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Ravens-Lions preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 26 August 2016 by Luke Jones

Our longest look at Ravens starters in the preseason will be our only look at some in Saturday’s game against Detroit on Saturday night.

The much-awaited return of starting quarterback Joe Flacco will be the dominating story in the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, but head coach John Harbaugh would like to see a good showing from his starting units that likely will still be without the likes of Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, and Elvis Dumervil. For a team that did more minor tweaking than overhauling after a 5-11 season, many questions remains.

“Either we’re going to be good or we’re not,” Harbaugh said. “It’s what we do, not what we say. We can talk about it all we want. I have reasons for optimism, and I have reasons for pessimism. It’s just going to matter how well we coach, how well we play.

“You have to do your part. Your part is to get better. Your part is not to stay the same. If you stay the same, you’re getting worse. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. You never stay the same. Your goal has to be to come out here and get better, and it’s hard to do.”

Most starters are expected to play the entire first half before giving way to younger players and fringe veterans fighting for roster spots. It will be a good opportunity for Flacco to get his first live-game reps with veteran newcomers Benjamin Watson and Mike Wallace, who have played very little in the preseason and have yet to register as much as a catch between them.

The Ravens will see a number of old friends across the field on Saturday night. Not only will five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata be making his return to M&T Bank Stadium, but fellow Super Bowl XLVII champions Anquan Boldin and Josh Bynes and former assistant coaches Jim Caldwell and Teryl Austin will be on the opposing side.

Flacco was asked whether he’d ask the 345-pound Ngata before the game to take care of him should the two meet in the pocket during Saturday’s game.

“I don’t think so,” said the 31-year-old quarterback as he laughed. “It will be interesting to see him. I’m used to seeing him over there [on defense during practices], but it will be interesting seeing him in some other colors for sure.”

Saturday marks the fourth time that these teams have met in the preseason with the Ravens holding a 2-1 edge to go with their 3-1 advantage in all-time regular-season meetings. Baltimore has built a 22-12 record in preseason games during the Harbaugh era.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Saturday night’s game against Detroit.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider any veteran players who could be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference.

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

OUT: WR Steve Smith (Achilles), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (finger/hip), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), S Matt Elam (knee), DE Bronson Kaufusi (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle), CB Kyle Arrington (head), S Kendrick Lewis (undisclosed), TE Maxx Williams (undisclosed), G John Urschel (contusion)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles), DT Brandon Williams (undisclosed), WR Chris Matthews (soft tissue injury), CB Maurice Canady (hamstring), TE Darren Waller (jaw), CB Jerraud Powers (undisclosed)

Five players to watch Saturday night

LB Matt Judon

With other edge defenders expected to be sidelined against the Lions, the rookie fifth-round pick has a great opportunity to etch out a role as a rotational pass rusher if he can build on what he’s done in the first two preseason games against tougher competition on Saturday. Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees have spoken highly of Judon’s combination of size and quickness, so it will be interesting to see how he fares against first-team blockers. The Ravens need someone to emerge as an impact pass rusher behind Suggs and Dumervil, and Judon has propelled himself into that conversation.

RB Buck Allen

The second-year back had a 19-yard touchdown reception in the preseason opener, but he’s carried the ball 10 times for only 20 yards and has no other receiving yards beyond that score. Allen has clear ability as a receiver out of the backfield, but you’d like to see him show more as a runner between the tackles after he averaged an unspectacular 3.8 yards per carry as a rookie. With Terrance West showing improvement as a rusher and rookie Kenneth Dixon looking like a potential change-of-pace back, the 2015 fourth-round pick is still waiting to make a statement of his own this summer.

CB Will Davis

While Shareece Wright and Jerraud Powers have struggled in the preseason, Davis is trending upward as he has looked healthier and quicker since struggling early in camp. The Ravens knew he had the ability to play on the outside, but he held up surprisingly well playing some slot cornerback against Indianapolis, which is something worth monitoring moving forward. The organization obviously thought enough of Davis to send a seventh-round pick to Miami last year, so it will be interesting to see if the 2013 third-round pick will climb the depth chart as he moves further away from knee surgery.

