NFL

Ravens Trade For Calais Campbell

The Baltimore Ravens stole the sports headlines by announcing a trade for defensive end Calais Campbell. The 33 year-old Pro Bowler was sent to the Ravens from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fifth-round pick (170th overall).

Campbell has been a premier pass rusher for years now, with Pro Bowl appearances in five of the past six years, along with an All-Pro designation in 2017. The move makes a ton of sense for both parties, with the Ravens massively improving a position of need. The Jaguars also clear $15 million in cap space, as it increasingly looks like their rebuilding.

Campbell was in the final year of his four-year $60 million deal, with the Ravens quickly agreeing to a two-year $27 million extension. The move gives Campbell another two years with a premium salary, whilst it helps lower the $15 million cap hit for the Ravens. According to @RavensSalaryCap on Twitter, this now leaves the team with $17.8 million in cap space heading into free agency on Wednesday.

https3a2f2fimages.saymedia-content.com2f.image2fmtcwmdi2mtmzodcynduyotg12fusatsi_13961345

Calais Campbell (left) scooped the MVP prize at the 2019 Pro Bowl. Both him and Lamar Jackson (right) are premium players at their positions for the Baltimore Ravens. Photo: SI

Baltimore now have a formidable front seven, with Campbell teaming up with defensive tackle Brandon Williams to provide a big interior presence. The Ravens like to add big defensive tackles, to help with stopping the run. The Ravens recently franchise-tagged linebacker Matt Judon, but he could be traded to improve the salary cap position.

The Ravens will look for a boost from recent draft picks at linebacker, Jaylon Ferguson and Tyus Bowser. The team had already inked veteran linebacker L.J Fort to a two-year $5.5 million extension back in November.

The Ravens defense improved massively throughout the 2019 season, but they have notable free agents this year. They include run-stuffing defensive tackles Michael Pierce, Jihad Ward and Justin Ellis along with linebackers Patrick Onwuasor, Josh Bynes and Pernell McPhee. The front seven position group could experience high turnover in 2020, so signing Campbell eases their concerns massively.

michael-pierce-usat

With the Campbell trade news, does this mean Michael Pierce will be leaving the Ravens this free agency? Photo: USA Today Sports

It’s likely the Ravens will add to this group with a high draft pick this year, as they don’t have massive cap space to sign premier free agents. It’s an excellent move from GM Eric DeCosta, who has now traded two fifth round picks for Pro Bowl talent. Trading for cornerback Marcus Peters made a massive difference to the Ravens defense last season, and now acquiring fellow Pro Bowler Calais Campbell shows the Ravens are in a SuperBowl window and looking to win now.

What do you think of this trade? Let me know in the comment section below and thank you for reading. Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism.

College Football Week Six Preview

The weeks keep ticking by in the 2019 college football season, with another group of games that could have play-off ramifications further down the line. This weekend has some good under the radar games to pique interest also. Let’s look at the main talking points heading into week six.

1) Auburn – Florida Preview

The biggest matchup of the week is this Auburn – Florida game, with giant SEC implications. Both sides go into this one with plenty of confidence, and a 5-0 record. Auburn travels to Florida as favourites, having faced a much tougher schedule.

Bo Nix has been solid as a true freshman starter, but will face a tough task against a top 20 defense like Florida’s. For the Gators the game will depend a lot on backup Kyle Trask, making his third start, having played well against limited opposition. Both co-lead their SEC conference, with the winner closing in on a play-off berth.

2) Can Auburn do the Unthinkable in the SEC West?

The SEC West can legitimately claim to be the toughest conference in college football, but if Auburn can win against Florida could they claim the conference crown over Alabama? This has previously been an Alabama stronghold, but this year they face competition from Auburn and LSU.

Auburn have so far beat two top 25 teams on route to 5-0, and another win against tenth ranked Florida would boost them into play-off contention. They face a brutal schedule this season, with LSU, Georgia and Alabama to face. If they only lose to Georgia and beat the rest they will claim an unlikely SEC West title.

9439791

Auburn has rolled over tough opponents this season, with another victory over Florida likely to bring them into play-off contention. Photo: Jason Caldwell/247Sports.

3) Iowa – Michigan Preview

Another massive conference matchup is this Big Ten game as Iowa travel to Michigan. The Wolverines are the traditional power in this game, but will go into it as underdogs after an underwhelming start to the season.

Iowa have started well at 4-0, co-leading the Big Ten West with Wisconsin. The Badgers brushed Michigan aside two weeks ago, and Iowa will feel confident heading into this game. Their defense ranks fifth in the nation, and Michigan have struggled on offense this season. Despite the home advantage Iowa should feel confident in this one.

