Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

stevenjohnson

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Ravens change out reserve linebackers on 53-man roster

Posted on 17 October 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens made a 53-man roster move Tuesday by signing veteran inside linebacker Steven Johnson and cutting linebacker Jonathan Freeny.

Johnson, 29, began the season with Pittsburgh and appeared in only one game before being released on Sept. 23. In six NFL seasons, he has also spent time with Denver and Tennessee, making 63 tackles and forcing two fumbles in 64 career games.

The former undrafted free agent from Kansas started seven games for the Broncos in 2014 and is expected to contribute primarily on special teams.

Freeny appeared in three games for Baltimore and made two special-teams tackles. He did not play a defensive snap and had previously played for New England and Miami.

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jefferson

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 27-24 loss to Chicago

Posted on 17 October 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens suffering their first home defeat to a rookie quarterback in 20 years in the 27-24 loss to Chicago, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After earning a stop-the-bleeding win last week, the putrid Ravens offense resurfaced and was responsible for just 11 of the team’s 24 points. Marty Mornhinweg may not deserve all blame, but he should take a cue from Chicago’s playbook that included a halfback pass. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

2. Forgive the baseball comparison, but we were reminded that the Ravens are to wide receivers what the Orioles are to starting pitching. This is a major weaknesses, but the organization never commits to fixing the issue for the long haul. Sunday was an embarrassing performance from that group.

3. Matthew Judon followed a strong Week 5 with the best game of his career by leading the defense with 12 tackles, two sacks, and two other tackles for a loss. With Terrell Suggs having just turned 35, the Ravens need their young edge rushers to grow up sooner than later.

4. In the first 21 seasons in Baltimore, the Ravens defense never finished worse than 23rd in rushing yards per game and only once (1996) finished worse than 10th in rushing yards per attempt. They currently rank 30th and 21st in those categories. Is this really only about Brandon Williams’ absence?

5. Supporters who refuse to find fault in Joe Flacco are as tiresome as those who want to blame him for everything, but I don’t know how anyone who actually watched the game can criticize him above everything else. He certainly made some mistakes, but did you see those receivers play?

6. Tony Jefferson was beaten for two touchdown passes and ranks 60th among safeties in Pro Football Focus’ grading system after finishing fifth last year. Fellow safety Eric Weddle has also struggled, but the Ravens need to start seeing a better return on the $19 million guaranteed to Jefferson in March.

7. I felt good for Bobby Rainey returning a kickoff for a touchdown after being hit by his own man and alertly getting up. Five years after signing with Baltimore as a rookie free agent and playing for three other teams, Rainey finally appeared in a game for the Ravens.

8. John Harbaugh didn’t offer a glowing endorsement of Bronson Kaufusi after the rest of the defensive line was overworked and he barely played Sunday. Ronnie Stanley certainly hasn’t disappointed, but remember the Ravens could have traded the pick used on Kaufusi to move up for cornerback Jalen Ramsey in 2016.

9. The rushing attack had another strong day, but is the ceiling high enough for it to all but single-handedly win games in a fashion similar to what the Bears did? Considering how inept the passing offense has been across the board, that’s what it might take to be successful.

10. Harbaugh isn’t the only coach with this problem and this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this, but it’s maddening how wasteful the Ravens are with timeouts. Burning one when you’re trailing by 11 points and about to attempt a 50-yard field goal with three minutes left is indefensible.

11. We’ll never know if Ozzie Newsome would have made another deal before the start of the season, but how delusional were the Ravens to even suggest they were confident at wide receiver before Maclin fell into their laps in mid-June? And, yes, I know I’m belaboring the point now.

12. The good news is the NFL reeks of mediocrity more than ever and the Ravens’ schedule appears even more favorable after the Aaron Rodgers injury. The bad news is that Sunday’s loss confirms that Baltimore could also lose any of its remaining 10 games. Yes, even the one in Cleveland.

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mornhinweg

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Harbaugh sticks up for Mornhinweg amidst Ravens’ offensive woes

Posted on 17 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens sporting one of the worst offenses in the NFL, John Harbaugh had to know the question was coming about offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

What gives the 10th-year head coach confidence that Mornhinweg has the struggling unit going in the right direction?

“I think Marty’s a great coach. There’s no question in my mind about it,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve seen him over the years. I know what he can do. I know what he’s trying to do. I know what all the coaches are trying to do.

