Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

stanley

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Left side of Ravens offensive line uncertain for Sunday

Posted on 29 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Preparing to face one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, the Ravens don’t know what the left side of their offensive line will look like against Oakland on Sunday.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and left guard Alex Lewis (concussion) were absent from practice for the second straight day, leaving their status up in the air for Week 4.

After being spotted in a walking boot in the locker room on Wednesday, Stanley was not wearing one on Thursday despite not talking to reporters. The 2016 first-round pick played in Week 3 despite missing a day of practice, but the foot issue has lingered, a definite concern with 2015 Pro Bowl defensive end Khalil Mack looming on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage on Sunday.

Lewis sustained a concussion late in the fourth quarter in Jacksonville and was replaced by Ryan Jensen at left guard. James Hurst is listed as the primary backup at left tackle on the Week 4 depth chart released by the public relations staff.

“We felt very good about Alex and Ronnie, and we will see what the trainers and doctors say,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “John [Harbaugh] determines at the end of the week how that goes, but we feel good about the guys we have.”

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) and wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) were full participants on Thursday after missing the opening practice of the week. Running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) was a limited participant for the second straight day.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) practiced fully once again and confirmed that he will make his season debut on Sunday. Veteran teammate Terrell Suggs broke the news on Wednesday that Dumervil would play against the Raiders.

“I guess my guy already said it,” said Dumervil as he laughed. “‘That is what we are shooting for.’ I can’t use that anymore. I’m excited to go out in front of our crowd.”

Meanwhile, the Raiders were without starting right tackle Menelik Watson (calf) for the second consecutive day of practice.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Alex Lewis (concussion), CB Sheldon Price (thigh), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), RS Devin Hester (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), G John Urschel (shoulder)

OAKLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Nate Allen (quadriceps), OT Austin Howard (ankle), OT Menelik Watson (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Rodney Hudson (knee), RB Taiwan Jones (knee), OT Matt McCants (knee)

 

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suggsdumervil

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Suggs tips hand about Dumervil returning for Ravens this week

Posted on 28 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are off to a 3-0 start without Elvis Dumervil, but his defensive teammates have surely missed the Pro Bowl pass rusher.

So much so that fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs appeared to tip the Ravens’ hand about Dumervil’s status for Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders. Asked about the reason for the defensive improvement from a year ago, Suggs cited good health while adding that the group would welcome another player back this week.

“It was tough not having him in there, but we get him back,” Suggs said. “It’s going to be good. Let him get in there and knock some rust off.”

Sidelined since suffering a setback just a few days after his return to the practice field on Aug. 22, Dumervil worked on a limited basis for two days last week and was listed as questionable on the final injury report for Week 3. However, he did not play against Jacksonville as the Ravens decided to give him another week in working his way back from offseason foot surgery.

Head coach John Harbaugh declined to say how close Dumervil was to playing against the Jaguars.

“He was fighting to do it,” Harbaugh said. “He just didn’t quite get there.”

Dumervil was a full participant during Wednesday’s practice, the first time that’s happened since the surgery.

The Ravens enter Week 4 ranked second in the NFL in total defense and fourth in scoring defense, but the pass rush would receive quite a boost from the presence of Dumervil, who collected 32 1/2 sacks over the last three seasons.

Baltimore is tied for seventh with nine sacks with Suggs and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan leading the way with three apiece. However, the defense will face its toughest challenge yet on Sunday against the Raiders’ second-ranked offense.

“We’ve got all our guys back,” Suggs said. “We’ve got all its working parts. We get another guy back this week, so that’s going to help us out. I think everybody is just committed to getting better every week. That’s huge for us.”

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dixon

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Rookie running back Dixon returns to practice for Ravens

Posted on 28 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Struggling to get their ground attack going despite a 3-0 start, the Ravens are moving closer to welcoming back a talented rookie who could provide a lift.

Running back Kenneth Dixon practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday for the first time since tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Aug. 27. Wearing a knee brace, the fourth-round pick was working off to the side during the portion of practice open to media, but Dixon turned heads in the preseason by averaging 4.9 yards per carry, leading many to believe he might be Baltimore’s best back.

The Ravens enter Week 4 ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing yards per game and 30th in yards per carry at just 3.3, but head coach John Harbaugh is trying not to place unreasonable expectations on Dixon.

“He’s a rookie, so I think a lot of what he can provide is yet to be determined,” Harbaugh said. “He showed flashes in the preseason, which was exciting. I think we’re all excited about what he might do. We’ll just have to see. That will be fun to see.”

