Seven best offseasons of 2018: Giants, Browns make strides - Gil Brandt
This is a very interesting franchise. Baltimore’s playoff hopes came right down to the wire in 2017, when the Ravens lost a “win-and-in” Week 17 matchup with the Bengals. But I think they did a lot to help themselves this offseason, both for now and the future. First, Baltimore addressed a passing game that was atrocious last season, adding veterans Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead and drafting two tight ends (first-round pick Hayden Hurstand third-round pick Mark Andrews) who can be pretty good. Pairing a newly up-to-snuff aerial attack with a ground game that was effective behind Alex Collins and a defense that ranked sixth in scoring and 12th in yards could make this team formidable.
Then you have the selection of quarterback Lamar Jackson (Round 1, No. 32). This might be Joe Flacco’s last year in Baltimore, and I think Jackson was an excellent choice -- he’ll be the kind of guy who shocks and surprises the rest of the league, because he’s a much better passer than we thought. He’ll be a real asset to the offense because he runs so well.
Brandt believes the Cleveland Browns had the second best offseason of any team in the NFL. After adding Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Denzel Ward and others, he expects the perennial cellar dwellers to win at least six games in 2018.
Ravens defense excited with more flexible, free-flowing approach under Don ‘Wink’ Martindale - Jeff Zrebiec
“I think it started when Dean retired and us hiring Don Martindale to kind of take over this young group,” Suggs said Tuesday night when asked about the defense in a question-and-answer teleconference with personal seat license holders. “These young, hungry bulls [can] kind of get back to the way we used to do things and taking the shackles off of us, so to say.”
Earlier in the call, Suggs had mentioned that Martindale has “taken the handcuffs off the guys. Sometimes a player can be shackled by the rules that come with the defense, but I think Wink is just going to allow us to go make plays.”
“We’re changing a lot of stuff and adding a lot within the call, within the defense,” Weddle said. “There will be times where I can change with C.J. [Mosley], I could change with the tackle or an end on their responsibilities on what I see from the offense. So, if I see the ends dropping out right here, I could tell them, ‘No, you stay on your blitz path and I’ll cover for you,’ where we didn’t have that ability in the past. It’s able to give the players more responsibility, because we have a lot of guys who are intellectually high. They understand football; they understand the game. Coach is giving us the tools. Obviously, it’s going to take us a long time to be confident in what we can do and what we can change, but it’s going to be great for us.”
Martindale certainly has the defensive personnel to improve upon Pees 12th ranked unit. Hopefully giving the players more freedom will result in breakout seasons from the Ravens second-year pass rushers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams.
Tim White Is Back and Wants to Ignite the Crowd Again - Ryan Mink
The undrafted Arizona State product flashed big-time playmaking skills as both a wide receiver and returner throughout the offseason, positioning himself to make the 53-man roster.
Then, in his first NFL preseason game, White tore a ligament in his thumb on the opening kickoff return of the second half. He knew his hand was messed up, but he didn’t want the dream to end, so he didn’t tell anybody about it until after the game.
Later that quarter, Josh Woodrum threw a 33-yard touchdown pass … to White.
“I wasn’t going to take myself out,” White said. “I wanted to come out and make a play or do something to have some fun with my teammates, so that’s what I did.”
The 5-foot-10, 181-pound White is in the middle of a crowded wide receiver corps this offseason, which means making the 53-man roster a challenge. Baltimore signed three veteran free agents in Michael Crabtree, John “Smokey” Brown and Willie Snead IV. The Ravens drafted two more in fourth-rounder Jaleel Scott and fifth-rounder Jordan Lasley.
However, with Michael Campanaro now a Tennessee Titan, Baltimore is looking for a new punt returner and White – a prolific college returner – could be the leading option.
With White’s thumb completely healed, he should be a full participant at OTA’s next week.
PFF’s top 25 NFL players under 25 for 2018 - BRETT WHITEFIELD
1. JOEY BOSA, EDGE, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
As a rookie in 2016, Bosa earned the highest-ever grade for a first-year edge defender at 89.8. His 59 total pressures that year (37 hurries, 11 QB hits, 11 sacks) were the most we have ever seen through a player’s first 12 games, but he wasn’t done there. Bosa took his play to another level in 2017, solidifying himself as not only an elite player for his age, but among the entire NFL.
2. JALEN RAMSEY, CB, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
With just two seasons under his belt, Ramsey has already catapulted himself into the “best cornerback in the league” conversation. Building on an impressive rookie season, he put forth a 91.8 overall grade in 2017 which ranked third among cornerbacks.
4. DEFOREST BUCKNER, DI, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Buckner established himself among the elite this past season by putting up a 90.4 overall grade. He was incredibly disruptive as a pass-rusher where he racked up the fifth-most pressures among interior defenders with 52 and tied for the most combined hits and sacks with 23.
9. EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, RB, DALLAS COWBOYS
Elliott is the first of four running backs to check in on this list as he now has two good years on the field and he was able to edge out the other guys on this list whose top-end play have been spectacular. Elliott’s elite vision has led to him breaking 30 runs of 15 or more yards over the past two seasons.
19. JACK CONKLIN, OT, TENNESSEE TITANS
After earning a top-10 grade among offensive tackles as a rookie (88.6 overall), Conklin’s overall play dipped just a touch in 2017 but was still good enough to rank 13th out of 81 qualifying tackles with a mark of 81.8.
Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley, the sixth pick of the 2016 draft, was not included, while the three players picked immediately before and two players selected immediately after him are all listed above. Two of Marlon Humphrey’s draft classmates at cornerback, Marshon Lattimore and Tre’Davious White, tied for PFF’s sixth best player under 25 years old.