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Ravens begin final wave of cuts with Saturday deadline looming

Posted on 30 August 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens need to trim their roster to the regular-season limit of 53 by Saturday and began their work with multiple cuts including the departures of running back Anthony Allen and rookie cornerback Marc Anthony on Friday.

The team also waived quarterbacks Caleb Hanie and Dayne Crist, running back Delone Carter, tight end Alex Silvestro, linebackers Nigel Carr and Brandon Copeland, offensive tackles Jordan Devey and Rogers Gaines, center Reggie Stephens. As expected, linebacker D.J. Bryant (knee) was placed on season-ending injured reserve after suffering a serious injury in the preseason finale against St. Louis.

These moves brought the roster down to 63 players with more moves coming by Saturday’s 6 p.m. deadline. The Ravens currently have two IR candidates on their active roster in tight end Dennis Pitta and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen while defensive backs Asa Jackson and Christian Thompson will each be placed on the reserve-suspended list, meaning they won’t count against the 53-man roster. However, the Ravens are likely to give Pitta the designation to return, meaning he would need to be on the active roster until Tuesday while the Ravens carry only 52 healthy players in the meantime.

“We want to make [this team] as good as we possibly can in every way we can,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a long season, so the improvements that will be made between Week 1 and Week 16 will be dramatic, we hope.”

Allen was a standout special-teams player for last season’s Super Bowl XLVII team. He was initially let go on the final day of cuts last season before being re-signed in time for the season opener and served an important role on special teams, specifically as a lead blocker for Pro Bowl return specialist Jacoby Jones on the kickoff return team.

He was originally a seventh-round selection in the 2011 draft.

The decision to part ways with both Allen and Carter, who was acquired from Indianapolis in the David Reed trade last week, likely paves the way for preseason standout Bobby Rainey to make the roster as the No. 3 running back. He scored two touchdowns in Thursday’s 24-21 loss to the Rams.

With much attention being paid to the wide receiver and tight end positions, the Ravens did not cut any of the eight receivers on their 75-man roster Friday while Silvestro was the only tight end to be let go. Harbaugh was complimentary of rookie wideouts Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette — indicating each “looks good” in terms of their 53-man roster standing — and didn’t dismiss the possibility of even keeping all eight.

“You look at that position and people considered it a weakness of ours. There is a lot of depth there,” Harbaugh said. “Who becomes the stars that everybody talks about in terms of being a strong wide receiver group remains to be seen. But all of those guys are going to be really good players in the National Football League, and just because they aren’t household names now doesn’t mean they won’t be soon.”

The Ravens also surprisingly parted ways with one of their 2013 draft picks by waiving the seventh-round choice Anthony, the rookie confirmed in a text message. This decision leaves the projected roster with only four cornerbacks when remembering that Asa Jackson will be suspended for the first eight games of the regular season.

Anthony was the team’s first draft pick to be let go in the year he was selected since fifth-round tight end Davon Drew and sixth-round running back Cedric Peerman were waived at the end of the 2009 preseason.

It would appear the Ravens will at least explore the possibility of adding another cornerback once final cuts are made around the league, and they’ve remained in contact with veteran cornerback Chris Johnson releasing him earlier this month.

“It’s always possible,” said Harbaugh, who acknowledged that free safety Michael Huff could play cornerback in a game-day pinch. “I don’t know if a corner of that caliber is going to come available. It’s pretty hard to say that that’s going to happen, but we’ve got some flexibility.”

Though not unexpected, the departures of Hanie and Crist mean the Ravens are in line to carry just two quarterbacks on their regular-season roster for the fourth straight year. As he’s done in the past, general manager Ozzie Newsome will likely sign a third quarterback to the practice squad.

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the day for updates and analysis and be sure to subscribe to the WNST.net Text Service to stay in the loop all weekend.

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Dickson, four others return to practice on Monday

Posted on 19 August 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the third preseason game only a few days away, the Ravens enjoyed their best attendance for practice in quite some time with tight end Ed Dickson highlighting a list of returning players.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin), defensive end Marcus Spears (hamstring), wide receiver Torrey Smith, and running back Anthony Allen also returned to the practice field as the Ravens worked in helmets, shells, and shorts on Monday afternoon. Dumervil had missed the last two practices after suffering a minor groin injury in the preseason game against Atlanta while Spears had been sidelined since the preseason opener on Aug. 8. According to coach John Harbaugh, Smith was simply given a day of rest on Sunday while Allen was dealing with “a little nick” as both players only sat out one practice.

