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Harbaugh critical of Ross, Jackson for mistakes in Sunday’s loss

Posted on 16 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — On Monday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh dissected plenty that went wrong in the 22-20 loss to Jacksonville, but the criticism was particularly strong for special-teams players Jeremy Ross and Asa Jackson.

Ross’ fumbled punt early in the fourth quarter led to a go-ahead touchdown for Jacksonville and was the return specialist’s second lost fumble in the last three games. It was Baltimore’s fourth turnover of the second half after quarterback Joe Flacco threw two interceptions and fumbled in the third quarter.

“The muffed punt killed us. It was one of the four turnovers that shouldn’t happen,” said Harbaugh, who acknowledged that the Ravens will need to decide whether to replace Ross at punt returner. “It wasn’t an easy catch. The ball was moving from left to right and behind him, but it’s still a catch that you have to make in that situation for sure.”

Harbaugh’s words were even more critical for Jackson, who cost the Ravens a combined 30 yards in penalties on a low block in the first quarter and an unnecessary roughness foul in the third period. Jackson committed another unnecessary roughness penalty against Arizona in Week 7.

It’s clear the lack of discipline is wearing thin on the Baltimore coach after Jackson was already waived once at the end of the preseason for ball security issues in the return game.

“There’s no place for that,” Harbaugh said. “There’s absolutely no reason to leave your feet [on the first penalty]. I don’t care if you are slipping or not. You might be slipping, but if you are out of position to make the block, you don’t make that block, and you certainly don’t throw yourself back into a guy’s legs on a kickoff return. That’s blatantly illegal. And then blocking a guy after the ball is down and dead — that’s just foolish. That’s what we call a foolish penalty.

“For one guy to have three personal foul penalties in a season — in a career, let alone a season — let alone two in a game, is unacceptable.”

Webb at safety

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees revealed several new wrinkles after the bye week with the most interesting being cornerback Lardarius Webb lining up at safety for a number of plays in the nickel package.

Webb and starting free safety Kendrick Lewis swapped positions several times, often waiting until right before the snap in an effort to confuse Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles. The seventh-year defensive back also secured Baltimore’s first takeaway since Week 3 with a second-quarter interception while playing cornerback.

“We felt like he could be a factor in the back end, as far as chasing balls and being a ball hawk, and he may be kind of a natural that way,” Harbaugh said. “We tried him there on Tuesday and Wednesday of the bye week; he looked good.

“We built a couple packages for him, and we were able to play him at three different spots at least throughout the course of the game. They had a tougher time knowing where he was going to be, and I really think that’s something we can build on going forward.”

Arthur Brown sighting

All but forgotten as the Ravens’ 2013 second-round pick, inside linebacker Arthur Brown saw his first defensive snaps since the end of his rookie season on Sunday.

Brown was part of the nickel package for eight plays, but he did not register a defensive statistic. The Kansas State product was active for each of the first eight games of 2015 while only seeing action on special teams.

“He played fast and was excited to be out there,” Harbaugh said. “He ran to the ball, made a couple plays — nothing spectacular, but nothing that made you concerned, either. He had done a really good job in practice, and Arthur deserved a little more playing time. He did well with it.”

Urban could return this week

Starting his second week of practice, second-year defensive end Brent Urban is moving closer to making his NFL debut and could be activated in time to play St. Louis on Sunday.

“There’s a chance,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something we’ve talked about yet, but I think physically — based on what I’ve seen physically — he’s ready to go. But again, we’ll talk about this week as we go.”

Urban was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return at the start of the season after suffering a torn biceps in early August.

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Webb, Lewis questionable for Monday night

Posted on 24 October 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens listed cornerback Lardarius Webb and free safety Kendrick Lewis as questionable for Monday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Webb was a limited participant in practices all week after missing last Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, Lewis practiced on Saturday after he had been sidelined all week due to a knee injury suffered against San Francisco.

Needless to say, the league’s 27th-ranked pass defense needs all the help it can get in terms of health as Arizona ranks seventh in the NFL in passing offense. Should Lewis not be able to play, the Ravens would likely turn to the combination of special-teams players Anthony Levine and Brynden Trawick to handle the starting spot next to Will Hill in the secondary.

