Late For Work 7/21: Stanley Among Top-Rated Rookies In Madden 17, Monroe Announces Retirement

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Ronnie Stanley Among Top-Rated Rookies In Madden 17

EA Sports revealed its top-10 rookie player ratings for Madden NFL 17 Wednesday and gave respect to Ravens first-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

Stanley is the third-highest rated rookie of the 2016 class, coming in just behind Jaguars defensive back Jalen Ramsey and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Stanley's overall rating of 79 isn't anywhere close to, say, Marshal Yanda's near perfect 98. But no rookie is going to get that kind of mark without stepping on the field. Ramsey got the highest rookie rating of 82 and Elliott was rated 80.

Below is the sixth-overall pick's grade breakdown:


"Stanley is best in pass protection and his 86 pass blocking proves just that," the Madden website wrote. "He has the ability to dominate opposing pass rushers and control the line of scrimmage with his size. 80 agility and 75 acceleration for an offensive lineman make him one of the quickest in the game."* *

Just like Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan will forever be linked as quarterbacks picked in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft, Stanley will forever be linked to Jack Conklin and Laremy Tunsil as the top tackles selected this year.

According to the video game (which we can all agree is the final say on how their careers will turn out, right?), all three tackles are pretty close together. Conklin received the same overall 79 rating as Stanley, and Tunsil got a 78.

If you're scratching your head at how Tunsil can be rated below Conklin, but ranked ahead of him, join the club. Here's EA Sports' full top-10 list.

1. Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars (82 overall rating)
2. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (80)
3. Ronnie Stanley, Baltimore Ravens (79)
4. Roberto Aguayo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (79)
5. Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers (79)
6. Laremy Tunsil, Miami Dolphins (78)* *7. Jack Conklin, Tennessee Titans (79)
8. Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns (78)
9. Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers (78)
10. DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers (78)

Madden NFL 17 hits stores August 23.

Eugene Monroe Announces His Retirement

Well, this is completely unexpected.

About a month after being released by the Ravens, left tackle Eugene Monroe announced his retirement from the NFL. Monroe is only 29 years old and, assuming he's healthy, could easily continue playing for several more seasons.

Trade talks with the New York Giants reportedly fell through before the Ravens released Monroe in June. He had two more years on his Baltimore contract. The Ravens could afford to move on from the left tackle after drafting Stanley in April. Monroe had the third-highest cap hit ($8.7 million) on the team.

Monroe told NJ.com in June that there were a few teams that reached out to him after his release, but he didn't feel compelled to make a quick decision.

"This is very new," Monroe said. "I've been released and it's been just a short amount of time since that's happened, so I'm weighing my options right now. I don't feel like I have to jump on one of the first opportunities that come up. And I'm just trying to be patient, wait on the right opportunity and also just decide what's going to be the best move for my family. I have a wife and three children, so there's a lot more at stake than just jumping on a deal." 

Nobody expected retirement to be one of those options, but Monroe explained his decision on The Players' Tribune this morning. He remembered his first day of organized football when he was 11 and suffered what he thinks was his first concussion.

"It would become a never-ending cycle: injury, shake it off, 'recover,' repeat," Monroe wrote.

"Today, I am making my exit from the game of football. I'm leaving the sport I love — the sport that has consumed my existence for the last 18 years — to start a new life. I'm nervous, but I feel like I'm ready for whatever comes next. I have three beautiful children and an amazing wife, and they will be with me as I take these next steps."

Monroe said he knows his decision to retire will be "puzzling" to some, but he wants to put his family, health and future first. He said his wife and children already point out how much he forgets on a daily basis and he's worried it's a result of the concussions he's sustained. One of his top priorities is to visit a doctor to get a complete physical, including a brain imaging scan.

He says he will miss the game, the excitement and the relationships he built along the way. He thanked the Jacksonville Jaguars and Ravens – the two NFL teams that signed him. He specifically expressed gratitude for playing for a "contender" in Baltimore and the opportunity it gave him to be closer to his family.

As hard as it will be to say goodbye, Monroe says he knows he is making the right decision for him.

"The last 18 years have been full of traumatic injuries to both my head and my body. I'm not complaining, just stating a fact," he wrote. "Has the damage to my brain already been done? Do I have CTE? I hope I don't, but over 90% of the brains of former NFL players that have been examined showed signs of the disease. I am terrified."

Top-Five Wide Receivers Ravens Will Face This Season

One training camp competition sure to get plenty of attention this summer is the outside cornerback spot across from Jimmy Smith.

While it's Shareece Wright's to lose, you can bet Jerraud Powers, Will Davis and others will push him for the job. May the best man win, because he'll be tasked with slowing down some of the best wide receivers the NFL has to offer.

The folks at Baltimore Beatdown ranked the top-five receivers the Ravens will face this season and the list is no joke:

1. Antonio Brown, Steelers
2. Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
3. A.J. Green, Bengals
4. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
5. Allen Robinson, Jaguars

Dang. The Ravens defensive backs will have their hands full.

There are more top-flight receivers that didn't make this top-5 list, including Brandon Marshall, Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry and Amari Cooper.

Personally, I'd put Green at the top of these rankings. While Brown amassed about 600 more yards than Green last season and is expected to continue his torrid pace in 2016, Green has done more damage to the Ravens. He has been dubbed the "Ravens killer" for winning games in the final moments of the fourth quarter.

Green has produced six touchdowns and more than 120 yards per game in his last five matchups with the Ravens, while Brown has averaged less than 60 yards per game and* *a single touchdown through 11.

Ravens' Sneaky Strength: Run Defense

ESPN and Football Outsiders joined statistical forces to identify a "sneaky strength" for all 32 NFL defenses.

Using their defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), they found the Ravens' defensive strength is stopping the run.

"The Ravens' defense suffered last year primarily because of a lack of turnovers, but that's not an issue that generally affects your ability to stop the run," wrote Aaron Schatz. "So Baltimore was much better in a couple of run-specific splits: first-down run defense (No. 5 in DVOA) and red zone run defense (No. 4 in DVOA)."

Here's what they found for the rest of the AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals: Don't throw deep against Bengals
"Cincinnati was the league's best defense against passes thrown 16 or more yards downfield. The secondary excelled with 14 picks (no other team had more than 11 on deep passes), and the pass rush pressured QBs on 27 percent of these passes (sixth in the league, compared to an NFL average of 22 percent)."

Cleveland Browns: Defending play-action passes
"The average NFL defense allows 1.5 more yards per play against play-action passes, but Cleveland actually allowed 1 yard per play less in 2015. The DVOA gap was smaller (minus-4.5 percent), but the Browns were one of only nine defenses with a better DVOA when opponents did not use play-action."

Pittsburgh Steelers: Allowing less yards when blitzing"Pittsburgh allowed 7.3 yards per pass with a standard pass rush but only 5.5 yards per pass when blitzing. (That average includes 10.3 yards per pass with six pass-rushers, but the Steelers sent six pass-rushers only 13 times all season.)"

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