The best news of the day had to be the return of Dickson, however, as he did some light running and worked on lateral movement while catching some passes in the early portion of practice. While his hamstring is still less than 100 percent, his ability to practice on a limited basis more than two weeks ahead of the Ravens’ regular-season opener in Denver is a promising sign for his availability in Week 1.

“I’m going to test the waters. I don’t want to re-aggravate it, so I’m just going to [listen to] what the coaches say,” Dickson said. “I feel like I’m ready to get out there and do the things I do. Practice is as hard as a game out here. I feel like if I get to practice fully, I feel like I’m good to go.”

Dickson injured his hamstring on Aug. 4 when the Ravens held their first public practice of the summer at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He was noncommittal once again when asked whether he would be available for Week 1, but the fourth-year tight end acknowledged an increased level of optimism after making it back to the practice field with plenty of time remaining to work his way back to full strength.

“It’s encouraging just to not to be in the treatment center watching [practice] out the window,” Dickson said. “I feel good.”

Only six players were sidelined for Monday’s workout with outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton (wrist) being the only new addition to the list of absentees. Other players not working included wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), linebacker Jameel McClain (neck), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee), and tight end Dennis Pitta.

The Ravens released veteran cornerback Chris Johnson earlier in the day on Monday and have yet to fill his spot on the 90-man roster. General manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh must trim the roster from 90 to 75 players on Aug. 27 and make final cuts on Aug. 31.

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Pierce practices on limited basis, vows to play on Sunday

Posted on 16 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Held to just 14 rushing yards on five carries before leaving the game with a knee injury, Ravens backup running back Bernard Pierce vowed to be ready to play against New England in Sunday’s AFC Championship.

The rookie practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday as it appears he’ll be on track to spell Ray Rice when needed against the Patriots. Pierce rushed for a game-high 103 yards in the wild-card playoff victory over Indianapolis and had averaged just below 6.3 yards per carry in the five games leading into Saturday’s divisional round.

“I’m feeling good,” said Pierce, who twice confirmed he would play on Sunday. “A lot of people have questioned about the whole playoff thing and the AFC Championship, so I’m just taking advice, sitting back, and just learning.”

Running back Anthony Allen and offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski both practiced on a limited basis in red non-contact jerseys as each player was listed with a head injury on Wednesday’s injury report. Wide receiver David Reed was also limited with a thigh injury that dates back to last week.

Cornerback Asa Jackson (thigh) was the only player on the 53-man roster not to take part in Wednesday’s workout in some capacity.

Players were very loose during the open portion of practice as Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs sang the songs “Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G. and “Lose Yourself” by Eminem respectively. Bernard Pollard and Jacoby Jones tossed a boomerang back and forth during the early portion of practice.

However, the most bizarre scene of the day in Owings Mills was wide receiver David Reed sporting a Lee Evans No. 83 jersey during practice. I’m still not sure what to make of that one or why the garment was still in the building in Owings Mills.

For New England, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (non-injured related) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm) did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Gronkowski is expected to miss the remainder of the postseason after re-injuring the forearm on which he underwent surgery earlier in the season.

Defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle) and running back Danny Woodhead (thumb) were among the Patriots’ limited participants on Wednesday. Jones, the younger brother of Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones, had his ankle rolled in the Patriots’ 41-28 win over Houston in the divisional round.

“He’s doing a good job not telling me anything,” said Arthur Jones about his younger brother. “He’s not telling me anything, but I think he is going to be out there. He’s a hard worker. I know he’s getting treatment on it hard.”

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Asa Jackson (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Anthony Allen (head), G Gino Gradkowski (head), RB Bernard Pierce (knee), WR David Reed (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), CB Chykie Brown (shoulder), DT Terrence Cody (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/back), DT Arthur Jones (thigh/knee), FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdominal), WR Torrey Smith (back), LB Terrell Suggs (achilles/bicep), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

NEW ENGLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Alfonzo Dennard (non-injury), TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Marquice Cole (finger), DE Chandler Jones (ankle), OL Nick McDonald (shoulder), DE Trevor Scott (knee), RB Danny Woodhead (thumb)

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Ravens promote RB Rainey to active roster

Posted on 16 October 2012 by Luke Jones

With roster spots open following two season-ending injuries in Week 6, the Ravens have promoted running back Bobby Rainey from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

One of the most surprising standouts of the preseason, Rainey initially made the 53-man roster following the preseason before the Ravens waived him in favor of fellow running back Anthony Allen for special-teams purposes just hours before the season opener on Sept. 10. The rookie confirmed his promotion via his personal Twitter account.