The Ravens officially ruled out safety Terrence Brooks (thumb), tight end Maxx Williams (knee/ankle), and wide receiver Breshad Perriman for Monday night.

Despite missing Friday’s practice with the calf injury that has already cost him four games, defensive end Chris Canty is probable for Monday’s game after participating fully in Saturday’s practice.

The most notable development on Arizona’s injury report was the status of second-year wide receiver John Brown, who is questionable with a lingering hamstring issue. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians expressed optimism about Brown’s availability for Monday night, but the speedy wideout is considered a game-time decision after suffering a setback earlier in the week that kept him out of Friday’s practice. Brown practiced on a limited basis on Saturday.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

OUT: S Terrence Brooks (thumb), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), TE Maxx Williams (knee, ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Asa Jackson (thigh), S Kendrick Lewis (knee), CB Lardarius Webb (thigh)
PROBABLE: DE Chris Canty (calf), LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Darren Waller (concussion), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)

OUT: TE Darren Fells (shoulder), LB Alex Okafor (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: WR John Brown (hamstring)
PROBABLE: CB Justin Bethel (foot), WR Larry Fitzgerald (non-injury), WR Brittan Golden (groin), DT Cory Redding (shoulder), DT Frostee Rucker (foot), LB LaMarr Woodley (chest)

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Ravens cut Melvin, Babin to shake up roster

Posted on 13 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Dealing with immense struggles and injuries in their secondary, the Ravens shook up their 53-man roster with a series of movies on Tuesday afternoon.

In addition to announcing the signing of veteran cornerback Shareece Wright, the Ravens cut veteran outside linebacker Jason Babin and third-cornerback Rashaan Melvin and promoted cornerbacks Asa Jackson and Charles James from the practice squad to the active roster. Baltimore also placed injured cornerback Will Davis (knee) on injured reserve.

Signed to provide help to the pass rush following the season-ending Achilles injury to Terrell Suggs in the season opener, Babin was inactive for two weeks before making little impact in two games. Playing 22 snaps in Sunday’s overtime loss to Cleveland, the 35-year-old committed three penalties and showed no ability to shed a block trying to contain a screen pass on a third-and-8 play in the second quarter.

Babin’s termination leaves the Ravens with just two healthy outside linebackers — Courtney Upshaw and Za’Darius Smith — after Elvis Dumervil left Sunday’s game with a groin injury. Veteran inside linebacker Albert McClellan can also play outside and has done so this season.

The decision to waive Melvin was a little more surprising after coaches had sung his praises in the spring and summer. A series of injuries at cornerback late last season forced Melvin into a starting role, and he played admirably for a few games until being burned repeatedly by Tom Brady in the divisional-round playoff loss to New England.

Despite playing well early in the summer, the 6-foot-2 cornerback was slowed by a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the first two seeks of the regular season. Making his 2015 debut as Baltimore’s No. 3 cornerback in Week 3, Melvin committed three penalties and struggled mightily in coverage before being benched after 17 snaps.

He was inactive in each of the last two games.

With Lardarius Webb leaving Sunday’s loss with a hamstring injury and Davis suffering a torn ACL, the Ravens were once again thin at cornerback, but Jackson and James provide more depth to the group. A 2012 fifth-round pick, the 5-foot-10 Jackson was cut by the Ravens at the end of the preseason and spent a brief time with the New York Giants before landing on Baltimore’s practice squad.

James was most recently with the Houston Texans and received plenty of attention for his colorful personality on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series. The 5-foot-9 defensive back appeared in 12 games for the New York Giants in 2013, making four tackles.

To fill vacant spots on their practice squad, the Ravens signed wide receiver Daniel Brown, tight end Konrad Reuland, and running back Akeem Hunt. Brown and Reuland were with the Ravens in training camp and the preseason.

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Jackson, Tyson, Reid headline Ravens’ final cuts to 53-man limit

Posted on 05 September 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens parted ways with return specialist Asa Jackson to headline a list of 17 moves that trimmed their 2015 roster to the 53-man limit on Saturday.

