Monday, January 26, 2015

Marshal Yanda punching his ticket to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda (73) celebrates after defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

by Shawn Brubaker

January 24, 2015

I’ve heard fans discuss Terrell Suggs Hall of Fame Candidacy. Same for Joe Flacco and Haloti Ngata. A guy absent from those conversations?
Marshal Yanda. That’s a shame, as he needs just a few more years of All-Pro level play to make a serious run at the Hall.

2014 was the season that sealed this for me. In the past, Yanda was undoubtedly a consistent Pro Bowler, often an All-Pro, but his name was lost in a sea of highly regarded left tackles.

To make it to the Hall as an interior lineman, a player has to be the best lineman in the game. This was the year Yanda ascended to that level, and this is the year Yanda established himself as a future Hall of Famer.

Let’s go over his credentials: a four-time All-Pro, a four-time Pro Bowler (which doesn’t mean much seeing as Andy Dalton has made it twice), a Super Bowl champion, a blocker for three different 1,000 yard backs (Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, Justin Forsett) and winner of Pro Football Focus’ 2014 Bruce Matthews Award, awarded to the best lineman in football.

Statistically, Yanda has helped pave the way for two years of 2,000-plus yard team rushing performances in his career, and only once in Yanda’s career have the Ravens not averaged over 100 rushing yards per game. Since his rookie year, Yanda has been among the best run blockers in the league.

Pro Football Focus has recognized him as a top-five player at his position in five of his eight years, and in 2014, PFF graded him as the top lineman in football.

Those are impressive credentials. With a few more years of continued success, Yanda would easily have Hall of Fame credentials. But awards don’t capture what makes Yanda so special.

Attitude and work ethic set Yanda apart from bigger, quicker and stronger linemen. His attitude sets the tone for the entire Ravens’ offense: workmanlike, aggressive and confident. In essence, Yanda has the perfect mental makeup for an interior lineman.

Physically, Yanda packs a lot of strength and athleticism into his 6’3″, 305 pound frame. That’s relatively small for a guard, yet Yanda physically dominates most of his matchups.

His versatility also sets him apart. Yanda is the best guard in the game and one of the best right tackles in the game. How many players can say that?

Yanda will turn 31 this year and presumably has at least four good years left. Interior linemen often last well into their 30s, and Yanda’s technical skill and work ethic should help him stick around even longer than average.

If that happens, and Yanda maintains a high level of play for the next four or five years, he is a lock for the Hall.

Though Ravens fans have long respected Yanda, he doesn’t get the press of some other, louder personalities. That should change. The time has come to recognize Yanda as what he is, a legendary player and a future Hall of Famer.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Baltimore Ravens Recognized in Pro Football Focus Awards


JANUARY 16, 2015

Pro Football Focus recently concluded their awards week, a time in which they choose the NFL’s best players based on their ratings from the season as a whole. This season proved to be a tough one for picking consensus winners in almost every category, as several players had stand out campaigns.

Several Baltimore Ravens players were recognized in the process, and rightfully so. Marshal Yanda, for one, had an amazing season that is worthy of much more attention than he is currently getting. But as they say, trench work ain’t glorious. The best we can do is keep beating the drum and hope others jump on the bandwagon.

Here is a rundown of Ravens who were recognized by Pro Football Focus. Make sure and let us know in the comments whether or not you agree with the results!

Defensive Rookie of the Year: C.J. Mosley, 3rd runner up
Mosley finishes behind Chris Borland, Khalil Mack, and the overall winner, Aaron Donald. Mosley had, by any account, a great year. Mosley’s grades in run defense secured the rookie’s finish as the top inside linebacker in PFF’s rankings, but his struggles in coverage over the second half of the season ultimately cost him here.

