Ravens officially land wide receiver Willie Snead

OWINGS MILLS — On Friday, the Baltimore Ravens signed restricted free agent wide receiver Willie Snead to a two-year, $10.4 million offer sheet. The New Orleans Saints had a five-day window to match the Ravens’ offer and retain Snead. According to NFL Network‘s Ian Rapoport, the Saints will not match the offer, officially landing Snead in Baltimore.

Snead, a four-year veteran out of Ball State, went undrafted in 2014. He bounced around in Cleveland and Carolina before being signed to the Saints’ practice squad in December 2014. Snead made the Saints’ 2015 53-man roster after a strong showing in training camp.

In three seasons, Snead has accumulated 149 receptions for 1,971 yards and seven touchdowns. 2015 marked Snead’s most productive season when he posted 69 receptions for 984 yards and three touchdowns.

Now in Baltimore, Snead looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2017 campaign. He served a three-game suspension early in the season for a DUI. After Snead returned from suspension, he suffered a thigh hamstring injury that lingered through the rest of the season and hurt his production. He finished the 2017 season with just eight receptions for 92 yards.

The signing of Snead marks another change to the Ravens’ wide receiver room. Baltimore cut Jeremy Maclin early in the offseason. Mike Wallace and Michael Campanero signed one-year contracts elsewhere. Snead will join fellow free agent acquisitions Michael Crabtree and John Brown on the Ravens’ revamped wideout corps, with Breshad Perriman (for now) and Chris Moore set to return.

Snead could develop into the slot receiver that the Ravens have long been searching for. Although last season was disappointing, when healthy, Snead has produced. With the NFL Draft just days away, the Ravens will likely add one or two more wideouts. There will be plenty of competition among wide receivers in training camp, and Snead will be hungry to put last season behind him and solidify a role in the Ravens’ passing attack.

Image Credit: Barstool Sports 

Advertisements

O’s Look to Take Flight in Motor City

The Orioles escaped the cold in Boston, only to find themselves right back in frigid conditions in Detroit to take on the Tigers. For how poorly the Orioles (5-11) have played through their first 16 games, the Tigers (4-9) have been less than stellar as well. Detroit hasn’t been able to score runs, and even when they have, Jordan Zimmerman (8.18 ERA) and Ryan Carpenter (9.00 ERA) have allowed more than they should’ve.

 

If the Orioles are going to get it back in gear, this is the team to do it against. With Jonathan Schoop on the 10-day DL, the birds had to do some reshuffling on defense. Danny Valencia and Luis Sardiñas are the likely candidates while Manny Machado stays at shortstop. The Orioles, after a promising series in the Bronx last weekend absolutely fell apart against the division rival Blue Jays and Red Sox.

 

 

GAME 1: Tuesday, April 17th , 6:40 PM, 36 Degrees. Pitchers: Andrew Cashner (2.50)  vs. Francisco Liriano (2.13 ERA)

 

  • Cashner and Liriano have been lights out thus far this season, but although the low ERAs, they haven’t gotten much run support. Look for a low scoring affair in a chilly night in Detroit.

 

GAME 2: Wednesday, April 18th , 1:10 PM, 34 Degrees. Pitchers: Kevin Gausman (6.60 ERA) vs. Matthew Boyd (1.38 ERA)

 

  • Gausman has had a rough start to a season once again, trying too hard to become a finesse pitcher instead of using his power pitches. If he can find his niche, he will become a very solid pitcher. Boyd has attempted to switch more to a finesse style as well, but it has actually worked.

 

GAME 3: Thursday, April 19th , 1:10 PM , 28 Degrees. Pitchers: Alex Cobb (17.18 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmerman (8.18 ERA)

 

  • After a disastrous debut at Fenway Park, Alex Cobb gets a chance to shrink his ERA against a lineup that’s had trouble against more experienced pitchers. Zimmerman has looked like a different pitcher this season thus far and his ERA shows it.

 

 

Games will be seen/heard on MASN and 105.7 the Fan

Orioles Lose 2-1 To Toronto

On a night that progressively got colder, the dwindling crowd had to endure the first 7 innings without a single Orioles hit. Andrew Cashner, the starting pitcher for the birds went an impressive 7 innings with 104 pitches, a serious improvement from his first start at Camden Yards. He improved his ERA to a very good 2.50. Aaron Sanchez (1-1, 3.66 ERA) who started for the Blue Jays had a no hitter until the 8th inning, which was broken up by a late rally started by Tim Beckham.

