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Ravens stock watch entering Week 3

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 3

Posted on 16 September 2014 by Luke Jones

Every week, we’ll take a look at which Ravens players’ stock is rising and falling …

STOCK RISING

Justin Forsett
Skinny: Even though Bernard Pierce received most of the workload against Pittsburgh, you still get the sense that Forsett is more comfortable running in a zone-blocking system and the veteran is superior to Pierce in pass protection. His size and age make you think he’ll continue to be the complementary back in the Baltimore running game, but Forsett has already provided a nice return on a one-year contract that garnered little attention in the offseason.

Kelechi Osemele
Skinny: Any lingering concerns about the left guard’s ability to return from last season’s back surgery have been quelled after Osemele turned in an All-Pro performance against Cincinnati in Week 1. A key to offensive improvement in 2014 was better play from the interior line and Osemele, Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, and center Jeremy Zuttah have received the highest grades of anyone on the offense, according to Pro Football Focus.

Brandon Williams
Skinny: Though limited to only nine defensive snaps against Pittsburgh because the Ravens used their nickel package for most of the game, Williams has done exactly what the Ravens have asked of him by disrupting run plays with a good push at the line of scrimmage. The second-year nose tackle has even put a little heat on the quarterback in the rare opportunities he’s had to play in passing situations. 

Jeremy Zuttah
Skinny: His pass blocking hasn’t stood out, but Zuttah’s ability to get a strong push off the line of scrimmage has been evident on inside run plays through the first two weeks of the season. Sunday will mark his first road game with the Ravens, which will be a test in terms of making the proper protection calls with crowd noise being a factor, but it’s difficult not to be pleased with the sizable upgrade Zuttah has provided over last year’s starter Gino Gradkowski. 

STOCK FALLING

Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson
Skinny: These two are grouped together, because it’s apparent there will still be significant concern at the No. 3 cornerback position when Lardarius Webb does return. Brown is still too vulnerable in coverage on the outside while Jackson has missed several tackles from the nickel spot, factors that prompted the Ravens to use safety Matt Elam at the nickel position against Pittsburgh. It remains to be seen whether Jackson will be cleared to return Sunday from last week’s concussion.

Kyle Juszczyk
Skinny: The second-year fullback looked like he would carve out a nice role in the passing game based on his preseason play, but Juszczyk has been limited to just 43 snaps in two games and has been targeted only once as a receiver out of the backfield. Even more concerning has been his vulnerability as a lead blocker as he hasn’t been able to generate much of a push to create space for Pierce or Forsett to maneuver behind him. 

Daryl Smith
Skinny: His first season in Baltimore was a pleasant surprise, but the 32-year-old veteran’s struggles against the run late last season have carried over in the first two games of 2014 as he has struggled to shed blocks to make tackles closer to the line of scrimmage. Smith’s biggest strength is in pass coverage, but you do wonder if the Ravens’ inside linebackers will wear down against the run as the year goes on with the light C.J. Mosley playing next to the veteran in the starting defense. 

Marlon Brown
Skinny: One of the few bright spots in a horrendous offense last year, the second-year receiver has all but disappeared in Gary Kubiak’s system after seeing just three offensive snaps against the Steelers a week after being targeted only once. Drop-off was to be expected with Steve Smith, Owen Daniels, and a fully-healthy Dennis Pitta now in the mix, but the 6-foot-4 receiver struggled to grasp the offense over the summer and hasn’t even been a factor in the red zone through the first two games.

 

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Secondary remains fluid as Ravens turn attention toward Cleveland

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Secondary remains fluid as Ravens turn attention toward Cleveland

Posted on 15 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to work to begin preparations for a Week 3 showdown with the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens weren’t offering clues about the projected state of their secondary.

With starting cornerback Lardarius Webb (back) still waiting to make his 2014 debut and reserve Asa Jackson sustaining a concussion against Pittsburgh last Thursday, the third level of the defense remains fluid as the Ravens look to improve to 2-1 in their three AFC North contests to begin the regular season. Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t shed any light on the status of Jackson or Webb when he met with reporters on Monday afternoon.