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) was a full participant in practice after missing his third straight game on Sunday. The 32-year-old was a limited participant in workouts last Wednesday and Thursday  before ultimately sitting out against Jacksonville.

A good week of practice would put him in position to make his return against Oakland in Week 4.

Seven players were missing from Wednesday’s practice: wide receivers Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken (thigh), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee), and offensive linemen Marshal Yanda, Jeremy Zuttah, Alex Lewis (concussion), and Ronnie Stanley (foot).

The organization confirmed that Smith, Yanda, and Zuttah were attending the funeral of longtime defensive line coach Clarence Brooks in Massachusetts on Wednesday. Assistant coaches Don Martindale, Chris Hewitt, and Drew Wilkins were also at the funeral. A team spokesman said a number of other coaches and players went to the viewing for Brooks on Tuesday as Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti chartered a plane for members of the organization to attend the services.

“It was just really a great moment in terms of seeing the family that ‘C.B.’ had around him and the family that he built in so many ways,” Harbaugh said. “We see how he affected us every single day here and the lives that he impacted — guys who are here and guys over the years — but it was cool to see the impact he had in his own town and with his own family.”

Brooks died on Sept. 17 at the age of 65 from esophageal and stomach cancer.

Oakland was without two starting members of its offensive line on Wednesday as center Rodney Hudson (knee) and right tackle Menelik Watson (calf) were both absent from practice.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), G Alex Lewis (concussion), WR Steve Smith (non-injury), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), G Marshal Yanda (non-injury), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), RS Devin Hester (thigh), CB Sheldon Price (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), G John Urschel (shoulder)

OAKLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Austin Howard (ankle), C Rodney Hudson (knee), RB Taiwan Jones (knee), OT Menelik Watson (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S Nate Allen (quadriceps), OT Matt McCants (knee)

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flacco

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on Week 3 win in Jacksonville

Posted on 27 September 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 3-0 for the first time since 2009 with a 19-17 victory at Jacksonville on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Much praise has already been offered to the fourth-quarter performance of the Ravens defense, but the numbers were just sensational. Jacksonville ran 17 plays for four net yards while Baltimore collected four sacks, two interceptions, and two batted passes. That’s how you finish games.

2. Mentioning last week how methodical the Jacksonville defense has forced the Ravens to be, Joe Flacco threw 40 times with only completions of 20 or more yards. The Jaguars used deep safeties and an underwhelming running game didn’t help matters, but the Ravens must take more vertical shots.

3. Speaking of the running game, many want Terrance West to receive the bulk of the carries, but the Ravens don’t trust him as much in pass protection, which can’t be overlooked in a pass-happy offense. Still, you hope rookie Kenneth Dixon can eventually give a sputtering ground attack a spark.

4. John Harbaugh quipped that rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa needs extra work on the JUGS machine after dropping an interception that could have been a touchdown, but it was good to see the second-rounder make on impact with his first defensive action. Now he needs to build on that.

5. I had concerns after his Week 1 performance in which he had only 19 receiving yards on eight targets, but Steve Smith looked like his old self against Jacksonville, gaining yards after the catch and making four receptions in the fourth quarter. Maybe Jalen Ramsey did him a favor?

6. Many have criticized Shareece Wright after two rough games in a row, but shouldn’t Jimmy Smith be traveling with a receiver as talented as Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson? Wright does need to be better in coverage, but the Ravens gave Smith a big contract for those types of matchups.

7. Just 8-for-19 on tries from at least 50 yards in the previous two seasons, Justin Tucker is living up to a fat contract by nailing all three tries from that range so far, including the game-winning 54-yarder in Jacksonville. He’s easy to take for granted, but he shouldn’t be.

8. It’s ironic that Flacco’s franchise record of 21 consecutive completions ended on his best throw of the day that was dropped in the end zone by Mike Wallace. It wasn’t the best day for the veteran receiver or Breshad Perriman, who also dropped a couple of passes.

9. One of the big differences in the defense has been the improved pass coverage from the inside linebackers. C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr are getting better depth in their drops, and both came away with interceptions on Sunday.

10. Brent Urban gave the Ravens’ their 10th blocked kick since 2014, which proved to be the difference in the game. Special teams can be a great equalizer in overcoming deficiencies on offense or defense, and blocks have swung momentum two weeks in a row.

11. Alex Lewis did leave Sunday’s game with a concussion, but the Ravens listing the same seven inactives for the third straight week illustrates how healthy they’ve remained since the start of the regular season. They need Elvis Dumervil and Dixon to return, but they should feel fortunate otherwise.