G Vlad Ducasse

The seventh-year veteran isn’t a lock to make the team, but the other options in the competition at left guard lack experience while he’s started 22 games over his career. His performance against the Colts wasn’t quite as stellar as it was against Carolina, but Ducasse figures to improve his chances with a strong showing against the Lions while third-year guard John Urschel is expected to be sidelined again. The Ravens don’t have great depth at tackle, but Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis have the ability to play outside, meaning a guard like Ducasse could receive the nod over a reserve tackle like De’Ondre Wesley.

CB Tavon Young

A hamstring injury sustained in the preseason opener slowed a fast start to his first training camp, but Young figures to have a chance to show what he can do at the nickel spot while veterans such as Powers and Kyle Arrington are likely to be sidelined against the Lions. Despite only being 5-foot-9, Young has shown a nose for the football and impressive confidence for a rookie cornerback. At the very least, the Ravens are looking for him to be a major contributor on kickoff and punt coverage units and potentially as a kick returner, which remains an unsettled position on this current roster.

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butler

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Sizing up the 2016 Ravens roster before the third preseason game

Posted on 26 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the “dress rehearsal” of the preseason now upon us, it’s time for our newest look at the Ravens’ 53-man roster with the last projection taking place after the first preseason game.

My current look at the roster suggests 46 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the preseason roster lists 19 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying extensive talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of keeping a balanced number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers or safeties isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens will look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their respective offensive or defensive positions.

The Ravens must trim the roster from 90 players to 75 on Aug. 30 and will go down to the regular-season number of 53 on Sept. 3.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are part of the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 26.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco
BUBBLE: Ryan Mallett, Josh Johnson
LONG SHOT: Jerrod Johnson
Skinny: If the backup competition were based solely on summer performance, Josh Johnson would likely be in the lead despite Mallett’s skill set more closely resembling Flacco’s. Harbaugh said Mallett hasn’t yet locked up the job, but I’m still not convinced that his roster spot is in real jeopardy, either.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Stephen Houston
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Lorenzo Taliaferro
Skinny: Keeping four tailbacks is unusual, but Forsett’s experience is too valuable and the upside of the three young backs is too enticing to pass up. It remains to be seen how the carries will be distributed, but the rookie Dixon flashes the look of a potential home-run hitter out of the backfield.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro
BUBBLE: Jeremy Butler, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Chuck Jacobs, Dobson Collins, Darius White
Skinny: Trying to find roster room for Butler is likely one of Baltimore’s biggest headaches now, but what does the preseason standout offer that’s truly unique from the other six on the projected roster? Reynolds is improving, but it still looks like too tall of an order to keep him on the 53-man roster.

TIGHT ENDS (7)
LOCK: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Daniel Brown
SUSPENDED: Nick Boyle, Darren Waller
Skinny: Health is a concern here as only the 35-year-old Watson has avoided missing extensive practice time this summer. Pitta is more of an unknown than you’d like, but Harbaugh did not indicate that his roster spot was in danger while bemoaning his long-term absence due to a broken finger.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (15)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Rick Wagner, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Alex Lewis
BUBBLE: Ryan Jensen, Vlad Ducasse, De’Ondre Wesley, James Hurst
LONG SHOT: Anthony Fabiano, Matt Skura, Jarell Broxton, Blaine Clausell, Stephane Nembot
Skinny: This eight-man group would leave the Ravens light at offensive tackle, but Lewis can play there and Yanda can certainly move out to right tackle in a game-day pinch. Wesley would appear to be a good candidate to land on the practice squad if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Brent Urban
BUBBLE: Willie Henry, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Michael Pierce
LONG SHOT: Trevon Coley
INJURED RESERVE: Bronson Kaufusi
Skinny: It’s been an underwhelming summer for Henry, but it’s difficult envisioning the Ravens cutting a fourth-round pick in his rookie season. Lewis-Moore has improved from last season, but keeping more than six defensive linemen is difficult with so many needs elsewhere.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Kamalei Correa
BUBBLE: Arthur Brown
LONG SHOT: Kavell Conner, Patrick Onwuasor
Skinny: Brown hasn’t done much to distinguish himself as worthy of making the team this summer, making it the potential end of the road for the disappointing 2013 second-round pick. The versatility of this overall linebacker group is a strength with a few players like Correa able to play inside or outside.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (9)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Albert McClellan, Matt Judon
BUBBLE: Chris Carter
LONG SHOT: Victor Ochi, Brennen Beyer, Mario Ojemudia
Skinny: With McClellan and Orr now playing bigger defensive roles, Carter might be a good fit as a veteran easing some of their workload on special teams. Ochi is an intriguing prospect who has barely played in the preseason, making you think the Ravens are trying to sneak him onto the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young
BUBBLE: Will Davis, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady, Kyle Arrington
LONG SHOT: Julian Wilson, Carrington Byndom
Skinny: The Ravens would probably like to find room for Price or Canady, but they have safeties who can play the nickel and dime spots. Arrington’s extended absence due to a concussion has really hurt his chances of making the team after his salary was already cut this offseason.