“I’m just not going to get into injuries,” Harbaugh said, “because there is just no strategic advantage for us in doing it and putting that information out there. … I’m really optimistic about all our guys — I will say that, with [Jackson] included — but I’ve been optimistic in the past and guys haven’t played. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

Webb has practiced fully over the last two weeks, but the sixth-year defensive back missed all of training camp and the preseason after suffering back spasms on July 25, the second day of full-team workouts. The Ravens and Webb are reportedly targeting this Sunday’s game for him to make his return, but doubts will remain until he’s suited up to play on Sunday.

After going with the trio of Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, and Jackson in the nickel package in the season opener, defensive coordinator Dean Pees used a different alignment against the Steelers with strong safety Matt Elam defending the slot and reserve Jeromy Miles playing safety in the nickel alignment. Smith and Jackson started the game at the outside corner spots — with Brown on the sideline — before a concussion ended Jackson’s night in the first half and forced Brown into duty.

With Brown shaky in outside coverage throughout the summer and Jackson missing a couple tackles from the nickel spot against the Bengals, the Ravens went with the versatile Elam to provide more support from the nickel against the run. Harbaugh complimented Elam’s ability to pick up the intricacies of playing the position to provide more flexibility for the Baltimore defense.

“We’re blessed with safety depth, so it’s not a bad thing to get those guys on the field,” Harbaugh said. “But a guy like Matt being in there playing [the nickel] gives you a nice little run-nickel package, because he’ll fly around and hit you and tackle you. He’ll be the first to tell you he tackled better in the second half than he did the first half. It builds our defensive package in good ways, because now you have a guy in there playing that can really defend the run, too.”

Against Pittsburgh, Elam played all 59 defensive snaps — most of them from the nickel position — while Miles participated in 48, a major change for a fifth-year safety primarily known for his special-teams ability.

West playing hometown team

Former Towson standout and Northwestern High product Terrance West’s NFL career is off to a strong start with the Browns, which has drawn plenty of attention from Ravens fans who clamored for the organization to draft him back in May.

West became the first rookie running back to collect at least 90 yards from scrimmage in his team’s first two games since Chris Johnson and Matt Forte — two Pro Bowl running backs — did it in 2008. In the wake of the Ray Rice release, it would be understandable for the Ravens to lament the inability to come away with the local product after he was selected with the 94th overall pick by Cleveland. Baltimore selected safety Terrence Brooks with the 79th overall pick and tight end Crockett Gillmore at 99th after West had just come off the board.

“Terrance is a guy that we really liked, as you know,” Harbaugh said. “We had designs on him in the draft, certainly, and Cleveland jumped up there and got him, and he has not disappointed. He has played really downhill, [and is a] hard runner, make-you-miss type of back [who] understands the scheme they’re running really well.”

West is receiving a heavier workload than anticipated with Browns veteran Ben Tate currently sidelined with a knee injury.

Hill reinstated before Week 7?

Despite reports suggesting suspended safety Will Hill could have his ban reduced under the terms of the NFL’s new drug policy, Harbaugh offered no indication whether that would happen when posed the question.

Hill is in the midst of a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. After receiving limited reps in the summer due to his situation, he could be an intriguing option at the safety position whenever he is reinstated.

“I have no sense of [a possible reduction] at all,” Harbaugh said. “No one has spoken to me about that, and I don’t know a thing about that right now. I’m interested in it though.”

Odds & ends

Harbaugh defended linebacker Courtney Upshaw’s technique on the penalized hit against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the opening drive of Thursday’s game, insisting he did exactly what he’s been coached and to play it differently would have put him at risk for injury. “We’re never going to put our player in position to coach him to drop his head. Football has always been about seeing what you hit — heads-up football keeping your eyes up.” … Asked about the chances of seeing Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel on the field, Harbaugh said the Ravens will be prepared for the first-round pick while also going out of his way to praise starter Brian Hoyer. “He’s the best quarterback they’ve had in a number of years. He’s playing great. Then, they have Johnny Manziel as part of their arsenal. So, it’s something to contend with for sure.” … The Ravens signed rookie free agent cornerback Lou Young to their practice squad Monday to fill the spot vacated by cornerback Jamell Fleming, who was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs to their 53-man roster last week.