The fourth-year cornerback led the NFL by averaging 49.0 yards per kickoff return in the preseason, but fumbles in each of the last two games quickly forced the Ravens to move in a different direction. The 2012 fifth-round pick also failed to establish himself in the secondary, leaving his roster standing too vulnerable.

Two other notable veterans cut on Saturday were offensive lineman Jah Reid and defensive end DeAngelo Tyson. Long considered a bust as a former third-round pick, Reid was signed to a one-year contract in the offseason and had been competing as a backup. Tyson, a 2012 seventh-round choice, served as a member of the defensive line rotation over the last three seasons, but the Ravens instead kept Kapron Lewis-Moore and Christo Bilukidi as reserves.

The Ravens cut rookie fifth-round guard Robert Myers, who struggled over the summer and became the highest Baltimore draft pick to be cut at the end of his first preseason since 2009 fifth-round tight end Davon Drew. Baltimore kept only three reserves — John Urschel, James Hurst, and Ryan Jensen — behind its starting offensive line.

Despite having only two healthy running backs on their initial 53-man roster, the Ravens cut both Fitz Toussaint and rookie free agent Terrence Magee on Saturday. With rookie fourth-rounder Buck Allen struggling in the preseason, the Ravens could explore adding a veteran reserve behind 2014 Pro Bowl selection Justin Forsett as Lorenzo Taliaferro continues to recover from a knee injury.

After much discussion about him being on the roster bubble, third-year inside linebacker Arthur Brown made the 53-man roster along with special-team standouts Albert McClellan and Zach Orr.

A day after waiving Daniel Brown and Tom Nelson, Baltimore cut second-year receiver Jeremy Butler. who was a standout performer during spring workouts before a quiet summer.

Butler, 24, spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. The 6-foot-2 Tennessee-Martin product likely remains a candidate for the practice squad, especially with rookie Breshad Perriman still recovering from a knee injury. The Ravens now have six receivers on the active roster: Perriman, Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, and Darren Waller.

As expected, the Ravens kept defensive end Brent Urban on their initial 53-man roster, leaving him eligible to be placed on injured reserve with the designation to return after he suffered a torn biceps last month. Baltimore can move him to I.R. as soon as Sunday, which would open another roster spot.

Rookie outside linebacker Zach Thompson was placed on I.R. after sustaining a concussion in Thursday’s preseason finale.

The Ravens began the day by trading rookie free agent center Nick Easton to San Francisco for an unspecified draft pick.

Below are all of the moves made on Saturday:

LB Brennen Beyer
WR Jeremy Butler
CB Asa Jackson
G Kaleb Johnson
RB Terrence Magee
G Robert Myers
S Nick Perry
QB Bryn Renner
TE Konrad Reuland
FB Kiero Small
RB Fitz Toussaint

DT Micajah Reynolds
DE DeAngelo Tyson

Injured reserve
LB Zach Thompson

Terminated contracts as vested veterans
OL Jah Reid
CB Cassius Vaughn

Traded to San Francisco for 2016 conditional pick
C Nick Easton

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Leftover thoughts from Ravens’ third preseason game

Posted on 30 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Many were ready to deem Asa Jackson the winner of the Ravens’ return competition after his 103-yard kickoff return late in the first half of Saturday’s 31-13 loss to Washington.

But then the fourth-year cornerback committed the cardinal sin of fumbling a punt in the fourth quarter after electing not to call for a fair catch with coverage bearing down on him. The gaffe immediately earned Jackson an animated lecture from special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg on the sideline.

To no surprise, the turnover holds more weight in the evaluation process than the explosive return.

“The biggest concern I have with those guys is dropping the ball,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Asa made a bad decision, and he knows that. You have to fair catch that. That kind of hang time, you have to fair catch it. Obviously, dropping the kickoff that we had was not great either.”

For now, the job appears to be Jackson’s by default with second-year wide receiver Michael Campanaro currently injured, but you still can’t help but wonder if this year’s return specialist isn’t yet on the team. It will be interesting to see if any teams cut loose a veteran returner for a cheaper and younger alternative when final cuts are made next weekend.

** I haven’t been overly impressed with Jeremy Butler’s performance in the preseason, but the young receiver was a member of the starting kickoff and kick return units on Saturday night, a good sign for his chances of making the 53-man roster.