The undrafted free agent from Western Kentucky landed on Baltimore’s practice squad a day after being removed from the active roster. The 5-foot-8 running back rushed for 55 yards on 23 carries and was the team’s leading receiver in the preseason, catching 14 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns.

“Bobby Rainey is a big part of our plans,” said coach John Harbaugh about the decision to waive Rainey following the Week 1 win. “I texted Bobby before the game. He is, rightly so, kind of upset about it. Bobby is a guy that I cherish. We just did it for special teams reasons, pure and simple.”

The Ravens announced cornerback Lardarius Webb was placed on injured reserve to make room for Rainey’s promotion to the 53-man roster. The team has yet to announce the official move of linebacker Ray Lewis going to IR as well.

 

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Rookie running back Rainey signed to practice squad

Posted on 11 September 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after he was waived to create room for Anthony Allen on the 53-man roster, rookie running back Bobby Rainey will remain with the Ravens after signing a practice squad contract.

The undrafted free agent from Western Kentucky said in a text message to WNST.net that he cleared waivers and will go on the eight-man developmental squad after being one of the most pleasant surprises of training camp and initially making the 53-man roster. Rainey was waived due to a need for Allen’s presence on special teams as the roster move was announced shortly before Monday night’s game against the Bengals.

“Bobby Rainey is a big part of our plans,” coach John Harbaugh said after Monday night’s game. “I texted Bobby before the game. He is, rightly so, kind of upset about it. Bobby is a guy that I cherish. We just did it for special teams reasons, pure and simple. Anthony Allen has done a great job on special teams, and we made a strategic roster move we hope works out for us.”

Rainey was used as a punt returner in the preseason, but he did not stand out as a contributor to any of the other special teams units. Fan reaction was strong toward the decision to waive Rainey as many feared he would be picked up by another NFL team looking for depth at the running back position.

The 5-foot-8 running back rushed for 55 yards on 23 carries and was the team’s leading receiver in the preseason, catching 14 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns.

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Ravens-Jaguars preseason primer: Five position battles to watch

Posted on 22 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Moving ever closer to games that actually count, the Ravens will play their third preseason contest of the summer Thursday as they welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars to M&T Bank Stadium.

Coach John Harbaugh is planning to play his starters well into the third quarter as Baltimore meets Jacksonville in the preseason for the first time ever. Traditionally, the third preseason game is considered the final real test for the regular season as starters see their most extensive action before barely making a cameo — if they even do that — in the final preseason game.

The Ravens will try to find more rhythm on both sides of the football, but the vanilla looks we saw in each of the first two preseason games will remain as the coaching staff does not game-plan for opponents in the preseason. For this reason, some downplay the significance placed on the “dress rehearsal” of the preseason.

“I guess that’s the way we’re trained to kind of look at it, just because that is the game [the starters] play the most in,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We want to go out there and put good work forward and good footage that we can look at and learn from. This week is kind of the same. We want to go out there and we want to play well, but at the same time, we need to clean some things up and see what we’re getting better at and see what we still need to work on maybe even a little bit more.”

As is always the case, the preseason holds the most significance for players competing for starting positions or spots on the 53-man roster, but the coaching staff wants to see rhythm and communication improve as some starters will be playing together in a game for the final time before the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

Issues facing the Ravens in the offseason such as becoming more efficient in the red-zone offense and establishing a pass rush without Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs have carried into the preseason, and Harbaugh would like to see glimpses of optimism in those areas with the season set to kick off in less than three weeks.

“The performances of certain players are a really big part of it, but the performances of groups and units together is probably more important, because that’s how the game is played,” Harbaugh said. “We would expect that to be the case – guys working together better, fewer communication mistakes, being more synchronized.”

Even for longtime veterans such as 17-year linebacker Ray Lewis, the third preseason game provides a nice tuneup to not only be on the field for an extended period but to provide the emotional charge they’ll experience in beginning their quest to return to the AFC Championship game — and try to advance a step further — in 2012.