 

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Ravens cornerback Jackson leaves Thursday’s game with concussion

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Ravens cornerback Jackson leaves Thursday’s game with concussion

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Already playing without Lardarius Webb in Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens were dealt another blow in their secondary when cornerback Asa Jackson sustained a concussion in the second quarter of the 26-6 win.

The injury left the Ravens with only two active cornerbacks after Webb missed his second straight game while continuing to work his way back to full health from a back injury sustained at the start of training camp. In an unorthodox move, defensive coordinator Dean Pees used strong safety Matt Elam at the nickel position with reserve Jeromy Miles playing safety next to Darian Stewart in the secondary.

Jackson made his first NFL start as he received the nod over last week’s starter Chykie Brown in place of Webb.

“Asa had a concussion, and I don’t think it’s too major,” head coach John Harbaugh said following the game. “But again, you never know with those things.”

The Ravens are hopeful that Webb will be ready to return against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3, but his status remains in question until he finally plays in a game after practicing fully these last two weeks. Webb said Tuesday he expected to play against the Steelers before he was held out once again.

Harbaugh acknowledged there were two other players who sustained ankle and knee injuries, respectively, but downplayed the significance of either. He did not name which players were dealing with those conditions following the game as the Ravens will now wait nine days to play their next contest.

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Ravens continuing to look healthy for Sunday’s opener against Bengals

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Ravens continuing to look healthy for Sunday’s opener against Bengals

Posted on 03 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens look to be in good shape from a health standpoint as they continued preparations for Sunday’s season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

All 53 players on the active roster were present and working during the portion of practice open to media on Tuesday. Cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back), Jimmy Smith (chest), and Asa Jackson (ankle), tight end Owen Daniels (hamstring), running back Bernard Pierce (head), safety Matt Elam (leg), and offensive lineman Jah Reid (head) all took part in practice and appear on track to play against the Bengals.

Of those players with recent injury concerns, only Webb and Pierce were even listed on Wednesday’s injury report, but both were designated as having full participation.

“It’s good to have guys out there practicing,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “The more guys you have practicing, the better practice you have. The numbers always help a lot.”

Smith, Jackson, and Webb appeared to be moving well during individual drills as there will be extra focus paid to Webb after he missed the entire summer while dealing with a back injury. The sixth-year defensive back also underwent sports hernia surgery in the offseason, so it remains to be seen how so much missed time since last season will impact his play in the secondary.

The Bengals ranked eighth in the NFL in passing offense a year ago, but quarterback Andy Dalton will be without No. 2 receiver Marvin Jones, who is recovering from a broken foot sustained on Aug. 9. Jones was officially ruled out Wednesday along with running back Rex Burkhead.

A day after initially filling their practice squad, the Ravens made a change to their developmental group by signing former Arizona Cardinals and Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jamell Fleming and cutting cornerback Deji Olatoye. Fleming was a third-round pick in the 2012 draft, but Arizona cut him after only one season.

He saw action in eight games with Jacksonville last season but was cut by the Jaguars last weekend. In his rookie season, he appeared in 15 games and made three starts, registering 23 tackles and one pass breakup.

Rookie safety Terrence Brooks is now wearing No. 31, which was his jersey number at Florida State and was worn by safety Oman Brown in the preseason.

Here is Wednesday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Bernard Pierce (concussion), CB Lardarius Webb (back)

CINCINNATI
OUT: RB Max Burkhead (knee), WR Marvin Jones (foot)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Sean Porter (hamstring), WR James Wright (concussion), G/C Mike Pollak (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Darqueze Dennard (hip)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Vontaze Burfict (hamstring), TE Tyler Eifert (shoulder), RB Cedric Peerman (hip), OT Andre Smith (concussion)

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Ravens’ banged-up secondary returns to practice Saturday

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Ravens’ banged-up secondary returns to practice Saturday

Posted on 30 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens hit the field to a welcome sight Saturday as four key members of their secondary returned to practice.

Cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back), Jimmy Smith (chest), and Asa Jackson (ankle) as well as safety Matt Elam (leg) were all present and working during the portion of practice open to the media. Jackson and Elam appeared to be participating at a fairly high rate while Webb and Smith were more limited to individual work.

The return of Webb was particularly positive as he hadn’t practiced since being stricken with back spasms on July 25. With just over a week to go before the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens will need their full array of defensive backs against Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and a potent offense.

“Very encouraging to get all those guys practicing,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I think we had everybody practicing today. It was encouraging to see that. Those guys all looked good. We’ll just take it one day at a time from there.”

Running back Bernard Pierce and offensive lineman Jah Reid also returned to practice after both had been dealing with concussions.

With running back Ray Rice beginning his two-game suspension, Pierce will become the starting running back and is expected to handle a bulk of the carries in Gary Kubiak’s new offensive system.

 

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Harbaugh sees no “desperation” for Ravens to make trade

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Harbaugh sees no “desperation” for Ravens to make trade

Posted on 26 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Eighty percent of the Ravens’ projected nickel secondary remains sidelined less than two weeks away from the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, but you won’t observe any sense of panic from John Harbaugh.

Cornerbacks Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, and Asa Jackson as well as strong safety Matt Elam are currently out with various ailments, but the head coach remains optimistic that all will be ready when Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and a talented Bengals offense comes to Baltimore on Sept. 7. Harbaugh said Tuesday he expects Webb — who’s been sidelined with back spasms since July 25 — and Smith to be practicing by early next week while Jackson was running and working on lateral movement during Tuesday’s practice. Elam is expected to be practicing again by the end of the week after suffering a minor leg injury in Saturday’s preseason game against Washington.

Even if those expectations become reality for the Baltimore defense, serious questions remain at the No. 3 corner spot that’s essentially become a starting role in today’s pass-happy NFL. Jackson has never played a defensive snap entering his third season while fourth-year corner Chykie Brown saw only 39 defensive snaps during the 2013 regular season.

Needless to say, general manager Ozzie Newsome has been scanning the market to potentially add veteran cornerback help following the free-agent departure of Corey Graham in the offseason. The Ravens signed former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dominique Franks in mid-June, but his play this summer has been inconsistent after he was largely relegated to special-teams duties last season.

The poor health and lack of experience behind Webb and Smith have prompted many pundits and fans alike to clamor for an impact move as soon as possible.

“Maybe there will be a guy that will fall and somebody is going to have a real need for something that we have to offer,” Harbaugh said. “I know Ozzie and Eric [DeCosta] and Vince Newsome and George [Kokinis] and those guys are all talking with everybody around the league in terms of what’s out there. Not that we feel we have any desperation things that we have to get, but from the standpoint that [if] there’s something that we can get better, we want to do that.”

Trades at the end of the summer have been sparse in the Harbaugh era as the only impact swap came at the end of the 2010 preseason when the Ravens traded a fifth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for cornerback Josh Wilson. Needing another defensive back after starter Domonique Foxworth suffered a season-ending knee injury at the start of training camp, Baltimore benefited greatly from that acquisition as Wilson — now with the Falcons — started nine games and intercepted three passes to help the Ravens to a 12-4 record and a third straight trip to the playoffs.

Might the Ravens draw from a position of strength such as linebacker or wide receiver and possibly couple that with a draft pick to nab an established cornerback?

Harbaugh isn’t betting on it.

“We look at that every year, the opportunities to make trades and things like that,” Harbaugh said. “And every year, I’m usually disappointed that we don’t get anybody, because people don’t want to trade good players. It’s not as predominant as you would like to think it is going to be.”