Butler caught four passes for 32 yards against Washington, but three of those receptions came in the second half against the Redskins reserves. He hasn’t shown consistent ability to gain separation against reserve defensive backs, making you doubt whether he can make an impact as an NFL receiver.

With Campanaro and rookie Breshad Perriman currently sidelined with injuries, the Ravens are more likely to keep an extra receiver, which is good news for both Butler and sixth-round rookie Darren Waller.

** It was interesting to note that rookie running back Terrence Magee played 15 offensive snaps and carried four times for 13 yards while second-year back Fitz Toussaint only saw duty on special teams on Saturday night.

The Ravens are likely to carry an extra running back with Lorenzo Taliaferro sidelined with a knee injury for at least the next few weeks, and Saturday indicated that Magee is garnering strong consideration as the temporary No. 3 back behind starter Justin Forsett and rookie fourth-rounder Buck Allen.

** Speaking of Allen, I can forgive his underwhelming rushing performance (24 yards on 12 carries) due to the injured state of the offensive line, but his goal-line fumble in the closing seconds of the first half didn’t sit well with Harbaugh and was inexcusable when you’re a step away from the end zone.

“It’s just not possible to put runners out there that fumble the football,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to have other opportunities and chances going forward, and I really believe he’s going to be a very good player. But, he’s going to have to learn from that.”

Allen is going to receive plenty of carries with Taliaferro out, but there’s no quicker way to find your way to Harbaugh’s doghouse than to put the ball on the turf.

** The run of injuries on the defensive line was the most disturbing development from Saturday’s game, but Kapron Lewis-Moore improved his chances of making the 53-man roster with a solid outing.

It’s been a quiet summer for the 2014 sixth-round pick who missed each of the last two seasons with injuries, but he played the run well, making four tackles in 28 defensive snaps against the Redskins. If any of the injuries to Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, and DeAngelo Tyson linger into the start of the regular season, Lewis-Moore may find himself on the favorable side of the roster bubble.

** I’ll spare you another negative review of backup Matt Schaub’s performance on Saturday, because it was obvious if you watched the game.

However, I’d be interested to see how the Ravens would handle their backup quarterback spot if Schaub weren’t already guaranteed $2 million this season. To be clear, no one should confuse Bryn Renner with the next Frank Reich, but the young quarterback has played well enough this summer to garner a spot on the practice squad.

** Rookie outside linebacker Zach Thompson only played 13 defensive snaps, but he was a member of the starting kickoff team, which is something to keep in mind in the final week of the preseason before final cuts next Saturday.

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Ravens-Redskins preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 28 August 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens see the regular-season light at the end of the tunnel as Saturday’s preseason game represents the final dress rehearsal for the 2015 regular season.

Starters are expected to play the entire first half as head coach John Harbaugh will get a final look at most of his starters. Baltimore has rarely played its full starting units in the preseason finale, and that trend isn’t expected to change next Thursday in Atlanta.

Of course, the Ravens want to make a better impression after taking a 40-17 beating at the hands of Philadelphia, but the third preseason game is more about looking ahead than dwelling on what happened against the Eagles — no matter how ugly it was.

“I think it is really important — nothing to do with the second game — but more so just so we can go into Week 1 and have as high a level of confidence as we possibly can,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw two interceptions in last Saturday’s loss. “You don’t want any doubt to be able to creep into anybody’s mind. You want all of the coaches and all of the players to have 100-percent confidence that we’re going to go in there and light it up. I think for that reason, we want to go out there and play the best we can just so we feel that extra energy going into the first week.”

Of course, competition remains at various positions, and Saturday marks the final game before the organization will pare the roster from 90 players to a maximum of 75 by Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday marks the ninth time that Baltimore will play Washington in the preseason. The teams are playing each other for the fifth time in the Harbaugh era.

The Ravens are 6-2 against Washington in the all-time preseason series and are 3-2 against them in their regular-season history. They are set to meet again in the 2016 regular season, a game that will take place at M&T Bank Stadium.

