Tag Archive | "Baltimore"


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Zuttah placed on IR, West promoted to 53-man roster

Posted on 18 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It was another day and another roster move for the Ravens as starting center Jeremy Zuttah was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a partially-torn pectoral muscle on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old initially suffered an injury to the area in the Week 8 win over San Diego, but he suffered further damage in Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville. Zuttah has started 65 consecutive games and hasn’t missed an NFL contest since the 2011 season, but second-year lineman John Urschel will now step into the starting center role.

“The decision has been made to get that repaired right away,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “They can’t say 100 percent that it would heal like they want it to if we took time and waited, so we’re going to go ahead and get that done.”

Acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay in the spring of 2014, Zuttah was key in turning around the Baltimore running game a year ago as he replaced ex-Raven Gino Gradkowski at the center position. Urschel made three starts as a rookie last season, but he will be making his first career start at center against St. Louis.

Having filled in for Zuttah late in the Chargers game, Urschel struggled with his shotgun snaps, but he has performed well as a blocker, including two starts in the postseason as a rookie. Quarterback Joe Flacco acknowledged that it will be a challenging transition that he hasn’t experienced often in his NFL career.

“Losing the center is definitely a tough thing,” Flacco said. “Since I’ve been here, I don’t think I’ve played with a backup center other than a couple snaps here and there. Guys have stayed pretty healthy. Jeremy has stayed pretty healthy. That’s definitely a big blow — not because of who we have coming in. John’s going to do great. You’ve seen he can get in there and do a great job for us. He’s going to make all the calls. He’s going to do great, and he has done great for us at guard and other positions.”

Baltimore promoted former Towson running back Terrance West to the 53-man roster to take Zuttah’s place. The 2014 third-round pick of the Cleveland Browns was signed to the practice squad last week a few days after being waived by the Tennessee Titans.

Now officially on his third 53-man roster in just over two months, the maligned second-year back would stand to benefit from the tutelage of veteran starter Justin Forsett. It’s a role the 30-year-old is more than willing to take on with any of the team’s young running backs.

“I think I’m the oldest guy in the room by a little bit, so I try to take all of them under my wing a little bit and try to pour as much into them as I can,” Forsett said. “I’ve been in his situation before, where he’s been on a couple of teams [his] first couple of years in the league, so as much as I can pour into him, I will.”

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Ravens place first-round pick Perriman on injured reserve

Posted on 17 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Another disappointing chapter was added to the story of the 2015 Ravens on Tuesday as rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman was placed on injured reserve, ending his season before it ever started.

The first-round pick from Central Florida sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first day of training camp, an injury initially diagnosed as a bruise that would only keep him out for a day or two. After making very slow progress, Perriman briefly returned to the practice field in late September before pulling up lame in a pre-game workout at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 27.

A few days later, Perriman visited renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews and underwent arthroscopic surgery and received a platelet-rich plasma injection to help speed the recovery process. Shortly after the procedure, head coach John Harbaugh called the injury “one of the all-time slowest-healing sprained PCLs ever,” and Perriman never appeared to get close to returning to practice before Tuesday’s decision.

“Breshad has worked hard to come back from his injury,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement, “but after discussing his current condition with our medical staff and Breshad, we have decided that putting him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season is our best course of action.”

The 26th overall pick of April’s draft and the first receiver selected in the first round by the Ravens since Mark Clayton in 2005, the 6-foot-2, 218-pound Perriman was expected to immediately fill the void of Torrey Smith after the speedy veteran signed with San Francisco in the offseason. Instead, Perriman becomes the first first-round pick in Ravens history to miss his entire rookie season.

Though acknowledging the clock was ticking on the rookie receiver for this season, Harbaugh had expressed hope earlier this month that Perriman would be able to play in the final four games, which would have given the Ravens the opportunity to evaluate him despite being on track to experience their first losing season since 2007. Now, they’ll have to wait until next year.

“It’s a huge disappointment not being able to play my first year in the NFL, but I will come back harder than ever,” Perriman wrote on Twitter. “Thanks to all of the Ravens fans for the support.”

