Harbaugh expects Hoke to be Michigan coach for “long time to come”

first_imgOWINGS MILLS, Md. — As Baltimore fans watched the Ravens improve to 3-1 with a 38-10 thumping of the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, a report stated the University of Michigan could be targeting the services of head coach John Harbaugh.With the Wolverines off to a disappointing 2-3 start and current head coach Brady Hoke’s status in severe doubt, the NFL Network reported that the program prefers the Ravens coach over younger brother and 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, whose future in San Francisco remains uncertain beyond this season. This isn’t the first time the Harbaugh brothers have been linked to the Michigan football program as John graduated from Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor and Jim played quarterback for the Wolverines before going on to play in the NFL.Their father, Jack Harbaugh, served as an assistant under legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler in the 1970s.According to The Sun, John Harbaugh is not interested in the job, but the head coach did not go out of his way to confirm or deny potential interest when asked Monday about once again being linked to Michigan. In addition to being under contract as one of the highest-paid coaches in the NFL through the 2017 season, Harbaugh has remained close with Hoke after they coached together at Western Michigan in the mid-1980s.“It seems like it’s kind of there. I don’t really know why,” said Harbaugh about being linked to Michigan. “Brady Hoke’s a guy that we believe in. The Harbaughs believe in Brady Hoke. He’s a great coach; he’s done it anywhere he’s ever been. He believes in Michigan. I believe in what they’re doing there. I think they’re going to get it turned around.”Former Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has served in the same capacity under Hoke since 2011, another link between the two. Rumors have also persisted that Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon could be on his way out, which would certainly complicate any potential search for a new head football coach in Ann Arbor.On Saturday, the Wolverines fell to Minnesota for just the third time since 1967. This season marks the first time in its 135-year football history that Michigan has sustained three losses before the start of October.“The team should be galvanized right now,” said Harbaugh, who has a 65-35 regular-season record in seven NFL seasons and guided the Ravens to a win in Super Bowl XLVII. “I would expect them to come out like a bunch of wounded lions and go to work, because they love Brady and they love those coaches. They’ve just got to [play]. I’m interested in Brady Hoke being the coach at Michigan for a long time to come.”Webb’s status still mysteryEven though he didn’t appear on the injury report last week for the first time all season, cornerback Lardarius Webb was ruled inactive prior to the 38-10 win over the Carolina Panthers, creating even more uncertainty regarding his status.Harbaugh acknowledged Webb’s struggles against Cleveland played a major role in deciding he still wasn’t ready to rejoin the Ravens’ starting defense. The head coach is hopeful that changes this Sunday as Baltimore travels to Indianapolis to take on the 2-2 Colts.