Top 10 defensive rookies: Derwin James jumps off film - Chris Wessling
It didn’t take long, however, for my thoughts to veer from the Steelers toward their AFC North rivals in Baltimore. James was the best player on the Ravens’ board when the draft’s No. 16 spot came around in the middle of the first round.
Would Ozzie Newsome and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta pull the trigger on a playmaker with the potential to transform their secondary for the next decade? Or would they try to squeeze one more Pro Bowl-caliber season out of veteran Eric Weddle, allowing them to trade down for much-needed offensive help?
“I thought Derwin James was one of the best players in the draft,” DeCosta acknowledged to BaltimoreRavens.com’s “The Lounge” podcast in early May, “but ... the value of this draft was really the third, fourth, fifth round. So for us to go back and get additional picks made a lot of sense. As hard as it was moving away from Derwin James, we felt like it was the right thing to do for this club.”
Starting with the trade down for tight end Hayden Hurst and a trade up for dual-threat sensation Lamar Jackson, Newsome and DeCosta earned praise from coach John Harbaugh for a loaded draft class expected to breathe life into a moribund offense.
If this is truly Newsome’s last year at the helm of Baltimore’s war room, though, he might just lament the one that got away.
It was surprising that the Ravens passed on Derwin James considering that they built their defensive dynasty by selecting elite talents that slid on draft day. On the bright side, linebacker Kenny Young was identified as a player on the verge of becoming a top-10 rookie defender.
PFF’s NFL QB Rankings – after Week 2 - Cam Mellor
25. JOE FLACCO, BALTIMORE RAVENS
2018 season grade: 58.2
Aside from Blaine Gabbert, Marcus Mariota and Nathan Peterman, Flacco currently holds the league’s worst big-time throw to turnover-worthy throw ratio, compiling just one big-time throw to four turnover-worthy passes.
Around the AFC North, Andy Dalton ranks 11th, Ben Roethlisberger 28th and Tyrod Taylor 30th.
10 Questions With Brandon Carr - Ryan Mink
What is the toughest part of playing cornerback in the NFL?
“The new rules. Can’t touch them. Eleven years ago, there was a little bit more contact. You could play the receiver better, hitting them and stuff. It’s witness protection now, man. You can’t touch them. They’re made men out there. You can’t do anything.”
Do you think the rules have led to a lot more offense?
“I felt that way maybe six years ago. At the same time, the big, heavy-hitting safeties became kind of extinct in the league and it’s more smaller cover guys because they started throwing the ball 30, 40, 50 times. At one point, 50 was like, ‘Wow.’ Now 50 is like, ‘OK, they’re throwing the ball.’ This is a passing league.”
Who’s the best wide receiver you ever covered?
“Steve Smith. I had him when I was a rookie, I had him when I got to Dallas and I had him again when ya’ll played us two years ago in Dallas. Performance-wise, he’s a different guy as far as speed. But if I was ever to coach receivers one day, I would encourage them to take his mentality. He’s bi-polar. One play he’s cool with you and next play he’s coming to cut you. He would catch a pass, stiff-arm you and then come back and be cool with you. He keeps you off-balance. I learned from him. He taught me to always be on my toes, ready to go. Me and Brandon Marshall have always battled since I was a baby in this league. And Odell Beckham, he’s pretty talented. If you let him get going, he can hurt you. I’ve seen that a few times.”
The front office hit on Brandon Carr after years of striking out at cornerback in free agency. Not only is Carr reliable, he has been arguably the Ravens best defensive player this year. Brandon has graded as PFF’s #3 cornerback in the NFL so far this season.
Chris Harris Jr.: ‘I like Joe Flacco. He’s thrown me a couple picks.’ - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann
“I like Flacco. He’s thrown me a couple picks, so I like going against him,” Harris Jr. laughed.
But in truth, Harris Jr. said, it’s a “totally different mindset” to go up against a quarterback like that.
“When you look at Flacco, he wants that home-run ball. He wants to take you up top. He wants the deep 70-yard bomb,” Harris Jr. said. “I’ve had plenty of experience playing against Flacco, so I’ll try to share any information I can to the young guys.”
“John Brown, he’s taken the top off. He’s been a guy,” Harris Jr. added. “He’s really a receiver who’s jumped out on the film. He’s run past a lot of [corners], so we’ve got to be aware of where he’s at for the big play for sure.”
Denver’s pass defense is not as dominant as it once without Aqib Talib. Nonetheless, coordinator Mornhinweg may prefer the short to intermediate passing game until the offensive line settles in.