With Perriman remaining an unknown and veteran receiver Steve Smith announcing his intentions to retire before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury on Nov. 1 — though many feel the injury could prompt him to return in 2016 — the wide receiver position couldn’t be in worse shape as the Ravens must also renegotiate quarterback Joe Flacco’s contract this offseason.

The Ravens made several other roster moves on Tuesday, cutting wide receiver and return specialist Jeremy Ross and cornerback Asa Jackson. On Sunday, Ross lost a fumble on a punt return for the second time in the last three games while Jackson committed two 15-yard penalties on special teams in the 22-20 loss to Jacksonville.

On Monday, Harbaugh criticized both players for their performances in Sunday’s game.

Dealing with an ankle injury, Jackson was given the waived-injured designation and would revert to injured reserve if he clears waivers.

To fill the three open spots on their 53-man roster, the Ravens signed veteran cornerback Cassius Vaughn, tight end Chase Ford, and rookie wide receiver Kaelin Clay. Vaughn was with Baltimore during the preseason while Clay and Ford were signed off the practice squads of Detroit and Minnesota respectively.

After being cut by the Ravens in early September, Vaughn hasn’t been with another team, but he owns 138 career tackles, 24 pass breakups, seven interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery in his five NFL seasons.

Ford has played in 20 career NFL games (five starts), producing 34 catches for 391 yards and a touchdown. Clay has yet to appear in a game, but the Utah rookie is considered an intriguing option in the return game after being drafted in the sixth round of this year’s draft.

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Ravens running game continues to be forgotten under Trestman

Posted on 17 November 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have lost their way.

That statement carries many connotations these days as Baltimore holds a 2-7 record for the first time since 2005, but it’s especially true when examining the disappearance of the running game after the Ravens finished eighth in the NFL with 126.2 rushing yards per game under Gary Kubiak a year ago. Despite maintaining that it was in the Ravens’ DNA to run the football when they hired pass-happy offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, head coach John Harbaugh has seen his rushing attack plummet to 23rd in the NFL with just 98.1 yards on the ground per game. The Ravens rank 18th in the league at 4.0 yards per carry after averaging a healthier 4.5 yards per attempt in 2014.

The running game again wasn’t a major factor in Sunday’s 22-20 loss to Jacksonville as the Ravens carried 21 times for 89 yards while Joe Flacco attempted 45 passes.

“We’d like to run the ball more; there’s no question,” Harbaugh said. “On the other hand, if you look at the defenses [the Jaguars] were playing, there were eight guys within four or five yards of the line of scrimmage at all times, pretty much, and even then, we had some really good runs. We had some nice runs in the second half. We weren’t able to finish in four-minute [drill] like we would have wanted to; we were close to popping a couple of those runs.

“In the first half, we weren’t getting much. If we could have converted a couple more first downs there, you would have seen more runs. It’s something we had planned on doing. We were going to run it at them anyway, but we just didn’t get the opportunities that we wanted to.”

It’s fair to note that the Jaguars entered Sunday ranked seventh in the NFL in run defense, but the Ravens barely even tried in the first half with just four designed runs compared to 29 drop-backs for Flacco in his first game since No. 1 receiver Steve Smith was lost for the season. As for Harbaugh’s explanation, the Ravens picked up 11 first downs in the first 30 minutes of action, which wasn’t indicative of a team struggling to get on schedule with moving the chains.

Asked if Flacco checked out of a high number of plays at the line of scrimmage because of the Jaguars stacking the box, Harbaugh said that there were only a couple instances when the original play was changed, leading one to conclude that Trestman was responsible for the out-of-whack ratio. The pass-happy attack may have found success to the tune of 14 points and 223 yards of offense in the first half, but the approach backfired in the third quarter with Flacco turning the ball over on the first three possessions after intermission.

The Ravens carried 16 times for 70 yards in the second half.

“We knew we had some opportunities in the passing game, but we always look to run,” said running back Justin Forsett, who finished with 53 yards on 14 carries. “It’s just tough that we didn’t get it going faster. If we had, we would’ve been able to run the ball a little bit better. At the end, we just didn’t finish well.”