“I’ll probably have a pretty good idea after watching practice,” Harbaugh said about Webb’s status for Week 5. “I probably won’t let anybody know until Sunday. But it will be based on how he practices and how he looks in terms of getting his acceleration and his burst back — the things that everybody saw that weren’t quite there.”Defensive coordinator Dean Pees continues to use strong safety Matt Elam in the nickel position, but rookie Terrence Brooks saw extensive action with 32 defensive snaps playing free safety in the nickel package against the Panthers. The 2014 third-round pick was inactive in Week 3 but fared well against Carolina, according to the head coach.Harbaugh said the health of Webb’s back is no longer a concern after the cornerback didn’t practice from July 25 through the end of training camp.“They tell me that he’s healthy now, and he says he feels healthy,” Harbaugh said. “But it’s just a matter of that strength and quickness and burst, which should come back fast. Anybody that has ever trained [knows] if you’ve been in great shape, you get back in shape pretty quickly, in terms of strength and burst and things like that. You just have to do it. He’s working really hard at it, and it very well could be this week.“I’m sure hoping it’s this week. I want to see it this week, and we’ll be shooting for that.”Two receivers going in different directionsAfter what was unofficially his fifth dropped pass of the season against the Panthers, struggling wide receiver Jacoby Jones finished the game having taken only seven offensive snaps, his lowest total of 2014.Jones also made an ill-advised decision to field a punt at his own 2-yard line before returning it to the Baltimore 20. Harbaugh reiterated that the 30-year-old continues to work extremely hard in practice and is simply trying too hard to make a play.“He catches the ball in practice. Sometimes I think he’s pressing,” Harbaugh said. “I really do. Jacoby has a lot of pride, and he’s made big, big plays in this league before, and he wants to pick up where he left off. [That] hasn’t happened for him, but the thing he has to know — just like Torrey [Smith], just like anybody – is that the key is persistence. You just keep hammering and you don’t get down on yourself, and focus on the fundamentals and the details, and it’ll work out.”With Jones playing poorly, second-year wide receiver Marlon Brown has suddenly reemerged in the Baltimore offense after making three receptions for 31 yards and playing 31 offensive snaps, his highest total since Week 1.The 6-foot-5 Brown gives the Ravens another appealing option in the red zone and on third down after tight end Dennis Pitta was lost for the season last week in Cleveland.“He was in there on the first three-wide group,” Harbaugh said. “He did a good job, made a couple plays — third-down conversions that were very important. [He is a] big target, gets off press really well and blocks, and he did a good job in special teams. He played well. It kind of goes back to what we were saying as far as guys stepping up at different positions.”Colts’ Landry suspendedThe NFL announced Monday afternoon that Indianapolis safety LaRon Landry has been suspended four games without pay for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy.His suspension begins this week as the Colts’ 21st-ranked pass defense will now be without its hard-hitting safety.He is the younger brother of former Ravens safety Dawan Landry.last_img read more