And while it’s not on the list of priorities for Thursday’s game, the Ravens’ embarrassing 12-7 loss to Jacksonville last season was on the mind of at least one Baltimore defensive player. The Jaguars ran for 132 yards against the Ravens on Oct. 24 of last season, but 105 came from the legs of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who is currently holding out over a contract dispute.

“This is a good test for us,” Lewis said. “These guys run the ball pretty well, and for us to come in and have this type of test right now, being our third preseason game, yeah, I’m a little ready.”

Unofficially (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess at what the injury report would look like if there were one.

Though not dealing with an injury, defensive end Pernell McPhee’s status for Thursday remains unknown as he’s been away from the team since the weekend due to the death of a family member.

Again, this is not meant to be an official injury report:

OUT: OT Jah Reid (calf), LB Josh Bynes (back), TE Dennis Pitta (hand), TE Ed Dickson (shoulder), LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), WR David Reed (knee), DL Ryan McBean (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: G Marshal Yanda (leg), LB Sergio Kindle (shoulder), S Sean Considine (head), LB Darryl Blackstock (groin)
PROBABLE: WR Torrey Smith (ankle), G Bobbie Williams (ankle)

Five positions to watch Thursday night

1. Left guard – Bobbie Williams and Kelechi Osemele

Should starting right guard Marshal Yanda be held out Thursday after accidentally being undercut by linebacker Chavis Williams during Monday’s practice, it will be more difficult to get a read on where the Ravens stand with their left guard position. It appears the coaching staff has finally settled on veteran Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and Michael Oher on the right side — the two have practiced in those spots exclusively since the second preseason game — but Osemele has begun working at guard more extensively with the 35-year-old Williams still dealing with scar tissue breaking up in his surgically-repaired ankle.

Interestingly enough, Williams was working at right guard in Yanda’s place, which seemed odd for the lineman expected to start on the left side, but it was the position the veteran primarily played in his years with the Cincinnati Bengals. Osemele has been very impressive this summer, making you wonder if he could eventually unseat Williams in the starting lineup. His ankle makes you question whether Williams will hold up over a 16-game schedule, but the Ravens feel confident that Osemele can be a contributor as a rookie if necessary.

My gut choice if the season started today: Williams gets the nod due to experience, but the Ravens won’t hesitate to go with Osemele if the veteran struggles as the season progresses.

2. Defensive end – Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee

Thursday would be a golden opportunity for Jones to make up ground if McPhee remains away from the team due to a death in the family. A hip flexor injury cost Jones valuable practice time, allowing McPhee to receive the bulk of the reps and take the lead in the push for the starting job. A 2011 fifth-round pick out of Mississippi State, McPhee had the reputation of being stronger against the run prior to a surprising rookie season that included six sacks, and he played well against the run in the Ravens’ first two preseason games.

Jones has a strong lower body that translates well in run-stopping situations, but he doesn’t stand out when asked to get after the quarterback, which led many to believe he would see time on first and second downs with McPhee spelling him in passing situations. However, it now appears McPhee can handle the duties of a three-down lineman, and Jones could find himself as more of a situational player like he was last season. Regardless of which player the Ravens anoint as the starter, both will factor heavily into the defensive line rotation.

My gut choice if the season started today: McPhee has stood out on the defensive line as a more complete player and would be the choice as the starter even though Jones will still see plenty of opportunities.

3. Rush linebacker – Albert McClellan and Courtney Upshaw

CONTINUE >>>

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Ravens-Falcons preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 08 August 2012 by Luke Jones

The Ravens ramp up their summer preparations for the 2012 season by traveling to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in their preseason opener Thursday night.

Meeting the Falcons for the ninth time ever in the preseason, the Ravens are 5-3 all-time and defeated Atlanta by a 21-7 margin in their preseason finale last season. The two teams have met four times in the regular season, with the series tied 2-2.

Baltimore has won 10 of its last 12 preseason games, but the Ravens will naturally only play their starters a brief time as coach John Harbaugh labeled it a “standard” plan for the opening preseason contest. Most starters will play roughly a quarter and the Ravens have not game-planned in any way for the Falcons specifically.

Even with the brief cameo, quarterback Joe Flacco and the starting offense hope to play efficiently before calling it a night roughly midway through the first half.

“It’s all about timing and execution,” Harbaugh said. “How crisp do we play? How do we execute under pressure? How do the guys take that execution from a practice environment and take it to a game environment against another team in a live-type situation? It’s all about executing our offense.”