 

Orioles OF Trey Mancini made great contact with the ball, but luck was not on his side as 2 fell short of the outfield wall. He went 0-4 in this outing. The O’s only  hits of the night came in the bottom of the 8th when Beckham, Santander, and Sisco each found their stroke. But it was too little, too late.

 

Darren O’Day, who got the loss, disappointed tonight as well, surrendering a Curtis Granderson solo shot to right field to give the Blue Jays the go-ahead run. It would be the last score of the game as the Orioles went out with a whimper, Chris Davis lined out to right field in the bottom of the 9th, to which just over 8,000 boos rained down on him.

 

The Orioles fall to 4-8 on the season with one game left against Toronto. The Birds try to avoid being swept at home while trying to figure out what’s wrong with their offense that was supposed to be potent. Kevin Gausman (0-1, 8.00 ERA) takes on Marco Estrada (1-0, 2.77 ERA) Wednesday at 7:05 PM.

BREAKING: UMBC defeats Virginia 74-54, becomes first 16-1 upset in NCAA Tournament history

CHARLOTTE, NC — For the first time in NCAA tournament history, a #16 seed defeated a #1 seed, and it was the University of Maryland – Baltimore County (UMBC) Retrievers that did so, taking down the top-ranked Virginia University Cavaliers 74-54.

The two teams went into halftime all knotted up at 21, but UMBC outscored Virginia 53-33 in the second half to seal the biggest upset in the history of March madness.

The Retrievers scored the first six points of the second half, three of them coming on a three-pointer made by junior forward Joe Sherburne, and there was no looking back from there. Graduate student guard Jarius Lyles made three free-throws in a row, and followed it up with a jumper that extended UMBC’s lead to 12 points.

By the time the Retrievers reached 50 points, they already had a commanding 16-point lead with 8:36 remaining in the game. The Cavaliers came within 12 points a few times after that point, but that would be as close as they got before the Retrievers pulled away, jump-started by a Lyles layup at the 3:55 mark.

As UMBC’s lead continued to grow, the Cavaliers started to foul. The Retrievers handled this well, going 4-for-5 in free-throw attempts in the final three minutes. The last points scored in the game came from a layup by Sherburne with 46 ticks left. After Nigel Johnson of Virginia missed a three-point jumper, the Retrievers ran the clock out as the history of March Madness was changed forever.

Lyles led the way for the Retrievers, scoring 28 points and going 3-for-4 from the three-point line. Sophomore forward Arkel Lamar notched a double-double, totaling 12 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard K.J. Maura and Sherburne also reached double figures; Sherburne scored 14 points and Maura tallied 10. Lyles, Maura, and Lamar all tied for the team-lead in assists with three apiece.

As a team, UMBC out-shot Virginia in both field goals and three-pointers. The Retrievers went 26-for-48 in free-throw attempts (54.2%), while the Cavaliers went 23-for-56 (41.1%). UMBC only shot 50% from the three-point line in 24 attempts, but Virginia could not make anything. In 22 three-point attempts, the Cavaliers made just four three-pointers.

The Retrievers are back in action on Sunday against the #9-ranked Kansas State Wildcats. Kansas State topped #8 Creighton 69-59 on Friday. Start time is TBA.

More Twitter: 

Image Credit: WCNC

Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees plans to retire following 2017 season

BALTIMORE, MD — As many Ravens fans were sleeping on early Sunday morning, reports surfaced that defensive coordinator Dean Pees intends to retire following the 2017 season. ESPN Ravens Reporter Jamison Hensley was among the first to break the story online.

Pees, 68, is in his eighth season with the Ravens; the sixth as defensive coordinator. He spent his first two seasons with the Ravens as the linebackers coach. Prior to Baltimore, Pees held the same two roles with the New England Patriots from 2004-2009. Pees has also held several coaching positions at the collegiate level, the most notable being his head coaching stint with Kent State from 1997-2003.

How soon Pees can start enjoying retirement depends on when the Ravens’ season ends. The Ravens host the Cincinnati Bengals on New Year’s Eve, and can clinch a playoff berth and the #5 seed in the AFC with a win. If the Ravens lose, they can still make the postseason, but will have to rely on either the Titans to lose to the Jaguars, or the Bills to lose to the Dolphins to make that happen.