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Who could be this year’s Rick Wagner for the Ravens?

first_imgNearly two weeks into free agency, the Ravens appear no closer to filling gaping holes at the wide receiver and tight end positions after losing Torrey Smith and Owen Daniels.Viable options on the open market are dwindling and it would deviate from general manager Ozzie Newsome’s “best player available” philosophy to enter April’s draft with two starting positions to fill. Of course, a trade cannot be ruled out with Baltimore projected to have 10 or 11 draft picks — compensatory choices will be announced this week — and Newsome has acquired the likes of left tackle Eugene Monroe, center Jeremy Zuttah, and even former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin through trades in recent years.But the lack of activity makes you wonder if the Ravens have more confidence in their current batch of wide receivers or tight ends — or both — than the outside world does.It was only a year ago when many were discussing how desperately the Ravens needed a starting right tackle following the free-agent departure of the disappointing Michael Oher. Considered little more than an afterthought by most, 2013 fifth-round pick Rick Wagner became an instant upgrade and an above-average starter in his second NFL season after playing sparingly as a rookie.Who might the Ravens view as this year’s Wagner?At the wide receiver position, Marlon Brown is the most experienced receiver remaining behind veteran Steve Smith as he caught 24 passes for 255 yards in his second season after collecting 49 receptions for 524 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie in 2013. Despite a slow start working in Gary Kubiak’s new offensive system, Brown became more involved as the 2014 season progressed with 16 of his 24 receptions going for first downs.The other logical in-house candidate to emerge at the receiver position would be Kamar Aiken, who caught 24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns in his first year with the Ravens. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound receiver plays with a physical nature that the organization likes.Of course, a deep draft class of wide receivers makes it feasible that the Ravens could find an immediate starter in the first round, but the lack of a veteran addition could signal that they likes their young receivers more than we think. Either way, the addition of a productive vertical threat is an absolute must for strong-armed quarterback Joe Flacco by the start of the season.Failing to do so would mean trouble for the Ravens offense in 2015.Shifting focus to the tight end position, Crockett Gillmore is the strongest candidate of any player at any position to become this year’s version of Wagner. The 2014 third-round pick is currently the safest bet at his position on the offseason roster with veteran Dennis Pitta’s future remaining in doubt.Gillmore caught just 10 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in the regular season, but he caught a 21-yard touchdown in the wild-card win over Pittsburgh and the Ravens appeared more comfortable involving him in the passing game as the season progressed. If you’re looking for precedent with the Ravens handing over the starting tight end job to an inexperienced option, then-rookies Ed Dickson and Pitta had a total of 12 receptions for 153 yards behind veteran Todd Heap in 2010 before combining to make 94 catches for 933 yards and eight touchdowns a year later.Do the Ravens need to add another tight end? Absolutely, but the lack of free-agent activity to this point — Baltimore reportedly had mild interest in veteran Scott Chandler before he signed with New England — and an underwhelming draft class make you wonder if Baltimore has a higher opinion of Gillmore than most observers. Barring a trade, finding a backup tight end would certainly appear more feasible than a starter at this point.The discussion at either position could become moot at any point as Newsome has more than five months to shape the roster for the regular season. No one is suggesting the Ravens should — or will — stand pat at wide receiver or tight end, but few would have endorsed Wagner as the starting right tackle at this time a year ago.It’s simply a possibility to keep in mind as the offseason continues and we inch closer to the draft with the Ravens’ two biggest needs yet to be addressed.last_img read more

