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Harbaugh says Ravens offensive line in better shape than last offseason

Posted on 27 March 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens lost two 2017 starters from their offensive line this month, but head coach John Harbaugh didn’t sound concerned speaking to reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando on Tuesday.

Of course, they’ll welcome back six-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda this year as well as third-year lineman Alex Lewis, who started eight games as a rookie and was considered an ascending talent before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery last August. But Baltimore didn’t pick up its 2018 option on right tackle Austin Howard and lost free-agent center Ryan Jensen to Tampa Bay, who made him the NFL’s highest-paid player at the position.

This marks the second straight year the Ravens will need to replace the previous season’s starters at those positions.

“You compare it to last year, I think we are in better shape than we were a year ago at this time really,” Harbaugh said. “We actually have more flexibility, more depth than we did a year ago, and it turned out pretty well for us. I thought [offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris] did a really good job with those guys obviously. Marty [Mornhinweg], Greg Roman, all of our coaches did a great job, and it showed up in the fact that these guys are signing big contracts around the league.

“We’ve got some prospects there. I love the way the offensive line is set up right now.”

Harbaugh made it clear the Ravens have substantial plans for James Hurst, who signed a four-year, $17.5 million contract extension that included a $5 million signing bonus earlier this month. Making 15 of his 16 starts at left guard in place of the injured Lewis last season, Hurst is now expected to move to right tackle.

It’s a position where he’s made only two career starts, but the 6-foot-5, 317-pound lineman practiced there last spring and summer and received sparkling reviews from a notable teammate.

“Actually, Terrell Suggs said, ‘Hey man, this is the next Rick Wagner. He’s going to set the record this year,’” said Harbaugh about Hurst’s performance at right tackle last summer. “That’s how he felt going against him in training camp. I remember him saying that. Then, we had the injury to Alex and we moved him inside. That shows you how versatile he is. That’s how we’ll start off, but it could change.”

The 11th-year head coach also said former practice-squad member Matt Skura — who started 12 games at right guard last year — will receive the first crack at securing the starting center job as many anticipated. Nico Siragusa will also be in the mix if the 2017 fourth-round pick is fully recovered from the season-ending knee injury sustained last summer.

With Hurst moving outside, Lewis is in line to reclaim the left guard spot, but the 2016 fourth-round pick must prove he can stay on the field after missing 22 games in his first two seasons. In assistant head coach Greg Roman’s run schemes, guards are frequently required to pull, making the agile Lewis an ideal fit.

He also remains a consideration at center if Skura is not up to the challenge.

“We like Alex at left guard because what we do as an offense requires the guard to move, to be really athletic and do things like that,” Harbaugh said. “That’s part of the thing that Greg and Marty put in last year. We run a lot of different schemes — gap schemes and pull schemes and lead schemes — where the guards have to get out and do a lot of athletic things. Alex Lewis can run. He’s fast for an offensive lineman.”

Of course, Harbaugh was only speaking about offensive linemen currently on the roster as you’d expect the Ravens to be looking to add competition and depth in the draft since Hurst and Skura lack extensive NFL experience at their projected positions.

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Ravens re-sign offensive lineman Hurst, cut defensive back Webb

Posted on 12 March 2018 by Luke Jones

On the same day NFL teams could begin negotiating with other unrestricted free agents, the Ravens retained one of their own by re-signing offensive lineman James Hurst to a four-year contract.

The deal is worth $17.5 million with $8 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network. Hurst, 26, started 15 games at left guard last season as well as one at left tackle filling in for the injured Ronnie Stanley. The former undrafted free agent from North Carolina has struggled at both offensive tackle spots in the past, but he found a home inside while filling in for injured left guard Alex Lewis, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in training camp.

Many assumed the 6-foot-5, 317-pound Hurst would find a better contract elsewhere this offseason, but the Ravens clearly value his versatility and view him as a starting-caliber player with that type of a financial commitment. What that means for Lewis and the rest of the offensive line remains to be seen as starting center Ryan Jensen will hit the market this week as an unrestricted free agent.