12. Harbaugh says he isn’t superstitious, but his gray T-shirt worn on the sideline two weeks in a row will apparently be donned again against Oakland. It’s a more relaxed look for the ninth-year coach than we’re used to seeing, and it reminds a bit of Bill Belichick with the hoodie.

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alexlewis

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Ravens rookie guard Lewis in concussion protocol

Posted on 26 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lost in the final hectic minutes of the Ravens’ 19-17 win over Jacksonville on Sunday was the absence of rookie left guard Alex Lewis.

The 2016 fourth-round pick was not on the field for the final 10 offensive plays of the fourth quarter and is in the concussion protocol, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Reserve Ryan Jensen took Lewis’ place for the final three offensive drives.

“I thought he played well. Ryan goes out there, and he always gives you a spark,” Harbaugh said. “He played really well. He’s physical and played well. One of the things that we feel really good about is we have some depth in our interior offensive line.”

Lewis did not return to the game after taking a hard shot from Jaguars linebacker Dan Skuta on safety Tashaun Gipson’s interception return with less than six minutes remaining.The Nebraska product was slow to get up before leaving the field for the change of possession.

Should Lewis not be cleared to return in time for the Week 4 contest against Oakland, third-year lineman John Urschel or Jensen would be the leading candidates to start at left guard. Urschel has been listed as a full participant in practices for three weeks after suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason, but he has been inactive for the first three games.

For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus has graded Lewis 50th overall among qualified NFL guards through the first three weeks of the season. He sports a solid pass-blocking grade (26th overall) and a poor run-blocking mark (62nd overall).

The first injury report of the week will be released on Wednesday as Baltimore prepares for a home contest against the Raiders.

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young

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No matter how it’s looked, Ravens in great position early in 2016

Posted on 25 September 2016 by Luke Jones

You don’t have to buy into the 3-0 Ravens after a sloppy 19-17 win over Jacksonville on Sunday.

They’ve defeated three teams that are a combined 1-8 so far this season. Baltimore has won each of those games by a single possession and trailed in the fourth quarter of the last two.

Quarterback Joe Flacco spoke the truth after the game despite the Ravens being off to their best start since 2009 and standing alone in first place in the AFC North.

“You don’t want to have to be winning these games the way we are,” said Flacco, who threw two fourth-quarter interceptions after a whopping 21 straight completions earlier in the game. “I think it makes us tougher as a football team. At the same time, you’re not going to be able to get away with this when you’re playing really, really good teams in January.”

The mere fact that Flacco could mention January says it all, however. That possibility was already looking bleak after an 0-3 start last year.

The Ravens may not be a great team, but they’re in a great position with a perfect record through the first three weeks. Since 1990, teams starting 3-0 have made the playoffs 75.6 percent of the time.

The odds look even better with the Ravens now playing consecutive home games against Oakland and Washington. A 5-0 start hardly appears out of the question, and that would be welcomed when you consider what the rest of the schedule looks like after that.

The offense has managed only four touchdowns in three games. The running game has largely been a non-factor at a meager 3.3 yards per carry. The passing game has impressed at times, but then there are moments such as Mike Wallace’s drop in the end zone on the opening drive of the third quarter on Sunday that throw the rhythm out of whack for an extended period of time.

Still, you see plenty of reason for optimism with Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta looking more and more like their old selves, Wallace providing a needed vertical presence, and young receivers such as Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore flashing potential. The offensive line has been an obvious concern, but there were always going to be growing pains with two rookies starting on the left side.

In other words, there’s reason to think the group can improve markedly. That’s why a 3-0 record feels that much better, regardless of the quality of opponents.

“I think we’re a team that’s kind of growing as we’re moving along here,” Flacco said. “We have a lot of moving parts and a lot of guys who haven’t played with us before. At some point, we might see that we’re building up, building up, building up and all of a sudden it turns over very quickly. That’s kind of what I’m looking for — for it to turn over very quickly and for us to explode as an offense and really take off.”

The most impressive part of the Ravens through the first three weeks, however, has been a defense that’s allowed only 14.7 points per game. That’s including a 20-point nightmare of a first quarter in Cleveland, meaning the defense has been even stingier in its other 11 quarters of action.