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Ten Thoughts on the Penguins Before Round Two Begins

first_imgFollowing their first round victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games, the task for the Washington Capitals gets significantly harder as they take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in a second round series that starts at 7:30 pm on Thursday night at the Verizon Center.Here are ten thoughts on the Pens as we head into game one.1. Pittsburgh had a ton of injuries this season, but they still managed to stay close to the Capitals in the standings until very late in the campaign. They are an extremely well coached team led by the best player in the league, Sidney Crosby. Coach Mike Sullivan’s club is playing well right now despite the fact that they are missing defenseman Kris Letang, forward Carl “Cap Killer” Hagelin, and goaltender Matt Murray due to injury. Letang is done for the season while Murray is not even skating, yet. Hagelin is a possibility to return, at some point, during this series.2. The Pens scored 21 goals in five games against the Columbus Blue Jackets in round one. They notched them in so many different ways, too. Here’s the break down on those tallies: Eight from offensive zone pressure shifts, six power play markers (officially only five, but Evgeni Malkin’s goal in game two came just one second after a CBus penalty expired), four rush goals, one off of a face off, one as a result of a strong forecheck, and one empty net tally. Six power play goals jumps out there, the Capitals cannot afford to take careless penalties.3. A big key to those goals is how decisive they are with the puck, they pass it quickly to open space and it leads to a lot of one timers. They were able to exploit a very young Blue Jackets defense and get Vezina Trophy candidate, Sergei Bobrovsky, moving around quite a bit, which made it easier to find open looks. Columbus never knew what hit them.4. Another thing they like to do is use the long stretch pass out of their zone from a defenseman to the forwards. If the opponent makes a mistake in the neutral zone or has a bad line change, they typically exploit it. The Caps must be crisp in the neutral zone and make sure they get pucks deep into the Penguins zone, especially when they are changing players.5. When it comes to getting pucks to the net, I’ve already mentioned how quickly they do that. What makes them even more dangerous is all of their forwards are skilled at crashing the cage. Patric Hornqvist, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Nick Bonino, and Scott Wilson all had in close tallies in round one. Guentzel and Rust each had five goals in the five game series and most of them were from just outside the paint. Chris Kunitz is another player who specializes in dirty goals, but he was out due to injury in round one. He is expected to suit up for the series opener. Crosby is a wizard when he has the puck behind the opponents cage so it is imperative that Washington does a very good job in picking up Penguins forwards in front and around the net when #87 has the puck. The Blue Jackets failed in that area miserably.6. Pittsburgh is missing Letang on the back end, and he was a work horse for the Pens against the Capitals last spring logging over 25 minutes a game. However, this season the team has learned to play without him since he’s been on the sidelines since February. As a result, they have three pairs of defenders that get pretty even ice time based on the Columbus series: Justin Schultz and Ian Cole, Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley, and Brian Dumoulin and Ron Hainsey.7. The Penguins are very difficult to beat on their home ice. In fact, you have to go back to December 14, 2015 to find the last time the Capitals won in Pittsburgh. That’s six straight losses at the Igloo II, counting last spring’s playoffs.8. With Murray injured in the game one warm-ups against Columbus, Marc-Andre Fleury was thrown into the battle in goal. It was literally baptism by fire in these 2017 Playoffs for the 2009 Stanley Cup Champion and his perfect 16 save performance in period one stabilized things for the Pens until they found their game. They then quickly demolished Columbus. If Coach John Tortorella’s squad gets a goal or two in that opening frame, is the series different? We’ll never know because Fleury was so good in net to start the series.9. Washington did well containing the Crosby and Malkin lines last spring, but it was the Hagelin-Bonino-Phil Kessel third line that did them in. This go round, that line is not together due to the knee injury to #62. However, Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel are playing as well as ever. Malkin, who was battling an upper body injury in the playoffs last year, is at the peak of his game now and is very difficult to take off of the puck. Kessel is on his line, along with Rust and they’ve been on fire. The best way to stop Malkin is to prevent him from getting the biscuit. He’s in beast mode heading into round two and leads the NHL in playoff scoring.10. The Caps have spent all kinds of time and effort since last May’s playoff loss to put themselves in position for a rematch. They’ve added Lars Eller, Brett Connolly, and Kevin Shattenkirk to their lineup to try and match the Penguins fast paced play. They are a year more experienced, which has proven to bode well for Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt, and Evgeny Kuznetsov so far in this postseason. So now they’ve finally gotten to this point and have their chance to slay the dragon, once and for all. It will not be easy. The Penguins are the Defending Champs, and therefore, King of the Hill, until they are defeated. Last season’s series, which was razor close just like the movie Rocky, was essentially the Stanley Cup Finals in round two. Will this season’s series have a Rocky II type ending?last_img read more

