.15 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Game 4Sunday, Aug. 13, 4:05 pm – Jeremy Hellickson (7-6, 4.45 ERA) vs. Kendall Graveman (2-3, 4.97 ERA) – MASN 2, 105.7 The Fan

Key Orioles stats in Oakland:

  • Three of Baltimore’s starters sport ERA’s below 4 at the Oakland Coliseum: Miley (1.42, two starts), Jimenez (2.31, two starts), and Hellickson (3.44, three starts). Bundy will start his first game in Oakland on Saturday.
  • Chris Davis owns a career .307 average at the Coliseum. In 127 at-bats, the 31-year-old infielder looks to add on to his 39 hits, eight doubles, nine home runs, and 30 RBI.

A’s against the Orioles: 

  • Khris with a K Davis is a lifetime .290 hitter against Baltimore, with 19 hits, seven doubles, three home runs and six RBI in 31 at-bats against the O’s.
  • Oakland’s leading hitter, infielder Jed Lowrie, clocks in with a .270 average. Against Baltimore, however, Lowrie quietly hits just .213.

Up Next: The Orioles play the last of three series of the 10-game west coast trip in Seattle against the Mariners. Seattle (59-56) owns the second place mark in the AL West. If the season ended today, the second Wild Card slot in the AL belongs to the Mariners, with the first going to the Yankees (59-52).

Note: All standings and stats in this post are as of Aug. 9. 

Image Credit: SFBay