“You do everything you can to put your guys in position to make plays, and you’re in it together. The players are in it together; the coaches are in it together. We’re fighting together to try and do it.”

Baltimore currently ranks 28th or worse in the NFL in total yards per game, passing yards per game, yards per passing attempt, and third-down conversion percentage. The Ravens’ 19.0 points per game rank 24th, but the defense and special teams have combined to score three touchdowns over the last two games and three of their nine offensive touchdowns on the season have come on drives of 40 or fewer yards.

In other words, the offense has received plenty of help and is still scoring at a below-average level.

The only saving grace of the unit has been the running game as the Ravens rank seventh in rushing yards per contest and 10th in yards per carry, but much of that credit goes to senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach Greg Roman, who was specifically hired to revamp a rushing attack that had struggled the previous two seasons. That success has led many to wonder if Roman might be the better choice to lead the offense if the Ravens continue to struggle to such a dramatic degree.

To be fair, Mornhinweg has endured a slew of injuries to offensive players dating back to organized team activities and wasn’t the one who chose to exhaust most offseason resources on the defense despite a below-average offense from last season losing several key players. Nine of the 16 Ravens currently on injured reserve are offensive players, a list that doesn’t include former tight end Dennis Pitta.

“Anytime you try to pin the blame on any one person in a team sport like this, that’s always going to be a mistake,” Harbaugh said. “That’s nonsensical. It just doesn’t work that way. But I understand that’s how it works. We all understand that.”

Mornhinweg certainly doesn’t deserve all of the blame for the offensive failures, but the same was true for former offensive coordinators Cam Cameron and Marc Trestman when Harbaugh fired them in 2012 and 2016, respectively. The one-year anniversary of Trestman’s dismissal fell last week, and the Ravens offense currently ranks worse statistically than it did last year in nearly every major category.

Injury report

Harbaugh didn’t offer much clarity on the status of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who missed Sunday’s game against Chicago with a shoulder injury.

Maclin practiced all week on a limited basis and even went through a pre-game workout on Sunday morning, but the Ravens coach didn’t indicate how close the veteran wideout was to being able to play. The Ravens failed to score an offensive touchdown for the first time all season in the 27-24 loss to the Bears

“I don’t really know how close it was. That’s up to the doctors,” Harbaugh said. “That would be something you have to ask them. They don’t really tell us how close a guy is. There is no percentage on that that I am aware of.”

In addition to Maclin’s absence, the Ravens lost both wide receiver Breshad Perriman (concussion) and tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) in the second quarter Sunday. Harbaugh had no update on either member of the 2015 draft class.

“We hope to have all of our guys back next week,” Harbaugh said. “We will just have to see how it shakes out.”

Defensive tackles Brandon Williams (foot) and Carl Davis (hamstring), guard Matt Skura (knee), running back Terrance West (calf), cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring), and linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) were all inactive on Sunday. It was the first time this season that the Ravens didn’t have a single healthy scratch among their seven game-day inactives.

Jimmy Smith increases workload

After being limited to seven snaps in the Week 5 win at Oakland, cornerback Jimmy Smith played 69 of 80 snaps against the Bears, a positive sign for a standout defensive player who’s been limited by Achilles tendinitis in recent weeks.

“He made it out of the game great. Jimmy did well,” Harbaugh said. “He was good. He’s probably sore from the game, but he played all the snaps. He played excellent. I thought all our corners played exceptionally well.”

With Smith nearly back to full strength, rookie first-round pick Marlon Humphrey played only 12 defensive snaps while veteran starter Brandon Carr played all but two on Sunday. The Ravens didn’t run their nickel and dime packages nearly as frequently with the Bears running the ball a whopping 54 times for 231 yards.

Kaufusi doesn’t help thin defensive line

That heavy volume in the Chicago running game led to a long day for an already-thin defensive line.

Baltimore’s three starters up front — Willie Henry, Michael Pierce, and Chris Wormley — all played at least 54 defensive snaps with Henry finishing with a whopping 68, a very high total for a defensive lineman. In contrast, reserve 5-technique defensive end Bronson Kaufusi played only five defensive snaps, leading one to wonder if he may have sustained an injury at some point over the course of the game.