It’s easy to point to the opponent to defend Trestman’s approach on Sunday, but the Ravens also ran six times — one was a quarterback kneel — for 15 yards in the first half against San Diego, a run defense that currently ranks 27th in the NFL. Not counting plays resulting in sacks, the Ravens rank 26th in the NFL in running the ball just 37.29 percent of the time in 2015.

Last year, Baltimore ran the ball 44.67 percent of the time to rank 11th in the league.

Is it understandable to expect more passing in 2015 with the Ravens trailing in more games? Absolutely, but Baltimore has trailed by more than one score in the second half of just four games this year and one of those was the comeback win at Pittsburgh when the Ravens ran for almost 200 yards in an overtime victory. It’s difficult to say you’re committed to the running game when it wasn’t even allowed to find a rhythm in the first half of each of the last two games when they never trailed by more than seven points.

Whether because of a lack of commitment or production — or both — a ground game that returned the same starting running back and same starting offensive line from a year ago continues to be a significant disappointment under Trestman. It’s made life even more difficult on Flacco, who is trying to succeed with arguably the most underwhelming group of pass-catchers in the NFL.

The Ravens rank ninth in the NFL with 263.6 passing yards per game, but they’re 25th at 6.7 yards per attempt. For the second time in three years, the offense has fallen on Flacco’s shoulders despite a substandard cast of receivers around him.

Despite what the coaching staff has said at numerous times this season, there doesn’t appear to be much urgency to get the ground game going after the latest soft showing against Jacksonville.

“The run game is something to talk about,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “We were looking at it hard this morning, this afternoon with the coaches. Early in the game, we’re a block here and a block there away from popping runs. But a block here and a block there doesn’t get it done. We did a lot of things with scheme. We had a lot of formations. We protected our edges with tight ends and with seal blocks coming back and sift blocks coming back the other way. We did a good job of protecting our edges. But inside of all that, they had a couple of little changeups with their linebackers that gave us a little trouble that we sorted out toward the end of the game, [and we] had some better runs.”

Entering 2015, the running game was supposed to be the rock-solid commodity for a Ravens offense that experienced plenty of change in the offseason. Instead, it’s become just another of the many problems plaguing a 2-7 football team.

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Harbaugh critical of Ross, Jackson for mistakes in Sunday’s loss

Posted on 16 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — On Monday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh dissected plenty that went wrong in the 22-20 loss to Jacksonville, but the criticism was particularly strong for special-teams players Jeremy Ross and Asa Jackson.

Ross’ fumbled punt early in the fourth quarter led to a go-ahead touchdown for Jacksonville and was the return specialist’s second lost fumble in the last three games. It was Baltimore’s fourth turnover of the second half after quarterback Joe Flacco threw two interceptions and fumbled in the third quarter.

“The muffed punt killed us. It was one of the four turnovers that shouldn’t happen,” said Harbaugh, who acknowledged that the Ravens will need to decide whether to replace Ross at punt returner. “It wasn’t an easy catch. The ball was moving from left to right and behind him, but it’s still a catch that you have to make in that situation for sure.”

Harbaugh’s words were even more critical for Jackson, who cost the Ravens a combined 30 yards in penalties on a low block in the first quarter and an unnecessary roughness foul in the third period. Jackson committed another unnecessary roughness penalty against Arizona in Week 7.

It’s clear the lack of discipline is wearing thin on the Baltimore coach after Jackson was already waived once at the end of the preseason for ball security issues in the return game.

“There’s no place for that,” Harbaugh said. “There’s absolutely no reason to leave your feet [on the first penalty]. I don’t care if you are slipping or not. You might be slipping, but if you are out of position to make the block, you don’t make that block, and you certainly don’t throw yourself back into a guy’s legs on a kickoff return. That’s blatantly illegal. And then blocking a guy after the ball is down and dead — that’s just foolish. That’s what we call a foolish penalty.