“This is good news for our football team,” head coach John Harbaugh said in a statement released by the team. “James is a reliable, tough, and versatile player who has played a lot of football for us. He has started at both tackle and guard, and all he has been is productive and someone who has made us better.”

Pro Football Focus graded Hurst 55th among qualified guards last season while Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 rankings listed him 49th among guards. He has never missed a game in his four-year career and has started 32 regular-season games as well as two postseason contests.

Reserve defensive back Lardarius Webb announced his departure via his verified Twitter account Monday as Baltimore has cut the longtime Raven for the second straight year. The 2009 third-round pick eventually re-signed with the Ravens at a cheaper rate last year and would begin the season as the primary nickel corner, but his role diminished as the year progressed and he was replaced by second-year corner Maurice Canady in many sub packages.

Webb was scheduled to make $2.15 million in base salary in 2018, but his release will save the Ravens $1.75 million in cap space. The Nicholls State product appeared in 127 games in his nine-year run with the Ravens, collecting 15 interceptions, 467 tackles, 91 pass breakups, and 3 forced fumbles.

Baltimore entered Monday with just $4.878 million in salary cap space, according to the NFL Players Association. Teams must be in compliance with the salary cap by 4 p.m. Wednesday when the free-agent signing period officially begins.

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Five young players the Ravens need more from in 2018

Posted on 16 February 2018 by Luke Jones

Urgency is at an all-time high in the John Harbaugh era with the Ravens falling short of the playoffs for the third straight year and fourth time in five seasons.

Most offseason attention has naturally fallen on free agency and the draft, but a less-than-ideal salary cap situation and picks falling in the middle of each round are challenges to making significant improvements to last year’s team. Those realities make it critical for the Ravens to see improvement from within as they did from Matthew Judon and Willie Henry in 2017.

It’s no secret that a number of underwhelming Day 1 and Day 2 draft picks in recent years have stunted the upside of rosters and have even forced general manager Ozzie Newsome to dump further resources into certain positions. Safety is one example as failed draft picks Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks and a number of underwhelming free-agent additions preceded the expensive contracts awarded to Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson in the last two offseasons.

Below is a look at five young players the Ravens need more from in 2018 to improve their chances of making it back to the postseason:

2017 list
2016 list
2015 list
2014 list

1. LB Tyus Bowser

The 2017 second-round pick from Houston looked poised to become a standout rookie when he recorded a sack and an interception against Cleveland in Week 2, but a rough performance in London the following week led to him playing more than 10 defensive snaps in only three more contests the rest of the way. With Terrell Suggs turning 36 in October and entering the final year of his contract and backup Za’Darius Smith also a free agent after 2018, Bowser needs to look like a player ready to step into a starting role in 2019 if needed. New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale shouldn’t hesitate to utilize Bowser’s athleticism and versatility in creative ways like Rex Ryan did with Bart Scott years ago.

2. DE Chris Wormley

Wormley became the latest 5-technique defensive end drafted by Baltimore to make little impact in his rookie year, but it’s a position requiring strength and discipline, making it less than shocking that the third-round pick from Michigan played only 120 defensive snaps. This is a critical offseason for him with the oft-injured Brent Urban being a free agent, 2017 starter Carl Davis recovering from shoulder surgery, and 2016 third-round pick Bronson Kaufusi rapidly approaching bust territory. There’s a golden opportunity for Wormley to seize the starting job and become a meaningful contributor as an inside pass rusher in sub packages, another need for the Baltimore defense.

3. LB Tim Williams

Are you noticing a trend here? The Ravens went all in on defense in the 2017 draft and received very little from their trio of Day 2 picks as Williams was inactive for eight games and played only 125 defensive snaps. It was hardly a shock to see the Alabama product struggle to set the edge and establish a role on special teams, but he’ll need to improve in these areas to put himself in better position for meaningful playing time. That said, Williams being a rush specialist in college was hardly a secret and the coaching staff needs to find ways to get him on the field to take advantage of that valuable dimension. As previously mentioned with Bowser, more snaps should be there if Williams is ready to capitalize.

