Ravens' Surprise Offseason Standout That Everyone's Talking About
Here's something few people saw coming …
With the Ravens' offseason program wrapped up, it's a 2016 fourth-round draft pick who's getting more positive headlines for his play than the Ravens' trio of free-agent wide receiver additions, pair of drafted mid-round rookie wide receivers or the pair of high-round tight end selections.
That's why ESPN named wide receiver Chris Moore as the most surprising player to open eyes during Baltimore's offseason program.
"While most of the attention has been on the additions to the passing game, Moore is showing staying power by making some of the best catches in offseason practices," the website wrote.
Other reporters have noticed too.
"Moore is playing with confidence and has quietly impressed," wrote Press Box's Bo Smolka.
"All indications point that his best football is ahead," added Ebony Bird's Joe Schiller.
"While much of the focus has been on free-agent receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead throughout the offseason workouts, [Moore] has perhaps outperformed all three of those veterans," wrote Russell Street Report's Todd Karpovich. "Moore has been a force and is making a strong case to be a regular part of the rotation this season."
Moore is still considered by many to be the No. 4 receiver on the depth chart because Crabtree (the smooth veteran leader), Brown (the outside burner who matches well with Joe Flacco's big arm) and Snead (a potential security blanket in the slot who could lead the Ravens in catches) still solidly occupy the top three spots.
That said, Moore is carving out a niche role as a consistent deep threat who knows how to track the ball and has an improved feel for coverages. Not to mention, Moore is a key component on special teams as a gunner and kickoff returner.
Some of his standout plays during Organized Team Activities and minicamp include a toe-tapping sideline catch, an estimated 35-yard touchdown after a nice move down the middle of the field, an acrobatic grab in the back of the end zone during some red-zone drills and a one-handed deep diving catch (my favorite).
Some wonder whether Moore will be just another Ravens receiver who shines in May and June but is quiet come September.
Maybe he will be, but Moore's strong offseason is a continuation of a gradual progression we've seen since the middle of last season, which means he may not be a summer flash in the pan. In fact, the word that Wide Receivers Coach Bobby Engram used to describe Moore was "consistent."
Starting in Week 6 last year, Moore began putting up modest numbers, including a handful of catches for 20 yards or more, and he finished with 18 receptions for 248 yards and three touchdowns.
"That leaves Moore, who turns 25 this month, as the most accomplished of the returning receivers," Smolka wrote. "Moore might have been as upset as anyone that last season ended as abruptly as it did with a last-minute loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17, given the momentum he had generated during the previous month.
"But all indications are that he carried that momentum over to the offseason."
Don't Forget About Willie Snead IV Either
In addition to Moore, another wide receiver you can't overlook is Snead.
What's particularly impressive about the veteran, who the Ravens signed away from the New Orleans Saints as a restricted free agent, is the early chemistry he's developed with Flacco.
"Willie Snead is developing a good rapport with Flacco as they frequently connected over the middle," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "Flacco complimented the slot receiver for having 'a knack for seeing the game the way the quarterback does.' You can see why Drew Brees liked him a couple years ago in New Orleans."
"Snead had just eight catches with the New Orleans Saints last season, but if this minicamp is any indication, he's looking to have a huge rebound year," added The Baltimore Sun, which named Snead as one of the five standouts of minicamp.
Terrell Suggs Reaching Ray Lewis and Ed Reed Territory
Soak it up while you can, folks.
We just don't know how much longer we're going to witness outside linebacker Terrell Suggs terrorizing quarterbacks. All indications are that he's gearing up for another impressive season at age 35, but it won't last forever.
"Terrell Suggs is again in great shape as he enters his 16th year and comes off his first double-digit sacks season since 2014," wrote Jones. "He's entered that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed territory in that the Ravens won't easily replace what he's brought to the table for so many years."
Other "territory" that'd be nice for Suggs to explore like Lewis and (almost assuredly) Reed is the Hall of Fame. Lewis will be officially enshrined in August, and Reed becomes eligible for the first time next year. They both put together their final case with a Super Bowl XLVII win.
It's unclear how many years Suggs has left to make his case, but he's not wasting a single moment.
"I think he's on a mission and I think he's headed for the Hall of Fame. I want to see that statement made this year, next year and for as long as he plays," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
Orlando Brown Jr. Motivated by Carrying on His Father's Legacy
When you think about Ravens players celebrating Father's Day, it's hard not to think about Orlando Brown Jr. He lost his father, the popular former Ravens right tackle known as "Zeus," seven years ago to diabetic ketoacidosis.
Brown Jr. told ESPN he didn't do anything special for Father's Day outside of calling his mother and siblings, but he instead tries to honor his father every time he steps onto the practice field. He wears the same No. 78 jersey as his father, and still wears a bandana to symbolize the one he found among his father's belongings after he passed.
"My biggest wish right now is I wish he could see it," Brown said after being drafted. "At the end of the day, that's my motivation for getting to this point and continuing to make sure I carry on his legacy."
Ignore Pundits Cherry-Picking Quotes and Pushing QB Controversy
There are plenty of stories out there like this one from the Bleacher Report that declared Lamar Jackson the "winner" and Joe Flacco the "loser" of Ravens minicamp.
The story used a quote from teammate C.J. Mosley calling Jackson "amazing" and comparing him to four-time Pro Bowler Michael Vick. The quote is accurate and strong, but the story leaves out other quotes about Jackson still needing to develop and Flacco's strong offseason of his own.
"Some pundits have cherry-picked quotes complimenting Jackson while ignoring the parts about him being a work in progress, but anyone who's watched this spring knows Joe Flacco has been head and shoulders above the other quarterbacks," wrote Jones.
"Ignore any noise from those pushing a quarterback controversy this early in the game."