“For one guy to have three personal foul penalties in a season — in a career, let alone a season — let alone two in a game, is unacceptable.”

Webb at safety

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees revealed several new wrinkles after the bye week with the most interesting being cornerback Lardarius Webb lining up at safety for a number of plays in the nickel package.

Webb and starting free safety Kendrick Lewis swapped positions several times, often waiting until right before the snap in an effort to confuse Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles. The seventh-year defensive back also secured Baltimore’s first takeaway since Week 3 with a second-quarter interception while playing cornerback.

“We felt like he could be a factor in the back end, as far as chasing balls and being a ball hawk, and he may be kind of a natural that way,” Harbaugh said. “We tried him there on Tuesday and Wednesday of the bye week; he looked good.

“We built a couple packages for him, and we were able to play him at three different spots at least throughout the course of the game. They had a tougher time knowing where he was going to be, and I really think that’s something we can build on going forward.”

Arthur Brown sighting

All but forgotten as the Ravens’ 2013 second-round pick, inside linebacker Arthur Brown saw his first defensive snaps since the end of his rookie season on Sunday.

Brown was part of the nickel package for eight plays, but he did not register a defensive statistic. The Kansas State product was active for each of the first eight games of 2015 while only seeing action on special teams.

“He played fast and was excited to be out there,” Harbaugh said. “He ran to the ball, made a couple plays — nothing spectacular, but nothing that made you concerned, either. He had done a really good job in practice, and Arthur deserved a little more playing time. He did well with it.”

Urban could return this week

Starting his second week of practice, second-year defensive end Brent Urban is moving closer to making his NFL debut and could be activated in time to play St. Louis on Sunday.

“There’s a chance,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something we’ve talked about yet, but I think physically — based on what I’ve seen physically — he’s ready to go. But again, we’ll talk about this week as we go.”

Urban was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return at the start of the season after suffering a torn biceps in early August.

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NFL admits officiating error at end of Ravens’ loss to Jacksonville

Posted on 16 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The NFL admitted Monday to a late officiating error that allowed Jacksonville to kick the game-winning field goal in a 22-20 win over the Ravens on Sunday.

John Harbaugh said it was “pretty obvious” that the Jaguars offensive line wasn’t set as quarterback Blake Bortles snapped the ball with one second remaining and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil pulled him to the ground by the face mask, eliciting a 15-yard penalty and an untimed play that resulted in Jason Myers’ 53-yard field goal with no time remaining. The NFL issued a statement acknowledging that a false start should have been called, which would have resulted in the play being blown dead and a 10-second run-off to officially end the game.

“The correct call in this case would have been to penalize the offense for a false start because all 11 players were not set, and whistle to stop the play,” league spokesman Michael Signora said. “The ensuing 10-second runoff should have ended the game.”

Of course, the Ravens had 59 minutes, 59 seconds of action to play better and not allow the game to come down to an officiating mistake, but that’s what happens when you’re 2-7 and in the midst of the most disappointing season in franchise history. A high number of calls — many of them important — are missed throughout the course of 60-minute contests every week, with some benefiting and others hurting any given team.

Officiating in the NFL is a problem, but that’s nothing new and won’t change Sunday’s result.

Any number of plays from the final few minutes could have changed the final outcome, ranging from Sam Koch not punting the ball into the end zone for the first time all season to Kendrick Lewis successfully coming away with the game-clinching interception just a couple plays before the final one. Even after the officials missed the false start, Dumervil would be the first to tell you he cannot commit a facemask penalty in such a critical spot, which may have been the only scenario in which the Jaguars could have still won since most players on both teams had already given up on the play.

However you want to slice it, shoddy officiating at the end of the game still doesn’t excuse the Ravens for not playing well against a bad team at home with an extra week to prepare.

“There’s nothing we can do about it now,” Harbaugh said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s disappointing. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s just the way it goes.

“But in the end, we have to overcome all that stuff. I don’t care about officiating. I don’t care about weather. I don’t care about field conditions. I don’t care about our opponent. That’s the way our guys look at it. It does not matter.”