SAFETIES (6)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Kendrick Lewis
LONG SHOT: None
INJURED RESERVE: Matt Elam
Skinny: Elam seems like a logical candidate to land on injured reserve where the Ravens could potentially activate him after Week 6 if there’s a need at safety. Coaches like Lewis, but he has missed a lot of time this summer, making you wonder if he’s losing his grip on a roster spot.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Wil Lutz
Skinny: There’s still nothing to see here with Lutz occasionally easing the workload of Tucker and Koch during practices.

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Flacco

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Flacco ready to take final step toward football normalcy

Posted on 25 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — You can tell Joe Flacco is tired of talking about his left knee.

The Ravens quarterback understands the many questions, cordially answering each one. But he also hasn’t missed a practice rep all summer despite sitting out the first two preseason games as a precaution.

The 31-year-old downplayed Saturday’s game against Detroit carrying more significance than the many preseason games in which he’s participated over his nine-year career. Still, this is the longest Flacco has gone without playing in a competitive game since his collegiate days.

“I’m excited about it. It has been a while,” said Flacco, who expects to play most of the first half against the Lions. “Obviously, I had to go through a little bit to get here to this point to where I can go back out there and play with my guys. That is really what I’m looking forward to — just getting back out there in live action and being in a real huddle and just seeing everybody’s eyes and how excited they are to get after it.”

It will be Flacco’s final step toward football normalcy as the next time he’ll take the field will presumably be the season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 11. By then, many of the questions about his knee will likely be replaced with ones about how to beat Rex Ryan’s defense to get off to a 1-0 start in 2016.

Understandably, the Ravens will hold their breath to some degree until Flacco gets hit the first time — and gets back up. The last ninth months have been strange territory with a quarterback who’d never missed a game in his career until last November, but there was little upside to exposing Flacco in the first two preseason games, especially before knowing how rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley would fare in his first live-game action.

The time is now to get the 31-year-old back out there.

“There’s really no doubt that he’s ready to play,” Harbaugh said. “But football is risky for everybody. That’s just the way it works. You have to weigh the benefits with the risk and put them out there. Joe is a quarterback. He’s not going to break. He’s going to play.”

The Ravens will surely be looking for signs of anxiousness from Flacco playing in his first fully-live pocket. Unlike training camp practices, he won’t be wearing a red non-contact jersey and the defensive front will be trying to hit him and hit him hard.

He’ll be entering new territory in his post-surgery world.

Will Flacco subconsciously pull away from under center too soon? Does he throw the football a split-second earlier than he should while standing in an imperfect pocket? Will he throw off his back foot — something he was already guilty of doing from time to time in his career?

These questions explain why Flacco needs to get his game legs back under him before Week 1.  The veteran may not view getting hit again as a desired rite of passage, but he knows it’s an inevitable part of the game.

“It would be great not to get hit,” said Flacco while cracking a smile. “I don’t need to get hit. But if I do, it is not a bad thing, either.”

Of course, Saturday isn’t just about getting Flacco back on the field. An offense with several new pieces needs time to gel and to build some momentum ahead of the season opener.

The Ravens not only need a healthy Flacco in 2016, but they need a better one than they saw last year when he threw 12 interceptions in 10 games before the injury. Saturday doesn’t need to be perfect, but a couple of crisp scoring drives would make Baltimore feel better going into the start of the season.

“Results are always important,” Harbaugh said. “If it’s important enough to go out there and put the guys in that situation, it’s important enough to do well. That’s the idea. We want to do as well we can.”

With plenty of questions on both sides of the ball yet to be answered, the Ravens will only thrive in 2016 with Flacco healthy and at the top of his game.