Bruce Matthews Award for Best Offensive Lineman: Marshal Yanda
Yanda beat out Jason Peters, Andrew Whitworth, Joe Thomas, and Nick Mangold to take home the honors. It was a well deserved win for a guy who dominated the entire season in the trenches, showing up particularly well in run blocking, where he was the catalyst for Justin Forsett’s career year.

Overall Offensive Line Ranking: Baltimore Ravens, 3rd
Finishing behind only the Cowboys and Eagles, the Ravens’ offensive line rebounded in a big way from last year’s 23rd place finish. Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, and Rick Wagner were the leaders of this unit, but the line didn’t get similarly great results out of Eugene Monroe or James Hurst.

Dwight Stephenson Award for Best Player: Marshal Yanda, 4th runner up
Yanda finishes behind Chris Harris, Justin Houston, Aaron Rogers, and J.J. Watt. That’s some elite company for a guy who is vastly underrated following his All-Pro type season.

Offensive Player of the Year: Marshal Yanda, 1st runner up
Again, gotta love the appreciation of a special season here. Yanda finished behind only Aaron Rogers, and ahead of Le’Veon Bell, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown.

All-Pro Special Teams: Albert McClellan (kick return unit)
Justin Tucker and Sam Koch get snubbed in favor of Matt Bryant and Johnny Hekker.

All-Pro Team: Marshal Yanda (1st team), Kelechi Osemele (2nd team)
The Ravens’ two best linemen are recognized, but Rick Wagner is snubbed after spending most of the season as the top rated right tackle in the NFL.

The Ravens were snubbed in the following categories: Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year (no surprise), and the defensive side of the All-Pro team. No love for the likes of Justin Forsett or Elvis Dumervil on any list.

Forsett had to deal with the all-world performance of Le’Veon Bell this season, while Dumervil lingered in the shadow of J.J. Watt and Justin Houston’s special seasons. It’s hard to argue with that, even as unfair as it may seem.

C.J. Mosley is an interesting case, and we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out in the real world. It will be tough for him to beat out Khalil Mack, even if he does garner more votes than Aaron Donald. Mosley has been the consensus favorite for most of the season and he filled the stat sheet all year, unlike Donald.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Chris Borland Selected to PFWA's All-Rookie Team

January 13, 2015
By 49ers Staff

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who led all NFL rookies and set a club rookie record for receiving yards, was selected as the 2014 Rookie of the Year and 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year, chosen in voting conducted by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).

St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who led all NFL rookies in sacks, was selected as the 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The San Francisco 49ers rookie class was represented by inside linebacker Chris Borland. The Wisconsin product led the 49ers with 107 tackles. He did so while making just eight starts in place of defensive co-captain Patrick Willis. Borland, a third-round selection, was also named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after a 12-tackle, two-interception outing on the road against Beckham Jr. and the New York Giants.

The Rams led all clubs with three All-Rookie selections – Donald, cornerback E.J. Gaines and running back Tre Mason. Six clubs – Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles and Oakland Raiders each had two players on the squad. In all, 19 clubs are represented among the 27 players honored.

QB – Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings
RB – Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals; Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams
WR – Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants; Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TE – Jace Amaro, New York Jets
C – Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers
G – Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns; Zach Martin, Dallas Cowboys
T – Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans; Ja’Wuan James, Miami Dolphins

DL – Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams; Timmy Jernigan, Baltimore Ravens; Kony Ealy, Carolina Panthers; Justin Ellis, Oakland Raiders
LB – Chris Borland, San Francisco 49ers; Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders; C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens
CB – Kyle Fuller, Chicago Bears; E.J. Gaines, St. Louis Rams
S – Deone Bucannon, Arizona Cardinals; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay Packers
Special Teams
PK – Cody Parkey, Philadelphia Eagles
P – Pat O’Donnell, Chicago Bears
KR – Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins
PR – De’Anthony Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs
ST – Trey Burton, Philadelphia Eagles

Monday, January 12, 2015

Marshal Yanda: 2014 Bruce Matthews Award Winner

By Sam Monson

January 8, 2015

2014 Bruce Matthews Award Winner
Marshal Yanda, RG, Baltimore Ravens

With no Evan Mathis for half of the season it looked destined for one of the three elite tackles to win the Matthews award this year. However, Marshal Yanda decided to take up the mantle of outstanding guard play. Yanda finished with a +43.4 grade, almost 20 points clear of the next best player at his position. He allowed exactly 16 total pressures, just one per game over the season, and even showed the ability to kick out to right tackle when the Ravens suffered injuries late in the year and needed a re-shuffle up front.