The pass rush hasn’t been as consistent as defensive coordinator Dean Pees would like, but it has stepped up when needed, sacking Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles four times in the fourth quarter after failing to register one in the first three quarters on Sunday. You’d like to see more pressure off the edge, but veteran Terrell Suggs came alive with two quarterback takedowns in the final period and the Ravens will hope to welcome back Elvis Dumervil in Week 4. The interior rush has been more consistently disruptive with Timmy Jernigan leading the way with three sacks in the first three games.

But the biggest difference from last year’s defense has been the ability to force turnovers. The Ravens intercepted three passes against the Jaguars to give them five for the season, just one shy of their franchise-worst 2015 total.

On Sunday, Baltimore picked off Bortles twice in the final five minutes. Last week, it was a C.J. Mosley interception in the final minute that preserved a 25-20 victory. These were the game-changing plays that were largely absent against both good teams and bad teams a year ago.

Despite their imperfections on Sunday, the Ravens had two distinct advantages over the Jaguars that Suggs identified after the game. And they’re huge reasons why Baltimore should feel even more optimistic about a 3-0 start.

“You want a quarterback with ice in his veins,” Suggs said, “and you damn sure want a kicker with ice in his veins as well.”

Justin Tucker proved the latter with a 54-yard field goal with 1:02 remaining to complete a 4-for-4 day. He has now connected on all three of his tries from at least 50 yards, an area where he struggled last season.

The Ravens may not be the best 3-0 team in the NFL, but they’ll take that over being called the best 2-1 team like Pittsburgh or a good 1-2 squad like Cincinnati. Sure, you can argue that the Ravens haven’t beaten anybody, but they haven’t lost to anybody, either.

A 3-0 start leaves less work to do later and more leeway to figure things out in the coming weeks as the Ravens will hope to be ready to step up their play against the better teams looming later in the year.

Maybe even in January.

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dumervil

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Dumervil inactive for third straight game

Posted on 25 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens must wait another week to welcome back their Pro Bowl pash rusher.

Despite returning to practice on a limited basis this week, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) is inactive for Sunday’s meeting with Jacksonville. The 32-year-old had expressed hope that he would return against the Jaguars, but he did not participate in Friday’s walk-through, a discouraging sign for his Week 3 availability.

Dumervil has logged only a handful of practices in his return from offseason foot surgery and suffered a setback in late August that had sidelined him until this week. His absence will again open the door for younger options such as Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon to receive increased pass-rushing opportunities.

As expected, rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley is active and will start after missing Wednesday’s practice with a foot ailment. The first-round pick was a full participant in practices for the remainder of the week.

Interestingly enough, Baltimore turned in the same list of inactives for the third consecutive week. Cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Will Davis and running back Buck Allen were among the healthy scratches. Offensive lineman John Urschel (shoulder) was inactive for the third straight week despite being a full participant in practices since the start of the regular season.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars listed four starters as inactive for Sunday’s game. Jacksonville will be without left tackle Kelvin Beachum (concussion), center Brandon Linder (knee), defensive end Jared Odrick (triceps), and cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) against the Ravens.

The absence of Beachum and Linder should create an advantage for the Baltimore defensive line that’s already had a strong start to the season.

The referee for Sunday’s game is Gene Steratore.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, temperatures reaching 87 degrees, a 15 percent chance of rain, and winds up to 11 miles per hour.

The Ravens will wear purple jerseys with white pants while the Jaguars don white tops with white pants.

Sunday marks the 20th meeting between these old AFC Central rivals with Jacksonville holding the 11-8 advantage. The Ravens are 2-6 in their trips to EverBank Field and haven’t won there since the 2001 season.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
LB Elvis Dumervil
CB Jerraud Powers
RB Kenneth Dixon
CB Will Davis
RB Buck Allen
OL John Urschel
DT Willie Henry

JACKSONVILLE
DE Jared Odrick
LT Kelvin Beachum
CB Prince Amukamara
C Brandon Linder
QB Brandon Allen
TE Ben Koyack
DE Chris Smith

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mancini

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Unlikely sources providing late lift for Orioles

Posted on 25 September 2016 by Luke Jones

Teams hoping to play in October often need help from unexpected sources along the way.

The Orioles acquired Steve Pearce at the trade deadline to aid their lineup against left-handed pitching, but the veteran was lost for the season after undergoing right forearm surgery last week. Minor-league prospect Trey Mancini received the call to the majors to take his place on the roster just a week ago.

The 24-year-old has responded by becoming the third player in major league history to homer in each of his first three starts to begin his career. His solo blast off Arizona lefty Robbie Ray gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead in the fourth as they’d ultimately win 6-1 to retake the lead for the second wild card in the American League.