4) Michigan Need Big Home Win

The result this weekend will have big implications for the rest of the Michigan season. They go into it 3-1 but have yet to convince in any of their wins. Their loss was in-conference to Wisconsin, putting them already a game behind Ohio State and Penn State in the Big Ten East.

Another conference loss to Iowa will likely take them out of the running for the title, and at two losses will make it almost impossible to secure a top ten ranking or featured bowl game. The Jim Harbaugh hot seat would only increase, so a lot rests on this game.

5) Michigan State – Ohio State Preview

Keeping things in the Big Ten East, this matchup of Michigan State and Ohio State will mean a lot going forward. Ohio State will feel confident after a 5-0 start and being at home, but 25th ranked Michigan State won’t roll over in this rivalry game.

This will be an interesting game, with the Ohio State offense, led by Quarterback Justin Fields, is currently eighth in the nation for total offense. Michigan State has the seventh ranked defense however. They key for Michigan State will be scoring points on an Ohio State defense that is second in the nation, allowing less than 225 yards per game.

justinfields

Justin Fields has excelled so far at Ohio State, and looks to be leading them into a potential national championship berth. Photo: Jay LaPrete/AP Photo.

6) Potential Banana Skin for Ohio State

As I mentioned above Ohio State will be favourites for this game, but don’t discount Michigan State. They currently co-lead the conference with Ohio State and Penn State, and are a ranked team worthy of respect.

Their defense is a top ten unit in the country, allowing just over 250 yards per game. Their edge rushers Kenny Willekes and Raequan Williams lead the team with 7.5 sacks between them in five games. Ohio State is also coming off a statement win against Nebraska, and with a rivalry game this weekend they may slip up at home.

7) Under the Radar Games to Watch

Some games that won’t receive massive hype but will provide plenty of intrigue include a likely lopsided affair as Utah State travel to fifth ranked LSU. This isn’t a matchup on paper, but I’ve included it as we’ll see potential NFL Draft top ten pick, Utah State QB Jordan Love take on a very good LSU defense, with comparisons with rising star Joe Burrow likely.

The Pac-12 provides some important games, with 4-1 California travelling to 13th ranked 3-1 Oregon. After that is 15th ranked Washington travelling to face a struggling 2-3 Stanford team.

8) ‘Fair Pay to Play ‘ Acts Building

The much talked about ‘Fair Pay to Play’ Act introduced by California made headlines as it was officially signed this week on The Shop, and other states are now taking a stance on this divisive issue. Florida state representative Kionne McGhee proposed a similar bill this week that if passed, would go into effect July 1st 2020.

This has been followed by news that former Ohio State receiver and current U.S House of Representatives politician Anthony Gonzalez is proposing federal legislation allowing college athletes to earn money through endorsement deals nationally. After much blustering from the NCAA, their patriarchy may be coming to an end.

efv4fytueaatzux-1

California governor Gavin Newsom signed his state’s ‘Fair Pay to Play’ Act live on The Shop with LeBron James this week. Photo: The Shop.

9) Coaches Already on the Hot Seat

The firing of Chris Ash at Rutgers last weekend was the first of the year, but many college coaches are feeling the pressure after poor starts to the season. USC head coach Clay Helton was almost fired last year, but is unlikely to survive this season. They have a 3-2 record and face a tough schedule, starting with ninth ranked Notre Dame this weekend.

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt will be another facing being fired, with a 1-3 start hard to come back from. Coming from Alabama he was supposed to resurrect this historic program, but they have fallen even further away under him.

10) Nick Saban Doesn’t Follow Rankings

The Alabama coach made headlines this week, saying that the rankings don’t matter until the end of the season. This is a classic Saban quote, straight from the Bill Belichick school of media quotes. It does show once again however the relentless nature both show in coaching.

Saban has already cemented himself as a legend of college football, but his relentless desire to improve is a big reason why Alabama has become the dominant force in college football for a decade now.

That wraps up my preview for week six of the season, if you have any thoughts on these points feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who read this blog I really appreciate it!

College Football Week Four Preview

This weekend of college football will provide plenty of answers for teams and fans, with a multitude of marquee games as we begin to see who is the real deal and who is faking it. Let’s take a look at the main talking points for this weekend’s slate of games.

1) Georgia – Notre Dame Preview

This top ten matchup is the biggest game of the weekend. Third ranked Georgia face seventh ranked Notre Dame in Athens. The last matchup was a close 20-19 win in 2017, and was Jake Fromm’s coming out party. Two years down the line and both sides have have eyes on the play-off.

Fromm, now a junior, is a top level quarterback at this level, and with support from the likes of running back D’Andre Swift has plenty of weapons. Notre Dame QB Ian Book has started the season hot, and his dual-threat ability makes him dangerous to this Georgia defense.