4. G Alex Lewis

Of course, Lewis sat out the entire 2017 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in training camp, but this came after he missed eight starts due to injury as a rookie, making his durability a legitimate concern. The 2016 fourth-round pick showed promise at left guard as a rookie and even filled in at an acceptable level at left tackle when Ronnie Stanley was injured, but the time is now for Lewis to firmly entrench himself as a dependable starter, especially with starting center Ryan Jensen a free agent and questionable to return. With there being so many questions at wide receiver and tight end, the Ravens need their offensive line to be as strong as possible and Lewis is a major key to that happening.

5. WR Chris Moore

The special-teams standout’s mention on this list is a product of circumstance as he is the only sure bet among the incumbent wide receivers to be on next year’s roster. Moore received praise for his play down the stretch and recorded half of his season receptions and two of his three touchdowns in December, but that excitement was more a response to the terrible play of Breshad Perriman than anything else. The second-year wideout only reined in 18 of 38 targets and needs to be more consistent to be considered as much as a No.3 option. Make no mistake, Moore has met expectations as a fourth-round pick with his play on special teams alone, but the Ravens need as much help as possible at wide receiver.

Others considered: WR Breshad Perriman, LB Kamalei Correa, DE Bronson Kaufusi, G Nico Siragusa, RB Kenneth Dixon

Perriman, Correa, and Kaufusi landed on the wrong side of this list after being non-factors at positions that had major opportunities for playing time in 2017. There’s always the chance of any of these former early draft picks being late bloomers, but that sentiment now falls more into the category of wishful thinking rather than there being serious expectations. We’ve heard little about Siragusa’s recovery from a serious knee injury, but the Ravens had high hopes for him as a 2017 fourth-round pick and could have an opening at center. Dixon is a wild card after suffering a season-ending knee injury in July and serving two drug-related bans. The talent is there, but is he healthy and truly committed to playing in the NFL?

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Ravens, Green Bay providing interesting contrast to start of offseason

Posted on 05 January 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are again preaching continuity after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, but a contemporary with an even better track record over the last decade is proceeding quite differently.

If any team had an excuse for missing the playoffs in 2017, it was probably Green Bay after six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed over half of the season with a broken collarbone. The Packers fared exactly how you’d expect with backup Brett Hundley under center as the Ravens even contributed to that misery with a 23-0 shutout victory at Lambeau Field in Week 11. But that hasn’t stopped Green Bay from making substantial changes after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

In place as the general manager since 2005, Ted Thompson has stepped aside and will now serve in an advisory role. Head coach Mike McCarthy has fired both his offensive and defensive coordinators as well as his defensive line and inside linebackers coaches. The Packers also allowed their quarterbacks coach’s contract to expire after Hundley wasn’t up to the task of filling in for Rodgers.

Of course, every situation is unique and can be driven by factors other than the results on the field, but it’s a substantial shakeup for the Packers, who had been tied with New England for the longest active playoff appearance streak in the NFL at eight consecutive seasons. This is a team coming off an appearance in last year’s NFC Championship, so it’s more than fair to argue this being an overreaction when you lose one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Regardless, it’s an interesting contrast from Ravens head coach John Harbaugh defending offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and the rest of his offensive staff by citing quarterback Joe Flacco missing all of training camp with a back injury and starting guards Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda being lost for the season. No one would compare Flacco’s impact to that of a future Hall of Fame quarterback, but the Ravens did have their franchise signal-caller available for all 16 games — even at less than 100 percent. And while there’s no understating the Week 2 loss of a six-time Pro Bowl right guard for the remainder of the year, Green Bay also dealt with a number of injuries on its offensive line this season.

