Tag Archive | "Baltimore"


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Ravens fire Trestman, appoint Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Luke Jones

With a struggling offense and having lost two straight home games, the Ravens have made a coaching change.

Head coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman less than 24 hours after Sunday’s 16-10 loss to the Washington Redskins in which the Ravens were shut out over the final 44 minutes of play. Quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg will take over as the offensive coordinator for the remainder of the season.

“My obligations are to the team, the organization, and the fans to be the very best team we can be,” Harbaugh said in a statement released by the team on Monday morning. “Today we find ourselves one game out of the division and conference lead after experiencing two tough losses at home. We will work to be better in every aspect of our football team. Our expectations are high, and we look forward to fulfilling them.

“I appreciate and respect the efforts and contributions Marc has made to the team since his arrival. Marc is a good person and an excellent football coach.”

With the Ravens failing to convert a third down and running the ball just eight times after the first quarter of Sunday’s loss, Harbaugh had apparently seen enough from an offense that has lacked any identity or consistency despite a 3-2 start to the 2016 season. Baltimore is averaging just 18.8 points per game, ranking 23rd in the NFL.

Frustration had continued to mount over the running game as Terrance West averaged 8.6 yards per attempt on just 11 carries in Sunday’s loss despite the Ravens never falling behind by more than one possession. The Ravens currently lead the NFL in passing attempts while ranking last in yards per attempt and 22nd in passing yards per game.

Though remembered by most for his unsuccessful run as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, Mornhinweg owns extensive experience as an offensive coordinator, serving in that capacity with San Francisco, Philadelphia, and the New York Jets. He has worked with such quarterbacks as Hall of Famers Steve Young and Brett Favre and Pro Bowl selections Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia.

Mornhinweg will now become Baltimore’s fifth offensive coordinator since the start of the 2012 season.

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Ravens not good enough to overcome coaching errors

Posted on 09 October 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman deserved a pass last season.

With a lack of speed at the skill positions and a run of injuries that made the offense look like a preseason unit over the final two months, how could you fairly critique the assistant in his first season in Baltimore?

But the red flags were there. The running game lacked productivity or commitment — or both — and the passing attacked often lacked rhyme or reason. A year later, the same problems persist as the Ravens offense turned in an embarrassing performance in being blanked over the final 44 minutes of a 16-10 loss to Washington, who entered Sunday ranked 29th in the NFL in total defense and 26th in points allowed.

It looked so promising early with a nine-play, 75-yard opening drive that resulted in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Crockett Gillmore. In the first quarter, the Ravens went 3-for-5 on third down, rushed 11 times for 74 yards, and accumulated 146 yards of offense.

If only the game had ended after Justin Tucker’s 31-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 10-6 lead to begin the second quarter.

Over the last three quarters, Baltimore went 0-for-10 on third down and ran the ball eight times, one of those a fourth-down scramble by Flacco on the final drive. Instead of continuing to try to gash the Redskins with the run, the Ravens appeared to go away from the ground game whenever they could as Flacco threw the ball 46 times for just 210 yards. The ninth-year quarterback has now thrown a whopping 98 times over the last two games for just 508 yards, an anemic 5.2 yards per attempt.

If the opponent is truly adjusting to take away the run, then the passing game is hopelessly broken to not be able to take advantage. There’s no excuse to fall apart after the 37-year-old Steve Smith exited the game late in the first quarter with a sprained ankle.

But as the passing game languished, Terrance West averaged 8.6 yards per carry on 11 rushes on Sunday.


He was responsible for the two longest plays of the game for Baltimore with runs of 35 and 27 yards while Flacco dropped back to throw 50 times and had nothing longer than a 15-yard completion on the day.

“We didn’t get first downs,” said head coach John Harbaugh when asked about the disappearance of the running game. “Eight rushes [after the first quarter] and how many three-and-outs? How many runs do you want? That’s the bottom line. You have to move the ball, you have to get first downs. We have to have more plays. How many plays did we have if you’re not going to count the two-minute drive? You just have to look at how many plays we had in those situations.

“I didn’t think we abandoned the run. I would’ve liked to have seen us score. Once we got the turnover down [in the red zone in the second quarter], we threw it and got nothing there. Maybe we could’ve run it there if I was going to look back.”

The weekly excuses for not running the ball are wearing thin, and the frustration was apparent in the post-game locker room. Trestman isn’t solely to blame as the offensive line is banged up, receivers are dropping too many passes and struggling to gain separation, and Flacco isn’t playing at his best. Players must execute and the opponent is also competing, but even the most even-keeled observer has to question whether the maligned coordinator is able to put this offense in the best position to succeed at this point.

Do changes need to be made?

“I’m not going to get into all that. We’re not playing well enough,” said Flacco, who added that it was “embarrassing” to play that way in front of a disenchanted home crowd. “We’re not making plays. Yeah, there’s probably only a couple plays, we’re only giving ourselves a couple of plays to be made, but when they’re there, we’re just not making them. We are running off the field way too much. Definitely, definitely not fun to be out there today after the first series.”

Of course, the offense wasn’t the only problem on Sunday.

The special teams continue to struggle as the Redskins scored their first touchdown on an 85-yard punt return by Jamison Crowder in the first quarter. A bad Sam Koch punt early in the third quarter set up Washington at midfield for its eventual second touchdown.

On defense, the secondary buckled too much in the third quarter and linebacker C.J. Mosley’s fumble through the end zone on what looked like a game-changing interception was a back-breaker, but too much pressure is being placed on a much-improved unit that allowed only 10 points on Sunday.

But it was another coaching gaffe in the second quarter that stood out in the six-point defeat.

After linebacker Zach Orr forced and recovered a fumble inside the red zone, the Ravens failed to pick up a first down on three plays and lined up to try a 35-yard field goal to push the lead to 13-6. However, the Ravens called for their kicker to throw a pass despite the windy conditions at M&T Bank Stadium. Unsurprisingly, the pass to Gillmore was underthrown and fell incomplete.

Tucker said after the game that they had practiced the trick play — which included him initially lining up as a left-footed kicker — over the last five years, but there had been no discussion on the sideline about the crosswind potentially impacting the ability to run the fake. He maintained that the wind was not a factor on his throw and suggested that Gillmore may have slipped on the play, but the failure was neither of those players’ fault.

How you call a play for a non-quarterback to throw the ball in less-than-ideal conditions is baffling. We don’t know how the game might have changed if the Ravens had successfully kicked there, but they would have only needed a field goal to tie the game on their final drive if the score had been 16-13.

“You can second-guess it, but I’m not second-guessing it,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve stood up here for nine years and said we’re going to be aggressive. People are going to have to defend fakes, they’re going to have to defend us going for it on fourth down. That’s just the way we’re going to continue to play, because that’s what we believe in. We believe in giving our players a chance to make plays, and we’re going to keep doing it. We’re not apologizing for that.”

The head coach’s answer was predictable, but there’s really no defending the call.

Plenty went wrong in the loss and players must take their share of the responsibility, but the Ravens just aren’t good enough to overcome the type of coaching errors that were made on Sunday.

Harbaugh and Trestman needed to be better in what was a very winnable game.

Now, the Ravens are left to rebound from two straight home losses that have all but washed away the good vibes of a 3-0 start.

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Ravens-Redskins: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 09 October 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — For the second straight week, the Ravens have benched a starting player — at least sort of.

Struggling since a strong performance in the season opener, veteran cornerback Shareece Wright has been deactivated and will not play against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. This comes a week after the Ravens deactivated former starter Justin Forsett, who was released on Tuesday.

Roughly 15 minutes after the inactives list was released, however, the Ravens said Wright has been experiencing back spasms “recently” despite that not appearing on the injury report at any point during the week. That late announcement was understandably met with skepticism.

Candidates who could see time at outside cornerback include Will Davis and Sheldon Price, who rotated lining up with the starting defense during pre-game warmups. Veteran Jerraud Powers and rookie Tavon Young could also be in the mix there, but they are each better suited to play the slot corner spot.

With 2016 first-round pick Ronnie Stanley out for the second straight game with a foot injury and third-year reserve James Hurst faring poorly last week, Baltimore will shift rookie left guard Alex Lewis to left tackle. Of course, Lewis might have been the starter at left tackle in Week 4 if not for a concussion that sidelined him for most of the practice week ahead of the game against Oakland.

On Friday, Lewis expressed confidence in his ability to slide outside since he played left tackle at Nebraska and practiced quite a bit at the position during the summer.

The Ravens will also have a new left guard on Sunday as John Urschel will receive his first start of the season. The 2014 fifth-round pick entered training camp as the favorite to start there, but a shoulder injury sidelined him for an extended period of time and opened the door for Lewis to win the job.

This marks the Ravens’ third different combination at left tackle and left guard in as many weeks, which is far from ideal for the league’s 19th-ranked offense trying to get on track in 2016.

As anticipated and discussed throughout the week, rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) is active and will make his NFL debut. He is expected to serve as a change of pace to starter Terrance West, but the Ravens are intrigued with the fourth-round pick’s potential if he can stay healthy.

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) is active after missing practices earlier in the week.

Looking to clean up their shoddy special-teams play over the last two weeks, the Ravens have deactivated rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa and rookie wide receiver Chris Moore, who had played in each of the first four games. Tight ends Daniel Brown and Darren Waller are both active and figure to play substantial roles on special teams after being moved to the 53-man roster earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (elbow) is active despite being listed as questionable on the final injury report. Washington will need him to help take advantage of a vulnerable left side of the offensive line for Baltimore.

The Redskins already ruled out starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland (ankle) on Friday.

The Ravens and Washington are meeting for the sixth time ever in the regular season with Baltimore holding a 3-2 advantage and a 1-0 record at home. However, the Redskins won the last meeting between these teams, a 31-28 overtime final at FedEx Field in 2012.

Baltimore will be wearing purple jerseys with white pants while the Redskins don white tops and burgundy pants for Sunday’s game. Uniforms for both teams will feature pink accessories as an initiative for Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Sunday’s referee is Ron Torbert.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore called for mostly sunny skies with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and only a slight chance of precipitation at kickoff. However, wind will be a factor at up to 22 miles per hour throughout the afternoon.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

CB Shareece Wright
OT Ronnie Stanley
WR Chris Moore
S Marqueston Huff
LB Kamalei Correa
DT Willie Henry
LB Matt Judon

QB Nate Sudfeld
WR Josh Doctson
CB Bashaud Breeland
CB Dashaun Phillips
S Su’a Cravens
OL Vinston Painter
DE Anthony Lanier

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Ravens-Redskins: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 08 October 2016 by Luke Jones

No matter what local fans might wish, the Ravens don’t have any real rivalry with the Washington Redskins.

But that doesn’t mean Sunday’s game isn’t important for Baltimore with two straight road games looming ahead of the Week 8 bye and a difficult second half of the season. The Ravens don’t want to lose a second consecutive home game and all semblance of momentum after a 3-0 start.

Washington has shaken off an 0-2 start at home to win its last two contests and will try to improve to 2-0 on the road behind the NFL’s eighth-ranked offense.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens welcome Washington to M&T Bank Stadium for just the second time ever in the regular season. Baltimore is 3-2 in the all-time series, but the Redskins won the last regular-season meeting between these teams, a 31-28 overtime finish in Landover on Dec. 9, 2012.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Rookie Alex Lewis will shift outside to left tackle to help stabilize Baltimore’s pass protection. With Ronnie Stanley expected to miss his second straight game, Lewis will get the call to play tackle and will be an upgrade from the overmatched James Hurst. It helps that Washington lacks an explosive pass rush and outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is questionable to play with an elbow injury, but the Ravens could still have their hands full with edge rusher Trent Murphy, who already has four sacks. Washington will collect two sacks, but Joe Flacco will deal with a cleaner pocket than last week.

2. Washington tight end Jordan Reed will find the end zone against a shaky red-zone defense from the Ravens. The Baltimore defense is one of the best in the NFL despite opponents going 7-for-8 scoring touchdowns in trips to the red zone, but Washington ranks 30th in red-zone offense so far this year. The Ravens have been very good against tight ends all season, but the linebacker coverage showed some cracks against Oakland last week and Reed is the best tight end they’ve faced all year. He’ll finish off a long drive with a touchdown catch against Baltimore.

3. Kenneth Dixon will flash in his debut, but Terrance West will lead the way against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. After facing a shoddy Oakland defense last week, the Ravens will find plenty of room against a group allowing 4.9 yards per carry this season. Dixon will receive a handful of touches as a change of pace, but West deserves to carry the load after rushing for a career-high 113 yards last week. He may not reach that mark again, but Baltimore will commit to the run early and gain 135 yards to move the chains and keep Flacco from having to throw it 40-plus times again.

4. The Ravens defense will force Kirk Cousins to throw more than 40 times and pick him off at a critical moment. Baltimore ranks fifth in run defense and is allowing 3.7 yards per carry despite giving up an 85-yard touchdown run in Week 2. Meanwhile, the Washington offense thrives with an effective running game and would like to limit Cousins’ attempts from the pocket. The Ravens will come up on the winning end in this battle as they’ve allowed 2.7 yards per carry on non-Isaiah Crowell touchdowns this season. Washington’s reliance on the pass will lead to a crucial fourth-quarter turnover.

5. The Baltimore offense will be more balanced and efficient while the defense will bend without breaking in a 24-19 win over the Redskins. It’s impossible to expect anything but a close game on Sunday as the Ravens haven’t won a game by more than one possession since the 2014 postseason and 18 of their last 20 regular-season games have been decided by one possession. However, the Washington defense ranks 29th in yards allowed and will be without starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland. The Redskins will move the ball with an effective passing game, but the Ravens will make the adjustments to clean up their red-zone defense this week, which will be the difference in a close game.

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Left tackle Stanley expected to miss second straight game for Ravens

Posted on 07 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are looking at potentially starting their third different left tackle in as many weeks.

Rookie Ronnie Stanley (foot) is listed as doubtful to play against Washington on Sunday after missing all practices for a second straight week. The first-round pick missed his first game against Oakland last week as the Ravens are trying to protect his long-term health for the duration of the season.

With starting left guard Alex Lewis recovered from a concussion and having practiced fully all week, the Ravens could tab him to play left tackle after third-year lineman James Hurst struggled mightily against the Raiders in Week 4. A 2016 fourth-round pick out of Nebraska, Lewis played left tackle in college and also practiced at the position extensively this summer, leading many to believe he could serve as the primary backup to Stanley.

He says he’s ready to slide outside if asked to do so.

“You’ve just got to know where your help is at tackle, especially [as a rookie],” Lewis said. “I expect a little help, but at the same time, you’ve got to understand that when they call you to be on an island, you’ve got to go back to your fundamentals. It doesn’t really matter what the guy across from you is doing. It’s sticking to fundamentals and doing your technique and getting your job done.”

Should Lewis play left tackle, the Ravens could turn to John Urschel to play left guard. Originally projected to be the starter at that position entering training camp, Urschel was sidelined with a shoulder injury for much of the preseason and into the start of the regular season. This is the first week that Urschel has not been listed on the injury report.

Ryan Jensen struggled in place of Lewis at left guard last week.

“We are comfortable with the guys that have played,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “Alex has his feet wet in terms of playing a couple games. We have seen him play outside; we are good with that. We have seen the guys who are playing inside play inside with John and so forth. We do have a comfort level with that.”

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) returned to the practice field on a limited basis Friday and is listed as questionable to play against the Redskins.

Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) was listed as questionable on the final injury report, but he is expected to make his NFL debut after practicing fully all week. It will be interesting to see how involved he is offensively with starter Terrance West coming off a career-high 113 rushing yards last week.

Cornerback Sheldon Price (thigh) is also questionable after practicing on a limited basis this week.

Meanwhile, Washington will be without starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland (ankle), rookie hybrid linebacker Su’a Cravens (concussion), and rookie first-round receiver Josh Doctson (Achilles tendon) as the three were officially ruled out for Week 5 on Friday.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Ron Torbert.

The Weather.com forecast for Sunday calls for partly cloudy skies, temperatures reaching the mid-60s, no chance of precipitation, and winds up to 17 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

DOUBTFUL: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), CB Sheldon Price (thigh), WR/RS Devin Hester (thigh)

OUT: CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle), S Su’a Cravens (concussion), WR Josh Doctson (achilles), CB Dashaun Phillips (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Ryan Kerrigan (elbow), G Shawn Lauvao (ankle)

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Ravens place second-year tight end Williams on injured reserve

Posted on 07 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens entered training camp with extensive depth at tight end, a strength that has already been tested substantially.

After losing veteran Benjamin Watson to a torn Achilles tendon in August, the Ravens have now placed second-year tight end Maxx Williams on injured reserve. The 2015 second-round pick aggravated a lingering cartilage issue in his knee in the Week 4 loss to Oakland and will undergo season-ending surgery in the near future.

Head coach John Harbaugh said Williams initially damaged the knee in a game against San Francisco last October. He will meet with specialists to determine the specifics of the surgery to have him ready for the 2017 season.

“The way the knee is built just made it worse,” Harbaugh said. “We were hoping to get him through the season and then get something done at the end of the season, but it has just flared up too many times now for his well-being and his future. As he told me yesterday, ‘I’m 22 years old. I have a career in front of me. Let me take care of this right now.'”

With veteran Dennis Pitta and third-year tight end Crockett Gillmore ahead of him on the depth chart, Williams had yet to be targeted by quarterback Joe Flacco in four games after he set the rookie franchise record for receptions (32) and receiving yards (268) as a rookie in 2015. Williams joins defensive tackle Carl Davis as early 2015 draft picks on IR for Baltimore this season.

Harbaugh had indicated at the beginning of the week that Williams’ status for the remainder of the season could be in doubt, a reality that led to the Ravens promoting tight end Daniel Brown from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Wednesday. Darren Waller, a 2015 sixth-round pick, could also be activated after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

The Ravens must make a decision on what to do with the open roster spot by 4 p.m. on Saturday to make that player eligible to play against Washington.

“I do think special teams will play into this decision pretty dramatically,” Harbaugh said. “We have guys on our practice squad that are doing a really good job that can help us. We’ll figure that out.”

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Ravens place rookie cornerback Canady on IR, sign safety

Posted on 06 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens shook up their secondary on Thursday by placing cornerback Maurice Canady on injured reserve and signing safety Marqueston Huff off Jacksonville’s practice squad.

Canady, a 2016 sixth-round pick from the University of Virginia, had played in all four games for the Ravens on special teams before suffering a significant hamstring injury in Sunday’s loss to Oakland. He made two tackles in his 62 special-teams snaps.

Tennessee’s fourth-round pick in 2014, Huff had 33 tackles, a sack, four pass breakups, and an interception returned for a touchdown in his two seasons with the Titans. The Wyoming product was cut at the end of the 2016 preseason and signed to the Jaguars’ practice squad while serving a one-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

The 5-foot-11, 196-pound Huff has the ability to play both safety and cornerback.

The Ravens were once again without starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot), veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh), and tight end Maxx Williams (knee) for Thursday’s practice as they continued preparing for their Week 5 meeting with Washington. Nose tackle Brandon Williams, right guard Marshal Yanda, and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs were also absent from Thursday’s practice, but they were likely receiving the day off.

Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) was again practicing and appears set to make his NFL debut on Sunday.

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Stanley remains sidelined as Ravens return to practice

Posted on 05 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Shifting their attention toward a Week 5 meeting with Washington, the Ravens continue to be without their starting left tackle on the practice field.

After missing the Week 4 loss to Oakland while nursing a foot injury, rookie first-rounder Ronnie Stanley was once again absent during Wednesday’s practice. Third-year lineman James Hurst took his place against the Raiders and struggled mightily against Pro Bowl defensive end Khalil Mack.

It remains to be seen whether fellow rookie Alex Lewis will shift outside to left tackle if Stanley is unable to play for a second straight week. Lewis was active for Sunday’s loss, but missing the entire week of practice prompted head coach John Harbaugh to use Ryan Jensen at left guard.

The Ravens have made it clear that they’re taking no chances with their injured left tackle, but Stanley told reporters that it’s been difficult being on the sideline.

“We just have to keep working on his foot,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “I know Ronnie says he could have played, and he probably could have. He could probably play this week, so we will just have to see how we decide to do it — along with what the doctors say — and we will figure it out. You want to do what is best for the team short term and long term and what is best for the player short term and long term. Our guys’ health is really important to us. We are not throwing guys out there before they are ready.”

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester was also absent from Wednesday’s practice and continues to be listed with a thigh injury. Hester did play against Oakland, but he fumbled a return for the second straight week.

After practicing on a limited basis last week and missing his fourth straight game on Sunday, rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) practiced fully and is on track to make his NFL debut in Week 5.

Cornerback Maurice Canady (thigh) and tight end Maxx Williams (knee) were missing from the workout. The Ravens elevated tight end Daniel Brown to the 53-man roster and welcomed Darren Waller back to practice from his four-game suspension, but the latter isn’t on the current 53-man roster.

The maneuvering at the tight end position leaves one to wonder about the status of Williams moving forward.

“It’s the same thing he’s had. It’s a cartilage issue that he has in there,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something that can be fixed until it’s fixed. It’s just something he has to play with and play through. The doctors have to tell us what the best course of action is going forward. He can still play.

“Is it the best thing for him and all of that? We’ll have to figure that out.”

The Ravens were granted a roster exemption for Waller, meaning they can wait until Monday to either place him on the 53-man roster or subject him to waivers.

No formal announcement was made during practice, but second-year wide receiver Kenny Bell was on the field for the Ravens on Wednesday morning. Bell was a 2015 fifth-round selection of Tampa Bay and played his college ball at Nebraska.

Meanwhile, Washington was missing four players from practice, a list including starting cornerback Bashaud Breelan (ankle) and rookie first-round receiver Josh Doctson (Achilles)

Below is Wednesday’s full injury:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Maurice Canady (thigh), WR/RS Devin Hester (thigh), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), TE Maxx Williams (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle), S Su’a Cravens (concussion), WR Josh Doctson (Achilles), CB Dashaun Phillips (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DE Chris Baker (elbow/toe), LB Ryan Kerrigan (elbow), G Shawn Lauvao (ankle), OT Trent Williams (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Robert Kelley (finger), LB Trent Murphy (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (hand)

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Showalter lets down when Orioles needed him most

Posted on 05 October 2016 by Luke Jones

You may not think so right now, but Buck Showalter is a very good manager.

To borrow a phrase he likes to use, I’ve got a long memory.

Without him, the Orioles wouldn’t be the winningest team in the American League over the last five years and wouldn’t have three trips to the playoffs under their belts, but that doesn’t change the truth about what happened in the AL wild-card game on Tuesday night.

He let his players down in the 5-2 loss to Toronto in 11 innings.

The story of the defeat that ended the season really should have been about an Orioles offense that continued its second-half swoon by managing only two runs and four hits in the biggest game of the year. Baltimore rarely made good contact and didn’t even register a hit over the final five innings against a mediocre Blue Jays bullpen. The offense falling off a cliff — not the pitching — was the biggest reason why the Orioles struggled to play .500 ball after the All-Star break.

It was frustrating to watch on Tuesday, but players don’t always perform the way you want them to. That’s just the way it goes sometimes in the athletic arena with the opponent trying to win, too.

But there’s no defending not using your best pitcher — the closer many believe could be the 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner — with your season on the line.

The clamoring for All-Star selection Zach Britton began in the eighth inning when Brad Brach entered and continued when the right-hander got into trouble against the heart of the Toronto order in the ninth. Instead of turning to Britton to escape the jam, Showalter summoned veteran right-hander Darren O’Day, who missed much of the season due to injuries and had rarely even pitched since being activated from the disabled list in mid-September.

But the moves worked, whether you agreed with them or not. At the very least, you could concede that Showalter was showing trust in two individuals who had been All-Star relievers the last two years. Brach and O’Day have pitched in plenty of high-leverage spots and likely would have pitched if the game had stretched into one or two extra frames anyway.

That’s when any attempt to defend Showalter has to end, however.

Lefty Brian Duensing had pitched well in a handful of appearances down the stretch, but the journeyman with a career 4.13 ERA started the bottom of the 11th inning. Even so, he struck out Ezequiel Carrera to once again save face for the manager.

Now was finally the time for Britton with one out in the 11th and the top of the Blue Jays lineup coming up, right?


Instead entered the enigmatic Ubaldo Jimenez, who had pitched admirably over the last six weeks but fared poorly as a reliever earlier in the season. In reference to his unorthodox mechanics alone, he’s a high-maintenance pitcher who undoubtedly benefits from the lengthier warm-up session in the bullpen and the normal routine before a scheduled start.