2) Battle of Jake Fromm and Ian Book

Quarterback is the most important position in the sport, so a big factor in deciding this game will be the play of the two signal callers. Fromm has the higher profile, having led Georgia to the national championship game as a freshman. He has since developed into a future first round NFL Draft pick.

Ian Book isn’t talked about as much by the media, but has quietly developed into a very good QB for the Fighting Irish. Like I mentioned above, the senior QB has started hot this season, with 553 yards and 6 TD’s to 0 INT’s in his opening three games.

960x0

Jake Fromm was only a true freshman in his first start the last time Notre Dame played Georgia. Now they face off with play-off ambitions for both. Photo: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire.

3) Michigan – Wisconsin Preview

Another massive game this weekend is this Michigan and Wisconsin matchup. Both sides are ranked just outside the top ten at 11th and 13th respectively, with a win providing a big step into the top ten.

Both sides are 2-0, but Wisconsin has looked more convincing against limited competition. Having home field advantage only enhances their tag as slight favourites. Running back Jonathan Taylor is a stud who will give Michigan problems, with the return of their best lineman Jon Runyan likely to enhance Michigan’s offensive play.

4) Can Jim Harbaugh Get His Statement Win?

The pressure is mounting on head coach Jim Harbaugh after his side have started the season slowly. Allowing Middle Tennessee to score 21 at home and escaping Army in overtime doesn’t bode well going into a tough Wisconsin matchup. He has a good recent record against them, but this could be their best opportunity for revenge.

He hasn’t been helped by injuries to key players like left tackle Jon Runyan and receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, but they have enough talent to be a top ten side. Quarterback Shea Patterson has struggled, with the running game solid but not spectacular.

5) Auburn – Texas A&M Preview

The big games just keep coming this weekend, with a massive matchup for these historic programs. Eighth ranked Auburn travel to College Station to face the 17th ranked Aggies.  Auburn already have a statement win this year against Oregon, but this game could make or break Texas A&M’s season.

Led by true freshman Bo Nix, Auburn surprised some by beating Oregon opening weekend, however this is another massive test. Texas A&M have already lost to Clemson, with another defeat here will take them out of contention for major honours.

bp0vt10dylimqdma2zrl-1

Bo Nix led Auburn to a comeback win in his debut for the Tigers. As to be expected with a true freshman, he’s struggled slightly with the adaptation to top level college football. Photo: Ron Jenkins/AP Photo.

6) Will Bo Nix Show up Big Again?

Bo Nix responded to immense pressure with a clutch comeback win against a good Oregon side in his debut, with this another massive test. Starting a true freshman on the road in a tough environment in College Station is always tricky, with the stats giving little confidence either

Nix is 83rd in the nation for passing yards, and his leading receiver after three games is Eli Stove with 133 yards. The offense has leaned on running back JaTarvious Whitlow, as they try to help Nix as much as possible. Nix will need to step up if they want to win this game.

7) Other Games to Look Out For

Below these top level games there are plenty amongst the slate that will pique fans interest. Tenth ranked Utah open the weekend with a trip to California to face a wounded USC team. Utah have looked good so far but USC will look to rebound from their OT loss to BYU last weekend.

Speaking of them, BYU hosts 22nd ranked Washington. Both sides already have one loss and another this early in the year could really pull the pin on their seasons. 3-0 Oklahoma State travel to Texas to face the 12th ranked Longhorns. This could be a banana skin for Texas.

8) Names to Look Out For 

All three games have star players with NFL potential, starting with Utah RB Zack Moss. He isn’t known nationally, but has developed into a very good player with mid-round NFL potential. 373 yards in three games shows the good start he’s had.

For BYU and Washington it’s hard to look past Washington QB Jacob Eason. The Georgia transfer has plenty of hype and has so far delivered. Seven TD’s to one interception and is averaging just under 300 yards a game. Another QB to look out for is Texas Sam Ehlinger, who has impressed despite a tough loss to LSU. His stats are incredible and is cementing himself as an NFL prospect.

zack-moss-utes

Utah Running Back Zack Moss has quietly built into a very good back with tremendous NFL potential. He’s leading Utah to a top ten ranking. Photo: NCAA.

9) Wider Play-Off Implications for This Week

The weekend ahead will have wider reaching consequences for the College Football Play-Off. Starting with the Georgia and Notre Dame game, if the Fighting Irish win they could vault into the top four. Their toughest remaining matchup’s would be against Virginia and Michigan, two games they would go into as favourites.

If Auburn beat Texas A&M, that would be two wins against ranked sides and would surely push them to the cusp of the play-off. Whoever wins in the Michigan – Wisconsin game will likely jump into the top ten, and another Utah win will see them rise also.