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Campanaro becomes latest Ravens wide receiver to depart

first_imgMichael Campanaro became the latest Ravens wide receiver to depart this offseason by agreeing to a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday.The River Hill product turned in the best season of his career in 2017, leading the AFC in punt return average (10.8 yards per attempt) and catching a career-high 19 passes for 173 yards and one touchdown. Campanaro returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown in the Week 6 overtime loss to Chicago.A 2014 seventh-round pick out of Wake Forest, Campanaro endured a slew of injuries that limited him to just 11 games over his first three seasons before playing in 13 contests in 2017. The 5-foot-9, 191-pound receiver joins Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin as Baltimore wide receivers to exit this offseason. The Ravens signed free-agent wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown last month to try to breathe new life into the NFL’s 29th-ranked passing attack. Campanaro posted the following farewell message to his Twitter account: In 24 career games for the Ravens, Campanaro caught 31 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 10 times for 131 yards and a touchdown.last_img read more

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Sisco’s demotion latest head-scratching development for Orioles

first_imgHours after Chance Sisco was originally penciled into Sunday’s lineup, the Orioles sent the 23-year-old catcher to Triple-A Norfolk.It was a surprising announcement since manager Buck Showalter had just implied after the 10-4 win over Miami that Sisco was scratched due to being under the weather.“I’m afraid he’s coming down with [something],” Showalter said. “He hasn’t slept in two or three days. … Just talking to him before the game, his energy level. He was ready to go. Just didn’t think it was in his best interest with the off-day tomorrow, but we’ll see. A lot of factors. That was the principal one. He just hadn’t slept any. It’s hard enough to play this game when you have.”Sisco went from starting to being pulled from the lineup to being optioned to the minors in a little over six hours. Weird.To be clear, the rookie isn’t exactly having a great season and has numbers that would definitely warrant a demotion if the club were even remotely in contention. He’s batting just .218 with a .328 slugging percentage and has struck out a whopping 35.5 percent of the time, a rate not far from Chris Davis territory (37.6 percent). However, his .340 on-base percentage is third on the club behind only Manny Machado and Danny Valencia, and a number of others on this roster deserve to be jettisoned before Sisco if we’re basing this solely on performance on a last-place club.Sisco’s defense has been scrutinized throughout his professional career, and he had thrown out just one of the last 18 runners attempting to steal after surprisingly gunning down nine of the first 18 this season. His average pop time — the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder at the base a runner is attempting to steal — is still too slow and his arm strength lacking while his pitch-framing metrics also rank among the bottom catchers in the majors, according to Baseball Prospectus.His defense undoubtedly remains a work in progress, but bench coach John Russell is also regarded as a superb catching instructor to continue to oversee Sisco’s development at this level.The timing of this demotion doesn’t seem to make much sense for a club that is 30 games under .500 and going nowhere, but the Orioles are instead expected to summon the 32-year-old Caleb Joseph back to the majors. One could argue that Sisco might benefit from a mental break and a potential confidence boost playing for the Tides, but you won’t find a major league climate with less pressure from a competitive standpoint than Baltimore right now. He also spent his entire 2017 minor-league season with Norfolk, seemingly leaving little for him to prove at that level.What does he need to work on that can’t be done while continuing to play in Baltimore?The Orioles have used a catching carousel all season, going from the tandem of Joseph and Sisco to open the season to Sisco and Andrew Susac to Sisco and Austin Wynns to the current pair of Wynns and Joseph. Sisco’s demotion isn’t the end of the world nor does it mean the Orioles have soured on him to any great degree, but it does appear counterintuitive to what this season should be about the rest of the way.Odds & endsIn an already-lost season from a competitive standpoint, you’re left to look for moments such as hard-throwing rookie Tanner Scott striking out Justin Bour with a nasty slider to leave the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a four-run game on Sunday. Scott is averaging an impressive 12.5 strikeouts compared to 3.1 walks per nine innings this season. … Trey Mancini had been 4-for-50 with runners in scoring position this season before his RBI single in the third inning of Sunday’s win. He batted .340 in that department as a rookie. … Jonathan Schoop drew four walks during the Miami series after registering only seven over his first 47 games. You hope that increased level of patience is a sign of better things to come as the 2017 All-Star second baseman is batting just .212 with a .626 on-base plus slugging percentage. … Brad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but he issued a walk and is averaging 5.2 free passes per nine innings. He needs to get on a roll and cut down on the walks to improve his trade value. … Sunday marked the first time the Orioles enjoyed a lead of four or more runs since May 24 in Chicago. … The Orioles scored a combined 27 runs on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They scored a total of just 18 runs in 11 straight home losses between those holidays.last_img read more

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Jackson’s development headlines pronounced transition for Ravens

