Ravens make defense a priority in NFL draft

Ravens make defense a priority in NFL draft
April 27, 2013, 8:13 pm
Share This Post

FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2012 file photo, Harvard tight end Kyle Juszczyk (44) reacts after a play during an NCAA college football game against Yale in Cambridge, Mass. The Ivy League is a rich breeding ground for doctors, lawyers and economists. But it doesn't produce very many players drafted by the NFL. This year it's different. Three Ivy Leaguers have a good chance of being taken during the three-day draft that starts Thursday night, April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm, FIle)

(APWF)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Not long after the confetti settled on the turf at the Superdome, the world champion Baltimore Ravens realized their defense was in need of a major overhaul.

The unit was ranked an uncharacteristic 17th in 2012, and much improvement was needed if the Ravens were to have a shot at successfully defending their Super Bowl title.

For that reason, general manager Ozzie Newsome did not panic after Ray Lewis retired and free agents Ed Reed, Cary Williams, Darnell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, and Ed Reed departed. Instead, Newsome launched a makeover that featured the signing of Elvis Dumervil, Marcus Spears, Chris Canty and Michael Huff.

The focus on defense continued in earnest at the NFL draft.

The Ravens' first four picks in were defensive players, and six of Baltimore's 10 selections will be playing on a defense trying to regain a reputation for greatness.

``We feel very, very good about what we've added to our football team for the 2013 season,'' Newsome said.

After taking safety Matt Elam, linebacker Arthur Brown and nose tackle Brandon Williams during the first two days of the draft, the Ravens launched a busy Saturday afternoon by taking Ohio State defensive end John Simon with the 129th overall pick.

``We talked about getting stronger up the middle, and we did that early with our first three picks,'' Newsome said. ``Today we were able to come back and pick up some tough guys who love the game.''

Newsome addressed some of the team's shortcomings on offense, although those four picks - two linemen, a wide receiver and a fullback - came at No. 130 overall or later.

Still, coach John Harbaugh believes the team is far better now than it was three days earlier.

``It's good to see the draft shake out,'' Harbaugh said. ``It's one thing to have draft picks and prospects, it's another thing to have Ravens, players on your depth chart. Our depth chart is a lot deeper, a lot stronger right now. We've got competition at most spots.''

Simon had nine sacks in 2012 and was a two-time team captain with the Buckeyes. Although he's a bit undersized at 6-foot-1, 257 pounds, Simon was still good enough to be named All-Big Ten in his last two seasons.

Asked if he's a good fit for Baltimore, Simon replied, ``They're a tough, hard-nosed team and I feel that's how I play the game, so I'm really excited to part of the organization.''

Next came a compensatory pick at No. 130, and at that juncture Newsome shuffled the script by selecting Harvard fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The 6-1, 248-pounder won't immediately challenge Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach for the starting job, but if called upon to serve as an escort to running back Ray Rice, Juszczyk won't back down.

``I'm a confident blocker. Physicality has always been one of strongest traits,'' he said. ``I'm not going to shy away from hitting someone in the mouth.''

Juszczyk caught 125 passes for 1,576 yards and scored 22 touchdowns a tight end/H-back for the Crimson and contributed heavily to special teams. He has the same agent as former Ravens center Matt Birk, a Harvard grad who retired shortly after Baltimore won the Super Bowl in February.

Newsome's stayed on the offensive in the fifth round, selecting Wisconsin offensive lineman Ricky Wagner at No. 168 overall. The 6-6, 308-pounder played right and left tackle for the Badgers, but could get time at guard for Baltimore.

``If that's what they need, I'll definitely step up,'' Wagner said.

In the sixth round, Newsome took a chance on Notre Dame defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore at No. 200 overall. The 6-4, 300-pounder tore the ACL in his right knee in the national championship game against Alabama - the same knee he injured as a junior - and won't be ready to play in September.

``He's a guy we're going to bring along in rehab,'' Newsome said. ``If he plays in 2013, that's a plus.''

As the sixth round wore on, Lewis-Moore had all but abandoned hope of being drafted and had left to make a sandwich when he got the call from Newsome.

``I was just watching to see where my teammates go,'' he said. ``It's crazy to be part of this organization.''

