As you probably know by now, the NFL will release its regular season schedule tonight at 8 p.m. on the NFL Network. You most certainly know by now that the Ravens will open up on the road on Sept. 5 after they failed to work out a scheduling conflict with the Orioles for that night. Their opponent for the opener has not been announced but I think it would be a huge surprise to everybody at the Ravens’ facility if it’s not the Denver Broncos. Maybe, it was just a coincidence but the Ravens’ Torrey Smith and the Broncos’ Von Miller were even the live guests on a scheduling show last night on NFL Network. It just makes too much sense – Peyton Manning versus Joe Flacco, rematch of last season’s thrilling double-overtime divisional playoff game, Elvis Dumervil faces his old team, Wes Welker debuts for his new one.
And those are just a few reasons why most people think a Ravens-Broncos matchup on Sept. 5 is a formality. As for the rest of the schedule unveiling, I’d be surprised if the Ravens don’t have several prime-time games. With nonconference games against the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings and of course as the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Ravens should be playing under the bright lights early and often in 2013-14.
The Ravens held their annual draft luncheon on Tuesday and probably the most interesting things to come out of it were related to the current roster rather than the draft class. Here are a few things I found interesting and a brief reason why:
General Manager Ozzie Newsome revealing that coach John Harbaugh told owner Steve Bisciotti that Kelechi Osemele would be the starting left tackle if the season started soon: Bisciotti said at last month’s owner’s meetings that he’s not sure Osemele, who played right tackle and left guard in his rookie season, couldn’t play left tackle so it’s not shocking that the Ravens are considering him at the spot. It was, however, slightly revealing that Michael Oher, who played left tackle for much of last season, wasn’t even brought up as a candidate. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing as Oher clearly has played better on the right side. However, the Ravens have long defended Oher’s ability at left tackle. Perhaps, I’m reading too much into it but it sounds to me like they’ve come to the conclusion that Oher needs to stay on the right side.
Harbaugh saying that recently-signed veteran quarterback Caleb Hanie could be the team’s “third quarterback”: Harbaugh also said during the news conference that he loves competition and he hasn’t even thought about how many starting jobs are actually open. But his statement on Hanie was the latest indication of how the organization feels about Tyrod Taylor, Flacco’s backup the past two seasons. Judging by the emails and tweets I got after the Ravens signed Hanie, I think a lot of fans took the addition to mean that Taylor’s job was in danger. That’s not at all the case. While Taylor isn’t going to get handed the backup job, team officials are quite comfortable with him in that role and they aren’t looking to replace them. After two years of riskily carrying only two quarterbacks, the Ravens could decide to keep three. But Hanie’s addition shouldn’t in any way be taken as a sign that team officials are down on Taylor.
Harbaugh saying that the Ravens will “emphasize” Pernell McPhee more at outside linebacker in Terrell Suggs’ spot: It makes a ton of sense as McPhee’s best skill is his pass-rushing ability. He’s also had ongoing knee issues so perhaps getting him on the outside will keep him a little healthier. But in order to make it work, McPhee will likely have to shed some weight. He was listed as 280 at the beginning of last year and he had groin surgery this offseason, meaning his offseason training could be compromised.
As for the draft, nothing that was said by the Ravens’ brain trust was particularly revealing. The draft is serious business for the Ravens and they’re not going to put out there something that may hurt their ability to get a player that they covet. But it was pretty clear that the Ravens really like the safety class and if they don’t get one in the first round, they are plenty confident that they’ll get a good player at that position in later rounds. With none of the draft’s elite tackles expected to be around when the Ravens are on the clock at No.32, it still makes the most sense for them to go inside linebacker or safety.
In reviewing the Ravens’ last three drafts, I found it particularly amazing that 22 of the 23 players that they have selected during that span are still on the roster. The only exception was the Ravens’ first pick in the 2010 Draft, Sergio Kindle, who was released this past season. In comparison, the Steelers have made 26 picks during that span and eight of them are no longer on their roster.
As usual, expect the Ravens to be aggressive in going after some of the top undrafted free agents next weekend. The signing of Hanie gives the Ravens 68 players on their roster. If they use all 12 of their draft picks, that would leave them with 10 open roster spots for either veteran free agents or undrafted ones.