10) Players to Watch

We’ve already mentioned some key players to focus on this weekend, but here are some of the pivotal players for the leading matchup’s. We’ve mentioned Jake Fromm, but the Georgia offense is led by RB D’Andre Swift, who is averaging a massive 9.4 yards for the season.

For Notre Dame this could be a Chase Claypool coming out party, the receiver leads the team with 190 yards in two games.Jonathan Taylor will be a focal point for Wisconsin, while Michigan running back Zach Charbonnet will be glad to have left tackle Jon Runyan back to help the freshman.

That wraps up this preview for what will be an exciting week of college football. If you have any comments on the talking points I’ve mentioned, let me know in the comments section or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who read this article I really appreciate it!

 

College Football Week Two Roundup

The college football season is now truly underway, with some brilliant matchup’s this past weekend that remind us all why we love the game. There were not any major upsets, but the games were entertaining from start to finish as the top ranked teams asserted their dominance. Let’s take a look at ten talking points from this past weekend.

1) LSU Win Big

LSU were the big winners of week two, knocking off a top ten Texas side in their house 45-38. The game of the weekend lived up to expectations, and now LSU fans are dreaming of the college football play-off.

QB Joe Burrow had a monster 471 yards and 4 TD’s, with receiver Justin Jefferson getting three of them along with 163 total yards. LSU have often struggled at the QB position, but now they have a stud in Burrow. They have NFL talent on both sides of the ball, and can legitimately think of the top four now.

2) Texas Have Plenty to Play for 

Texas will feel disappointed they could get a statement win at home, however they still have plenty to play for this season. It’s been a difficult decade for this storied program, but they now have a team with legitimate top ten hopes.

Boyhood fan Sam Ehlinger had a monster game 401 yards and 4 TD’s along with 60 rushing yards, leading the team. Texas were in this game until the very end against the best LSU side in years. They dropped to 12th in the AP Top 25 poll, but they can easily get back into the top ten.

800

LSU QB Joe Burrow is the answer their fans have been waiting years for. He has led them to a play-off spot in a flying start to their season. Photo: AP/Michael Democker.

3) Clemson Overcome Texas A&M 

Clemson passed the test with a convincing 24-10 victory over a resurgent Texas A&M team. The final score doesn’t accurately reflect that Clemson flat out played better than Texas A&M throughout.

QB Trevor Lawrence rebounded from a patchy opening game with some beautiful throws, notably his TD. He added a rushing score also, and with how talented this Clemson team is he needs only to play sensibly and execute for them to have a good chance of victory. Texas A&M looked second best, but there’s no shame in that when you play Clemson.

4) Big Upsets in Week Two

Part of the fun of college football Saturday’s is checking out whose on upset alert, and there was some big results this past weekend. Maryland was the pick of the bunch, dismantling 22nd ranked Syracuse 63-20. This was a massive win that puts the program 22nd in the AP polls, the first time they’ve been ranked since 2013.

Other notable upsets were 23rd ranked Stanford getting rolled over by USC 45-20, an especially impressive result when considered USC lost it’s starting QB J.T Daniels for the season in week one. 25th ranked Nebraska also fell on a missed FG against Colorado 34-31.

5) Michigan Survive Close Call

The Michigan revival under Jim Harbaugh hasn’t quite gone to plan so far. His return to Ann Arbor was supposed to bring the glory years back but so far it hasn’t quite worked out. Only once have they finished in the top ten and they haven’t finished better than 10-3 under him.

So far this season they have looked less than convincing. They gave up 21 points in a 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee, and this past weekend needed double overtime to beat Army 24-21. Army played an incredible game in the Big House, however no disrespect to Army, but they shouldn’t be scaring Michigan this much in their stadium.

ca495b08-2d3b-48e1-9e4d-0f5f3881838b-2019-0907-dg-um1550

Michigan players celebrate a double overtime scare against Army. They will need to improve before they face tougher competition. Photo: David Guralnick/Detroit News.

6) Heisman Week Two Report

After a scintillating week one, it was a quieter weekend for some of the key players in the early Heisman Trophy race. Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts saw limited action in a 70-14 demolishing of South Dakota, going 14-18 for 259 yards and 3 TD’s, along with 47 rushing yards.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa was similarly dominant in their 62-10 win over New Mexico State, going 16-24 for 227 yards and 3 TD’s, with 33 rushing yards also. After falling behind in the opening week, Trevor Lawrence of Clemson reasserted himself in the Heisman race with his win over Texas A&M.

7) AP Top 25 Rankings

After a fairly predictable opening week, week two saw some movement in the AP Top 25 polls. The biggest move is LSU claiming the final play-off place in fourth, displacing Oklahoma and Ohio State after their statement win against Texas.