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 on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Saturday night’s game against Washington.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will come into question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), CB Lardarius Webb (hamstring), G Kelechi Osemele (Achilles), LB Steven Means (groin), TE Dennis Pitta (hip), S Matt Elam (biceps), DE Brent Urban (biceps), TE Allen Reisner (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: OT Eugene Monroe (forearm), WR Michael Campanaro (soft tissue injury), OT Darryl Baldwin (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: S Terrence Brooks (knee), OT James Hurst (concussion), TE Maxx Williams (undisclosed), OL Blaine Clausell (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: OT Rick Wagner (foot), OT Jah Reid (back), G John Urschel (concussion), DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (undisclosed), OL Ryan Jensen (undisclosed)

Five players to watch Saturday night

CB Asa Jackson

The Ravens are waiting for someone — anyone — to emerge as the return specialist while acknowledging there being few opportunities for authentic evaluation in the preseason, but Jackson appears to be the leader in the clubhouse and will return kickoffs and punts to begin Saturday’s game. The fourth-year cornerback hasn’t done much to stand out, but with Michael Campanaro again injured and rookie free agent DeAndre Carter muffing two kicks in two weeks, who else is there at this point? The Ravens want to avoid using Steve Smith and Lardarius Webb, their “aces in the hole” in the return game during the regular season, but you have to wonder if they’ll ultimately need to look elsewhere for a returner.

WR Kamar Aiken

With it appearing more and more likely that Breshad Perriman will bring a limited impact at the start of the season, the Ravens need Aiken to play like a starting receiver as he is set to lineup opposite veteran Steve Smith. The 26-year-old had an excellent spring and a strong start to the summer, but he’s been quiet in the preseason, catching only one pass for 13 yards in two games and not putting forth an impressive effort on the deep ball from Flacco that was intercepted in the first quarter of Saturday’s loss to the Eagles. Aiken shows the potential to be a solid short-to-intermediate receiver, so you’d like to see some success for him against Washington on Saturday.

CB Cassius Vaughn

Third-year cornerback Quinton Pointer garnered more attention early in the summer, but Vaughn has quietly put together two strong preseason performances. It’s fair to point out that the six-year veteran has matched up against second- and third-team offenses, but he has still been the Ravens’ highest-rated defensive player this summer, according to Pro Football Focus. At 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, Vaughn doesn’t over overwhelming size, but he’s played well enough to garner consideration for one of the final spots on the roster. Strong performances in the final two preseason games would go a long way for his chances of landing on the right side of the bubble.

RB Terrence Magee

The MCL sprain suffered by Lorenzo Taliaferro has created a golden opportunity for Magee or Fitz Toussaint as the Ravens will likely want to carry a third healthy running back behind starter Justin Forsett and rookie Buck Allen to begin the year. An undrafted rookie from LSU, Magee was never the man in Baton Rouge, but he’s shown good vision and a burst when given opportunities this summer. The 5-foot-9, 215-pound back led the Ravens in rushing with 44 yards on 11 carries against Philadelphia, so it will be interesting to see how the workload is split between him and Toussaint. It would be wise for the Ravens to give a couple carries to each in the first half to see what they can do behind a better line.

LB Brennen Beyer

Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome spoke throughout the offseason about the potential of outside linebacker Steven Means, but a groin injury has sidelined him for more than two weeks, opening the door for Beyer to put himself in the conversation with a strong finish to the preseason. A smart player who had a solid career at the University of Michigan, the 6-foot-4, 256-pound Beyer remains a better candidate for the practice squad with four outside linebackers — Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, and Za’Darius Smith — already locks for the roster, but he received a nice endorsement from former Ravens defensive coordinator and Michigan assistant Greg Mattison before he was signed in the spring.



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Webb’s continued absence “certainly a concern” for Ravens

Posted on 25 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb finds himself in a place all too familiar at this time of the year.

The sideline.

Dealing with a hamstring injury suffered more than two weeks ago, the 29-year-old has missed Baltimore’s first two preseason games and hasn’t participated in a preseason game since Aug. 22, 2013. And with Webb coming off a less-than-impressive 2014 campaign hindered in part by a back injury, defensive coordinator Dean Pees wants to see the veteran on the field this summer.