Options are slim on the current market with veterans such as Asante Samuel, Chris Houston, and Dunta Robinson carrying age- or injury-related baggage that hasn’t been attractive to teams this summer. If the Ravens were interested in any of those veteran options, they likely would have pulled the trigger by now to give them sufficient time to learn Dean Pees’ defensive system.

Over the years, Newsome has been known to find a gem or two who was let go by another team at the end of the preseason such as offensive tackle Willie Anderson in 2008 or safety James Ihedigbo in 2012, but cornerback talent is at an ever-increasing premium with rules consistently trending toward offense. The odds simply aren’t great to be able to complete a reasonable trade that will help, but that’s fine with the seventh-year head coach as the Ravens prepare to play their final preseason contest in New Orleans on Thursday night.

“I like our team right now the way it stands,” Harbaugh said. “If we can get better, great. You get your hopes up, [then] they’re probably going to be dashed. But you can never count Ozzie out. He’s pretty special.”

NOTES: Harbaugh said he has decided whether suspended running back Ray Rice will play in the preseason finale, but he chose not to disclose his answer to the media. It would be surprising to see the three-time Pro Bowl selection playing behind a second-string offensive line that’s been suspect this summer. … Sixth-round quarterback Keith Wenning’s future remains in limbo as the Ravens haven’t carried three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster since 2009, but Harbaugh downplayed the difficulty of the decision. “You just decide who your best 53 players are. If the third quarterback is in the top 53, he’s on the team. If he’s not, he’s not. It’s simple.” … Quarterbacks are wearing new practice jerseys (modeled by backup Tyrod Taylor below) that are black with purple numbers, replacing the red models worn since Harbaugh arrived in 2008. The change was likely inspired by the practice jersey worn by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — a black top with red numbering — when his team practiced with the Ravens in Owings Mills earlier this month.

 

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Most of Ravens secondary continues to be sidelined during practice

Posted on 26 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Completing their final full practice before the preseason finale in New Orleans, the Ravens continued to be without most of their projected starting secondary on Tuesday.

Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (chest), Lardarius Webb (back), and Asa Jackson (ankle) and safety Matt Elam (leg) were not working on Tuesday afternoon as the Ravens desperately try to get their secondary healthy for the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7.

Jackson was doing some running and working on his lateral movement with head athletic trainer Mark Smith during the portion of practice open to the media. Webb was an observer on the practice field as he has been periodically since being stricken with back spasms on July 25.

Running back Bernard Pierce (concussion), offensive tackle Jah Reid (concussion), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (hip) were also missing from Tuesday’s practice. Head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the significance of Pierce’s concussion Monday while also acknowledging that recovery time can often be unpredictable.

“I was told by Mark [Smith] he’s feeling a lot better today,” Harbaugh said. “It was described as a mild concussion. Nowadays, with those things, I don’t take any stock in that until they tell me that he’s back. The concussion thing is just hard to predict.”

Wide receiver Kamar Aiken returned to practice a day after sitting out. He is currently competing for one of the last spots on the 53-man roster with final cuts needing to be made by 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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J. Smith, Jackson, Webb missing from practice, won’t play Saturday

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J. Smith, Jackson, Webb missing from practice, won’t play Saturday

Posted on 21 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are expected to take the field for Saturday’s all-important third preseason game against the Washington Redskins without three key members of their secondary.

Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (chest), Asa Jackson (ankle), and Lardarius Webb (back) were all missing from the open portion of Thursday’s practice and will miss Saturday’s game, which is viewed as the final tuneup for the start of the regular season. Head coach John Harbaugh had already ruled out Webb for the remainder of the preseason while expressing optimism that Smith and Jackson might be able to play against Washington.

“Our top three corners are going to be out,” said Harbaugh, who added that Smith would probably be able to play if it were a regular-season game. “It’s going to be an opportunity for those [backups] to go against the best for a long period of time. Those guys are among the best receivers in football and have a great quarterback. The whole offense is very well stocked with talent. It’s going to give us a good chance to evaluate where we’re at and give those guys an opportunity to prove they can play with the best.”