Michigan dropped from seventh to tenth after two uninspiring wins against Middle Tennessee and Army, vaulting Auburn and Florida to eighth and ninth respectively. Texas dropped from ninth to 12th, along with rivals Texas A&M who fell from 12th to 16th after losses last weekend. Washington fell from 14th to 23rd after a 20-19 upset loss against California.

8) True Freshman Impressing 

The 2019 season has already seen some true freshman QB’s assert themselves at their respective programs. Hank Bachmeier has impressed as Boise State upset Florida State on opening weekend, now they sit 22nd ranked and 2-0.

Sam Howell has done the same at North Carolina, leading them to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2014. He’s led the Tar Heels to comeback wins against South Carolina and Miami, showing up big in both games. Bo Nix has led eighth ranked Auburn to a massive in against Oregon, showing that the future is looking bright for these three programs.

big_dsc_2420

Boise State true freshman Hank Bachmeier was a highly rated recruit who has now led his team to a 2-0 start and top 25 ranking. Photo: Boise State Broncos.

9) Storied Programs Start Slow

Many of the teams in the early Top 25 rankings are not a surprise, however some other storied programs have started at the other end of the spectrum. Tennessee were the shock of week one as they lost to lowly Georgia State, but they lost again 29-26 against BYU. This is the first time they have started 0-2 since 1988 and head coach Jeremy Pruitt is definitely on the hot seat.

Miami lost a close game to Florida on opening weekend, but now compounded it with a 28-25 loss to North Carolina. They are now 0-2 for the first time since 1978, with new head coach Manny Diaz already struggling.

10) More Quarterback Injuries in Week Two

The opening two weeks have been rough for quarterbacks, with the likes of USC and Northwestern losing their starters on opening weekend. Week two unfortunately saw South Carolina QB Jake Bentley go down with a Lisfranc fracture on his left foot. This will require season ending surgery, and is a tough break for a player who was hoping to build his NFL Draft stock this season.

Kentucky QB Terry Wilson was the other big casualty, as he is now out for the season after tearing his patellar tendon in his knee in his teams win against Eastern Michigan. This is a tough break for a player who led the team to it’s first ten win season since 1978 last year.

This rounds up some of the main talking points from a busy week two of the college football season. If you have comments about this piece or the week two results feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to anyone who read this article I really appreciate it!

 

 

 

Can Football Learn From the NFL?

As England still comes to terms with a crushing 2018 World Cup semi-final loss to Croatia, many are reflecting on how well the team played throughout the tournament. A particular strong point for the young England side has been their prowess from set-pieces.

Kieran Trippier’s free-kick against Croatia set a World Cup record, with England scoring nine goals from set-pieces during the tournament. Russia 2018 in general has seen in a rise in set-piece goals, with a record 30% of total goals up to the quarter-finals coming from corners or free-kicks, bettering previous recent records of 23% from the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

With set-pieces becoming increasingly important to international tournament football, not much has been written about what influenced England’s set-piece excellence under Gareth Southgate. England’s attacking coach Allan Russell has been praised by Southgate and his players, whom they credit for their drastic improvement in set-pieces.

Russell has spent his entire adult life within the world of professional football, yet Southgate has looked further afield for his set-piece influences. The England manager has spent time in the U.S visiting NFL franchise the Seattle Seahawks, has visited the last two Superbowl’s and has had numerous discussions with NFL analysts and NBA coaches to find out how their players find space in tight areas.

It was frequently seen in England World Cup games, when the team was taking a corner beforehand the players would quickly huddle together, before going into a line formation. As a casual fan of both football and American football this sounds much more like an NFL play then a football set-piece.

GETTY_Colombia-v-England-Round-of-16-2018-FIFA-World-Cup-Russia_SPO_GYI990944196jpg-JS417938365

England players set-up for a corner against Colombia using a move known as “the love triangle”. Nine of England’s 12 World Cup goals came from set-pieces. Photo copyright: Getty Images. 

With England showing how vital set-pieces can be in major international tournaments, will world football begin to follow the England example and adopt the mindset of an NFL franchise when it comes to set-pieces.

In the simplest sense a set-piece in football can be largely similar to an NFL play, a chance to score from a dead ball.  The NFL is constantly using shifts and motions to buy players space in tight windows, something that could prove massively beneficial with set-pieces.

Teams could use cleverly designed set-pieces where players disguise and then go in motion to fool opposition defenses, much like an NFL offense does. Football has tended to view American sports with a certain level of ignorance, dismissing it as not relevant to football.

What Gareth Southgate and England have highlighted is that in a time where set-pieces are becoming increasingly important in major tournaments, there is a lot world football can learn from American sports in how to create space in tight areas of the pitch.

By Jordan Wilkins find me on Twitter @JWjournalism.

Let me know your thoughts on this article in the comments section below. 

What’s Going Wrong For The Ravens?