“He was healthy. You have to play well, and he’s learning, to be honest with you,” Harbaugh said. “We had to stop the run, and we needed a little more physicality in there. Fifty-four snaps [for each starting defensive lineman] is probably a lot, but we had 80 defensive snaps [total]. You earn your snaps.”

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howard

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Long-held constants for Ravens go up in smoke in overtime

Posted on 16 October 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens had no business being in the game, yet they somehow entered overtime against Chicago with momentum on their side.

A defense that had given up a handful of big plays over the first 40 minutes of action had tightened up to force three three-and-outs and two fumbles on the Bears’ final five drives of regulation. Michael Campanaro’s 77-yard punt return for a touchdown — with a 2-point conversion — had miraculously tied the score at 24 with 1:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Even with a bumbling offense that was nothing short of dreadful all afternoon, how could you not like the Ravens’ chances starting over against a 1-4 opponent and a rookie quarterback in overtime? After all, Baltimore hadn’t lost a home game to a first-year signal-caller in 20 years.

The time of possession and number of plays run by each side was virtually identical at the end of four quarters, meaning there was no real excuse for the defense to be tired. And it showed on the opening possession of overtime when the Ravens forced another punt after only four plays.

Now is when we’re supposed to criticize the offense for a three-and-out after a bad punt had given Baltimore the ball at its own 40-yard line, but I haven’t the energy to belabor the point anymore. This disastrous unit is the product of injuries and a poor offseason approach from general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh, and there’s little reason to hope for meaningful improvement at this point. It’s not as though this group had been clicking even with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on the field beyond last week’s win in Oakland, so to watch a completely broken passing game without him on Sunday wasn’t surprising.

Still, a Baltimore defense comprised of free-agent acquisitions and a slew of draft picks in recent years took the field with Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears backed up at their own 7 with 5:40 remaining. You had to know Chicago offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was going to call for a run in that situation, and that’s exactly what he did.

Bears running back Jordan Howard had rushed for 114 yards to that point, but he’d needed 32 carries to do it. That’s hardly great run defense as the Bears’ ground game had managed to remain functional throughout the day — allowing them to keep the game out of their rookie quarterback’s hands — but the Ravens had surrendered a very respectable 3.4 yards per carry in regulation.

Surely a franchise that’s prided itself in stopping the run for the better part of two decades wasn’t going to be beaten on the ground in overtime, right?

Howard ran outside left, eluded lunging Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley, and was engaged by Eric Weddle. Instead of wrapping tight and waiting for reinforcements on a short gain, the 11th-year safety focused on trying to strip the ball and allowed the 224-pound back to break free for a 53-yard gain.

You can’t have two of your best defensive players whiff in that crucial situation.

Even after that disastrous play, the Ravens still had a chance to make a stop on third-and-11 from the 41, which would have made for a long field goal try at best. All they had to do was come up with a play against a rookie quarterback as they’d done so many times at home over the last 20 years, whether it was Peyton Manning in 1998 or DeShone Kizer earlier this year.

Trubisky stood up to pressure in the pocket, however, and delivered an 18-yard strike to a leaping Kendall Wright.

Ballgame.

Yes, the offense deserves the lion’s share of the blame for Sunday’s 27-24 defeat when it mustered just three field goals and a 2-point conversion in its home stadium. But this is a defense that was supposed to be great — that was the overwhelming focus of the offseason, after all — and really hasn’t been close to that level since the first two weeks of the season. Make no mistake, the absence of defensive tackle Brandon Williams has been a major factor, but using that as the sole explanation is letting the rest of the players and coaching staff off the hook.

A great defense doesn’t surrender the longest play of the game in overtime when you know a run is coming and doesn’t let a quarterback in his first career road start drive a stake through its heart on a third-and-long play.

Stopping the run and making life miserable for rookie quarterbacks at M&T Bank Stadium have been two constants for the Ravens over the years, but those went up in smoke when it mattered most.

As did their chances to win after they were fortunate to be given new life in the first place.

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maclin

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Ravens-Bears: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 15 October 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens embark on a four-game stretch that could dramatically improve their playoff outlook by the time their Week 10 bye arrives next month.