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zadariussmith

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Za’Darius Smith, Steve Smith not expected to play for Ravens on Saturday

Posted on 25 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Quarterback Joe Flacco will make his much-anticipated return to the field against Detroit on Saturday, but the Ravens are expecting to be without several key figures for the “dress rehearsal” before the start of the 2016 season.

Veterans recently returning from injury such as wide receiver Steve Smith and linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil were never considered sure bets to play against Detroit, but second-year outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith was absent from Thursday’s walk-through with a sprained ankle.

“Za’Darius has a little ankle issue that he had yesterday in practice,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s not a major thing. I doubt he’ll play. There’s no sense putting him out there with a sprained ankle.”

Harbaugh said Suggs was “fine” despite not being present for Thursday’s light practice, but his absence leads one to believe his status could be in doubt for the third preseason game. The 33-year-old rush linebacker returned to the practice field on Aug. 15 after an 11-month absence due to a torn left Achilles tendon and expressed interest last week in getting some live-game reps in the preseason.

Dumervil and Steve Smith were both present for Thursday’s walk-through, but they only returned to the practice field in the last few days.

“He’s not playing in this game, at least that I know of,” said Harbaugh about the 37-year-old Smith, who tore his right Achilles tendon less than 10 months ago. “We’ll see. Maybe he’ll decide [he wants to play] tomorrow.”

The potential absences of Za’Darius Smith, Suggs, and Dumervil would open the door for rookie edge defender Matt Judon to receive action against Detroit’s first-team offense. Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees said this week that they’d like to evaluate the fifth-round pick against tougher competition after he collected two sacks and nine tackles over the first two preseason games against second- and third-team offenses.

Harbaugh wouldn’t officially rule out second-year receiver Breshad Perriman from Saturday’s game, but he’s all but guaranteed to sit out against Detroit after only returning to practice on Tuesday.

“We’ll see. It’s up to the doctors,” Harbaugh said. “They’ll let me know. We’ll meet on that this afternoon — docs and trainers — and see where he’s at with that. He hasn’t gone full speed in practice, as you know, but today’s not a full-speed practice for anybody, so we’ll just have to see.”

Others unlikely to play on Saturday after extended absences from practice include nose tackle Brandon Williams (undisclosed), guard John Urschel (contusion), tight ends Dennis Pitta (broken finger) and Maxx Williams (undisclosed), cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (concussion) and Jerraud Powers (undisclosed), and safety Kendrick Lewis (undisclosed).

Players definitely out for Saturday’s game include running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), safety Matt Elam (knee), and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle). Taliaferro remains on the physically unable to perform list while Elam and Kaufusi are candidates to be placed on injured reserve at the end of the summer.

Tight end Darren Waller (jaw) and cornerback Maurice Canady (hamstring) both returned to the field to participate in Thursday’s walk-through after exiting the second preseason game early with injuries.

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stanley

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For Ravens left tackle Stanley, not being noticed is good thing

Posted on 24 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Most teams would have trepidation starting a rookie at left tackle to block for a franchise quarterback coming back from a major knee injury.

But that fear doesn’t seem to resonate with the Ravens as Ronnie Stanley continues to go about his business in his first summer protecting Joe Flacco’s blindside. In fact, the 2016 first-round pick is hardly being discussed when coaches are grading the tape from daily practices.

The Ravens hope that continues with Flacco making his preseason debut against Detroit on Saturday night, his first start since tearing two ligaments in his left knee on Nov. 22, 2015. The organization wouldn’t have made Stanley their earliest draft pick in 16 years — or released veteran Eugene Monroe this summer — if they didn’t think he was up to the challenge.

“He has just really quietly gone about his business each and every day at practice,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who quipped that the only help he’s given Stanley was to suggest buying bonds. “He is very focused. There is not a lot of stuff going on outside of him just trying to do his job, and it is a really good sign. He has a good, quiet demeanor. He is working extremely hard.”

Questions remain as to who will ultimately replace free-agent departure Kelechi Osemele at left guard — with veteran John Urschel and rookie Alex Lewis being the top candidates — but Stanley has silenced any lingering questions about his readiness with a strong preseason. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound lineman has graded as the best rookie tackle in the NFL and has yet to allow a pressure in the preseason.