Two weeks can be a long time. Especially in the NFL. Two weeks ago the Baltimore Ravens were riding high in the NFL, having started the season 2-0 in very convincing fashion. Yet as I write this on Monday October 2nd the Ravens season looks a lot less promising. Two successive emphatic defeats leave them at 2-2 and looking to get their season back on track.

Whilst the defense faltering has contributed to their recent poor two games, the Ravens offense hasn’t really got firing all season. Not one unit has stood out this season, from quarterback Joe Flacco, to the wide receivers, running backs and tight ends. The offensive line has also been hit with injuries already this season, as the Ravens hold the dubious honour of leading the NFL in injuries.

It’s hard to point to one single problem which explains the Ravens offensive woes. They have struggled since Gary Kubiak led Joe Flacco to his best statistical season in 2014. With current offensive co-ordinator Marty Mornhinweg in his second season since taking over from the fired Marc Trestman, Flacco has struggled so far this season. He ranks 32nd in the NFL with 601 passing yards through the first four games, and only 5.09 yards per passing attempt.

856351430

Something Ravens fans are not used to seeing this season, an offensive touchdown. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.

 

His bare statistics are also not pretty. He has thrown for four touchdowns and six interceptions, whilst also setting a current NFL record with an interception in ten straight games stretching into this season.  Flacco himself admitted after the most recent loss to bitter rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers “I sucked.” He also admitted about the offense “We’re not creating a lot for ourselves right now. We’re just going the hard way.”

Whilst the quarterback is the leader of the offense, Joe Cool has not been helped from his wide receivers this season. The Ravens signed receiver Jeremy Maclin after he was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs in June, with the team heading into the season with arguably the best receiving unit since Flacco joined the Ravens in 2008.

Maclin was signed for big money on a two-year $11 million dollar deal, but so far through four games the 29 year-old has accumulated only 116 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Wallace was another big name receiver signed for big money in free agency, with his two-year $11.5 million dollar deal producing his first 1000 yard season 2011. So far he has 76 yards this season and one touchdown.

The teams next highest profile receiver is third year player Breshad Perriman. He was the teams first round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, but has so far not lived up to his draft position. He was unlucky to lose his entire rookie season to injury, however through last season and the season so far he has accumulated 510 yards and three touchdowns. The failure to meet expectations so far with Perriman is evidence of a wider recent issue with the Ravens.

852994784

Mercedes Lewis scoring one of the Jaguars touchdowns as they obliterated the Ravens 44-7 in London. Photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images.

 

Excluding the recent 2017 NFL Draft, from 2014 through 2016 they have drafted 12 offensive skill position players. Of these 12 only three(Crockett Gillmore,Breshad Perriman and Buck Allen have so far contributed over 500 yards, with just as many players already out of the league.

GM Ozzie Newsome and Assistant GM Eric DeCosta are very highly regarded within the league, especially for drafting players, but you have to begin to question their recent success in the last three draft classes. Of course this is only my opinion and I’m not saying they should be fired, it’s simply an observation of a recent trend which could prove problematic the longer it carries on.

No matter what offensive stat you look at, it doesn’t look pretty. The team are averaging 270 yards per game(30th in the NFL), 60 total points from four games (tied 30th)and 150 passing yards per game (32nd). It’s not just in the stats that a problem shows up. Any Ravens fan watching the games this season will have seen the offensive sputtering, with Flacco missing throws, receivers not on the same page as him and runners who are struggling to find running lanes.

By no means at all is this crisis point for the Ravens, but the recent two defeats have given cause for concern amongst fans. Of course we are only four weeks into the season, but the manner of the defeats highlight obvious offensive weaknesses which will need to be addressed if the team has any hope of returning to the playoff’s for the first time since 2014.

All stats sourced with thanks from Ravens.com and ESPN.com.

Have any thoughts on this article? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below. I hope you enjoyed reading it and if you want to reach me I’m on Twitter @JWjournalism.

 

2016 NFL Mock Draft Part 2

This is part two of my look at the fast approaching 2016 NFL Draft. Teams will be fairly confident of who they want and realistically will be able to select come Thursday evening. For part one of my mock draft looking at picks one to ten, please click this link NFL Mock Draft Part One .

This part of my mock draft is dedicated to the real meat of the draft, picks 11 through 20. There is lots of potential for trades with these picks as teams either move up or down to select the player they want. Without further ado, let’s look at my predictions for these middle first round picks.

11th Overall Pick: Chicago Bears – Shaq Lawson – Defensive End – Clemson

The Chicago Bears are in the unfortunate position of having a varied amount of team needs, but without a top ten pick to use as trade material. With the eleventh pick their top need seemingly is with their pass rush which ranked 22nd in sacks last season, this despite signing promising free agent Pernell McPhee last off-season.