The Chicago Bears are the first of four straight opponents currently dealing with concerns at quarterback as rookie first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky will make his first road start at M&T Bank Stadium, a place that’s been cruel to first-year quarterbacks over the years. In fact, the only rookie signal-caller to ever beat the Ravens in Baltimore was Arizona’s Jake Plummer at Memorial Stadium in 1997, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

In what comes as a surprise after he practiced all week on a limited basis, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) is inactive. The veteran wideout went through an on-field workout shortly before the inactive list was released Sunday morning, but overnight reports from ESPN and NFL Network indicated there was legitimate concern about his status for Week 6.

Maclin’s absence puts more pressure on Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman to produce against the league’s eighth-ranked pass defense. It could also trigger a greater workload for slot receiver Michael Campanaro, who would offer quarterback Joe Flacco more of a possession receiver option in the slot to go with Wallace and Perriman.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon) is active and will play despite missing two practices this week and playing only seven snaps in Oakland last Sunday. Smith told reporters Friday that he intended to play while continuing to manage the tendinitis that’s bothered him for a few weeks now.

Defensive tackle Carl Davis (hamstring) and cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring) are both inactive after being listed as questionable on the injury report. Tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) will make his return, however, after a three-game absence, which could lead to offensive coordinator featuring the tight ends more against Chicago.

As expected, defensive tackle Brandon Williams (foot) and outside linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) are inactive after being listed as doubtful on the final injury report. The good news is that the former practiced Friday for the first time since injuring his foot on Sept. 17, an encouraging sign for his availability at Minnesota next Sunday.

Running back Terrance West (calf) and right guard Matt Skura (knee) were officially declared out on Friday. Rookie Jermaine Eluemunor is expected to start in Skura’s place while Buck Allen and Alex Collins will share an increased workload in the backfield with West sidelined.

This marks the first time all year that the Ravens did not have a single healthy scratch among their seven inactive players as the injury bug continues to bite them hard.

There were no real surprises among Chicago’s inactives as wide receiver Markus Wheaton (groin) was officially ruled out on Friday. Starting inside linebacker Danny Trevathan is active and will play after serving a suspension last week.

Former Ravens running back Taquan Mizzell was a healthy scratch for the Bears.

Sunday’s referee is Ed Hochuli.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures reaching the high 70s with winds up to 10 miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys with white pants while Chicago dons white tops with blue pants.

Sunday marks the sixth all-time meeting between these teams with the Bears enjoying a 3-2 advantage. However, the Ravens have won each of the two games played in Baltimore

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Jeremy Maclin
RB Terrance West
CB Jaylen Hill
OLB Tim Williams
G Matt Skura
DT Carl Davis
DT Brandon Williams

CHICAGO
OL Hroniss Grasu
DL John Jenkins
LB Nick Kwiatkoski
RB Taquan Mizzell
QB Mark Sanchez
LB John Timu
WR Markus Wheaton

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flacco

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Ravens-Bears: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 14 October 2017 by Luke Jones

A week after the season appeared on the verge of crashing downward, the Ravens picked up one of their better road wins in recent years to move back into a tie for first place in the AFC North.

Now they begin a four-game stretch that could propel them into an enviable position within the conference playoff picture by the time their Week 10 bye arrives. Of course, Chicago will have other intentions in rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s first career road start for a team off to a disappointing 1-4 start.

The Ravens are once again banged up as starting right guard Matt Skura and running back Terrance West won’t play and defensive tackle Brandon Williams and rookie outside linebacker Tim Williams are expected to sit out against the Bears. Cornerback Jimmy Smith is also questionable for the second straight week as he continues to deal with Achilles tendinitis.

It’s time to go on the record as the Bears play the Ravens in Baltimore for just the third time ever. Chicago leads the all-time series by a 3-2 margin and won the last meeting played at Soldier Field in 2013, but Baltimore has won both games at M&T Bank Stadium.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Tony Jefferson will grab his first interception as a Raven. The free-agent newcomer is second on the team in tackles, but we’ve yet to see Jefferson make a dynamic impact, which might be a product of how he’s been used as much as anything else. He collected a sack against Oakland blitzing in the dime, and that’s a package the Ravens should use more often considering how strong he is playing close to the line of scrimmage. Baltimore linebackers have had problems covering tight ends, so look for Jefferson to match up with Zach Miller, who figures to be a popular target for a rookie quarterback on the road.