Starters are not expected to play in next week’s preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints as a season-opening matchup with All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green and the Cincinnati Bengals only 17 days away.

Against Washington, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will likely turn to fourth-year veteran Chykie Brown, former Atlanta Falcon Dominique Franks, rookie free agent Tramain Jacobs, and third-round rookie safety Terrence Brooks as cornerback options to rotate with the starting defense on Saturday night. In 2013, Brown played just 39 defensive snaps in the Baltimore secondary while Franks took only 13 in the Falcons defense, according to Pro Football Focus.

Since Webb has been sidelined with back spasms since July 25, the Ravens have gone through the entire summer without an opportunity to see what their starting secondary will look like, which is concerning as Brown and Jackson were competing for the No. 3 cornerback position.

“[It's] always a concern. We want guys that are going to play,” Pees said. “Somebody asked [Wednesday] about who we’d have out there [for the] first game, and I said, ‘Whoever we have healthy.’ But even when you get guys back, if a guy has been off for three or four weeks, he hasn’t played game tempo — all that stuff. It’s always a concern at any position.”

Other players missing from Thursday’s workout included tight end Owen Daniels (legs), offensive linemen Jah Reid (head), Will Rackley (head), and Brett Van Sloten (knee), fullback Shaun Chapas (undisclosed), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (active physically unable to perform list – hip surgery).

Daniels hasn’t practiced since Aug. 11 as Harbaugh has repeatedly said the 31-year-old veteran is resting his legs and not dealing with a specific injury.

 

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Jimmy Smith still sidelined after suffering bruised lungs against Cowboys

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Jimmy Smith still sidelined after suffering bruised lungs against Cowboys

Posted on 18 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens returned to the practice field on Monday without top cornerback Jimmy Smith, but the prognosis appears encouraging after he suffered a scary chest injury in Saturday’s preseason win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Head coach John Harbaugh said a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed the 2011 first-round pick suffered bruising and bleeding from the lungs when he slammed his back on the turf while defending a sideline pass intended for Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant early in the first quarter. Smith was coughing up blood even after the game and was initially diagnosed with a chest contusion, according to the Ravens.

“They said it’s not a serious thing and just needs a couple days to heal up,” Harbaugh said. “We do anticipate him to play against the Redskins unless something changes that I’m not aware of.”

Running back Ray Rice practiced on Monday after leaving Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury. X-rays were negative for Rice after he was limited to just 21 yards on two carries. With Rice facing a two-game suspension to begin the regular season, Harbaugh had planned to focus on getting work for primary backup Bernard Pierce as well as veteran Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, but he may elect to give Rice a few more reps since he saw little action against the Cowboys.

Harbaugh elected to award Saturday’s start to Pierce to give him an extra opportunity to begin a game with the starting offense before he begins the season as the starter in Week 1.

“It could impact us [to] maybe get Ray a few more reps going forward,” said Harbaugh about Saturday’s distribution of playing time. “But the main focus is going to be Bernard, Justin, and Lorenzo and getting those guys ready. You know Ray’s had a good camp.”

Veteran tight end Owen Daniels was absent from the field during the portion of practice open for media viewing and hasn’t been on the field since last Monday. The Ravens have insisted Daniels is being rested and is not dealing with an injury concern, but the 31-year-old has now missed three straight practices and did not play in Saturday’s game.

The former Texan was limited to just five games due to a broken leg last season.

“There’s no pull, there’s no strain of any kind,” Harbaugh said. “[His legs are] a little fatigued. You get a little swelling in there. You’ve got to take some time to get the legs back, and we really felt like he needed to get his legs back, especially as an older guy. We wanted to give him this time to do that. I’m counting on him being there this week. That’s what I’ve been told is there’s no kind of injury in there. It’s just a fatigue factor, and he needs time.”

Others missing from Monday’s practice included cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle), offensive linemen Will Rackley (head) and Brett Van Sloten (knee), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (physically unable to perform list – hip).

Harbaugh said that Webb would not play in the preseason after initially hoping the starting cornerback would be able to play in the third game of the summer. The sixth-year cornerback has been sidelined with a back injury since July 25.