With Pees at the helm through the first 16 games, the Ravens’ defense ranks first in the NFL with 33 turnovers, fourth in points allowed (272), and ninth in yards allowed (4842). The unit is sending three starters to the Pro Bowl – outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (7X), safety Eric Weddle (5X), and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (3X). Had it not been for this Ravens defense, the early portion of the Ravens’ schedule could have played out a lot differently.

🔥HOT TAKE🔥This is a big blow for the Ravens. According to many reports, this has been planned for a long time, but out of respect to Pees the Ravens did not make the announcement public until now. While the Ravens will certainly wish Pees a happy retirement, they will need to replace one of the better defensive coordinators in the NFL. It will also be interesting to see how Suggs, now 35 and in his 14th season, reacts to this announcement. Would Suggs want to stick around and learn a new playbook at this point in his career?

A name to keep an eye on in the coming days is Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. After almost six seasons with Indy, Pagano appears to be on the way out. The 3-12 Colts are expected to part ways with Pagano following their game against the Houston Texans tomorrow, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Of course, Ravens fans are all too familiar with Pagano, as he served on Baltimore’s coaching staff from 2008-2011 (secondary coach ’08-’10, defensive coordinator ’11). It remains to be seen whether Pagano would want to find another head coaching gig elsewhere, or return to a coordinator role, potentially with his former team.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun 

How will the 2017 Ravens defense stack up against previous units?

 

With so much mystery surrounding the offense of the Baltimore Ravens this season, fans and media alike are swarming the team’s defensive players. Players like newcomers Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr look to make their presence felt in Charm City, while veterans like Eric Weddle and Terrell Suggs simply add more to their resumés. How does this defense measure up to the other units dating back to the team’s inception in 1996? Let’s take a look at the top 4:

  1. 2000 Ravens: Baltimore faithful have been accustomed to strong defenses over the years, the most memorable being the unit from the 2000 Super Bowl team. In Super Bowl 35, the Ravens utterly dismantled the New York Football Giants to the tune of a resounding 34-7 victory. That team, headlined by the GOAT Ray Lewis, standout linebacker Peter Boulware, and Hall of Fame Safety Rod Woodson, led in several league rankings. This included points scored by team (1st), yards allowed (2nd), passing yards allowed (2nd), rushing yards (1st), and rushing TDs (1st). This is the only defensive unit that is mentioned in the same conversation as ‘85 Chicago Bears. Four coaches from the staff (Rex Ryan, Mike Smith, Jack Del Rio, and Marvin Lewis) became head coaches in the NF.
  2. 2017 Ravens: While this defense has yet to play a snap that counts, there is some serious potential to be in the top 5. A team with the most big names since 2000, this squad is anchored by young playmakers Brandon Williams &  C.J. Mosley. Although replacing Zachary Orr’s 132 tackles will be very difficult, Kamalei Correa has shown enough growth in his sophomore preseason to at least make a dent. This team looks to repair its image after a last second loss to division rival Pittsburgh where they let up a 75+ yard drive and touchdown to Antonio Brown. That drive ended up winning the game for the Steelers and ending the Ravens’ playoff hopes.
  3. 1999 Ravens: This defense actually had a better yards-per-play mark (4.1 yds) than the 2000 defense (4.3 yds) and almost the same core as it as well. Although it finally came to a head the next season, the team wasn’t great in the turnover category and were a bit iffy in redzone defense. The team went 8-8 behind an even worse offense than was seen the next season.
  4. 2006 Ravens: This iteration of the defense managed to go 13-3 and make it to the playoffs after a disappointing campaign in 2005 (6-10). 13-3 is still the franchise-high wins mark in a season. Led by legendary safety Ed Reed and then-phenom linebacker Adalius Thomas, they garnered 28 interceptions and 60 sacks, the first team to do so since 1990. Four defensive players from this team were named to the pro bowl and the unit is considered one of the most dominant defenses of the new millennia.

 

The scary thing is, with all the young players that comprise the current defense, they have the ability to outproduce every defense listed here. The revamped secondary, something that they haven’t had in a long time because of injuries that have ravaged those positions in recent years, could get the unit over the top.