first_imgOWINGS MILLS, Md. — With former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco practicing for the first time as a Denver Bronco more than 1,600 miles away this week, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are in a much different place than they were a year ago.Before taking over as the starting quarterback in the middle of the season and helping lead Baltimore to its first AFC North championship in six years, Jackson was just winding down the pre-draft process at this time last year, still unsure where his NFL journey would begin. The 22-year-old sighed in relief and laughed Tuesday as he was reminded of that “exhausting” time before former general manager Ozzie Newsome made him the 32nd overall pick of the 2018 draft.Of course, Flacco’s departure is far from the only notable change for the Ravens, who have a new general manager in Eric DeCosta and bid farewell to former Pro Bowl selections C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle, and Terrell Suggs as well as 2018 sack leader Za’Darius Smith and two starting wide receivers this offseason. For an idea of just how stark the transition is, five of the six players made available to media for the start of the offseason program last year are no longer with the organization.But all eyes are on Jackson, in terms of his development entering his second season and how that impacts the revamped Ravens’ chances of repeating as division champions after so many roster changes.“If you were to study how [players] walk into the building as a rookie and then how they walk into the building as a second-year player, you’ll see a huge difference,” safety Tony Jefferson said. “I know it was for me [in Arizona], and I know it was for a lot of the rookies last year.“Lamar is our quarterback. It’s his team. We’re following his lead. We know how big of a leader he can be and how special he can be on the football field. We’re dependent on him, and we know he’s putting in the work that’s needed.”There was much intrigue about Jackson’s offseason as he worked with personal quarterback coach Joshua Harris in Florida for the second straight offseason. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound quaterback said he worked five days per week and threw to a group of wide receivers that included Ravens teammate and 2018 fifth-round pick Jordan Lasley and former Louisville teammate Jaylen Smith, who projects as a late-round pick in this year’s draft.It’s no secret Jackson needs to improve his accuracy after completing just 58.2 percent of his passes as a rookie and 57 percent over his three seasons at Louisville. His offseason focus has been on maintaining a wide base in his legs — a point of emphasis with Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban — and throwing more out-breaking routes after he showed much more accuracy with passes over the middle of the field to his tight ends and slot receiver Willie Snead.Asked to play meaningful games for a contending team and operating out of an offense that wasn’t fully built around him, Jackson acknowledged the breakdown of his passing mechanics and footwork that would lead to off-target throws during his rookie season. Refining those mechanics will be key in maximizing the special speed and athleticism he displays at the quarterback position.“It had a lot to do with it,” said Jackson of his fundamentals. “I would probably get lazy, try to make things happen with just my arm, not following through with my leg, and it showed a lot. I would throw an inaccurate ball.”With the Ravens still a few weeks away from beginning organized team activities, it’s difficult to gauge how much progress Jackson has made as a passer from last year. After saying he was throwing “a lot better” this offseason, even Jackson acknowledged the test won’t begin until OTAs and beyond. He and his teammates will also be learning a new offense as coordinator Greg Roman has rebuilt the system “from the ground up” to best suit the young quarterback.Still, teammates have observed a more confident Jackson seemingly at ease with the great responsibility of knowing he’s the starting quarterback from the first day of voluntary workouts. Perhaps the best indicator of that demeanor is the impression he’s made with new Ravens running back Mark Ingram, who played eight seasons with Drew Brees. Ingram said Jackson has already picked his brain about the future Hall of Fame quarterback as the two shared the same flight to Baltimore this week.“He wants to get here early, get in the film room, study,” Ingram said. “He’s a hard worker, and he’s just a good dude. He’s fun to be around. He’s one of the guys. That’s very refreshing to be able to see that from him — that he’s young, but he still is mature. He’s mature, has his mind right, wants to study film, wants to be the best quarterback he can be and the best player he can be.“I think the sky is the limit for him.”last_img read more

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Ravens must endure “hard truth” until back on January stage