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In last stand, Ravens fail to change losing tune

Posted on 15 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Sunday represented the last stand for the 2015 Ravens.

After their win over San Diego two weeks ago, players and coaches talked about making a second-half run to climb back into an underwhelming AFC wild-card race. Coming off their bye, the Ravens had an extra week to make mid-season adjustments and to prepare for a 2-6 opponent that hadn’t won a road game in nearly two years.

Their most optimistic fans believed there was at least a small chance for the Ravens to turn around their season starting with a win over the lowly Jaguars. But that dream vanished with Elvis Dumervil’s face mask penalty with no time remaining, setting up Jason Myers’ 53-yard field goal to hand the Ravens a stunning 22-20 defeat.

Head coach John Harbaugh called it “as tough a loss as you’re ever going to see” as Baltimore fell to 2-7, but it was just the latest crushing defeat in the most disappointing season in franchise history. The Ravens are just bad enough to find new ways to lose close games on a weekly basis.

“I felt like we lost the game way before that,” said wide receiver Kamar Aiken, citing the Ravens’ slew of other mistakes and his own dropped passes. “It should have never gotten to that point.”

Dumervil’s penalty was just the last of several miscues over the final four minutes of the game after Jacksonville punted the ball back to the Ravens with 3:57 remaining.

The first play of that drive was a Joe Flacco pass to Kyle Juszczyk that resulted in six yards before the fullback ran out of bounds — stopping the clock. After then moving the ball to the Jacksonville 43, the Ravens elected to take a timeout on fourth-and-5 instead of letting the play clock expire and taking a five-yard penalty for a delay of game.

Arguably the best punter in the NFL this season, Sam Koch punted the ball into the end zone for his first touchback of the season, giving the Jaguars the ball at the 20 instead of inside their 10 with 1:06 left and no timeouts remaining.

The decision seemed inconsequential at the time, but how crucial did that extra second and field position turn out to be for the Jaguars?

On second-and-15 from the Jacksonville 40, Ravens safety Kendrick Lewis dropped what would have been the game-clinching interception. That missed chance came just two plays before Dumervil’s critical mistake on a play in which virtually everyone on the field had stopped playing except for Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles and the Pro Bowl outside linebacker.

But the Ravens had other failed chances and errors — including four second-half turnovers — that put them in position for the final bizarre play to matter. There may have been some new post-bye wrinkles with more three-tight sets on offense and new personnel groups on defense — the previously-missing 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown even played — but the same mistakes came at critical times as the Ravens committed nine penalties for 121 yards.

It used to be that the Ravens had to play poorly and a team like Jacksonville would need to be nearly perfect to have a real chance to win in Baltimore, but let’s not pretend that the Jaguars were a juggernaut with their collection of dropped passes, a 26-yard field goal miss, and questionable play-calling throughout the day.

Sunday was 60 minutes of mediocre football played between two bad teams, with the Ravens blinking hardest at the end.

“We’re just not the type of team that’s finding ways to win right now,” said Flacco, who committed three turnovers in the third quarter despite three touchdown passes on the day. “We’re not good enough to [win] football games at the end. You can look at how crazy it is no matter what. We have chances to close those games out. We’re just leaving room for stuff like this to happen.”

You can keep pointing to closes losses and dwelling on misfortune.

Instead of turning a corner after their bye week and making a statement that the second half of 2015 would be a different story, the Ravens played the same losing tune in the end. And it wiped out what faint hope might have remained in their lost season.

M&T Bank Stadium used to be a place where the Ravens were almost invincible, but they’re now 1-3 at home with losses to Cleveland and Jacksonville, perennial doormats of the AFC. There’s just no explanation for it other than being a bad team, even if the Ravens and their fans might feel like the football gods were conspiring against them on that final play.

“We are not catching those breaks,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “It’s a flag here, dropped picks, and [missed] opportunities, and we’re not coming up with them.

“It’s not the universe; it’s us.”

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Ravens-Jaguars: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 15 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A fresh start.

That’s what the Ravens hope Sunday brings as they return from their bye week to welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars to M&T Bank Stadium.