“It is not his fault. He’s trying to do what he can to rehab and get ready to go, but it is certainly a concern,” Pees said. “I’d be fooling you to tell you I didn’t think it was a concern. I want guys out there practicing so we can see where they are and know where they are. The conditioning thing — all those kind of things — yes, it’s a concern. I hope we still can get him out here in the next week or so, but at this point, I wish he was out there.”

This marks the third straight summer in which Webb has been limited for injury reasons. In 2013, he was returning from the second ACL injury of his career suffered the previous fall. Last year, Webb went down with a back injury on the first day of full-squad workouts and didn’t return until a few weeks into the regular season.

The summer had already started in humbling fashion for Webb when he failed the conditioning test upon reporting to Owings Mills. Acknowledging it wasn’t a good look after a disappointing 2014, he passed the test the following day, but his play was uneven over the first two weeks of practice before he pulled up lame covering rookie Darren Waller on a deep sideline route on Aug. 10.

Webb’s absence has created more opportunities for third-year cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who started and performed well in Saturday’s 40-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. While many remember the 6-foot-2 defensive back’s poor showing against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the playoffs, Melvin played well in two regular-season starts and in the playoff win at Pittsburgh last January.

After a slow start this spring due to offseason shoulder surgery, Melvin continues to improve and is garnering more and more attention as a potential starter down the road, especially if Webb doesn’t bounce back from the difficulties of last season.

“This guy did a lot for us late in the year,” Pees said. “I really give him a lot of credit coming over from Tampa Bay and coming in and all of the sudden getting thrown into the mix and having to play — in the playoffs of all things. I thought he started slow a little bit in [organized team activities] — maybe a little bit because of the surgery and the injury — and I think he has gotten better and better and better.

“I know sometimes it is hard to find bright spots in a game that you lose, but I thought he and [rookie Tray] Walker both were bright spots for us at the corner position [on Saturday].”

Jackson in lead for return job

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg still hasn’t come to a decision on the primary return specialist job, but reserve cornerback Asa Jackson remains the leader in the clubhouse.

The fourth-year defensive back has returned two punts for 17 yards and two kickoffs for 41 yards in two preseason games.

“We’ll see what happens this week, but it’s a work in progress,” Rosburg said. “We’re working a lot of different guys in practice, and we have to come to some decisions soon, because it’s going to happen quickly. This week, Asa is going to start off for us on punt return and he’s going to start off for us on kick return, and then we’re going to go from there.”

Trying to replace former Pro Bowl return specialist Jacoby Jones, Rosburg has been frustrated by the opposition’s reluctance to provide evaluation opportunities with kickoffs as many have instead sailed through the end zone and some opposing returners have downed kicks in the end zone over the first two preseason games.

“We let them play. We try to see who can cover kicks,” Rosburg said. “That’s what we do. But again, I can’t control what other coaches are doing. It makes no sense to me, either, why you’d down a ball two yards into the end zone. That makes no sense to me either. Take it out. Let’s go. That’s why we’re here.”

Rookie ready to fill in for Taliaferro

Though disappointed to see the opportunity come at the expensive of the injured Lorenzo Taliaferro, fourth-round rookie running back Buck Allen is confident that he’s ready to step up as the primary backup to Justin Forsett.

“It’s times like this where you prove yourself,” Allen said. “Can you step in and be that guy and provide for your team and have your team believe in you? It’s a great opportunity for me to go out here and show my teammates and coaches that I’ve been studying my game and in my playbook.”

Allen has carried 17 times for 54 yards and says his ability to pick up blitzes has been his biggest improvement since being drafted out of USC this spring. It’s an attribute he’s likely gained from Forsett, who is regarded as an excellent blocker in the backfield.

The 6-foot, 220-pound rookie back says there are plenty of lessons to learn from Forsett in the classroom as well as on the practice field.

“He’s been through it all from fourth-string guy to being No. 1,” Allen said. “If I follow his lead, I can go down the right path. Justin does a great job of motivating guys in the room and making sure we’re on track and doing the right thing.”


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Ravens release first depth chart ahead of preseason opener

Posted on 06 August 2015 by Luke Jones

With their preseason opener less than a week away, the Ravens have released their first depth chart of the summer with few surprises.