Trestman gives much credit to offensive line coach Juan Castillo for getting Stanley to this point, but the Ravens made it clear early on that they felt the polished young tackle was a perfect fit for their outside zone scheme after he played in a pro-style offense at Notre Dame.

“There is nothing that tells you he can’t do this, and the game is not going to be too big for him and the spot is not going to be too big for him,” Trestman said. “That is an important spot, obviously. That is what we are seeing each and every day. We have to assess it and grade it each day and each game. We think he is going to grow into being an outstanding football player.”

Tougher test for Judon

Much of Saturday’s focus will be on veteran players seeing their most extensive action of the preseason, but the coaching staff wants to take a closer look at rookie outside linebacker Matt Judon.

Leading the Ravens in tackles (nine) and sacks (two) in the preseason, Judon has mostly faced second- and third-team offensive players, but head coach John Harbaugh said after Saturday’s win in Indianapolis that they want to put him against some starting-caliber competition. Standing at 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, Judon plays with a style that reminds at least one member of the coaching staff a little bit of Terrell Suggs.

“He’s got pretty good burst coming off the edge for being big and physical,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who also praised Judon’s mental preparation. “I think he’s going to grow into a big guy, kind of like ‘Sizz’ is. I wouldn’t compare him to [Suggs] in any way, shape, or form right now, but I think he’s that style of guy.”

Roster preview on Saturday

With final roster cuts less than two weeks away, the third preseason game often provides good insight into which fringe players are on the right side of the bubble.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg mixes and matches quite a bit on coverage and return units to evaluate young players in the first two preseason games, but we’ll see the real groups — or close to them — in the first half on Saturday. Bubble players appearing on those units figure to have a better chance than those who are absent early on.

“What you will see is the player rotation will be different,” Rosburg said. “We will have guys like Albert McClellan, [who] hasn’t played a rep on special teams so far, and he is one of our best players. He is one of the best in the league. Zach Orr has not played a rep on special teams this preseason. Kyle Juszczyk [hasn’t played a special-teams rep. I could go on and on. The first two preseason games, we are trying to develop players. The third preseason game starts out more like a real game.”

Injury report

Twelve players remained absent from Wednesday’s practice, a group including nose tackle Brandon Williams, left guard John Urschel (contusion), tight ends Dennis Pitta (broken finger), Maxx Williams, and Darren Waller, safeties Kendrick Lewis and Matt Elam (knee), cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (concussion), Jerraud Powers, and Maurice Canady (hamstring), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle).

Brandon Williams hasn’t practiced since playing in Saturday’s preseason game, but head coach John Harbaugh downplayed his unspecified ailment on Tuesday.

“He has a nick or a bruise,” Harbaugh said. “All of the guys that were out today — with the exception of Matt Elam — have non-season-threatening-type issues they’re dealing with. Brandon has one of those, so he’s out because he couldn’t practice.”

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perriman2

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Perriman eager to prove he’s “worth the wait” for Ravens

Posted on 23 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Upon seeing Breshad Perriman take part in his first full-squad practice in over a year, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs couldn’t resist teasing the second-year wide receiver.

“Who’s the new guy?” the boisterous veteran asked during the early portion of Tuesday’s workout. “Can he play?”

The second question is the one everyone — the Ravens and their fans — would like to finally explore as health has been the lone focus since Perriman injured his right knee on the first full day of training camp last year and missed his entire rookie season. A partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in June was initially feared to be another season-ending blow, but Perriman has returned less than 2 1/2 months after the injury. Taking part in only the individual portion of Tuesday’s practice, he moved well while running routes and catching passes, even snagging a couple with one hand.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Central Florida product can’t wait until he no longer has to answer the questions about his knees and can instead prove to the Ravens that they were wise to take him with the 26th overall selection of the 2015 draft. In his very limited practice time over the last two years, you can see exactly why the organization was so excited to take the speedy Perriman, but he has much to prove beyond the prerequisite of finally staying on the field.

“I am very eager. I feel like it is coming real soon,” Perriman said. “I know that it will be worth the wait.”

Unlike last year when general manager Ozzie Newsome viewed the rookie as the immediate replacement for free-agent departure Torrey Smith and had no contingency plans in the event of an injury, the Ravens secured other deep-ball options this offseason by signing veteran Mike Wallace and drafting University of Cincinnati product Chris Moore in the fourth round. Baltimore is hardly doomed if Perriman doesn’t make an impact in 2016, but he brings the kind of upside a team desires when trying to rebound from a down season.