2. Bears rookie Tarik Cohen will finish with more total yards than starter Jordan Howard. The latter was one of the surprise rookies of last season, but he’s off to a rather ordinary start this season with a 4.0 yards per carry average. Meanwhile, the 5-foot-6 Cohen has done quite a Darren Sproles impression by averaging 5.4 yards per carry and catching 25 passes in his first five games. Regardless of which back is touching the ball, the Ravens need to tighten up their run defense, which ranks an unimpressive 23rd in yards allowed per game and 20th in yards surrendered per rush attempt at 4.3.

3. Breshad Perriman will catch his first touchdown of the season. It speaks volumes about how disappointing the 2015 first-round pick has been with the way such a big deal was made over his 13-yard reception on a third down late in the third quarter against Oakland. Perriman ranks eighth on the team in receptions and receiving yards despite averaging just over 41 offensive snaps per game. John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco have both spoken about the need to get Perriman more involved in the passing game, so look for the Ravens to try that as they did successfully last week with Mike Wallace.

4. A plus-three turnover advantage will allow Baltimore to lean on its running game in the second half. Trubisky has a strong arm and can move around, which will lead to him having his moments if the Ravens’ pass rush loses containment like it did on a few occasions against EJ Manuel. However, the rookie lacks enough talent at the wide receiver position to consistently be able to push the ball down the field and will make mistakes due to impatience. The Ravens defense has forced only two turnovers over the last three games after forcing 10 in their first two games. That changes on Sunday.

5. The Ravens will improve to 12-0 at home against rookie quarterbacks in the Harbaugh era with a 23-10 victory. Chicago sports a solid defense that will give Flacco and the offense some problems, but the Bears haven’t been dynamic enough to create turnovers, which is the only realistic path I envision for them to pull off an upset on Sunday. On the flip side, John Fox’s team would like to be able to lean on its running game, but the Ravens will make yards tough to come by in that department and do enough offensively to force the Bears to put the ball in Trubisky’s hands in the second half. This one will have a similar feel to the Week 2 home victory over Cleveland with a score almost identical.

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jimmysmith

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J. Smith questionable, B. Williams doubtful to play against Chicago

Posted on 13 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith is listed as questionable and defensive tackle Brandon Williams is doubtful to play in the Week 6 meeting with the Chicago Bears.

For the second straight week, Smith sat out Wednesday and Thursday before taking part in Friday’s lighter session. Smith aggravated his sore Achilles tendon returning a fumble for a touchdown on the first defensive series in Oakland last Sunday and played only four snaps the rest of the way as rookie Marlon Humphrey took his place in the base defense.

Smith confirmed he’s been dealing with tendinitis and plans to play on Sunday if the decision is up to him. After practice, head coach John Harbaugh said he would review the workout film and confer with Smith to see how he was feeling before any decisions would be made about his status.

“I’ve never actually dealt with this before, so I don’t really know the major approach to it,” Smith said. “The plan is to just get ahead of it — which we have — and keep it calm, so I can go out there and perform.”

Williams made his long-awaited return to practice on a limited basis Friday, a positive sign for his availability against Minnesota next week. He said he took part in some scout-team work and was running and doing sprints the previous day.

The standout defensive lineman has a target date in mind for his return, but he wouldn’t disclose it.

“I’m right on schedule,” Williams said. “Right where [the foot] needs to be. I feel good.”

Defensive tackle Carl Davis also returned to practice for the first time since injuring his hamstring in the first quarter against the Raiders. He is listed as questionable to play against the Bears.

Running back Terrance West (calf) and guard Matt Skura (knee) were officially ruled out for Sunday while outside linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) was listed as doubtful after once again missing practice.

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) and tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) were again practicing without incident Friday and are expected to play despite being listed as questionable. Williams was a full participant all week and is poised to return after a three-game absence.

Rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring) was a limited participant in practice for a third consecutive day and is questionable to make his NFL debut this week.