The depth chart reflects current long-term injuries, explaining why the likes of Matt Elam, Dennis Pitta, and Terrence Brooks are listed at the end of their position groups.

Despite using their first two picks of the 2015 draft on speedy receiver Breshad Perriman in the first round and tight end Maxx Williams in the second, the Ravens have listed the rookies behind Kamar Aiken and Crockett Gillmore at their respective positions. This comes as no real surprise based on the allocation of practice reps through the first week of training camp as well as the knee injury that’s sidelined Perriman since the first full-squad practice.

Gillmore is noticeably ahead of Williams at this stage of the summer while Perriman continues to miss valuable practice time to close the gap with Aiken, who has had a good start to camp.

Second-year running back Lorenzo Taliaferro is also listed ahead of rookie Buck Allen as the primary backup to Justin Forsett, but both have impressed at various times as they’ve competed in the spring and summer.

There were no real surprises on the defensive depth chart, but Rashaan Melvin being listed ahead of Asa Jackson at cornerback speaks to the latter falling out of grace defensively after he started six games last year in place of injured starters Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith.

Veteran defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson being listed behind Carl Davis and Kapron Lewis-Moore is noteworthy, but Tyson saw his playing time dwindle in the second half of 2014.

As for special teams, Jackson is listed as the starting kick returner while wide receiver Michael Campanaro was designated the starting punt returner, but those positions remain very fluid as a number of players — including Webb and 36-year-old receiver Steve Smith — have worked out as returners. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg has said several times that performance in the preseason games will hold the most weight in determining who wins those jobs.

It’s important not to read too much into the weekly depth chart, especially once moving past the first and second string. The depth chart is composed by the Ravens’ public relations staff, but it is based on practice and game reps, giving fans and media a worthwhile guideline.

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Harbaugh “gets a little crazy” during tough practice on Thursday

Posted on 06 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Nobody was safe from John Harbaugh on Thursday as the Ravens held their toughest practice of the first week of training camp.

After the practice officials were slow to blow the whistle on one particular play, the eighth-year head coach chastised them from the middle of the field, screaming, “Get your [stuff] together! You’re getting lunch and you’re getting paid!”

Of course, they weren’t alone as Harbaugh challenged his young defensive linemen to be tougher and quicker firing off the ball during 11-on-11 short-yardage drills during the first half of practice. The coach singled out rookie defensive tackle Carl Davis and second-year defensive end Brent Urban at different points, but the coach said the ranting was calculated in trying to challenge young players the Ravens figure to count on heavily this season.

“It was a very physical, very tough practice,” Harbaugh said. “The guys fought through it really well. It’s always the one where — at least in my case — this coach gets a little crazy, because it’s a tough step to take from the hitting level of intensity to this level of intensity.

“For me, it’s more of a feel thing than anything. If I think I go too far, then I try to let them know I went too far. If I don’t go far enough, I have to grab them again. You always circle back and try to have communication.”

The motivational tactics appeared to work as the defense dominated the trenches by taking advantage of an offensive line without starting left guard Kelechi Osemele or reserve guards John Urschel and Robert Myers.

Second-year inside linebacker Zach Orr and rookie safety Nick Perry had tackles for losses in run support, standout plays for two players fighting for roster spots this summer. In Orr’s case, his emergence as more of a factor at linebacker could put former second-round pick Arthur Brown’s roster spot in jeopardy. After Matt Elam’s season-ending injury, the Alabama product Perry figures to have a better chance to enter the conversation for a reserve safety spot with a strong summer.

On a day with few offensive highlights, quarterback Joe Flacco’s long touchdown pass to Jeremy Butler was a bright spot as Butler beat cornerback Quinton Pointer in coverage.

Thursday was another difficult day for veteran backup quarterback Matt Schaub, who threw an interception returned for a touchdown and also fumbled a snap.

Rookie tight end Nick Boyle has shown more ability as a receiver this summer than many anticipated, but he had two bad drops.


Walking wounded

The Ravens had an extensive list of injured players missing from the practice field at the start of the session before three more left with injuries.

Harbaugh said Urschel and Myers were being evaluated for potential concussions suffered during practice and they will be conservative with both linemen. Urschel’s injury was particularly concerning as he was down on the field for several minutes before ultimately walking to the locker room with assistance.