Nursing an ankle injury since Aug. 10, Jackson has a chance to return to action this week, according to Harbaugh.

“Asa’s got a chance,” Harbaugh said. “‘Touch and go’ is probably a good way to say it, but I’ve been told he has a chance to get back for this game. It’d be great if he could.”

The Ravens were practicing in helmets, shells, and shorts after receiving Sunday off.

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Ravens’ cornerback situation can’t be overlooked in win over Cowboys

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Ravens’ cornerback situation can’t be overlooked in win over Cowboys

Posted on 16 August 2014 by Luke Jones

A 37-30 win for the Ravens over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night doesn’t reflect what was the most concerning image from the opening minutes of the second preseason game of the summer.

Already without starter Lardarius Webb and No. 3 corner contender Asa Jackson due to injuries, the Ravens lost their most important piece of the secondary — and likely their entire defense — as Jimmy Smith landed hard on his back defending a sideline pass intended for Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. The good news is that X-rays were negative on his chest and the fourth-year watched the remainder of the game from the sideline despite spitting up blood on the sideline as he was helped off the field.

A bruised chest isn’t necessarily cause for panic — The Sun reported Smith was still coughing up blood following the game — but watching Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks handle the cornerback spots with the starting defense conjured memories of David Pittman and Willie Gaston manning the Baltimore secondary in the disastrous 2007 season. And it was another reminder of just how thin the Ravens’ cornerback depth is considering Brown has been picked on for much of the summer and Franks had been relegated to third-string duties until the last week.

Franks was beaten on a jump ball to Bryant for a 31-yard touchdown — a matchup that was simply unfair — while Brown was later burned by Cowboys wideout Terrance Williams on a deep route that was badly underthrown. To Brown’s credit, he did recover to break up the pass, but the play was more about a poor throw from Cowboys backup Brandon Weeden than an impressive play by the fourth-year cornerback.

It didn’t help that Dean Pees’ defense struggled to stop the run and generated little pressure in the pocket in the first half, but general manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office must address what is obvious with the start of the season only three weeks away. The Ravens need to add an established cornerback to their secondary in order to not be exposed by potent passing games in the throw-happy NFL.

All you need to know about the confidence level in the current batch of cornerbacks is the Ravens’ experimentation with using three safeties in the nickel defense with rookie Terrence Brooks lining up at the slot corner position. Jackson was emerging as a promising option for the No. 3 job, but he remains too much of an unknown and was spotted in a walking boot Saturday after injuring his ankle a week ago. John Harbaugh said it was a “minor” ankle sprain at the time, but the head coach is often ambiguous and vague when discussing injuries, making you wonder when Jackson will even make it back to the practice field.

Even if Smith and Webb are healthy for the start of the season — the latter has been sidelined with a back injury since July 25 — no one on the current roster instills enough confidence in being able to handle the No. 3 cornerback spot. That reality has made the free-agent departure of Corey Graham to Buffalo in the offseason that much more glaring as the Ravens didn’t draft a cornerback or sign a veteran at the position until the middle of June.

The problem will be addressing the problem at this stage as quality cornerbacks aren’t exactly waiting in abundance. A free-agent veteran such as Asante Samuel is always a possibility, but that won’t necessarily solve the problem as the Ravens already signed veterans Aaron Ross — who tore his Achilles tendon at the start of training camp — and Franks at the end of mandatory minicamp and have seen disappointing results. The Ravens’ best bet — or only hope — might be to dangle a future draft pick in hopes of acquiring another team’s second or third cornerback.

The nickel defense has become too much of a staple in today’s NFL to continue to expect an in-house candidate to handle the job. That concern will become a major problem if any of the Ravens’ current injuries linger into the start of the season with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh first up on the schedule.

The clock is ticking and the concern only grew as Smith landed hard on the turf at AT&T Stadium and needed to be helped off the field.

The Ravens need help in the secondary.

But it’s going to be difficult to find it.

 

 

 

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