Throughout the summer, head coach John Harbaugh has spoken about the need to find play-makers on both sides of the ball to make the difference in close games. Perriman’s rare combination of size and speed fits that description perfectly — at least on paper.

The clock is ticking for Perriman to both get back into football shape — he hasn’t played in a real game since Dec. 26, 2014 — and get on the same page with quarterback Joe Flacco for the start of the regular season, but he fully expects to be on the field when the Ravens welcome Buffalo to town on Sept. 11.

“Most definitely. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that I [will] be ready,” Perriman said. “I’m attacking it right now like I will be ready, and I think I will.”

Even more than the typical first-round pick, Perriman will be under the microscope.

The cruelest critics have already declared the 22-year-old a bust, waiting for his next injury and spewing venom on social media as though he wanted to be hurt. Perriman says he tries to ignore most of the negativity, but it’s also fueled him to work harder to get back on the field.

“It is just about blocking that out and focusing on yourself and getting healthy,” said wide receiver Michael Campanaro, who has dealt with much criticism regarding his own health over the last couple years. “We all know what Breshad is capable of. He has the right mindset. He works hard, and sometimes injuries come with the game. It hasn’t killed his confidence or anything. He is going to be ready to go.”

A healthy Perriman hopes to finally answer that next question of whether he can play.

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tillmanreal

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Tillman goes to DL after more shoulder concerns

Posted on 23 August 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Wednesday 4:15 p.m)

BALTIMORE — Coming off his worst start of the season and experiencing more right shoulder discomfort during his latest bullpen session, Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday.

Manager Buck Showalter said before Tuesday’s 8-1 win over Washington that the right-hander’s work day hadn’t gone well and that his next scheduled start against the Nationals was in jeopardy. On Saturday, the right-hander allowed six earned runs and walked five over a season-low two innings, but he said after the game that his shoulder was fine and told the training staff the following morning that it felt better than it usually does the day after a start.

Tillman received a cortisone injection after being examined by Dr. Leigh Ann Curl at Camden Yards. Showalter confirmed after the game that the 28-year-old would land on the DL in hopes that the rest will allow him to return at the end of the minimum 15-day period.

“I would have liked a little better results or response from the last outing, but it just didn’t respond very well,” Tillman said. ” We’re trying to be safe and get this thing in the rear-view mirror. That way, I’m not fighting it all year. I think it’s probably the best way to go about it.”

His last start was pushed back three days due to shoulder soreness that Tillman said he first experienced the morning after his Aug. 11 outing in Oakland.

Entering Tuesday ranked 12th in the American League with a 4.97 rotation ERA, the Orioles can hardly afford to lose their best starting pitcher in the midst of a tight division race with Toronto and Boston. Tillman is 15-5 with a 3.76 ERA in 26 starts covering 153 innings this season.

The Orioles recalled right-hander Mike Wright to replace Tillman on the 25-man roster and announced that right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez would start on Thursday.

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caleb

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Orioles send struggling backup catcher Joseph to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 22 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Needing to reinstate starting catcher Matt Wieters from the paternity leave list prior to Monday’s series opener against the Washington Nationals, the Orioles demoted backup Caleb Joseph to Triple-A Norfolk.

In an effort to get Joseph some regular at-bats to right his dismal season at the plate, Baltimore elected to keep catcher Francisco Pena on the 25-man roster to back up Wieters for the time being. In 121 plate appearances, Joseph is hitting just .193 with two extra-base hits, no RBIs, and a .450 on-base plus slugging percentage.

He is eligible to return as early as Sept. 1 when major league rosters expand.

“We’d like to get him some at-bats, consistently, with Matt back,” said manager Buck Showalter, who made it clear that Joseph remains in the club’s plans moving forward. “In fact, he would have caught tonight if Matt wasn’t back. We’ve got an opportunity to get him 10 days of at-bats [with] some things he’s been working on. Get him back.

“He probably would have caught maybe once here in those 10 days, maybe twice. We just thought the benefit would be better there. He doesn’t lose any service time or anything. He’ll be back in 10 days.”

In 39 plate appearances this season, Pena has hit .222 with one homer and three RBIs. He filled in as the club’s backup catcher throughout the month of June after Joseph took a foul ball to the groin area and had to undergo emergency testicular surgery on May 30.