A story that may go overlooked by most fans Thursday night will be who is officiating the game at the Georgia Dome. The National Football League is currently using replacement officials after locking out its regular officials when labor negotiations were going nowhere in early June. Reports suggest the league is prepared to begin the season with replacement officials.

Some concerns have been raised over the competency of replacement officials and how it might impact player safety, but most players have had little to say about the labor dispute and the Baltimore coach took the high road when asked about the situation earlier this week.

The league has put the replacement officials through extensive training and candidates have officiated at the collegiate level or for other professional leagues.

“We don’t even think about that,” Harbaugh said. “The refs will be fine. They will be what they are. Everybody is going to try to do their best. Our guys have plenty of things to worry about besides the officiating.”

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess at what the injury report would look like if there were one.

Harbaugh revealed that any player who didn’t practice Tuesday would not play in the game and players who have recently been held out of extensive practice due to injury may not play either. Older veterans may also be included in the list of inactives, which could mean linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed sit out the preseason opener.

Again, this is not meant to be an official injury report:

OUT: C Matt Birk (back), DE Arthur Jones (hip), CB Jimmy Smith (back), LB Josh Bynes (back), RB Bernard Pierce (hamstring), LB Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), LB Darryl Blackstock (groin), WR Patrick Williams (leg), TE Dennis Pitta (hand), OL Jah Reid (calf), LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), WR David Reed (knee)
DOUBTFUL: LB Courtney Upshaw (shoulder), WR Tandon Doss (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Jacoby Jones (undisclosed), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), DT Haloti Ngata (hamstring), OT Bryant McKinnie (back)
PROBABLE: G Marshal Yanda (limited Monday and Tuesday)

Five players to watch Thursday night

1. LT Bryant McKinnie

The 32-year-old lineman told WNST.net Wednesday morning that he will not only play but receive more reps than usual in the preseason opener in an effort to get into better football shape after missing the start of training camp with a lower back injury. McKinnie has worked mostly with the second-team offensive line as Michael Oher continues to receive most of the first-unit reps on the left side.

If McKinnie has a good showing against the Falcons, he’ll likely find his way back into his starting spot sooner rather than later as the Ravens will want to build some continuity with the offensive line. However, if he struggles, this competition could play out a little longer, especially if rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele continues to impress as he has during training camp.

2. LB Albert McClellan

With Upshaw unlikely to play, McClellan could find himself making the start at outside linebacker along with Paul Kruger. Last season, the former practice squad member established himself as one of the team’s best special teams players and even filled in admirably at inside linebacker when Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe were sidelined late in the season.

McClellan could at least put himself in the conversation with Upshaw for a starting spot if he can take advantage of his opportunities to work with the starting defense. Upshaw’s weight is still higher than it should be, and he’s just coming back from a sprained shoulder that sidelined him for over a week.

Upshaw clearly has the higher upside, but McClellan has had a strong start to training camp and his versatility could earn him some significant time defensively this season.

3. LB Nigel Carr

The rookie from Alabama State has earned plenty of publicity early in training camp, but he needs to turn in a strong performance on Thursday with Ellerbe unlikely to play with a hamstring injury.

Much like Ellerbe, Carr is considered a “thumper” and has drawn praise from the coaching staff and media alike, but he will need to show more discipline and the ability to drop into pass coverage to earn stronger consideration for a roster spot. Ellerbe figures to see action in the nickel package and is a good backup despite questions about his work ethic and durability.

If Lewis is also held out of Thursday’s game, Carr may even see some time with the starting defense, and you can’t ask for more than that as an undrafted rookie. The 6-foot-2, 247-pound linebacker will need to prove he belongs, however.

4. RB Anthony Allen

Expected to battle the rookie Pierce for the backup running back job behind Ray Rice, Allen has found plenty of reps with the 2012 third-round pick sidelined for much of camp with a hamstring injury. Instead, Allen has seen more competition from diminutive rookie free agent Bobby Rainey at running back.

Allen is a physical runner and impressed as a seventh-round rookie last preseason, but he doesn’t possess great vision, which may limit him to short-yardage and goal-line situations. However, he can gain separation from Pierce in their competition with a strong performance against the Falcons.

Rice will likely play no more than a series or two, meaning Allen will receive touches with the first-string offense as well as the second unit. The Georgia Tech product must secure the football and recognize running lanes in the Ravens’ zone blocking schemes.