But with the pass rush strength looking to return, look for the secondary to make a lasting impression.

 

Join me next week as I provide a preview the final preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, deliver a detailed analysis of who to look out for, and a projected Week 1 53-man Roster.

 

Catch Vasilios on BackDoor Sports twice a week on iTunes for all the best Baltimore sports talk!

Ravens should not bring back Zachary Orr

BALTIMORE — On Wednesday, former Ravens linebacker Zachary Orr stated on Good Morning Football that he plans to revive his NFL career, despite what the Ravens team doctors initially told him in January.

Almost immediately after the 2016 season ended, it was revealed that the team doctors discovered a spine condition in which one of Orr’s vertebrae is not fully formed. Those doctors told Orr that continuing to play contact sports would put the then 24-year-old linebacker, now 25, at risk for paralysis or even death.

On Jan. 20, Orr officially announced his retirement from the NFL after just three seasons.

After receiving second opinions from several doctors, Orr appears to be attempting an NFL comeback.

“[My condition] – it is rare,” Orr said. “But there’s no actual evidence or facts that I’m at a higher risk than any other player. And it’s actually been documented that a college player who had the exact same condition that I have returned to play with no problems.”

Before Ravens fans start talking about an Orr/Ravens reunion, it should be noted that he is now an unrestricted free agent. He never filed retirement paperwork in January, and the Ravens did not place him on a reserve/retirement list. Orr would have been a restricted free agent, but the deadline to extend tenders to RFA’s has passed, meaning that Orr is now an UFA.

After winning a starting middle linebacker job in training camp last year, Orr led the team in tackles with 132. He also recorded three interceptions and a forced fumble. A former unrestricted free agent, Orr came out of nowhere and was a play-maker on defense, something the Ravens have struggled to find since winning Super Bowl 47.

Orr’s abrupt retirement in January shocked Ravens nation, and those close to him expressed how it was hard to see such an amazing guy hang up the cleats at age 24. Now with a possible second chance at football, Ravens fans are clamoring for Orr to come back to Charm City. After watching his most recent season, who would not want to see Orr back in a Ravens uniform in 2017?

When Orr announced that he was done playing football in January, the Ravens assumed that he was done for good. After going through the offseason without even considering this new development from Orr, the organization should not feel pressured into bringing him back.

Orr was not the only key piece on defense that the Ravens lost this offseason. They traded defensive end Timmy Jernigan to the Eagles, and fellow defensive end Lawrence Guy signed with the Patriots. After losing three starters on the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens put a heavy emphasis on defense this offseason, using five of their seven draft picks on defensive players. The team also brought in free agents Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr. After all of these moves, both media and fans have projected Baltimore’s defense to be top-notch in 2017.

The question of who will start alongside C.J. Mosley at middle linebacker this season is legitimate. As of now, the Ravens plan to have an open battle for that spot during training camp, with Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, and Albert McClellan in the mix. Rookie Tyus Bowser also has experience playing inside. Whether drafted or undrafted, the Ravens have brought in linebackers to compete, and they are expecting one of these players to step up and win that job, just like Orr did.

It will be compelling to see what kind of interest Orr gets on the open market. He played terrific football last year, but will teams be open to giving a player with a rare spine condition a contract? Even though Orr says his new doctors now feel he is not at a severe risk, back conditions & injuries are nothing to play with.

As Ravens fans start thinking about Ozzie Newsome striking a deal with Orr, they should be reminded that the offensive line still needs some upgrades. During a conference call with fans a few weeks ago, owner Steve Bisciotti said that the Ravens plan on bringing in a veteran offensive lineman, whether that be in free agency or trade.

As of now, there are very few free agent offensive lineman on the market, making this move something the Ravens might hold off on until training camp begins. Signing Orr would surely be a nice boost for the defense, but it would limit how aggressive the Ravens could be in their quest for an offensive lineman.

Orr’s decision to come back is a surprising development. His teammates, the coaching staff, the front office, and Ravens fans have all said nothing but great things about him, and they would all love a reunion. At this time, the offensive line is still the most glaring position for the Ravens to address, and Newsome should not let Orr’s announcement get in the way of improving his team.

Back in January, the Ravens wished Orr well, and they should continue to do so as he pursues a second go-round in the NFL.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun