Tag Archive | "Baltimore"

jimmy

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Ravens defense expected to be “full strength” against Miami

Posted on 02 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith is expected to make his return for Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

After participating fully in practice for a third straight day, Smith was officially listed as questionable to play in Week 13 after missing the previous two games with a back injury. Head coach John Harbaugh was pleased with the way Smith responded to practice and is looking forward to having his entire second-ranked defense on the field.

“He looks good. We weren’t sure early in the week if he was going to be able to go,” Harbaugh said. “He just responded well, and he looks good. It will mean a lot. It will help our defense. We’ll be really pretty much full strength out there, so that’s a big plus for us.”

The Ravens officially ruled out tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (hamstring), and guard Alex Lewis (ankle) after none of them practiced all week. Wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) is listed as questionable and should play after practicing fully on Thursday and Friday.

Running back Buck Allen was designated as doubtful while dealing with a non-football injury. Harbaugh would not specify what he’s dealing with, but the 2015 fourth-round pick has been in the building over the last two days.

His likely absence will leave the Ravens with only two healthy tailbacks — Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon — but fullback Kyle Juszczyk could also carry the ball if necessary.

“Buck had a personal issue come up,” Harbaugh said. “That’s about the most I want to say about it right now. It’s just something that’s a personal issue right now that he’s dealing with. He may not be able to play in the game. We’re just going to have to see about that and where he’s at with it.”

For the first time since injuring his left shoulder in the Week 5 loss to Washington on Oct. 9, veteran guard Marshal Yanda was not listed on the final game status injury report. He was given the day off on Wednesday, but he was a full participant the rest of the week.

The Dolphins expect to have veteran left tackle Branden Albert (wrist) and rookie left guard Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) back in their starting lineup for Sunday’s game, but DeVante Parker’s status remains up in the air. The starting wide receiver missed practices all week with a back injury.

All three players were listed as questionable on the final injury report.

Center Mike Pouncey (hip) was officially ruled out against the Ravens.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Carl Cheffers.

The Ravens will wear purple jerseys with black pants against the Dolphins.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies with temperatures up to 47 degrees and winds up to five miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), G Alex Lewis (ankle), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh)
DOUBTFUL: RB Buck Allen (non-football injury)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (back)

MIAMI
OUT: C Mike Pouncey (hip)
DOUBTFUL: CB Xavien Howard (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: OT Branden Albert (wrist), LB Kiko Alonso (hamstring), G Jermon Bushrod (calf), RB Kenyan Drake (knee), LB Jelani Jenkins (knee/hand), DT Earl Mitchell (back), WR DeVante Parker (back), G Laremy Tunsil (shoulder)

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jsmith

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Jimmy Smith practices fully for second straight day

Posted on 01 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens appear set to welcome back their top cornerback to action as Jimmy Smith practiced fully for the second straight day on Thursday.

Counting down to Sunday’s meeting with the Miami Dolphins, the Baltimore secondary is on track to be at full strength in a pivotal game in the AFC playoff picture. Miami ranks 28th in passing yards per game, but quarterback Ryan Tannehill is eighth in the NFL in yards per attempt, a reflection of how heavily the Dolphins have leaned on their running game this season.

Miami could be without former first-round receiver DeVante Parker (back), but Smith’s return would help greatly in covering 2015 Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry and vertical threat Kenny Stills. Smith missed the last two game with a back injury described as “muscular” by head coach John Harbaugh.

“Hopefully, he’s back. I’m not going to say he is or not,” safety Eric Weddle said. “He’s looked good the last couple days, so let’s just hope he doesn’t have a setback. Obviously, you get one of your best corners back, it’s going to help you.”

Guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) were full participants after sitting out Wednesday’s workout. Meanwhile, linebacker Terrell Suggs and center Jeremy Zuttah were given a veteran day off as has become routine in recent Thursday practices.

Tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), running back Lorenzo Taliferro (hamstring), and guard Alex Lewis (ankle) were once again absent from practice. Second-year running back Buck Allen also sat out with what was labeled a non-football injury, but he was seen in the building on Thursday.

In addition to Parker, the Dolphins did not have center Mike Pouncey (hip) or linebacker Jelani Jenkins (knee/hand) on the field for Thursday’s practice. Left tackle Brandon Albert (wrist) and left guard Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) were limited participants for the second straight day and appear on track to return after missing last week’s game against San Francisco.

Miami middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (hamstring) was added to the injury report as a limited participant.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Javorius Allen (non-football injury), TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), G Alex Lewis (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (back), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

MIAMI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Jelani Jenkins (knee/hand), WR DeVante Parker (back), C Mike Pouncey (hip)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Branden Albert (wrist), LB Kiko Alonso (hamstring), G Jermon Bushrod (calf), RB Kenyan Drake (knee), CB Xavien Howard (knee), DT Earl Mitchell (back), G Laremy Tunsil (shoulder)

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tannehill

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Pressuring Tannehill hidden key for Ravens against Miami

Posted on 01 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The matchup isn’t as imposing, but it’s a familiar one for the Ravens.

Two weeks after facing the best rushing attack in the NFL in a road loss to Dallas, Baltimore welcomes upstart running back Jay Ajayi and Miami to town on Sunday. The Dolphins have won six in a row behind the league’s sixth-ranked run offense and Ajayi’s 5.3 yards per carry, but the Ravens have allowed the fewest rushing yards in the NFL this season.

The Cowboys were the better team in that 27-17 final on Nov. 20, but they needed 30 carries to finish with 118 rushing yards, their third-lowest ground total of the season and fewest since Week 2. In other words, there’s little reason to think Ajayi is going to find a ton of running room against a defense that’s surrendered just 3.4 yards per carry, its best mark since 2009.

“That is Raven football,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “You do not want teams to run the ball on you. We take a lot of pride in that. We take a lot of pride in playing defense.”

The biggest key for the Ravens in Sunday’s tilt will likely be their ability to pressure Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is in the midst of arguably his best season and one of the best stretches of his career over the last six weeks. Averaging a career-high 7.82 yards per attempt, Tannehill is completing 66 percent of his passes and has thrown nine touchdowns to just one interception over the last six contests.

The decision by first-year head coach Adam Gase to employ more of a power running attack since Miami’s 1-4 start has led to the emergence of Ajayi as well as a renaissance for Tannehill. Attempting a career-low 29.9 passing attempts per game this season, the 6-foot-4 Texas A&M product has been more efficient and productive than previous seasons.

Tannehill has received Pro Football Focus’ top quarterback grade in two of the last three weeks and has graded as the website’s 10th-best quarterback this season. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees credits Gase for taking pressure off the fifth-year signal-caller and making a more “quarterback-friendly” offense.

“When you’re running the football, you’re setting up the play-action, the quick game, all those kinds of things,” Pees said. “The other thing is you’re not in as many third-and-longs a lot of times as you are if your team is just throwing the ball all the time.

“The guy is a very, very accurate thrower. When he gets out of the pocket and runs with the ball and scrambles with the ball or even on a roll-out or [bootleg], he’s one of the most accurate quarterbacks I’ve seen throwing on the run. He is really, really good.”

Tannehill has especially thrived when working in a clean pocket this season, posting a 115.5 passer rating when not facing pressure. That’s good for fourth in the NFL and just a spot below rookie sensation Dak Prescott of the Cowboys.

Of course, it was Baltimore’s inability to pressure Prescott that led to him throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdown passes in Week 11. The Ravens are tied for 11th in the league with 26 sacks, but their pass rush has been more timely than consistent this season with long stretches of games in which opposing quarterbacks have gone largely untouched.

The Dolphins are hoping to welcome back left tackle Branden Albert and left guard Laremy Tunsil to their starting lineup after missing last week’s game, but Tannehill isn’t afraid to move out of the pocket. And that’s where the Ravens know he can become even more dangerous with the respectable trio of Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills catching passes.

“Tannehill’s not making mistakes and is throwing the ball all over the place off the play-action,” safety Eric Weddle said. “He’s getting his feet out and extends plays, which kills the defense. And he’s extending [plays] to throw.”

The expected return of top cornerback Jimmy Smith should help a secondary that’s played remarkably well despite the lack of a consistent pass rush for much of the year. Five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil will also be playing in his second straight game after coming up with the game-saving strip-sack against Cincinnati last week in his first action since early October.

The Ravens figure to be able to contain Ajayi and force the Dolphins into more throws than they’d prefer, but Pees and the defense need to be aggressive against Tannehill and cannot allow him to get comfortable behind his offensive line on Sunday. And that’s where Dumervil and Suggs have spoken openly this week about needing a raucous crowd at M&T Bank Stadium to make life even more difficult for the Miami quarterback.

The Ravens believe the loud closing minutes of Sunday’s game against Cincinnati helped lead to four batted passes and the strip-sack to preserve the victory. They want more noise against the Dolphins.

“It limits the checks. It eliminates a lot of the things the quarterback can do at the line of scrimmage,” Dumervil said. “That’s what happened toward the last series. They had to go with the plays. Once the guys on defense are locked and ready, we’re all moving at the same ball. That’s when we feel the crowd advantage. We need that 12th man stronger than ever this week.”

The Ravens need their pass rush to be right there with the fans in a game they need to win.

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jimmysmith

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Jimmy Smith returns to Ravens practice after two-game absence

Posted on 30 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens welcomed cornerback Jimmy Smith back to the practice field as they prepare for Sunday’s showdown with the red-hot Miami Dolphins.

After missing the last two games with a back injury, Smith appeared to be working on a limited basis as the Ravens practiced indoors due to Wednesday’s rain. Head coach John Harbaugh described Smith as “close” to returning on Monday, so his presence two days later was a good sign for his Week 13 status.

Despite Smith not taking part in all drills during the open portion of practice, he was listed as a full participant on Wednesday’s injury report.

Five players were missing from Wednesday’s workout, a list that included wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (hamstring), tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), and guards Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Alex Lewis (ankle). Yanda was given Wednesday off for the second straight week.

Aiken was the only surprise among the nonparticipants, but his head coach downplayed his absence.

“He should be fine for Sunday,” Harbaugh said. “He had a bruise. We will see how it develops.”

A scary moment during Wednesday’s practice occurred when wide receiver Steve Smith appeared to tweak his right leg while going against cornerback Shareece Wright in a 1-on-1 drill. Smith limped off and was laboring on the sideline, but he finished practice without any further issue.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) was present and participating fully after playing in his first game since Week 5 on Sunday. His fourth-quarter strip-sack against Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton helped preserve a 19-14 win for the Ravens.

“I was very excited,” Harbaugh said. “I told you before I’d be happy to see him out there making plays, and right on cue, he did it. He looked like himself. He looked very explosive. I know he’s excited also.”

The Dolphins saw the limited return of left tackle Brandon Albert (wrist) and left guard Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) to practice, but starting center Mike Pouncey (hip) remained sidelined. None of those three starters on their offensive line played against San Francisco in Week 12.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), G Alex Lewis (ankle), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Jimmy Smith (back)

MIAMI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Kenyan Drake (knee), LB Jelani Jenkins (knee/hand), DT Earl Mitchell (back), WR DeVante Parker (back), C Mike Pouncey (hip)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Brandon Albert (wrist), G Jermon Bushrod (calf), CB Xavien Howard (knee), G Laremy Tunsil (shoulder)

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london

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Ravens being considered to play in London next season

Posted on 29 November 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens may have an especially long road trip in 2017.

The NFL has informed the organization that it’s being considered for a game in London next season. The Ravens have never played a game outside of the United States, but owner Steve Bisciotti has embraced the possibility of going to London for one of his team’s road games.

Next season, the Ravens are set to play Jacksonville, who has an agreement in place to play one home game per season at Wembley Stadium through 2020. As part of their agreement with the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Ravens are not allowed to play any “home” games away from M&T Bank Stadium.

Only seven other teams have yet to participate in the International Series since it was introduced in 2007: Arizona, Carolina, Cleveland, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Tennessee.

The league has yet to announce its slate of international games for 2017, but the dates and teams for the three London games played this season were announced last November.

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suggs

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 12 win over Cincinnati

Posted on 29 November 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens topping Cincinnati in a 19-14 final on Sunday to remain tied for first place in the AFC North, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I don’t know what else there is to say about the excellence of Justin Tucker, but I sure hope he receives an opportunity one of these days to attempt a 65-yard field goal to set the NFL record. And then gets another chance to kick an even longer one.

2. The Ravens have more field goals (27) than anyone in the NFL, but they rank ahead of only Houston and Los Angeles with 19 touchdowns. That combination has earned them a 6-5 record, but it’s not a formula that will work against upper-tier teams.

3. Coming off his second Achilles injury in a four-year period and currently playing with a torn biceps, Terrell Suggs played a season-high 61 snaps and had two strip-sacks. Though not the consistent force he was in his prime, he’s earned even more respect as a player this season.

4. Don’t forget that Sam Koch’s safety went down as a run for minus-23 yards in the final statistics. Otherwise, the Baltimore running game gained 115 yards on 29 carries, a respectable average of just under 4.0 yards per attempt compared to the official 3.1 mark.

5. It’s difficult to recall a defensive line batting down four passes on a single drive, let alone doing it on the final series of a one-score game. It was a brilliant way to offset an inconsistent pass rush for much of the afternoon.

6. Nothing illustrated the up-and-down nature of the offense more than its third-down conversion rate against the Bengals. After going a strong 5-for-10 in a 16-point first half, the Ravens were 0-for-6 after intermission. Baltimore ranks last in the NFL with a 33.3 percent conversion rate on the season.

7. The decision to call an end-around hand-off to Mike Wallace on the final drive was questionable at best, but I applaud any extra attempts to get him the football otherwise. His explosive speed needs to be utilized as much as possible.

8. It came down to the numbers game with Elvis Dumervil returning, but Za’Darius Smith being a healthy inactive illustrates how much finding an edge pass rusher remains a priority this offseason. Rookie Matt Judon flashes potential, but Smith’s second season has been a disappointment.

9. Kamar Aiken caught a pass to move the chains on a key third down on each of the first two scoring drives and wasn’t targeted again after that. No one expected him to be Baltimore’s leading receiver again this season, but he shouldn’t have fewer receptions than Kyle Juszczyk.

10. I’m still surprised how reluctant some have been to embrace this defense. It may lack much star power, but this has been a top 5 unit all year. If your standard is the 2000 Ravens or you’re waiting for the next Ray Lewis to appear, you’ll never be satisfied.

11. Many are clamoring for the Ravens to use the no-huddle offense even more, but it bogged down after a fast start against Cincinnati. This group hasn’t shown the kind of precision or communication required to run it exclusively, but it can still be used plenty.

12. Coaches always receive criticism when teams lose, but John Harbaugh deserves praise for the way he handled the game-ending safety. He said all teams have that strategy in their special-teams playbook, but I highly doubt that.

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webb

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Ravens secondary trying to hold on without Jimmy Smith

Posted on 28 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens bent but didn’t break without cornerback Jimmy Smith this time.

After Dallas rookie Dak Prescott threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns in Baltimore’s 27-17 loss to the Cowboys last week, the secondary fared better against Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton, who needed 48 pass attempts to throw for 283 yards and only one touchdown. Of course, the Bengals not having Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green helped immensely while the Ravens played their second straight game without Smith, who continues to deal with a back issue.

The results weren’t perfect, but head coach John Harbaugh will always sign up for his defense allowing 12 points — the Bengals’ other two points came on the game-ending safety — in a 19-14 victory. It sure beat what happened against the Cowboys and in the second half of the Week 6 loss to the New York Giants after Smith left the game with a concussion.

“I thought our defensive backs did a much better job in man-to-man coverage than the week before,” Harbaugh said. “They had been doing a good job at times throughout the course of the season — for most of the season — playing man coverage, but yesterday they really stepped it up and had some good reps out there.”

The Ravens hope to see Smith return this week as the Miami Dolphins come to town sporting a six-game winning streak, their longest in over a decade. The Dolphins offense is built around surprising star running back Jay Ajayi, but quarterback Ryan Tannehill works with a trio of receivers in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills each with at least 480 receiving yards this season.

After revealing late last week that Smith’s back injury is a muscular issue, Harbaugh said Monday that the sixth-year defensive back continues improving. Whether that means a Week 13 return is unknown.

“I was hopeful he would get back [against the Bengals],” Harbaugh said. “He ran again on Saturday, and he tried to see how well he ran on the ground, and it was better, but it was not good enough to play. That is where we’re at. He is close. He has been able to run for about a week, so we’ll see.”

The Ravens have moved Shareece Wright back into the starting lineup in Smith’s absence over the last two weeks, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees interestingly used different combinations in the nickel package on Sunday. Perhaps a reflection of his recent struggles against Dallas, veteran slot corner Jerraud Powers played only 25 of 75 defensive snaps against Cincinnati. It was his lowest snap total since suffering a groin injury in the Week 6 loss to the Giants.

Reserve safety and former first-round pick Matt Elam played a season-high 27 snaps while starting safety Lardarius Webb moved down to the slot in the nickel package, a position where he thrived early in his career. Harbaugh wouldn’t disclose whether we’d see more of that alignment moving forward.

“Those are different packages that we had in,” Harbaugh said. “Some of the packages are more passing. Some of them are more running. Some of them have to do with pressures. Some of them are more base calls. We’re just trying to have guys out there for what they do best and try to get our matchups as best as we can. That’s really what it was. We try to put guys in positions to do what they do best.”

No matter who else is out there, the Ravens secondary will only be at its best down the stretch with a healthy Smith back on the field.

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tucker

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Ravens take care of business using same flawed formula

Posted on 28 November 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens did what they needed to do to snap their five-game losing streak against Cincinnati.

No matter how depleted the current Bengals might be, you don’t take a victory for granted when you haven’t beaten the division rival in over three years and you need to win. The 19-14 final drew Baltimore even with Pittsburgh for first place with the calendar turning to December this week.

The Ravens couldn’t ask to be in better position, especially when you recall where they were a month ago.

But several offensive starters lamented the inability to build off a fast start that included a Joe Flacco 14-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman and a field goal on their first two drives of the game. Leading 16-3 at halftime, the Ravens went 0-for-6 on third down and managed only one field goal the rest of the way, which gave the Bengals a chance to tie the game before Elvis Dumervil’s strip-sack and Lawrence Guy’s recovery with just over a minute remaining.

Yet again, a good defensive performance and a perfect Justin Tucker played the leading roles in the win while the offense spun its wheels after some early success.

“I’m confident in my ability to play games like this and win down the stretch and do the right thing with the football,” said Flacco, who was a relatively efficient 25 of 36 for 234 yards and an interception to go with the opening-drive score. “But in order for us to take that next step and be the kind of team that we want to be and be a championship football team, we’re not going to survive week in and week out doing things like this. We’ve got to keep the foot on the gas and learn how to put teams away.”

The ninth-year quarterback offered the same sentiment after the Week 3 win in Jacksonville two months ago. Fortunately, the offense has recovered from its miserable — and injury-plagued — October, but Flacco’s words reflect the lack of overall improvement from the opening month of the season until now.

The Ravens have scored just 19 touchdowns this season, ranking 31st of 32 teams in the NFL. The offense certainly deserves credit for the work required to put Justin Tucker in position to go a league-best 27-for-27 on field goal tries, but 18 were from 40 yards or longer, meaning the Ravens haven’t exactly been all that close to the end zone on most of those drives.

Baltimore has managed more than one offensive touchdown in just five of 11 games and has scored fewer than 20 points six times. The Ravens have scored 25 or more in just three games with two coming against winless Cleveland.

It’s scary to think where they might be without Tucker, who is rapidly cementing himself as the league’s best kicker and is an impressive 7-for-7 from 50 yards and beyond after converting three from that range in the first half on Sunday. He’s been to the Ravens what All-Star closer Zach Britton was to the Orioles this past season, the difference in making them a playoff contender despite other flaws.

For now, the offense can only continue working to improve, pointing to the recent stabilization of the offensive line and the steady emergence of rookie running back Kenneth Dixon as reasons for optimism.

“I know that we’re getting better on offense,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I think we’re doing a good job, but we’re striving for more than that. Our guys are going to tell you, we want to put a lot more points up than that. That’s what we’re working towards.”

The most encouraging development from Sunday’s game may have come on the opposite side of the ball with the return of Dumervil, who was rusty in his first action in seven weeks until the final defensive play when he blew past Bengals right tackle Eric Winston to strip quarterback Andy Dalton of the football inside the red zone. The turnover sealed the victory for the Ravens defense, who buckled but didn’t break against a Cincinnati offense lacking its best player in wide receiver A.J. Green.

The Ravens need top cornerback Jimmy Smith to return from a back injury that’s sidelined him for the last two games, but a healthy Dumervil could work wonders for an edge pass rush that’s relied heavily on fellow veteran Terrell Suggs, who collected two strip-sacks of his own on Sunday. It was just the third game of the season for Dumervil, who’s dealt with a frustrating rehab from offseason foot surgery.

“You get a guy and add that to the defense that we already have, it just opens up the possibilities of being even better than what we are right now,” safety Eric Weddle said. “It was huge. He practiced outstanding the last two weeks. We knew it was going to give us a boost, and adding him across from [Suggs] and our other rushers and [to] our game plans, we’re going to be a tough team to stop.”

The Ravens keep hoping for their offense to improve, but maybe the current formula can be enough. After all, it’s earned them a 6-5 mark to this point, which is good enough for a first-place tie with a Steelers team sporting a very good offense but a below-average defense.

Baltimore plays two of the next three at home against Miami and Philadelphia, who are formidable teams but hardly juggernauts. The surprising Dolphins have won six straight, but the last five have been by a single possession and they rely heavily on their running game, a favorable matchup for the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

Whether the Ravens will find enough wins over the final five games to make the playoffs remains to be seen, but Sunday was another reminder that it will probably look the way it has all season — a good defense, a frustrating and below-average offense, and the best kicker in football.

“If it ain’t tough, it ain’t the Raven way,” Suggs said. “I really wish we could have got off the field instead of scaring everybody and having Elvis make a fantastic play. But that’s the Raven way. It ain’t pretty, but we’ll take it.”

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jimmy

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 27 November 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Though never regarded as their biggest rival, the Cincinnati Bengals have given the Ravens more trouble than anyone since Super Bowl XLVII.

While sporting an 11-4 regular-season record against Cleveland and Pittsburgh since the start of the 2013 season, Baltimore owns just one victory against the Bengals over that time, a snapshot of the frustration accompanying a 28-30 record since raising the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans almost four years ago.

Of course, Sunday’s meeting sets up well for the Ravens to beat the Bengals, who have won just one game since the end of September and lost offensive standouts A.J. Green (hamstring) and Giovani Bernard (knee) in last week’s loss to Buffalo. Green’s absence is fortunate news for a secondary that will be without cornerback Jimmy Smith (back) for the second straight week.

Shareece Wright is expected to start in place of Smith as he did against Dallas.

The Ravens will welcome back five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), who is active for the first time since Week 5. Frustrated by a slower-than-expected recovery from offseason surgery, a healthy Dumervil could provide a major lift to an edge pass rush that’s lacked consistency in 2016.

This will be the 32-year-old’s third game of the 2016 season.

In a surprising move likely related to Dumervil’s return, the Ravens deactivated outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, who wasn’t on the injury report this week. Appearing in all 10 games and making four starts to this point, the 2015 fourth-round pick has struggled to consistently set the edge and has collected just one sack this season.

Rookie second-round linebacker Kamalei Correa was also a healthy scratch for Sunday’s game.

With Marshal Yanda (shoulder) active and once again starting at left guard, the Ravens are using the same starting offensive line combination in consecutive weeks for the first time since the first three games of the season. Veteran Vlad Ducasse is making his third straight start at right guard.

As expected, tight end Nick Boyle is active and will make his 2016 season debut after serving a 10-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. His return gives the Ravens a viable blocking tight end to complement Dennis Pitta and Darren Waller while Crockett Gillmore (thigh) continues to be out.

In addition to Green and Bernard — the latter was placed on injured reserve this week — Cincinnati will be without starting safety Shawn Williams (hamstring), which won’t help a defense that’s underperformed this season.

Sunday’s referee is Clete Blakeman.

According to Weather.com, the forecast in Baltimore calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the low 50s and winds up to 13 miles per hour.

For the first time this season, the Ravens are wearing their black jerseys with black pants while the Bengals don white tops with black pants. Baltimore owns an all-time 14-6 mark when wearing the popular alternate jerseys that were introduced in 2004.

Sunday marks the 41st meeting between these AFC North foes with each side owning 20 victories. The Ravens are 13-7 at home against the Bengals, but Cincinnati has won the last five games dating back to the 2013 season.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Jimmy Smith
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
LB Kamalei Correa
OL Ryan Jensen
OL Alex Lewis
TE Crockett Gillmore
LB Za’Darius Smith

CINCINNATI
WR A.J. Green
QB Jeff Driskel
S Derron Smith
S Shawn Williams
LS Clark Harris
G Christian Westerman
TE C.J. Uzomah

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west

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 26 November 2016 by Luke Jones

It’s been more than three calendar years since the Ravens defeated Cincinnati.

They own just one win over the Bengals since Super Bowl XLVII, but Baltimore has a chance on Sunday to all but crush what slim hopes remain for Marvin Lewis and his struggling team that has only one win since the end of September. Meanwhile, the Ravens remain in the thick of a mediocre AFC North and need a victory to pull even with Pittsburgh for first place.

With the Bengals offense decimated by injuries and the defense not playing at the level it had in recent seasons, the Ravens couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to finally break through against one of their top rivals.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Cincinnati for the 41st time in franchise history with the teams owning 20 victories apiece. Baltimore has lost five straight and six of the last seven to the Bengals, but the Ravens are 13-7 in home games against Cincinnati.

Below are five predictions for Sunday afternoon:

1. The Ravens will rush for a season-high 135 yards against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses. The running game has been mostly a mess all season, but the Bengals rank 28th in rush defense and are allowing 4.5 yards per carry. Starter Terrance West and rookie Kenneth Dixon have developed into a solid platoon since the bye, and starting the same offensive line in consecutive weeks should reap some benefits for the Ravens. With Cincinnati’s own offense depleted by injuries and not performing at a high level anyway, Marty Mornhinweg should try to keep it simple with the run game.

2. Rookie Tyler Boyd will catch a touchdown and be Cincinnati’s leading receiver. No receiver has hurt the Ravens more than A.J. Green in recent years, making his absence a crushing blow for the Bengals. However, the 6-foot-2 Boyd has played respectably in the slot this year and could challenge nickel back Jerraud Powers, who struggled against Cole Beasley last week. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton looked Boyd’s way quite a bit last week as the rookie caught his first touchdown. With Ravens safeties focused on trying to slow tight end Tyler Eifert, Boyd will see plenty of targets.

3. A returning Elvis Dumervil will collect his first sack of 2016 as one of Baltimore’s four for the game. While cornerback Jimmy Smith is doubtful to play as he continues nursing a back issue, Dumervil appears on track to play for the first time since Week 5. The Ravens need more production from their edge rushers, and a healthy Dumervil could be a major development for an already-good defense. Right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and center Russell Bodine have had major issues in pass protection, and Dean Pees should bring lots of pressure against an undermanned Bengals passing game.

4. The Ravens defense will come away with two interceptions after stifling the Bengals’ running game. Green and shifty running back Giovani Bernard have accounted for 47 percent of Dalton’s passing yards this year, making it obvious that the Bengals would like to run the ball with Jeremy Hill if they can. However, a stingy Baltimore run defense will be in a bad mood after Dallas ran for 118 yards and is only giving up 3.4 yards per carry. The Ravens will dare Dalton to beat them, which will lead to a couple critical turnovers to set up the Baltimore offense on a short field.

5. Joe Flacco and the offense will mostly play it safe in a 23-13 win over Cincinnati. The Ravens are better than the current Bengals and have little excuse not to end their five-game losing streak against them, but this team — more specifically, this offense — has made life difficult on itself all season. Flacco has thrown more interceptions against Cincinnati than any team in his nine-year career and shouldn’t be allowed to come close to the 41.4 pass attempts per game he’s averaged this season unless the Bengals prove they can totally shut down the run. Playing good defense, running the football, and limiting mistakes are basic ideas, but the Ravens should keep it simple in a game they need to win.

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