One approach isn’t necessarily more correct than the other as time will tell whether these teams who have both won a Super Bowl in the last eight years will get back on track, but the Packers are certainly being aggressive trying to address their 2017 failures after a 7-9 finish while the Ravens have so far only been tasked with replacing their defensive coordinator after Dean Pees’ retirement. The juxtaposition of those two reactions to missing the playoffs will be interesting to monitor in 2018.

Jimmy Smith ready for start of next season?

It’s been just over a month since veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith suffered a torn Achilles tendon, leaving his status for the start of the 2018 season up in the air.

In the midst of the best campaign of his career at the time of the injury, Smith missed the final four contests and also served a four-game ban for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. It marked the fifth time in seven years that the 2011 first-round pick played no more than 12 games, making many understandably skeptical that he’ll be ready for Week 1 in September.

“You saw how fast [Terrell Suggs] came back from his,” said Harbaugh, referencing his remarkable 2012 return from an Achilles tear in under six months. “Then, there’s always a building back to your skill set, too, so we understand that. If you do the math, eight months [to recover would] be September for Jimmy. That’s conservative; it’s really a little more than that.

“We’ll see where he’s at. I’m hopeful, but we’ll have a bunch of corners here, too, to make sure that we have enough corners.”

Smith’s injury could open the door for veteran Brandon Carr to remain in Baltimore. The 31-year-old struggled down the stretch, but he has never missed a game in his career and cutting him would leave the youthful trio of Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young, and Maurice Canady atop the depth chart until Smith is ready to return.

Releasing Carr would save $4 million in salary cap space for the 2018 season.

Infirmary report

Harbaugh said he will likely hold Yanda out until training camp, but the 33-year-old will be ready to go before then and is “already moving and doing some things” after suffering a season-ending ankle injury on Sept. 17.

According to the coach, Lewis (shoulder), Young (knee), and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) will be ready for the start of the offseason conditioning program in April while linebacker Albert McClellan (knee) should be ready to return by the start of training camp. Rookie wide receiver Tim White has been 100 percent for roughly the last six weeks after suffering a serious thumb injury in the first preseason game. Defensive end Brent Urban (foot) will also be ready by the spring, but he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

Harbaugh said he hasn’t had any contact with tight end Darren Waller, who was suspended for a year for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy in June.

Young backup for Flacco

Harbaugh acknowledged the possibility of the Ravens drafting a young quarterback this spring.

Flacco will turn 33 later this month and has been hampered by knee and back injuries over the last three seasons and sustained a concussion in Week 8. He is under contract through the 2021 season, but the Super Bowl XLVII MVP is coming off one of the more trying seasons of his 10-year career. Backup Ryan Mallett has served as his backup for the last two seasons and struggled this past preseason, leading many to clamor for the Ravens to draft a quarterback with some long-term upside.

“It’s something that we will talking about for sure,” Harbaugh said. “Every position, certain positions are going to be more important than others, but when you have a veteran quarterback at this stage, that is the time you are always looking for a young backup. I don’t think that jeopardizes Joe at all. He is our guy, and I am excited about our chances next year having a great season, and Joe is too.

“If we draft a quarterback, if it turns out to be the thing we do, it is only going to make our team stronger.”

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Amid Ravens’ offensive line trials, Jensen emerging as answer at center

Posted on 12 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ask any Ravens player which teammate is most likely to get into a scuffle in training camp, and the answer would be unanimous.

It’s the man who’s helped stabilize the middle of an offensive line that’s endured more than its share of injuries this season. And after years of competing and scrapping in relative obscurity, center Ryan Jensen has been one of the Ravens’ biggest surprises in his first full season as a starter.

“He gets a little feisty; he’ll throw a helmet here and there,” inside linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “He’s a great competitor, and you want that kind of play with all your players, especially on the o-line. He’s not going to let anyone [bully] him. He’s always going to get the better end of it. Playing against him in practice, that keeps you aware.

“Even though you think he’s being a butthole, he’s actually making you better because you’re protecting yourself.”

Jensen says he takes such a description from a teammate as a compliment and quips that his red hair explains why he’s so “ornery” on the field, but such a temperament can be a challenge for a young player trying to establish himself among veteran teammates. A 2013 sixth-round pick out of Division II Colorado State-Pueblo, Jensen didn’t appear in a game as a rookie after breaking his foot early in his first training camp and was then waived at the end of the 2014 preseason, which led to him spending most of that campaign on Baltimore’s practice squad.

If those setbacks weren’t enough to make Jensen wonder if he would ever become a full-time NFL starter, the 6-foot-4, 319-pound lineman was a healthy scratch for the final nine weeks of 2016 after he’d made three fill-in starts early in the season. He’d also started six games because of injuries late in 2015, but the Ravens always seemed to end up going in a different direction whenever he’d receive a look as a starter.

“My second year when I got released, there is always a little doubt that gets put in the back of your mind,” Jensen said. “Working through that is big.”

Despite appearing to fall out of favor last season, Jensen received a $1.797 million tender as a restricted free agent in March. And after incumbent starting center Jeremy Zuttah was traded to San Francisco later that month, head coach John Harbaugh and his staff liked that Jensen had gotten bigger and stronger in the offseason. Senior offensive assistant Greg Roman and new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris wanted more size and physicality at the center position in the transition from an outside-zone blocking system to a multiple approach that would include more man blocking and downhill running.

As many continued to clamor for former New York Jets center Eric Mangold and the focus on the in-house competition remained on John Urschel before his abrupt retirement in late July, Jensen lined up as the starting center on the first day of training camp and never relinquished the job. In fact, he was the only constant on the field throughout the summer as projected starters at every other position battled injuries or were working their way back from offseason surgeries.

Jensen’s first career start at center was uneven as he helped the Ravens run for a season-high 157 yards in the season-opening win at Cincinnati, but he also committed three holding penalties, prompting critics to wonder if he could channel his aggressiveness to play with enough discipline. Since then, however, he hasn’t committed a penalty and is coming off arguably the best game of his career last Sunday in Oakland as he was graded out higher than any center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

“I feel good about my performance. I feel good about the offensive line performance,” said Jensen, who currently ranks third among centers in PFF’s grading system for 2017. “We have been meshing together really well. We have injuries and stuff like that, but we are plowing forward and we are getting there.”

Making Jensen’s emergence even more impressive has been the disruption at both guard positions. Second-year left guard Alex Lewis underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in August — and has since been replaced by James Hurst — and six-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda was lost for the year due to a broken ankle in Week 2, leaving Jensen to work with three different players at right guard since then. With Matt Skura now expected to miss action with a knee injury, the Ravens will be on their third different starting right guard in the season’s first six weeks.

Yanda’s absence in particular has forced Jensen to grow up quickly as he’s responsible for assessing the defense’s pre-snap alignment and making protection calls at the line of scrimmage.

“He is a great communicator. He’s a fine player. He’s a tough guy,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “You guys know how up front that stuff happens fast and furious. It is wicked fast, so the communication has to be there. We have been through several guys [at guard], and he has done a great job of sort of running the show there.”

An offense still trying to find its footing is also benefiting from his attitude. With so many of his offensive teammates having more reserved personalities, Jensen isn’t afraid to get in the face of an opponent, something the Ravens had lost in the offseason with the retirement of wide receiver Steve Smith.

Jensen has managed to harness his temper that was so often on display during those practice-field scuffles in Owings Mills over the last few years and is forcing the rest of the league to take notice of his play.

“Ryan is a confident person. I think he has always been that way,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “The thing that you see with him the most is how nasty he is on Sunday and the style that he plays with. We play football, so that’s what it’s all about.

“You need that kind of player. You love to have those guys on your side.”

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Zuttah, Reynolds, Taliaferro let go by Ravens in first wave of roster cuts

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens began trimming their roster to the NFL-mandated 53-man limit Friday with few surprises among the cuts.