first_imgA few Ravens players described it as a nightmare, hoping to wake up Saturday morning with a mulligan.Matthew Judon compared it to a car crash.Lamar Jackson said the offense got “too excited” and out of its element “a little too fast” after falling behind early.There was much blame to go around and plenty of theories why top-seeded Baltimore suffered a stunning 28-12 loss to Tennessee in the divisional round, but Marlon Humphrey’s words stung most for a team that had gone an NFL-best 14-2, won 12 straight games, and rewritten both the franchise and league record books during a magical regular season.“We’ve been here two years in a row, and we’ve lost,” said Humphrey, citing last January’s wild-card home defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers. “I think you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror, and I think this team right now, its identity is to get in the playoffs and choke. It is what it is. That’s just the hard truth.”The “choke” word is harsh, but it comes from someone who won a national championship and finished as runner-up in his other collegiate season at Alabama, where the standard is college football’s highest. When you dominate the NFL for three months before seeing your Super Bowl aspirations crumble in three hours against a 9-7 team in your home stadium, there are few scenarios in the sporting realm where the term is more appropriate. Setting numerous records and finishing with the NFL’s highest point differential (plus-249) since 16-0 New England in 2007, the Ravens indeed fell short of the expectations they’d created for themselves, let alone what media or fans anticipated going into the playoffs.No matter how disappointing Saturday night was in Baltimore, the future remains as bright for the Ravens as any team in football. Jackson was far from his best — as you could say about virtually every other Raven against the Titans — but the dynamic 23-year-old will be the NFL MVP and leads a young, innovative, and record-setting offense with virtually everyone under contract for 2020. Barring something completely unforeseen, coordinators Greg Roman and Wink Martindale will both return after failing to land head coaching jobs elsewhere. And thanks to having a franchise quarterback entering the third season of his rookie contract, general manager Eric DeCosta begins the offseason with over $30 million in salary cap space before any potential maneuvering to clear more room.But there are no guarantees, which makes laying the divisional-round egg that much more difficult to accept. Despite how easy the Ravens made it look all season, so much has to go remarkably well to go 14-2 and secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, some of it out of a team’s control. That’s not to say such a sterling record or the top seed is a requisite for a championship — the 2000 and 2012 teams send their regards — but luck plays a bigger part in a Super Bowl run than most want to admit. A first-round bye and playing at home is like being able to hedge your bets, much like John Harbaugh did by wisely not risking injury to Jackson and the handful of other key starters in the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh.Optimists will frame this as part of Baltimore’s journey to its next Super Bowl title, recalling the heartbreak of the 2011 AFC Championship game and how the 2012 Ravens would go on to finish the job despite not achieving the same level of regular-season success. On the other hand, the 2006 Ravens lost at home to Indianapolis in the divisional round and regressed from a then-franchise-best 13-3 record to a 5-11 injury-plagued disaster in 2007.Of the previous five NFL teams to secure a No. 1 seed and lose in the divisional round, two got to the Super Bowl the next year and lost, one fell in the divisional round again, another lost a wild-card playoff game, and the most recent — the 2016 Dallas Cowboys — failed to even reach the postseason the following year. The Denver Broncos (2012) would wait three years to win a Super Bowl while the Patriots (2010) wouldn’t win their next NFL championship for four more years after losing in the divisional round as No. 1 seeds. Those other three are still waiting for that redemptive Super Bowl title years later.The Ravens indeed let a massive opportunity slip through their fingers, no matter how promising the future looks on paper.The next 12 months will be a grind, for everyone from DeCosta and Harbaugh to Jackson and every other returning Raven who left the field in disappointment Saturday night. There are probably parallels you can draw with the infamous Super Bowl loser hangover except there being no January success from which Baltimore can draw after so much regular-season success.Compartmentalizing and not giving into any thoughts of complacency or obsession about the postseason will be an unspoken challenge in the coming days, weeks, and months. As Harbaugh likes to say, you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse, a message he’ll surely convey over and over to his players from the moment they return to the team facility for the start of the offseason training program in April.Fair or not, every shred of success next season will be met by a detractor saying, “That’s great, but what about January?” And there’s little the Ravens will really be able to say or do about that until next postseason — if all goes according to plan, of course.Saturday’s defeat shouldn’t ruin what was the best regular season in franchise history. But much like the 2006 team that previously held that distinction and was much fun in its own right, these Ravens disappointed mightily in the postseason, the time when legacies are defined and feelings entrenched.That’s just the hard truth.last_img read more