Mancini has yet to collect a single in the majors as all four of his hits — three homers and a double — have gone for extra bases. Whether it’s short-lived success or the start of a good major league career, the spark has provided a lift at a time the Orioles have needed it with the memory of the four-game sweep to Boston still in their minds.

Of course, the rookie hasn’t been alone as Wade Miley turned in Baltimore’s second-longest start of the year on Saturday, allowing one run over 8 2/3 innings and nearly pitching the club’s first complete-game shutout in over two years. Miley matched a career high with 11 strikeouts and has now allowed one run over his last 12 2/3 innings dating back to his injury-abbreviated start last Sunday.

Who would have predicted that 10 days ago?

Facing two last-place teams has certainly helped, but Miley has commanded his fastball much better over his last two outings and is pitching with more confidence. With Kevin Gausman pushed back due to an intercostal strain and the Orioles wanting to give Dylan Bundy extra rest between starts, Miley’s improvement couldn’t have come at a better time.

After Saturday’s gem, the lefty cited a recent conversation with Scott McGregor in which the former Orioles pitcher advised him to try “easier” on the mound and to relax. Whatever he said has at least worked temporarily for the veteran starter whom many wanted to be banished to the bullpen for the remainder of the season after posting a hideous 8.41 ERA in his first eight starts for the Orioles.

He isn’t the first maligned Orioles pitcher to reverse his fortunes recently as Ubaldo Jimenez has served as one of their top starters over the last month. Recent performance doesn’t erase either pitcher’s giant missteps in 2016, but at least they’ve salvaged some good grace in helping down the stretch.

Jones sets career high

Often criticized for his aggressive approach at the plate, Adam Jones set a new career high when he drew a leadoff walk in Saturday’s first inning.

The 31-year-old now has 38 walks this season, surpassing the 36 he drew in his first All-Star campaign back in 2009. His 6.0 percent walk rate isn’t as high as his 6.9 percent mark from that season, but it’s substantially higher than where it’s been in recent years.

Jones owns a .366 average with a 1.012 on-base plus slugging percentage when swinging at the first pitch in his career and is hitting .316 with a .979 OPS on the first pitch this season. He surely goes through stretches when that approach hurts him, but I’ve always argued that the five-time All-Star center fielder would not be the same hitter if not for his aggressiveness early in the count.

Say what you want about how it might look at times, but Jones now has six straight seasons of at least 25 homers and 82 RBIs and has produced an OPS of no worse than .764 in any year over that time. He’s bounced back admirably from the rib injury that hurt his production over the first six weeks of 2016.

Drake quietly impressing

The Orioles bullpen recently welcomed back 2015 All-Star selection Darren O’Day, but right-hander Oliver Drake has quietly impressed since being recalled in late August.

In his last 11 innings, Drake has pitched to a 1.64 ERA with 14 strikeouts and only two walks and earned his first major league victory with a scoreless inning on Friday night. Manager Buck Showalter has cited improved fastball command and a tighter splitter as the reasons for his improvement at the major league level.

That splitter makes Drake particularly effective against left-handed hitting.

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jagsravens

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Ravens-Jaguars: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 24 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens face a desperate team on Sunday.

After entering the season with much optimism about a talented core of young players, the Jacksonville Jaguars have stumbled out of the gate to an 0-2 start and were thoroughly outplayed in a 38-14 defeat in San Diego last week. Meanwhile, the Ravens have taken advantage of two below-average opponents to start 2-0 for the first time since 2009.

Facing the challenge of a second consecutive road game, the Ravens certainly hopes to start faster than last week when Cleveland took an early 20-0 lead and forced them to enter catch-up mode.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore seeks its first win in Jacksonville since 2001 when the teams were rivals in the old AFC Central. The Jaguars lead the all-time regular-season series with an 11-8 mark, but the Ravens have won eight of the last 11 meetings dating back to 2000. This marks the third straight year in which the Ravens and Jaguars have met with Jacksonville prevailing in a controversial 22-20 finish at M&T Bank Stadium last year.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. The Ravens will fail to score a touchdown in the first quarter for the third straight game. Slow starts have been too common in the brief Marc Trestman era, which hasn’t helped to jump-start the running game going back to last season. Baltimore should be aggressive early with vertical shots against a banged-up Jaguars secondary, but Trestman has been reluctant to do so in the opening quarter. An early touchdown would go a long way in frustrating an 0-2 opponent and killing what little home-field advantage exists at EverBank Field, but Jacksonville will play hard with its 2016 season already in peril.