Yanda’s run blocking grade of +34.2 was nearly twice that of the next best guard, San Francisco’s Mike Iupati (+18.5), paving the way for a successful season from Justin Forsett, not exactly a dominant runner in ordinary circumstances. Baltimore averaged 5.6 yards per carry running either side of Yanda this season, significantly more than any other lineman on the team. His season was a picture of consistency, with impressive games almost every week, and even positive grades once he switched to tackle.

Marshal Yanda was a monster in the trenches this season and a worthy winner of the second annual PFF Bruce Matthews award.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Yanda named NFL All-Pro

Former Anamosa High School superstar and current Baltimore Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda was named a first-team All-Pro selection for the first time in his distinguished career. (Photo courtesy Baltimore Ravens)

January 8, 2015

By Daryl Schepanski

BALTIMORE, MD — He’s been one of the top offensive linemen in the NFL over much of the last half decade.

Former Anamosa superstar and current Baltimore Raven Marshal Yanda has accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish during his decorated eight-year career.

Yanda added another accolade to his list last week, however, being named a first-team NFL All-Pro pick by a panel of 50 Associated Press voters.

Amazingly, Yanda had never made the All-Pro first-team, twice being named a second-team selection in 2011 and 2012.

Yanda has been named to four pro bowls, including one this season, but has vaulted himself to the top spot in his profession earning the highest vote total among all offensive linemen in the entire National Football League.

Yanda earned 38 votes from the AP panel. The All-Pro honor is the most prestigious award handed to an NFL player as only one player is selected for each position on the field.

Yanda was one of two Ravens to earn first-team All-Pro honors with teammate Elvis Dumervil, who was named as an outside linebacker.

Yanda helped Baltimore advance to the AFC divisional playoff round after a big 30-17 wild card win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday, Jan. 3.

The Ravens will travel to top-seed New England Saturday, Jan. 10, at 3:35 p.m. on NBC with the winner earning a berth to the AFC Championship Sunday, Jan. 18.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Karl Klug named to 2014 Pro Football Focus All-Pro Team

From Gordon McGuinness' "2014 PFF All-Pro Special Teams"

January 6, 2015

It’s that time again, with everyone breaking out their end of year awards lists and highlighting the best players in the league. Here at PFF we dig into Special Teams to break down everything from blocking on kickoff return units to grading every snap from every long snapper in the league, so this year we’ve decided to create a Special Teams All-Pro team, pointing out the best of the best at each position.

We’ve normalized the grade by role to break down them even further than the complete grades you’ll find in Premium Stats. That, then, allowed us to see exactly who the best at each position was. So, with that in mind, here are the 2014 PFF All-Pro Special Teamers:

Field Goal Kicker - Matt Bryant, ATL (+9.8)
Went 29-for-32 on field goals this year, with all three misses coming from 50+ yards.

Punter - Johnny Hekker, STL (80 Punts, +41.6)
A fascinating battle with Pat McAfee for much of the year to be named our top punter, Hekker dropped 35 of his 80 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Long Snapper - Jon Dorenbos, PHI (168 Snaps, +5.1)
A picture of consistency, Dorenbos had just three inaccurate snaps all year. Even then those three weren’t terrible, just enough of an inconvenience to warrant a downgrade.