Rookie tight end Maxx Williams also left practice early after being poked in the eye.

Harbaugh said Osemele was given Thursday off after having his foot stepped on a day earlier and veteran cornerback Kyle Arrington was given the day off to rest.

Players missing at the start of practice included wide receivers Breshad Perriman (knee) and Marlon Brown (back), cornerbacks Tray Walker (hamstring) and Chris Greenwood (hamstring), and linebackers Steven Means (ankle) and Zach Thompson (undisclosed). Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks remain on the active physically unable to perform list, but both watched portions of Thursday’s practice.

Hands-on Harbaugh

In addition to trying to light a fire under his younger players, Harbaugh took a hands-on approach to test Asa Jackson as a returner, trying to distract the fourth-year cornerback by bearing down on him while trying to field a punt.

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda was particularly amused by the coach’s activity as he yelled to Jackson, “Run his ass over!”

Have a catch

During a special-teams portion of practice, top cornerback Jimmy Smith took some time out to play catch with a handful of young fans in attendance Thursday’s practice.

It was a nice way for a standout player to spend a period of practice in which he wasn’t participating anyway.

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2015 Ravens training camp preview: Cornerbacks

Posted on 26 July 2015 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens beginning their 20th training camp in franchise history this month, expectations are high for John Harbaugh’s team as they eye their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.

As veterans report to Owings Mills on July 29th and the first full-squad workout takes place the following day, we’ll examine each position group entering the summer.

July 20: Quarterbacks
July 21: Defensive line
July 22: Running backs
July 23: Linebackers
July 24: Wide receivers
July 25: Tight ends
July 26: Cornerbacks
July 27: Offensive line
July 28: Safeties
July 29: Specialists

Below is a look at the Baltimore cornerbacks:

LOCK: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Kyle Arrington, Tray Walker
BUBBLE: Asa Jackson, Rashaan Melvin, Tramain Jacobs, Cassius Vaughn
LONG SHOT: Chris Greenwood, Quinton Pointer

Synopsis: Five cornerbacks finished the 2014 season on injured reserve for Baltimore, leaving the secondary in tatters for large chunks of the year. This offseason, general manager Ozzie Newsome did what he failed to do a year ago in adding depth at the position with the signing of veteran slot cornerback Kyle Arrington and the fourth-round selection of Tray Walker from Texas Southern. The key to this group will be the health of starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, but there does appear to be some decent young depth behind them with options such as Rashaan Melvin receiving meaningful playing time last year. The Ravens hope a healthy offseason will lead to a bounce-back campaign for Webb, who dealt with a lingering back issue and did not play well for most of 2014.

One to watch: Smith agreed to a four-year extension this spring that firmly solidifies him as the No. 1 cornerback moving forward, but the Ravens will gently hold their breath until the 2011 first-round pick proves he is over the Lisfranc injury that ended his 2014 season last October. In the spring, Smith moved around well, but there was still the occasional sign of hesitancy with his surgically-repaired foot. Over the last two years, the 6-foot-2 defensive back showed the sky is the limit with his potential if he can stay healthy, but that’s a fair concern after he missed a combined 17 games in his first four seasons.

One on notice: It wasn’t just that Asa Jackson missed nine games due to injury in 2014, but he played poorly when he was on the field, finishing with the worst Pro Football Focus grade of any Ravens cornerback by a sizable margin. The addition of the veteran Arrington in the slot as well as the presence of some other young cornerbacks on the roster could leave Jackson on the outside looking in if he doesn’t have a good preseason. His ability as a return man would certainly improve his standing, but Jackson has shown little evidence that he’s able to contribute defensively entering the final year of his contract.

Sleeper: He appeared in only three games last year before being placed on IR with a hamstring injury, but Tramain Jacobs grabbed coaches’ attention last summer with a strong training camp to earn a spot on the practice squad and an eventual promotion to the 53-man roster. The former rookie free agent from Texas A&M doesn’t have overwhelming size at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, but he will be in the mix with the likes of Melvin and Jackson for a roster spot. As is always the case with players filling out the bottom of the roster, the ability to contribute on special teams will be the difference.

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