Sporting as healthy of a 53-man roster as they’ve enjoyed in quite some time, the Ravens look to improve to 7-1 in games immediately following their bye week under head coach John Harbaugh. They’re also looking for back-to-back wins for the first time all season after a disappointing 2-6 first half.

Despite being listed as questionable on the final injury report and only returning to practice on Friday, starting center Jeremy Zuttah is active and will play after suffering a left shoulder injury two weeks ago against San Diego. Left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) is also active after missing the Chargers game, giving the Ravens their entire starting offensive line for just the fifth game this season.

The list of inactives was headlined by the healthy scratch of second-year safety Terrence Brooks, who has recovered from a thumb injury that cost him three games before the bye week. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) was already ruled out on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars will have the services of second-year wide receivers Allen Hurns (foot, thigh) and Marqise Lee (hamstring), who were both listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Jacksonville sports the 11th-best passing attack in the NFL, which will pose quite a challenge to the Ravens’ 29th-ranked pass defense.

Pete Morelli will be the referee for Sunday’s game.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys and white pants while Jacksonville dons its white tops with black pants.

The Sunday afternoon forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the low 60s and winds up to 15 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

Sunday marks the 19th all-time meeting between the Ravens and the Jaguars with Jacksonville owning the 10-8 advantage after winning the first eight all-time meetings between these old AFC Central foes. Jacksonville hasn’t won a road game since Dec. 1, 2013 and is seeking its first win in Baltimore since 1999.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

WR Breshad Perriman
WR Joe Morgan
CB Tray Walker
S Terrence Brooks
OL Ryan Jensen
DL Kapron Lewis-Moore
OT De’Ondre Wesley

LB Dan Skuta
RB Toby Gerhart
S James Sample
DT Michael Bennett
C Luke Bowanko
RB Joe Banyard
DE Chris Smith

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Ravens-Jaguars: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 14 November 2015 by Luke Jones

This isn’t a “homecoming” game for the Ravens.

Scoff as much as you’d like over the notion of the 2-6 Jacksonville Jaguars winning a road game for the first time in nearly two years and earning a victory at M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since Bill Clinton was in the White House (1999), but the 2-6 Ravens have no room to be taking any opponent lightly these days. That’s especially true when one of the Jaguars’ greatest strengths — the NFL’s 11th ranked passing game — matches up against Baltimore’s 29th-ranked pass defense.

Head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens have spoken all week about Sunday providing the opportunity for a fresh start and the first of many steps toward climbing back into an underwhelming AFC playoff race, but they’ll first need to show they’ve put some of their first-half struggles behind them.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore and Jacksonville meet for the 19th time in the regular-season history and for the second consecutive year at M&T Bank Stadium. The Jaguars hold a 10-8 advantage in the all-time series, but that can be attributed to Jacksonville winning the first eight all-time meetings between the teams from 1996-1999 when they were old AFC Central foes. Dating back to 2000, the Ravens have won eight of 10 against Jacksonville.

Here’s what to expect as Baltimore tries to win consecutive games for the first time all season …

1. The team that performs better on third down will win on Sunday. This is a boring talking point often used by the unimaginative, but I only bring it up because both teams are so poor in this area, a major reason why they sport matching 2-6 records. The Ravens rank 24th in third-down offense and dead last in the NFL in third-down defense while Jacksonville is 19th in third-down offense and 29th in third-down defense. Baltimore will be challenged to find success running the ball in early-down situations against the league’s seventh-ranked rush defense while the Jaguars want to avoid putting the mistake-prone Blake Bortles in third-and-long spots. This will be critical factor in a close contest.

2. The Ravens secondary will snap Allen Hurns’ touchdown streak, but Allen Robinson will post over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown. Hurns is questionable to play with a foot injury, meaning he will be less than 100 percent if he does find his way to the field on Sunday to try to continue a streak of six consecutive games with a touchdown reception. However, the 2014 second-round pick Robinson is emerging as one of the better big-play threats in the NFL and will create problems for Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. The Ravens should be fine if they can limit one of Jacksonville’s two impact receivers, but Robinson is just too good for the Baltimore secondary to stop at this point.