5. K Justin Tucker

Tucker has impressed over and over again during the first two weeks of training camp, with a 62-yard field goal at M&T Bank Stadium being the highlight in front of 20,000 fans. As good as incumbent kicker Billy Cundiff has been during training camp, Tucker has created a serious competition by being even better.

It will be interesting to see if Tucker brings the same swagger and consistent leg to the Georgia Dome turf with the knowledge that kicks in preseason games will undoubtedly hold more weight in the eyes of Harbaugh and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. Considering the Ravens have now had a kicking competition in three of their last four seasons, it’s important to remember kicks in practice only mean so much.

The Ravens will likely alternate quarters or halves for the two kickers, so you’d expect the veteran Cundiff to handle duties in the first quarter, but many eyes will be on the rookie from Texas when he gets an opportunity to line up against the Falcons.

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Friday notes from training camp

Posted on 03 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Trying to figure out exactly how the Ravens plan to handle their starting outside linebacker positions has been challenging with conflicting information out there since the start of organized team activities.

While fourth-year linebacker Paul Kruger and rookie Courney Upshaw are still listed as the projected starters on the first depth chart released earlier this week, Kruger is listed as the strongside — or “Sam” — linebacker while Upshaw is at the rush linebacker spot, which contradicts what Kruger told reporters during OTAs. Further complicating the situation is the shoulder injury that’s sidelined Upshaw since Monday.

Kruger and the combination of Sergio Kindle and Albert McClellan — with Kindle getting first-team reps while McClellan worked with the second unit Friday — have manned the outside linebacker spots for the starting defense this week, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees is keeping everyone guessing as Kruger has lined up at the strongside position as well as the rush linebacker spot.

When the starting defense came out in its nickel alignment Friday, Kruger and Kindle lined up as defensive ends with Ryan McBean and Bryan Hall lining up at the tackle positions as Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee are still being brought back slowly after injuries.

Regardless of who ultimately lines up at each outside linebacker position at the start of the regular season, there are question marks over the ability of both Kruger and Upshaw to drop into pass coverage, making it understandable that the Ravens are playing around with as many looks as they can to see what will work best without the services of Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Return game

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg hasn’t offered much in revealing what the Ravens’ plans are in the return game, but veteran wide receiver Jacoby Jones has a strong hold on the punt return job and is listed in the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Jones has taken the majority of reps as the punt returner even though former punt returner Lardarius Webb may occasionally find himself back deep.

However, the kick returner job appears to be more wide open with no definitive player emerging to receive more reps during practices. Jones is listed as the No. 1 kick returner on the depth chart, but backup running backs Anthony Allen and Damien Berry as well as rookie wide receiver Deonte Thompson received reps returning kickoffs on Friday.

Jones has the clear edge in experience, but you have to wonder if the Ravens will want him to handle return duties for both punts and kickoffs when he is expected to be the team’s No. 3 receiver this season.

We will begin to gain more clarity when the Ravens take on the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener on Thursday.

Highlights from practice

Tight end Ed Dickson continues to have an impressive camp as he caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Flacco in an 11-on-11 portion of practice.

Matched up across from Kruger at the line of scrimmage, Dickson found a tiny window as Kruger dropped into zone coverage and Flacco threw a beautiful pass into the end zone for the score.

Though Flacco seemed to develop a better rapport with Dennis Pitta over the course of last season, he appears to be on the same page with Dickson during camp, which is good news after Pitta broke his hand earlier this week.

Flacco also delivered a bullet to wide receiver Torrey Smith on a slant pattern that beat cornerback Danny Gorrer and likely would have gone for a touchdown had the whistle not blown shortly after the reception. Smith has looked more comfortable with the entire passing tree through the early portion of camp and appears to be catching the ball more often with his hands instead of his body as he would tend to do last season.

After receiving Thursday off, rookie kicker Justin Tucker was 5-for-6 on field goal attempts as he connected on tries from 46 and 53 yards before coming up just short on a kick from 60 yards away.

Veteran kicker Billy Cundiff was given Friday off as Rosburg told media a day earlier that he would.

Roster move

With Bryant McKinnie returning to the practice field on Friday, the Ravens waived offensive lineman Paul Madsen after they had signed him in early June.

The rookie from Colorado State had previously been with the Buffalo Bills before being claimed off waivers by Baltimore.

He is the brother of former NBA player Mark Madsen.

 

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