Ravens React To NCAA Title Game And Orioles Walk-Off Home Run
For a day that didn't feature any Ravens action, Monday sure was an exciting day in sports. It started with the Baltimore Orioles' home opener, which couldn't have ended in a more dramatic fashion.
Slugger Mark Trumbo, last year's MLB home-run leader, blasted an 11th-inning walk-off home run to deliver a 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in front of a sellout Orioles crowd of 45,667 fans. It was the first walk-off homer on opening day in Orioles history, and provided a little redemption after the Blue Jays knocked Baltimore out the playoffs last year.
Trumbo's heroics were set up earlier in the inning by third baseman Manny Machado's diving grab and incredible throw to first base from one knee to prevent a sure double. Some are already calling it an early surefire candidate for defensive play of the year.
Consider Ravens kicker Justin Tucker impressed.
The Orioles' historic opener led into the men's basketball NCAA National Championship game Tuesday night between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Tar Heels avenged last season's title-game loss to the Villanova Wildcats by beating the Bulldogs, 71-65.
The hard-fought battle came down to the wire, which usually makes for must-see TV, but the game was over-officiated in many viewers' opinions, making it nearly impossible to watch.
"Monday night's national championship game – beset by an abundance of foul calls, poor offense and a sleep-inducing rhythm – stunk," wrote ESPN's Myron Medcalf. "For everyone.
"For the fans who paid a lot of money for seats at University of Phoenix Stadium. For the players who fought so hard to reach this stage, only to endure the wrath of an officiating crew seemingly unprepared to manage the big bodies in the paint."
And for Ravens players …
Getting Closer To Release Of Ravens' 2017 Schedule
As good of a day in sports as yesterday was, it still wasn't Ravens football. It was more of a temporary distraction from the pain that comes from enduring NFL-less Sundays.
But we are inching our way toward football again.
Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFL is hoping to release the full season schedule in the next couple of weeks. The Ravens already know their opponents and that they'll face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3 in London, but the rest of their game dates and times need to be set.
Based on the schedule release history, there seems to be a pretty good chance the league will hit its goal. The NFL usually reveals the schedule in mid-to-late April.
As they solidify things, The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec has one request that I echo.
"[L]et's hope the Ravens won't again have to close the regular season in Cincinnati, which they've done five of the last six years," he wrote.
Below are the Ravens' home and away opponents:
Home: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins
Away: Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans
Ravens Doing Homework On First-Round Picks
According to multiple outlets, three first-round picks are on the Ravens' radar, including Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams, UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley and Temple linebacker Haason Reddick.
Below is ESPN reporter Jamison Hensley's take on each:
Williams: "The Baltimore Ravens desperately need to add a wide receiver, and they're taking a hard look at the top ones in the draft. … Williams missed all of the 2015 season after suffering a small fracture in his neck area when he ran into the goalpost on a touchdown reception. There were no signs this was an issue for Williams last season, when he produced 98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns for national champion Clemson. Williams has the look of being a team's go-to receiver despite not being as polished of a route runner as Western Michigan's Corey Davis or as fast as [Washington's John] Ross. What separates Williams is his large catch radius, ability to win contested catches and willingness to go over the middle. He can outleap defenders on the deep ball, use his size in the red zone and dominate on slants to convert third downs."
McKinley: "Teams are likely looking to get a medical check on McKinley, who had surgery on March 6 (immediately after the combine) to repair a torn labrum as well as a fracture in the shoulder socket. He is expected to be sidelined for four months, which should allow him to return by training camp. McKinley played with the shoulder injury for two seasons. McKinley is known for his explosive first step, terrific speed (4.59 in the 40-yard dash), long arms (34 3/4 inches) and a high motor. … At 6 feet 2, 250 pounds, McKinley has been compared to five-time Pro Bowl player Tamba Hali. Most of the plays McKinley made in college were effort ones. He is a raw prospect who needs to improve his hand usage and pass-rush technique."
Reddick: "The Ravens love players with speed and versatility, which is why they're showing interest in Temple linebacker Haason Reddick. Reddick has gone from a second-round prospect to one who could be taken as high as the middle of the first round after one of the most impressive performances at the NFL combine … The biggest question for the explosive yet undersized Reddick (6-foot-1, 237 pounds) is whether he's best suited for outside or inside linebacker. Either one works for Baltimore after outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil was cut and inside linebacker Zach Orr retired. Reddick is a special athlete who can line up all over the field and be just as effective blitzing as dropping into coverage. The Ravens are looking for playmakers on both sides of the ball, and Reddick was a difference-maker."