Simply put, he was out of his element in a high-leverage relief setting and looked like it, giving up two singles and the game-winning three-run home run to Edwin Encarnacion on three consecutive pitches. Jimenez clearly didn’t do his job, but he was being asked to fulfill a role he wasn’t used to and hadn’t done well out of the bullpen earlier in the year.

That wasn’t the spot for him with better options available, and that’s on the manager.

This all took place as Britton — with his historic 0.54 ERA — watched from the bullpen and was forced to wait for that save situation that never came.


Showalter said after the game that Britton was healthy and available, the last morsel of information observers needed before crushing the Baltimore skipper. He preferred saving Britton while going to other options in the bullpen – inferior ones – despite the fact that the lefty had warmed up a few different times.

It’s true that using Britton in a tie game on the road deviates from the tired by-the-book way managers have handled closers for the last 25 years, but we thought Showalter was better than that. In fact, he had used Britton in the ninth and 10th innings of a tie game at Rogers Centre back on July 31, a contest the Orioles eventually won in 12 innings as Logan Ondrusek pitched the final frame.

If a game was important enough in late July to use Britton in a non-save situation on the road, how can you not use him with your season hanging by a single thread?

Maybe pitching him wouldn’t have mattered with the Orioles failing to generate any offense beyond Mark Trumbo’s two-run homer in the fourth, but you could more easily stomach Jimenez or Duensing or Tommy Hunter or Dylan Bundy – or even Britton himself — giving up the game-winner if they’d at least exhausted their best options to that point.

Instead, Showalter was too worried about not having Britton around later in the game if that save chance ever materialized. He’ll spend all winter pondering what might have been if he’d simply been more concerned with extending the game.

As a man often praised for being two steps ahead of the opposition, Showalter needed to be more in the now and not thinking so much about the hypothetical inning or two later in an elimination game. It was overthinking, not terribly different from the decision to leave Wade Miley in too long during Saturday’s costly loss at Yankee Stadium.

That failure late in Tuesday’s game coupled with the invisible bats ultimately cost the Orioles their season.

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Ravens part ways with veteran running back Justin Forsett

Posted on 04 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are parting ways with veteran running back Justin Forsett, and it’s for real this time.

With Forsett being deactivated for Sunday’s loss to Oakland and injured rookie Kenneth Dixon moving closer to a return, Baltimore is electing to go younger at the position. Terrance West ran for a career-high 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against the Raiders while second-year back Buck Allen served as his backup.

The 30-year-old Forsett confirmed the news via his official Twitter account after his release was first reported by The Sun. He told the team website that he spoke with general manager Ozzie Newsome about his desire to be released in order to catch on elsewhere.

Forsett rushed for just 98 yards on 31 carries through the first three games of the season. Despite a slow start for the running game as a whole, he appeared to lack the explosiveness and the ability to break tackles that he had shown in his surprising 2014 Pro Bowl season in which he rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards and averaged an impressive 5.4 yards per carry.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not provide a clear answer Monday when asked whether Forsett would still have a place on the roster moving forward with Dixon nearing a return and West performing so well in Week 4.

“Of course,” Harbaugh said. “Justin Forsett is a highly-respected, highly-valued guy in my eyes and the eyes of all of us. It is a competitive world that we are in. It is a competitive league; it is a competitive sport. He knows that as well as anybody. It doesn’t diminish him in any way. It just enhances him, in my mind, in terms of how he handles it. We will just have to see. All those personnel things are all to be determined. You can’t say anything about where anything is going to go because you just don’t know. None of us have the ability to see in the future, so we will see how it plays out.”

Forsett’s departure comes just a month after the Ravens released him as a paper move to temporarily create roster flexibility when final cuts were made. After being cut on Sept. 3, he was re-signed two days later to the same terms that remained on the three-year, $9 million contract he inked in 2015.

His production dipped last year as he averaged just 4.2 yards per carry before his season was cut short due to a broken arm suffered in late November.

Originally signed to a one-year, $730,000 deal just weeks after Ray Rice was arrested for assaulting his future wife in an Atlantic City casino elevator in 2014, Forsett proved to be a very important contributor both on the field and in the community as the organization endured one of the ugliest periods in its history. Not only serving as a key performer in the backfield, Forsett became one of the positive faces for a franchise that needed to rebuild its image after the Rice saga.

The Ravens are lucky he passed their way.

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