Joseph’s intense struggles at the plate this year are quite a change from last year when he hit .234 with 11 home runs, 49 RBIs, and a .693 on-base plus slugging percentage. In 2014, he filled in admirably after Wieters was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and batted .207 with nine homers, 28 RBIs, and a .618 OPS as a rookie.

He has been an above-average defensive catcher in the majors despite not having the best reputation in that department during his minor-league career, but the Orioles want to get his bat going for the stretch run.

“This guy’s got a pretty good track record, offensively, behind him,” Showalter said. “He’s a better hitter than he’s shown here, and I think sometimes it gets kind of mentally and emotionally in there. Caleb’s driven in some big runs for us, and he’s been a nice guy to have down in the bottom of the order. If you relax on him, he’s a guy you like to see coming up with people on base.

“We’ve just got to get him back to that. How do you do it? Sitting around playing once every 10 days? It doesn’t work too good.”

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pitta

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Harbaugh frustrated by Pitta’s extended absence with broken finger

Posted on 22 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Three weeks have passed since Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta suffered what was originally deemed a minor finger sprain from a scuffle with rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa.

In fact, the injury was treated with humor by both Pitta and close friend and quarterback Joe Flacco.

It turned out to be much more serious, however, which explains the lengthy absence. Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed that Pitta suffered a break in the finger, and he is still unable to catch passes or take part in practices. The training staff fears that another hit to the finger might require doctors to insert a screw in it, keeping him sidelined even longer.

The ninth-year coach said it was “absurd” that the Aug. 1 injury occurred in the first place.

“We want to get him out here running and in the [walk-throughs],” Harbaugh said. “I want to get him timed up with Joe, but he really can’t catch right now and he definitely can’t get his finger banged up. It’s ridiculous, it’s sad, and I’m disappointed about it.”

Harbaugh tried to find a positive by noting that the broken finger may have kept Pitta out of harm’s way from a more serious injury during training camp. The 31-year-old is trying to come back from two catastrophic injuries to his right hip and has appeared in just seven games since Super Bowl XLVII.

Already with a deep collection of tight ends on the roster, the Ravens need to see what Pitta can offer at this stage of his career after not playing in a game in 23 months. He appeared to be moving well in spring workouts and over the first few days of the summer, telling reporters that his surgically-repaired hip felt great.

“We have to get him and Joe timed up. That was really coming early on,” Harbaugh said. “It was really exciting to see, so we need to get him back as soon as we can. It’s not going to be this week. A bone has to heal before they can put him out there.”

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elam

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Ravens safety Elam out “some number of weeks” with knee injury

Posted on 22 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Not a sure bet to make the 53-man roster in his fourth season, Ravens safety Matt Elam will miss “a number of weeks” with a knee injury sustained in Saturday’s preseason win over Indianapolis.

Head coach John Harbaugh announced that the 2013 first-round pick would undergo surgery after he collected two tackles in 29 defensive snaps against the Colts.

“Matt Elam fell on his knee during the game,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t find this out until yesterday. He has to go in and do an arthroscopic surgery to clean it out. He had a chip come loose in there. It won’t be a season-ending injury by any stretch. They say it’s about some number of weeks into the early part of the season.”

What this means for Elam’s future with the organization remains to be seen as he was already fighting for a reserve spot on the 53-man roster with veterans Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb entrenched as the starting safeties. Elam hasn’t lived up to expectations as the first draft selection made by Baltimore after Super Bowl XLVII, but he reported to training camp in good shape and had shown improvement this summer after missing the entire 2015 season with a torn biceps.

The 24-year-old is not be eligible for the reserve physically unable to perform list, meaning general manager Ozzie Newsome would be forced to either carry him on the 53-man roster to begin the season or place him on injured reserve with the possibility of bringing him back later in the season. Teams are no longer required to designate an IR player to return ahead of time, but they are still only allowed to pull back one player per season.

Elam was competing with the likes of Terrence Brooks and Kendrick Lewis for reserve safety roles in the secondary.

“We’ll just see how that goes,” said Harbaugh in returns to the timetable for Elam’s return. “It’s unfortunate for him, but Ozzie [Newsome] will deal with it roster-wise however he decides to deal with it.”

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