2. Tavon Young will intercept a Blake Bortles pass to set up a Baltimore score. The Ravens intercepted two passes last week, which doesn’t sound out of the ordinary until you remember they only had six all last season. A unheralded contributor to a revamped secondary has been the rookie Young, who hasn’t played like a final-day draft pick so far. He made a couple key tackles on Cleveland’s final drive last week and has held up well in slot coverage. He’ll come away with his first career pick defending Marqise Lee to give the Ravens offense a short field.

3. Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas will catch touchdown passes for Jacksonville. The potential return of Elvis Dumervil would certainly help, but Baltimore will need to get more pressure off the edges against Bortles, who has plenty of weapons at his disposal despite his underwhelming performance through two games. Robinson and Allen Hurts are challenging enough to handle, but Thomas is healthy and has put up good numbers early. The Ravens have done a solid job against tight ends so far, but the memory of last year’s struggles covering that position is still too fresh.

4. Breshad Perriman will catch the first touchdown of his NFL career. It’s no secret that Joe Flacco has mostly thrown to Mike Wallace, Dennis Pitta, and Steve Smith as the trio of accounted for 43 targets out of 78 total passing attempts. However, Flacco would have connected on a long touchdown to Perriman against Cleveland’s Joe Haden had the pass been thrown more to the middle of the field. Since the 2015 first-round pick played his college ball a little over two hours away, Jacksonville feels like an appropriate place for him to finally hit pay dirt.

5. The home team feeling more urgency and needing a win will edge the Ravens in a 23-20 final. This game feels like little more than a coin flip, but Jacksonville can’t afford to lose this one whereas John Harbaugh’s team is playing with a little bit of house money after the largest road comeback win in franchise history last week. Baltimore can make a strong statement by improving to 3-0, but the Jaguars will prove they’re better than they were a week ago by making just a couple more plays than the Ravens to prevail in a close game. If this were a home game for the Ravens, I’d pick them instead.

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wieters

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For better or worse, Orioles keep swinging for the fences

Posted on 24 September 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After taking blow after blow from Boston in a four-game sweep this week, the Orioles were finally able to fight back against Arizona on Friday night.

A night filled with frustration and missed opportunities was finally salvaged when Mark Trumbo homered to lead off the bottom of the 12th inning, giving the Orioles a 3-2 win and keeping them a half-game behind Detroit for the second wild card spot. It was Baltimore’s third solo home run of the night after Buck Showalter’s lineup had left 14 runners on base and gone 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

Trumbo provided the Orioles with just their third win all season when trailing at the end of eight innings.

“It can be a real gut punch if it goes the other way,” said Trumbo, who hit his 44th homer of the year. “It would be a tough one to stomach. Fighting really hard in the thick of things and then to have a couple chances [wasted]. The effort’s there, but someone’s got to get that big hit eventually.”

The big hits absent throughout the Red Sox series eventually came via the long ball against the last-place Diamondbacks, but the Orioles certainly didn’t make it easy on themselves, which has been a defining story for much of an underwhelming second half.

Pedro Alvarez hit a solo shot to give the Orioles their first run of the game in the eighth inning, but that came only after he had struck out with the bases loaded in the first and popped out with runners on second and third and one out in the sixth. Matt Wieters hit the game-tying homer to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but his teammates didn’t capitalize when he led off the 11th with a single to start a bases-loaded, one-out rally.

The Orioles even attempted to play small ball as Michael Bourn bunted twice, once unsuccessfully and the other leading to no runs in the 11th. In the ninth, J.J. Hardy was thrown out at the plate on a very aggressive send by third base coach Bobby Dickerson.

“This was a game where we kind of knew it didn’t matter what the situation was, what we were down by,” Wieters said. “We were going to have to find a way to win this game.”

To no surprise, that way was by the home run as has been the case all season.

This is what the Orioles do, for better or worse. Such a reliance on the long ball will be a blast when they’re hot, but the tough times will leave you wondering if they’re ever going to score runs again.

The club isn’t going to magically change fundamentally in the final week of the season. That’s more of a big-picture discussion for executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and Showalter to have after the season.

The hitter-by-hitter approach certainly needs to be better than it has been over the last week in particular, but the Orioles’ best — and perhaps only — hope of securing a playoff spot is getting hot with the long ball again.

You don’t have to like their chances, but the formula still has us talking about them in the thick of the playoff race in late September. Maybe it can take them a little bit further still.

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