Veteran center Jeremy Zuttah, oft-injured running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, and wide receiver and former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds were among the most notable names to be released as general manager Ozzie Newsome pared his active roster from 90 to 67 players. Baltimore must set its initial 53-man roster by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Re-signed by the Ravens two weeks ago after being cut by San Francisco on Aug. 9, Zuttah did not beat out new starting center Ryan Jensen and became expendable with the Friday acquisition of interior lineman Tony Bergstrom from the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional 2018 seventh-round pick. This marks the second time in less than six months that Newsome has parted ways with Zuttah as the former starter had been traded to the 49ers in March.

The undersized Zuttah was not considered to be a great fit in new senior offensive assistant Greg Roman’s blocking schemes, but the Ravens decided to bring him back for another look after guards Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa suffered season-ending injuries in training camp.

Taliaferro entered the summer atop the depth chart at the fullback position, but he never appeared comfortable at his new position and quickly fell behind undrafted free agent Ricky Ortiz and even rookie defensive lineman Patrick Ricard in the pecking order. The 2014 fourth-round pick showed promise as a rookie, but he had played in only 19 games over his first three NFL seasons because of injuries.

Despite many local fans rooting for him to succeed after a record-breaking collegiate career in Annapolis, Reynolds hasn’t progressed as quickly as the Ravens would have hoped after he spent his rookie season on the practice squad. The 2016 sixth-round pick did not record a reception in the preseason and fumbled a punt in Thursday’s preseason finale in New Orleans. It remains unclear whether the Ravens will look to re-sign him to their practice squad.

Other veterans cut on Friday included tight end Larry Donnell, running back Bobby Rainey, wide receiver Griff Whalen, quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, and cornerback Trevin Wade. The Ravens also waived offensive linemen De’Ondre Wesley, Jarell Broxton, Roubbens Joseph, Jarrod Pughsley, and Derrick Nelson, kicker Kenny Allen, long snapper Taybor Pepper, linebacker Randy Allen, wide receiver C.J. Board, and safety Otha Foster.

Lewis, Siragusa, running back Kenneth Dixon, wide receiver Tim White, cornerback Tavon Young, and linebacker Albert McClellan were all officially placed on season-ending injured reserve. Because they did not remain on the active roster through Saturday’s deadline, none of the aforementioned players are eligible to receive a designation to return later in the season.

It’s worth noting that the Ravens did not place cornerback Maurice Canady on IR yet as he remains a candidate to return later in the season from knee surgery. He would have to stay on the initial 53-man roster until Sunday to remain eligible.

Friday’s transactions leave the Ravens with 67 players on their roster, meaning they must make 14 more moves by the deadline.

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Ravens offense in holding pattern ahead of second preseason game

Posted on 14 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The start of the 2017 season is less than four weeks away, but a Ravens offense entering training camp with a slew of questions has only added to that list and remains in a holding pattern.

Quarterback Joe Flacco still hasn’t practiced since reporting to Owings Mills with a back issue three weeks ago. The organization has already said the 10th-year veteran won’t play in any preseason contests, meaning he will go into the Sept. 10 opener at Cincinnati with no live-game action under his belt.

It’s hardly ideal after Flacco ranked 27th in the NFL in yards per attempt last year and saw roughly half of the team’s receiving production depart in the offseason. He’s also logged just two offseason practices with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who signed with Baltimore during its mandatory minicamp in June.

“There is no substitute for experience, especially in this situation,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, acknowledging the challenge of having Flacco miss so much valuable preseason time. “It looks like we are going to have just enough time there to get him ready as long as he keeps progressing. By all accounts, he is progressing pretty well.”

Flacco isn’t the only concern, however, as an offensive line that already saw two starters depart in the offseason has been further ravaged since late July. Starting left guard Alex Lewis and 2017 fourth-round guard Nico Siragusa suffered season-ending injuries after potential starting center John Urschel surprisingly retired at the start of camp, depleting the interior line depth. General manager Ozzie Newsome did sign right tackle Austin Howard earlier this month, but left tackle Ronnie Stanley is now dealing with an undisclosed injury that’s jeopardized his status for Thursday’s preseason game in Miami.