3. Kamar Aiken will have an encouraging day as the No. 1 receiver, catching six passes for 80 yards and a score. After two weeks to prepare and to talk a good game, the Ravens will now face the reality of life without Steve Smith the rest of the way. The good news for Baltimore is that Jacksonville sports the league’s 25th-ranked pass defense and has struggled to create pressure on quarterbacks this season, which should allow time for Aiken and Chris Givens to gain separation. Jacksonville’s starting cornerbacks, Davon House and Aaron Colvin, are solid, but No. 3 option Dwayne Gratz is a liability in the nickel, which will create a good matchup for Aiken on a touchdown pass.

4. Bortles will throw a costly interception midway through the fourth quarter. Counting the postseason, the Ravens have created four or more turnovers in a game 51 times in franchise history, but they have just four total takeaways in eight games in 2015. That trend just has to change at some point, right? Bortles has shown plenty of promise and has played at a high level at times this season, but he hasn’t been able to avoid critical mistakes like he made against the New York Jets last week. In a tight game, the Ravens will force their first turnover since Week 3 to end a scoring threat and preserve a narrow lead. The five-game streak without a takeaway has to end — even if it’s by accident.

5. Efficiency will be the theme of the day for Joe Flacco and the Ravens in a 28-23 win over Jacksonville. I feel for the Ravens quarterback, who has been given inferior weapons to work with in two of the last three seasons, but you never hear him complain about the factors regularly working against him. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens offense functions the rest of the way with Steve Smith out and the running game being a disappointment to this point. But Flacco will consistently make plays to move the chains and take a few deep shots to Givens in the process. The Ravens found a way to score 30 points without Smith in Week 5, and they’ll find ways to score enough against Jacksonville.

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Wieters’ decision throws monkey wrench into Orioles’ offseason

Posted on 13 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Matt Wieters acknowledged what we all saw in 2015 by accepting the Orioles’ $15.8 million qualifying offer on Friday, meaning he will remain in Baltimore next season.

Though not yet 30 and still a quality player, the three-time All-Star catcher knew there were too many doubts to net him a contract similar to the ones signed by Brian McCann (five years, $85 million) and Russell Martin (five years, $82 million) in the last two offseasons. Having caught on consecutive days just five times in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, Wieters — and agent Scott Boras — concluded that potential suitors would not have been willing to make such a dramatic investment in him just yet.

And that’s why he accepted Baltimore’s one-year deal and will now use 2016 as a showcase year before potentially re-entering the free-agent market next winter. Wieters will receive a very healthy $7.5 million raise from his 2015 salary of $8.3 million in the meantime.

The decision makes perfect sense for Wieters, but the news likely throws a monkey wrench into the Orioles’ offseason plans after they expected him to reject the offer, which would have netted them a supplemental pick at the end of the first round of the 2016 amateur draft. With the Orioles still having a plethora of needs to address from first base to the corner outfield spots to upgrading the starting pitching, you wonder how much this impacts Dan Duquette’s ability to make other improvements without a sizable increase from 2015’s payroll that was just south of $120 million.

But the Orioles have no one to blame but themselves knowing it was always a possibility that Wieters would accept their offer unlike first baseman Chris Davis and starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, who both rejected theirs on Friday.

With fellow catcher Caleb Joseph playing above-average defense — his 12 defensive runs saved ranked second in the American League this past season — and showing an acceptable bat at the position for a fraction of what Wieters will now make in 2016, the Orioles would have been better served to have forgone the uncertain chance of netting a draft pick to spend that $15.8 million elsewhere. According to Baseball Reference, Joseph was worth 2.2 wins above replacement in 2015 compared to Wieters’ 0.8 WAR in 75 games after his return in June.

Though Wieters has earned a strong reputation behind the plate with Gold Gloves won in 2011 and 2012, the Orioles pitched to a 4.38 ERA with him catching in 2015 compared to a 3.65 mark when Joseph was behind the dish. Baltimore also pitched to a 3.00 ERA with Joseph catching in 2014 compared to a 3.80 mark with anyone else behind the plate.