With this in mind I think the Bears will select Clemson’s all-American defensive end Shaq Lawson. He led college football in tackles for loss and was top five in sacks last season. He is a very good player who could team well with McPhee to strengthen and inject some youth in Chicago’s pass rush. For every quarterback in the NFC North, they should be worried if the Bears make this pick.

shaq-lawson-clemson-nfl-draft

Shaq Lawson was a wrecking ball last season as Clemson reached the national championship game. Can his immense talents translate well in the NFL? Photo copyright USA Today Sports.

12th Overall Pick: New Orleans Saints – Sheldon Rankins – Defensive Tackle – Louisville

The New Orleans Saints have been significantly hindered from addressing their areas of need thanks to a significant lack in cap space. This didn’t allow them to make any splashes in free agency, which means they really have to nail the draft if they want to address their weaknesses.

Much like the Bears their biggest issue is their pass rush, which was an abysmal 25th in the NFL for sacks last season. With this in mind they can immediate improve this with the selection of Sheldon Rankins from Louisville. He was a very productive player in college and should translate well into the NFL.

Whilst some may argue getting an offensive weapon for quarterback Drew Brees is a more important position to address, I feel it would be a reach to select a wide receiver with this pick. We’ll see which side of the ball the Saints address with this first round selection.

Sheldon Rankins, Steven Dunbar

Rankins showing his ability to be a disruptive pass rusher in college, but can he have similar success with the step up to the NFL level? Photo copyright Tim Easley/Associated Press.

13th Overall Pick: Miami Dolphins – Ezekiel Elliott – Running Back – Ohio State

The Miami Dolphins are close to being a play-off calibre team, they only have a few positions to address to achieve this. They stole headlines with their defensive free agent signings last off-season, but they still need help with the offense. Ryan Tannehill is firmly entrenched as their starting QB, but they need to give him further help.

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry helps with this, but with this pick I think they will select premier running back Ezekiel Elliott to help their at times spluttering offense. Elliott is by far the best back in this draft, and rumours of the Cowboys selecting him with the fourth pick are a smokescreen in my opinion. He could immediately come in and becoming a 1,000 yard rusher in his first season, something that would hugely help Tannehill and the offense to score points and win games.

hi-res-69f56b772832120a8e8b97642752f9d0_crop_north

Elliott proved himself as the best college running back at Ohio State, and looks set for a successful career in the NFL. Photo copyright Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images.

14th Overall Pick: Oakland Raiders – Taylor Decker – Tackle – Ohio State

The Oakland Raiders were one of the major winners from the free agency period, as they made several significant statements with their signings that they want to win now. They have also drafted well in the past few years and will be looking to continue this year.

Although they signed Kelechi Osemele they still have needs on the offensive line. This is something they will address with the selection of Ohio State tackle Taylor Decker with this pick. Drafting an offensive lineman in the first round is never a sexy pick, but provides great insurance for QB Derek Carr and adds some youth to the line.

Some may argue they should select Jake Conklin instead, I think the size and good technique skillset of Decker will win over the Oakland front office.

011115-cfb-ohio-state-buckeyes-decker-jw-pi-vresize-1200-675-high-65

Taylor Decker showed despite his 6ft 7 size, he still has good footwork and technique for a tackle. Photo copyright Justin Galler/Getty Images North America.

15th Overall Pick: Tennessee Titans – Jack Conklin – Tackle – Michigan State

The Tennessee Titans started the trade madness that has engulfed this draft in the past few weeks, after they traded away the first overall pick to the L.A Rams. After swapping first round picks they not sit with the 15th pick, with some major needs for the organization.

After selecting building blocks such as Marcus Mariota last year, this year they need to help him by giving him some protection on the offensive line. They can use this pick to select Jack Conklin from Michigan State, who has elite technique for a tackle.

Some experts have questioned his physical attributes at the NFL level, but he could be a day one starter at either tackle position. This gives insurance to Mariota as he looks to progress in his second NFL season. It also adds some youth to the line and the franchise can be confident in Conklin for the coming years.

tumblr_nvaqz7ktyn1uso5gio1_1280

Jack Conklin has some question marks on his physical intangibles heading into the draft, but can overcome this with his excellent technique. Photo copyright USA Today Sports.

16th Overall Pick: Detroit Lions – Reggie Ragland – Linebacker – Alabama

The Detroit Lions are another team who have plenty of the building block to be real contenders, but are just one or two pieces away from achieving this. The franchise has a lot of needs on defense, and despite losing superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson to retirement, the defensive side of the ball is what they will improve with this 16th pick.