The Ravens have brought Howard and six-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda along slowly after both underwent offseason shoulder surgery, but the clock is ticking to build cohesion on the offensive line. For now, it appears that James Hurst — who began the summer as the starting right tackle — will receive the first opportunity to replace Lewis and play next to new starting center Ryan Jensen.

Senior offensive assistant Greg Roman was hired in the offseason to revamp an ineffective running game, but the projected starting line has changed more than once since the start of camp and just hasn’t had sufficient time to gel. In the aftermath of Flacco’s extended absence, the Ravens will need the group to be even more effective.

“If you look around football, the line plays together,” said Mornhinweg about the need to build continuity. “Five or six guys play together pretty much throughout the year, and that way you can stay pretty consistent that way. Yes, it is important.”

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since Aug. 1, marking the third straight year in which the 2015 first-round pick has missed most of training camp. An offense lacking playmakers sure could use Perriman’s upside as the Ravens try to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

The questions remain with few answers apparent as the season is under a month away.

NOTES: The Ravens signed veteran quarterback Thad Lewis and waived quarterback Dustin Vaughan on Monday. Lewis brings more experience to the position after starting six games over his NFL career. … Maclin, safety Eric Weddle, and rookie outside linebacker Tyus Bowser returned to practice after each missed at least a portion of Sunday’s practice. … Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (knee) and offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor (undisclosed) were absent from Monday’s workout after being banged up a day earlier. … Cornerbacks Brandon Boykin (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee), wide receiver Kenny Bell (hamstring), offensive tackle Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), and linebacker Lamar Louis (undisclosed) remained sidelined. … Former Ravens defensive tackle and Super Bowl XXXV champion Tony Siragusa visited practice.

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Ravens offensive line shuffle continues during Sunday’s practice

Posted on 13 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continue to shuffle their offensive line as they count down to their second preseason game at Miami later this week.

Two days after the organization announced second-year left guard Alex Lewis would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley was absent from practice. It’s unclear why Stanley wasn’t practicing after working without any visible issue Saturday morning, but recently-converted left guard James Hurst moved out to left tackle during the workout.

With designs of improving the running game after below-average production the last two seasons, the Ravens have lost three key interior linemen — Lewis, injured fourth-round rookie Nico Siragusa, and the retired John Urschel — since the start of training camp. During Sunday’s practice, Hurst, Matt Skura, Ryan Jensen, Marshal Yanda, and Austin Howard lined up from left to right as the first-team offensive line.

Stanley wasn’t the only notable new absence on Sunday as veteran wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and rookie outside linebacker Tyus Bowser were also missing. Head coach John Harbaugh did not speak to reporters after practice to potentially provide any clarity on their status.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (back), wide receivers Breshad Perriman (hamstring) and Kenny Bell (hamstring), offensive tackle Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), cornerbacks Brandon Boykin (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee), and inside linebacker Lamar Louis were also absent from Sunday’s practice.

Rookie offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor left the field in the first half of Sunday’s session and didn’t return, adding even more concern to a decimated offensive line. Safety Eric Weddle also exited practice in the final 20 minutes, but it did not appear to be a serious issue.

Rookie wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo appeared to tweak his knee while making a sliding catch during a 7-on-7 passing drill, but he remained on the field for the duration of practice.

The highlight of the day occurred during 1-on-1 battles between the offensive line group and front-7 personnel with the former surprisingly getting the better of Baltimore’s younger defensive linemen and linebackers. The period concluded with an intense battle between Jensen and outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. The center was flagged as he threw Smith to the ground, which touched off a pileup of multiple players. Cooler heads quickly prevailed as the fight turned more playful than nasty in nature and nose tackle Michael Pierce provided the comic relief by throwing a penalty flag up in the air.

During a red-zone session, veteran cornerback Brandon Carr picked off a Ryan Mallett pass intended for tight end Nick Boyle, a turnover that likely would have resulted in a touchdown going the other way.