Punt Return Unit
Punt Returner - Darren Sproles, PHI (39 returns, +8.6)
Averaged 13.0 yards per punt return, scoring twice in the process. Electric with the ball in his hands, he just edged out Kansas City’s De’Anthony Thomas who impressed more and more as the season wore on.
Vice/Hold up - Kelcie McCray, KC (53 Snaps, +4.7) and Justin Bethel, ARZ (68 Snaps, +4.6)
The job of these guys is to slow down the gunners on punts, something that’s not easy to do at all. So difficult in fact, that teams often set up with two men on each side in this role to better deal with the gunners. Bethel was the best in the league last year, and after a slow start he finished the year strong. That wasn’t enough to catch McCray, though, who just edged him as the best vice in the league in 2014, consistently a force to be reckoned with.

Punt Coverage Unit
Gunner - Marcus Easley, BUF (46 Snaps, +4.6) and Matt Slater, NE (66 Snaps, +4.1)
Normally the first men down the field on a punt, the gunners are trying to make a tackle and, more importantly, ensure the return doesn’t get outside of them. Easley and Slater proved to be tough matchups for anyone in hold up duty throughout the year, with Slater earning a new contract in the process.

Kick Coverage Unit
Kickoff Specialist - Pat McAfee, IND (96 Kickoffs, +16.8)
Just missing out in the race to be our top punter, McAfee was at the top of the pile on kickoffs, where he had 70 touchbacks from his 96 kickoffs.

L1, L2, R1 and R2 (Contain)
Chase Reynolds, STL (71 Snaps, +4.0)
Jordan Poyer, CLE (64 Snaps, +3.1)
Morgan Burnett, GB (74 Snaps, +2.5)
Danieal Manning, HOU (78 Snaps, +2.5)
The safeties on kickoffs are generally the two players closest to each sideline, and take up a contain role to ensure the return doesn’t get outside of them, playing a key role in preventing big plays on kick returns.

L3-5 and R3-5 (Coverage)
Josh Martin, KC (67 Snaps, +5.7)
Nick Bellore, NYJ (75 Snaps, +5.6)
Bryan Braman, PHI (98 Snaps, +5.3)
Nat Berhe, NYG (73 Snaps, +5.1)
Michael Thomas, MIA (44 Snaps, +4.5)
Steven Johnson, DEN (70 Snaps, +4.1)
With the guys on the outside keeping the returns inside, these are the players who are trying to beat blocks and make tackles on kick returns. Martin was the best player on special teams all year, standing out on punts too, but it was his work on the kick coverage unit that really got our attention.

Kick Return Unit
Kick Returner - Adam Jones, CIN (27 Returns, +5.8)
Jones might not have scored in 2014, but he was the best kick returner in the league, averaging 31.3 yards per return.

Devon Kennard, NYG (63 Snaps, +4.0)
Jason Williams, CAR (78 Snaps, +3.8)
Trey Burton, PHI (67 Snaps, +3.1)
Albert McClellan, BAL (78 Snaps, +2.8)
Emmanuel Acho, PHI (61 Snaps, +2.5)
Adam Thielen, MIN (47 Snaps, +2.3)

Tourek Williams, SD (62 Snaps, +2.8)
Cory Harkey, STL (62 Snaps, +2.3)

Andrew Jackson, IND (21 Snaps, +3.5)
Karl Klug, TEN (66 Snaps, +3.1)
Responsible for creating space for returners like Jones, these were the best blockers at all three levels on kick returns. Whether it was dominant blocks to the ground or simply sealing opposing players inside and outside, they excelled setting up blocks and opening holes for their kick returners all year.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Chris Borland named to Mel Kiper's 2014 All-Rookie team

December 31, 2014

By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider

While the remarkable performance of the rookie class of wide receivers has drawn much of the attention in recent weeks, there's been significant impact all over. In fact, there are a few cases where a rookie wasn't just the best among first-year players, but also could hold an argument as the best player at his position across the NFL. And as we see every year, big-time performances came from up and down the draft board.