Three picks later, Baltimore took offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, who played at Colorado State-Pueblo. The 6-foot-3, 317-pounder played tackle in college, but he's projected to be an interior lineman at the pro level.

He will likely compete against second-year veteran Gino Gradkowski for the starting center job in the wake of Birk's retirement.

In the seventh round, Newsome took Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette, who caught 18 touchdown passes in 2012 for the small college school. Baltimore's final pick, at No. 247 overall, was cornerback Marc Anthony, who played at Cal.

Texans - Team News
Brian Cushing - LB
Texans ILB Brian Cushing will miss at least one week with a knee injury. It's a blow to an already vulnerable Houston run defense, and a nice upgrade to Bishop Sankey's Week 8 matchup. Justin Tuggle and Mike Mohamed figure to start at inside...
Oct 22 8:32PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) was limited in Wednesday's practice. The Texans are limiting Johnson's reps coming off Monday night's loss. He'll remain a WR2 for Week 8 against the Titans.
Oct 22 5:22PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster was limited in Wednesday's practice. The Texans listed Foster as "not injury related," but he missed practice time last week with a groin issue. Foster has a matchup with the Titans' No. 22 ranked run...
Oct 22 5:15PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
According to HoustonTexans.com, there's a "decent chance" Jadeveon Clowney (knee)... "He feels good," coach Bill O'Brien said Monday. "Well see how it goes this week in practice. We'll be able to make a determination pretty soon about whether...
Oct 21 3:58PM Read More
Garrett Graham - TE
Garrett Graham caught two passes for 24 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers. Graham was targeted three times, but dropped the other. It can be considered one of Graham's better statistical games of the season, which obviously means he's nowhere near...
Oct 20 11:31PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson caught five passes for 77 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers on... Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins each saw a team-high nine targets. There was nothing special about Johnson's night. His biggest play was a 24-yard grab on a deep in route in...
Oct 20 11:25PM Read More
DeAndre Hopkins - WR
DeAndre Hopkins caught six passes for 108 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers on... Hopkins and Andre Johnson each saw a team-high nine targets. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw it to whichever receiver was working against embattled Steelers CB Cortez Allen. ...
Oct 20 11:16PM Read More
Alfred Blue - RB
Alfred Blue rushed for 14 yards on five carries and caught an 11-yard touchdown in the Texans'... Blue was the vulture on the opening-drive 11-yard score after Arian Foster managed 59 rushing yards to get the Texans near the goal line. Foster is an every-down back,...
Oct 20 11:09PM Read More
Ryan Fitzpatrick - QB
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 21-of-32 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception... Fitzpatrick played well for much of the first half, leading the Texans on three consecutive scoring drives to open the game. It was a train wreck thereafter. One play...
Oct 20 10:56PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries in the Texans' 30-23, Week 7 loss to the... Foster got off to a blazing start, rushing for 59 yards on the Texans' 94-yard opening touchdown drive, but was vultured by Alfred Blue for the 11-yard touchdown catch to...
Oct 20 10:47PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Jadeveon Clowney (knee) is inactive for Monday night's Week 7 game against the Steelers. Clowney's lateral agility wasn't where the Texans wanted it to be in pre-game warmups. He's been out since undergoing knee surgery after Week 1. Whitney Mercilus is...
Oct 20 6:09PM Read More
DeAndre Hopkins - WR
DeAndre Hopkins (hand) is probable for Week 7. The Texans listed Hopkins on the injury report, but his status was never in doubt. He'll be a WR3 for Monday night against the Steelers.
Oct 18 2:54PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster (groin) is probable for Monday night's game against the Steelers. Foster was limited on Thursday, but practiced in full the last two days. He should have another heavy workload against a Steelers defense that's allowing 4.4 yards per carry...
Oct 18 2:48PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) was upgraded to full in Saturday's practice and is listed as probable for... Johnson is good to go for Monday night's matchup with the Steelers. He's Rotoworld's No. 15 receiver this week.
Oct 18 2:39PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) is listed as questionable for Monday night's game against... Clowney got in two limited practices this week, but said he still "can't run laterally." He could be held out in an attempt to get fully healthy for Week 8. If...
Oct 18 2:20PM Read More