Reggie Ragland is the latest linebacker stud to come out of serial winners the University of Alabama, and will be a great pick for the Lions. He can play outside but is much better suited as an inside linebacker, but his versatility is one of the many strengths of his game. He could be an immediate starter and impact player in Detroit, as they look to building a winning team.

cropped_reu_2165579

Reggie Ragland showing his big hitting ability at Alabama. Could his talents make other teams which they had selected him in the coming years? Photo copyright Chuck Cook/USA Today Sports.

17th Overall Pick: Atlanta Falcons – Leonard Floyd – Linebacker – Georgia

The selection of Ragland will start a run on linebackers, as many defensive needy teams select the best available talent after the early talents are taken off the board. The Falcons have a sound offense, but need some help on defense if they want to become a serious play-off contender in the coming seasons.

The franchise will have the choice between Darron Lee of Ohio State or Leonard Floyd from Georgia. I think they will select Floyd, who had more production in college. Some argue he is the best pure pass rusher in this draft, and the chance to select such an athlete at this stage in the lower middle first round is surely too enticing for the Falcons to pass on.

hi-res-d1378ae0284f7854610cbdb528d6824b_crop_north

Leonard Floyd showed tremendous athleticism and production whilst at Georgia, and will be rewarded with a first round selection in this years draft. Photo copyright Brett Davis/Associated Press.

18th Overall Pick: Indianapolis Colts – Darron Lee – Linebacker – Ohio State

The Colts will be looking at a return to the play-offs as their objective this season, after an injury plagued 2015 season. The franchise has a very good young offense who can outscore almost anybody in the league, but needs help on defense to become a true all round championship calibre team.

With this in mind I feel they will select Darron Lee from Ohio State, the best available linebacker after Ragland and Floyd come off the board. He didn’t have as much game time at Ohio State as he would of liked, but when he did play he showed he is a very gifted football player. His athleticism is up there with any linebacker in this draft and will likely become a day one defensive anchor for the Colts in the coming seasons.

darron-lee-michigan-smack

Darron Lee showed his potential on a loaded Ohio State team, and will now take his limitless talents to the NFL. Photo copyright USA Today Sports.

19th Overall Pick: Buffalo Bills – Laquon Treadwell – Wide Receiver – Ole Miss

The Bills are still in transition under head coach Rex Ryan, but showed great potential with their debut 8-8 season last year under Ryan. With the top end prospects at positions of more important need already off the board, I predict they will choose to fill a lower end need at wide receiver.

They will have the opportunity to select any of the top level receivers in this draft, in what many consider a slightly down year for the position. This should not put teams off as there are still at least half a dozen player who have the potential to be great in the NFL. Despite some pre-draft concerns with his measurable, I feel the Bills will select Ole Miss man Laquon Treadwell.

He was a stud player in college and this should not change once he moves into the NFL. The partnership of Treadwell of Sammy Watkins will be a scary prospect for any NFL defensive cop-coordinator, and arguably the best young receiver combination in the NFL this coming season.

laquon-treadwell-640

Laquon Treadwell is for many NFL personnel and draft experts the best WR available this year, and would cause defensive nightmares in partnership with Watkins. Photo copyright USA Today Sports.

20th Overall Pick: New York Jets – Noah Spence – Linebacker -Eastern Kentucky

The New York Jets are in the very tricky position of being very close to a serious contender in the NFL, but with several pressing needs going into the 2016 season. These needs are not something the franchise is unlikely to be able to address with this 20th pick in the draft, therefore they have the potential to be a team that organises a trade to move up or out of this pick.

If they keep this pick I think it would be hard for the team to pass up selecting the high profile prospect Noah Spence from Eastern Kentucky. The former Ohio State linebacker has showed he is in terms of pure talent probably one of the best linebackers in this draft, but has off-field concerns.

He was dismissed from Ohio State for repeated failed drugs tests for Ecstasy, but has rebuilt his draft stock at Eastern Kentucky. He appears to have come through the draft process well and has solidified himself as a first round talent. Some teams may be wary of drafting him so high, but purely based on his production and talent he is a top 15 pick. The ability to get a top 15 calibre player with the 20th pick is an enticing prospect for the Jets front office, and something they may find hard to pass on.

hi-res-33437d4fb94c3c26d32494013d23659b_crop_north

Noah Spence has proved he’s going to be a disruptive pass rusher in the NFL, but can he leave his off-field concerns behind him? Photo copyright Kirk Irwin/Getty Images.

That wraps up part two of my NFL mock draft, looking at picks number 11 through 20. There could be some very productive future NFL players who slide down because of a myriad of concerns, both on and off field. Time will tell who makes the right and wrong selections this year, but all of these players can contribute immediately at the next level.

The third and final part of my mock draft will look at the final eleven picks from 20 through 31, looking at who the play-off contending teams will select to push them one step closer to the Superbowl this coming season. Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed my NFL mock draft.