After you look at my picks for Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year, feel free to go back and look at my preseason picks for the All-Rookie team. I will say, just as I noted then, that opportunity often supersedes overall talent early on in an NFL career. If Carlos Hyde is in, say, Jacksonville to start the season, is he really waiting for carries behind Toby Gerhart in the way he did behind Frank Gore? Of course not.

With that in mind, let's hand out the hardware and also look at some close calls.


Defensive tackles: Aaron Donald, Rams; Justin Ellis, Raiders
I already went into detail on Donald above. Unfortunately after that the early returns on the rookie class are pretty lean, but that's understandable because it's rare to see exceptional play from interior defensive lineman from the rookie class. Ellis, a fourth-rounder out of Louisiana Tech, took advantage of an opportunity to get a good amount of reps on a team that was relatively thin up front and he played pretty well, particularly against the run. Ego Ferguson (Bears) and Ra'Shede Hageman (Falcons) also showed some things late in the season.

Defensive ends: Timmy Jernigan, Ravens; Stephon Tuitt, Steelers
I really believe a healthy Jadeveon Clowney lands here and would be among the top rookies were he healthy. But injury is the great disruptor in so many perfectly laid plans, and the defensive end class just doesn't offer much. A healthy Jernigan is going to be a good player -- he can clearly create penetration and disrupt against the both the run and pass -- but his inexperience showed this season. I give Tuitt in a 3-4 the slight edge over Kony Ealy in a 4-3, though Tuitt also has a lot of work to do.

Outside linebackers: Khalil Mack, Raiders; Aaron Lynch, 49ers
There are a few other guys to name here. Anthony Barr (Vikings) was outstanding and totally lived up to his draft slot, and Preston Brown was really great for a rookie in Buffalo. What I did was grab one 3-4 outside linebacker (Lynch) and one who played in a 4-3 (Mack). The other guy who should be in the mix is Trent Murphy of Washington. As for the leaders, Mack was easily one of the best players against the run in the NFL at any position; in fact, sometimes he seems to be totally unblockable, and his sack total is way lower than it could have been. And Lynch showed what we hoped he could be after his breakout freshman season in South Bend. Jonathan Newsome of the Colts was also in the mix.

Inside linebackers: C.J. Mosley, Ravens; Chris Borland, 49ers
Mosley was called into action right away and not only finished seventh in the NFL in total tackles with 133, he also showed the ability to cover, even if he was beat on occasion. Borland was simply a revelation. He didn't really see any playing time until Week 6, but once he did he excelled in every facet as the tackling machine he was at Wisconsin; he also managed to track pass-catchers and cover pretty well. The guy just has incredible instincts and proved that he should have gone far higher in the draft.

Cornerbacks: E.J. Gaines, Rams; Bene Benwikere, Panthers
A few mentions here: Undrafted K'Waun Williams was really good for the Browns -- far more valuable than top-10 pick Justin Gilbert -- but he just wasn't on the field as often as the leaders. And I think Jason Verrett is in the mix for Defensive Rookie of the Year if he'd played the whole season. He was really impressive when he did play. Gaines was just really impressive throughout the season and will go into 2015 as the top CB on the Rams. And Benwikere proved he was an absolute steal in the fifth round.

Safeties: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Packers; Calvin Pryor, Jets
Clinton-Dix wasn't perfect, but he got better as the season went on and has become a player the Packers don't take off the field. Pryor had his share of struggles -- mainly in coverage -- but he also came on more as the season went on, and in both cases you can see a long-term starter. I also considered Deone Bucannon (Cardinals), but he could be a little better coming downhill against the run. Tre Boston and Dezmen Southward were also in the mix, but a little short on snaps.

Punter: Pat O'Donnell, Bears
Hey, I'll take it: another preseason pick that worked out. O'Donnell can be better -- the 37.7 net average isn't particularly impressive -- but he tops the group.

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