Simply put, the gap — if there is any — between Wieters and Joseph isn’t great enough to justify spending so much more money on the former when the Orioles have so many other positions to address. It’s money better spent in the effort to try to keep Davis or to sign an impact corner outfielder or starting pitcher this winter.

Of course, we’re also assuming the money now spent on Wieters would have been wisely allocated elsewhere, which was never a given.

For those arguing that Wieters could be moved to first base to replace Chris Davis, a career .743 on-base plus slugging percentage and unknown defensive ability make for an expensive downgrade at the position. Wieters’ offensive value as a catcher all but vanishes when moving him to a offensive-minded position like first base.

In addition, such a move would not be popular with either Wieters or Boras in what will amount to a platform season to rebuild the catcher’s market value.

Considering the lack of offseason activity a year ago as the Orioles were coming off their 2014 AL East championship season, some fans will be happy to know that at least one quality player won’t be departing this winter. At least the organization has already done “something” this winter, right?

But for a club needing to not only stand its ground but to try to improve from an 81-81 campaign and a third-place finish in 2015, Wieters is much more of an expensive luxury than a critical need. And that could hurt the Orioles dearly this winter unless they’re willing to spend more money than anyone is currently anticipating.

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Ravens list Zuttah as questionable for Sunday’s game

Posted on 13 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens listed starting center Jeremy Zuttah as questionable for their Week 10 game against Jacksonville after he returned to the practice field on Friday.

Zuttah hadn’t practiced since injuring his left shoulder against San Diego on Nov. 1. Head coach John Harbaugh painted an optimistic outlook for his availability against the Jaguars after he was a full participant.

“He was out here today for the full practice,” Harbaugh said after Friday’s workout. “I’m going to go back and look at the tape and see how he held up extending and punching and all that kind of stuff. We’ll see how he looks, but there were no setbacks during practice — that I’m aware of.”

Left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) was practicing fully for the third consecutive day as he’s primed to make his return to action after missing the final game before the bye week. The seventh-year lineman was listed as probable on the final injury report.

The only Ravens player on the active roster not to take part in Friday’s practice was wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who will miss the ninth straight game of his rookie season on Sunday.

Linebacker Daryl Smith and defensive end Chris Canty returned to practice after receiving veteran days off on Thursday and are both listed as probable. Rookie cornerback Tray Walker (concussion) was also listed as probable after he was cleared to practice fully all week returning from the bye.

Harbaugh said second-year defensive end Brent Urban is “coming along really well” after his return to practice this week, but he would not specify whether he was a candidate to be activated for Sunday’s game. Urban remains on injured reserve with the designation to return and began his 21-day practice window on Monday.

The Ravens would have until 4 p.m. on Saturday to place Urban on the 53-man roster to play against Jacksonville.

The Jaguars listed second-year receivers Allen Hurns (foot/thigh) and Marquise Lee (hamstring) as questionable for Sunday’s game. Hurns practiced on a limited basis on Friday and has told reporters all week that he expects to play.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Pete Morelli.

According to Weather.com, the forecast for Sunday calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s with winds up to eight miles per hour.

Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are 6-1 in contests immediately following their bye week. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have lost 13 consecutive away games with their last road victory coming in Cleveland on Dec. 1, 2013.

OUT: WR Breshad Perriman (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: C Jeremy Zuttah (shoulder)
PROBABLE: DE Chris Canty (non-injury), TE Crockett Gillmore (shoulder), T Eugene Monroe (shoulder), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), CB Tray Walker (concussion)

OUT: WR Rashad Greene (thumb), S James Sample (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Michael Bennett (hamstring), WR Allen Hurns (foot/thigh), WR Marqise Lee (hamstring), LB Dan Skuta (groin)
PROBABLE: G Zane Beadles (knee), DE Chris Clemons (non-injury), RB Toby Gerhart (groin), TE Julius Thomas (abdomen)

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