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Orioles scratch Means from exhibition start due to “little bit of dead arm”

first_imgOrioles starting pitcher John Means was supposed to have his final tuneup for the abbreviated 2020 season on Sunday, but now his status for Opening Day appears to be in question.The 2019 All-Star left-hander and second-place finisher for AL Rookie of the Year has been scratched from the exhibition start in Philadelphia due to “a little bit of dead arm,” according to manager Brandon Hyde. Right-hander Tom Eshelman will now start against the Phillies, but the more important question is whether this will prevent Means from starting the opener against Boston at Fenway Park on Friday night.“Too early for that. The last few days he just had a little fatigue in his arm,” Hyde said in a video conference call. “We just wanted to hold him off. We’re kind of just monitoring him day to day. We decided today to have him skip [Sunday] and to give him a little more rest.”Concerns about pitchers’ health is even greater than usual following the 3 1/2-month shutdown of the season for the COVID-19 pandemic. Means allowed two earned runs over four-plus innings in an intrasquad game at Camden Yards this past Tuesday.Beginning 2019 as a fringe long reliever and quickly joining the starting rotation, Means became one of the better stories in baseball last season by posting a 2.50 ERA in the first half to earn a trip to the All-Star Game. However, the 27-year-old struggled after the break, posting an 8.34 ERA over his first five starts of the second half.Means rebounded to pitch to a 3.26 ERA in the final eight starts of his rookie season and finished his rookie campaign with a 12-11 record and a 3.60 ERA in 155 innings.“Last year around this time is when he started feeling — it’s not exactly the same — something along those lines of his arm just feeling a little bit dead,” Hyde said. “Not quite as fast, not quite as strong. That was the middle part of the year last year right around this time. He’s just got a little fatigue going.“We care so much about him that I just want to make sure we’re taking care of him and that we’re doing the right thing for him and that he is with us for two months. He’s such an important part of our rotation.”With the Opening Day starting rotation projected to have as many as four starters over age 30, Means is the easy bright spot from a long-term perspective, making a potential absence a sobering thought for a rebuilding club expected to finish last in the AL East for the fourth straight season.last_img read more

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Lanzini Given Two-Game Ban For Diving

first_imgWest Ham forward Manuel Lanzini has been punished with a two-match ban for diving during Saturday’s Premier League win at Stoke City.The 24-year old Argentine playmaker went down under the challenge of Stoke City’s Dutch left-back Erik Pieters prompting the referee to award a penalty.Club captain Mark Noble converted the penalty to put West Ham 1-0 up and that served as a catalyst for a 3-0 win at the Britannia Stadium.He was thereafter charged by the English Football Association (FA) but his denial of the charge was turned down leading to a two-game ban.He missed Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup game at Arsenal and will also miss Premier League visit of Newcastle United to the Olympic Stadium.The incident was transferred to an independent three-person FA panel who unanimously agreed that Lanzini had deceived the referee.The panel includes one former match official, one ex-manager and one ex-player.Speaking on the situation, West Ham manager David Moyes was adamant in his submission that the panel were “going against” referee Graham Scott in their decision.He said: “The referee was 10 yards from the ball with nothing blocking his vision,” said Moyes, speaking after the initial charge.“It is clear to see the defender makes an attempt to go for the ball and doesn’t get it.” Moyes added.Manuel Lanzini is now the second player to be given a two-game ban for diving after Everton forward Oumar Niasse was banned earlier in the season for committing the same offence against Crystal Palace.[tps_header][/tps_header]RelatedMalaga CF vs CD AlavesJune 30, 2017Similar postMo Salah to miss Arsenal and Manchester City clashesDecember 27, 2018In “England”Lanzini Ruled Out Of World Cup With Serious Knee InjuryJune 8, 2018In “England”last_img read more

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Tottenham Close In On UCL Qualification With Premier League Win Over Watford

first_imgTottenham Hotspur are three points closer to securing a spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League (UCL) following their 2-0 London Derby home victory over Watford in their Premier League Matchday 35 clash on Monday night.Dele Alli capitalised on an error from Watford goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis to give the home side the lead before star striker Harry Kane wrapped up the points for Tottenham for his 27th league goal of the season.The win takes fourth-placed Tottenham (71 points) to within one point of Liverpool (72 points) who occupy third spot on the table and have played one game more than Mauricio Pochettino’s men.Tottenham also maintain their five-point lead over Chelsea (5th place with 66 points) as the race for the top four reaches a crucial stage.Relatedlast_img

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