Meanwhile, the Bears officially ruled out wide receiver Markus Wheaton a day after he suffered a groin injury that’s expected to sideline him for several weeks. Starting right guard Kyle Long (ankle) was a full participant and wasn’t included on the final injury report after sitting out on Thursday.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the low 80s and winds 10 to 15 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Matt Skura (knee), RB Terrance West (calf)
DOUBTFUL: DT Brandon Williams (foot), LB Tim Williams (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Carl Davis (thigh), CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (thigh), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (achilles), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)

CHICAGO
OUT: WR Markus Wheaton (groin), LB John Timu (knee, ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: C Hroniss Grasu (hand), LB Nick Kwiatkoski (chest)

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jensen

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

Posted on 12 October 2017 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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jimmysmith

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Jimmy Smith, Brandon Williams still absent from Ravens practice

Posted on 12 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were still without two of their best defensive players as they continued preparations for their Week 6 meeting with Chicago.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was absent from Thursday’s practice while defensive tackle Brandon Williams appears very likely to miss his fourth straight game while recovering from a foot injury suffered on Sept. 17. Smith missed two days of practice last week before ultimately playing against Oakland, but he was limited to seven defensive snaps and re-aggravated his Achilles tendon on his 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Rookie Marlon Humphrey would start in Smith’s place if Baltimore elects to hold out the veteran defensive back against the Bears.

Running back Terrance West (calf), guard Matt Skura (knee), defensive tackle Carl Davis (hamstring), and outside linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) were also absent from Thursday’s session. Williams was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday, but he was not present during the media viewing period, meaning the rookie may have sustained the injury during the special-teams portion of practice.

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman returned to practice and was a full participant after sitting out Wednesday with a knee injury.

Defensive backs Jaylen Hill (hamstring) and Anthony Levine (thigh) as well as wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) were all listed as limited participants for the second straight day.

Meanwhile, the Bears suffered their latest injury to a wide receiver as former Pittsburgh Steeler Markus Wheaton will reportedly miss four to six weeks with a groin injury. Chicago lost top receiver Cam Meredith to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason and former first-round pick Kevin White to a broken shoulder blade in Week 1.

Starting right guard Kyle Long (ankle) was added to the injury report Thursday after sitting out practice.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Carl Davis (thigh), G Matt Skura (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), RB Terrance West (calf), DT Brandon Williams (foot), LB Tim Williams (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (thigh), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)

CHICAGO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Kyle Long (ankle), LB John Timu (knee, ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Marcus Cooper (back), C Hroniss Grasu (hand), DT Nick Kwiatkoski (chest), WR Markus Wheaton (groin)

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Perriman among six Ravens players absent from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 11 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are still feeling the effects of a physically-demanding win in Oakland as six players sat out Wednesday’s practice in preparation for a Week 6 meeting with Chicago.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon), defensive tackles Brandon Williams (foot) and Carl Davis (hamstring), guard Matt Skura (knee), running back Terrance West (calf), and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) were all missing from the field during the portion of practice open to media. Davis, Skura, and West all left last Sunday’s game with injuries and didn’t return while Smith’s Achilles flare-up limited him to just seven defensive snaps against the Raiders.

Should Brandon Williams not return to practice this week, he would miss his fourth straight game. Head coach John Harbaugh did not have any update when asked about the standout defensive lineman’s status during his Monday press conference, but Williams published a tweet on Wednesday hinting that his return would be in the near future.

Perriman caught two passes for 15 yards against the Raiders, doubling his reception total in what’s been a disappointing start to his third NFL season. It’s unknown whether his knee ailment will jeopardize his status for Sunday’s game against the Bears, but a health issue certainly won’t help him get going in 2017.

“We have to get him involved. Right now, there are not a ton of opportunities out there,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “You hope that when he gets in those situations — like he was on Sunday — he can make the play. I think that’s going to do wonders for our offense and for him moving forward just to make a couple plays like that and prove to himself that he can go do it out there.”

Tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) and cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring) were both present and working after missing Sunday’s game. Williams has missed three straight contests while Hill hasn’t played in a game since the third week of the preseason.

Outside linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) was listed as a limited participant during Wednesday’s practice, but he was not present during the media viewing portion. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was also limited with what was listed as a shoulder issue.

The Bears produced a fairly uneventful injury report Wednesday, but they cut former Ravens wide receiver and return specialist Deonte Thompson earlier in the day.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Carl Davis (thigh), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), G Matt Skura (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), RB Terrance West (calf), DT Brandon Williams (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (thigh), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), LB Tim Williams (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Maxx Williams (ankle)

CHICAGO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Marcus Cooper (back), LB John Timu (knee, ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Hroniss Grasu (hand), DT Nick Kwiatkoski (chest)

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