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Injuries continue hammering Ravens in preseason

Posted on 11 August 2017 by Luke Jones

After it appeared that the Ravens may have escaped their preseason opener without any major injuries, the organization delivered more bad news to an ever-growing list on Friday afternoon.

Starting left guard Alex Lewis will undergo shoulder surgery next week and will miss the entire 2017 season. The Ravens say the 2016 fourth-round pick’s shoulder hadn’t responded favorably to treatment in recent days, leading to the decision to operate.

It’s a major blow to an offensive line that saw two starters depart in the offseason and had already lost interior linemen John Urschel to retirement and fourth-round rookie Nico Siragusa to a season-ending knee injury since the start of training camp. General manager Ozzie Newsome will likely need to pursue veteran depth as the best options on the current roster to replace Lewis at left guard are former practice-squad member Matt Skura and fifth-round rookie Jermaine Eluemunor.

Lewis was one of three projected starters on the offensive line to miss Thursday’s game as right guard Marshal Yanda and right tackle Austin Howard continue to be brought along slowly after offseason shoulder surgeries.

The team also announced that rookie wide receiver Tim White suffered a thumb injury in Thursday’s win over Washington and will undergo a repair procedure. He is expected to miss the remainder of the season, an unfortunate development for a rookie free agent who had turned heads this summer. White caught a 33-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter of the 23-3 win over the Redskins.

Since June 1, the Ravens have now lost a whopping nine players for the season because of season-ending injury, retirement, or suspension.

The Ravens also said that quarterback Joe Flacco will return to practice during the summer, but he is not expected to play in any preseason games. The press release added that he is making “good” progress after having his back re-examined and “the plan” is for him to start at Cincinnati to open the season on Sept. 10.

Of course, many will remain skeptical of this updated timetable after the organization had initially expressed hope that Flacco might miss only a week to begin camp.

Backup Ryan Mallett struggled in the preseason opener, completing 9 of 18 passes for just 58 yards.

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Howard still not practicing four days after being signed by Ravens

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Luke Jones

Four days after signing a three-year contract reportedly worth up to $16 million, veteran offensive tackle Austin Howard still hasn’t practiced with the Ravens.

Deferring to the training staff when asked about the lineman missing practice for a second straight day, head coach John Harbaugh isn’t saying why Howard has yet to take the field. The former Oakland Raider hasn’t been made available to the media, either, leading one to wonder whether he still isn’t 100 percent after major shoulder surgery in January or merely failed his conditioning test.

The contract was made official Friday, meaning the Ravens had to sign off on any concerns that might have existed about his physical condition. Howard was signed to likely become the starting right tackle after three-year starter Rick Wagner departed via free agency.

“I don’t have any expectations for that kind of stuff,” said Harbaugh when asked if Howard’s early absence was anticipated due to his surgically-repaired shoulder. “They try to do what’s best for the players and the guys in getting them ready to play, stuff like that. That’s in their ballpark.”

Injuries limited Howard to 24 games over the last two seasons before Oakland elected to release him in late July.

Harbaugh had no update on a return timetable for quarterback Joe Flacco, who missed his 11th consecutive practice to begin training camp with a back injury. Backup Ryan Mallett will start Thursday’s preseason opener against Washington.

Rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey missed his fifth consecutive practice with an undisclosed injury. After saying he thought the first-round pick would be back at practice Monday, Harbaugh had no interest in discussing what was bothering the 21-year-old defensive back.

“It’s really not that important for you to know, is it?” the 10th-year coach told a reporter.

Others remaining sidelined from Tuesday’s practice included wide receivers Breshad Perriman (hamstring) and Kenny Bell (hamstring), guard Alex Lewis (undisclosed), and cornerbacks Sheldon Price (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee). Cornerback Brandon Boykin returned to the field after missing Monday’s workout.

After being let go with an injury designation on Monday, cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz cleared waivers and reverted to injured reserve.

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