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Brandon Williams returns to struggling Ravens run defense

Posted on 18 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Wearing his customary Incredible Hulk shirt under his jersey and shoulder pads Wednesday, Brandon Williams practiced fully for the first time in over a month.

The Ravens hope the defensive tackle’s return brings a superhero-like impact to their struggling run defense. It’s certainly needed with Baltimore ranking an unheard-of 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (141.3) and 21st in yards per carry (4.3). Both marks would shatter franchise-worst records for a defense that’s prided itself in shutting down opposing running games for two decades.

Is the standout defensive lineman the savior as the Ravens try to get back on track in Minnesota on Sunday?

“I’m just a guy,” said Williams, who hasn’t played since injuring his left foot in the first half of the 24-10 win over Cleveland on Sept. 17. “I’m just a guy who’s working to get back on the field. That’s all I’m doing. Today, it felt good. I have two more days [of practice] to go, and then hopefully, I’ll be back soon.”

At the time of Williams’ halftime exit in that Week 2 victory, the Ravens had allowed a stingy 3.4 yards per carry on 34 season attempts. They’ve surrendered an unimpressive 4.4 yards per rush since then as defensive end Brent Urban was lost for the season in Week 3 and emerging reserve Carl Davis has also missed action in recent weeks.

With the defensive line banged up and relying heavily on inexperienced backups, nose tackle Michael Pierce laughed at the notion of Williams proclaiming himself to be “just a guy” for a defense that had extraordinary expectations entering the 2017 season.

“That’s one of our key defensive pieces,” said Pierce, who has continued to play well despite receiving more attention from offensive lines in Williams’ absence. “Anytime you have him back, that frees up other guys to make plays. Double teams will start coming off of me, and they’ll start focusing on him more and free me up and free our ends up. It just frees everybody up. It definitely keeps our linebackers clean and that’s something we take pride in.”

The blame for the porous run defense doesn’t fall solely on the defensive line as both Davis and second-year defensive tackle Willie Henry have performed admirably despite their limited NFL experience. But plugging in solid rotational contributors isn’t the same as having the man who was awarded a $52.5 million contract in the offseason to be the anchor in the trenches.

The “next man up” mantra is the refrain uttered after any injury, but Williams is a difference-making talent on a team frankly in need of more game-changers.

“This machine has working parts to it, and you need all of your parts,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “It’s always great to have one of the best interior linemen back on the team.”

With Williams potentially returning to play against the Vikings, the Ravens hope the low point for their defense came last week when they allowed a franchise-record 231 yards on 54 attempts, which allowed Chicago to win with a rookie quarterback making his first career road start.

It’s all been a frustrating experience for the 2013 third-round pick, who hadn’t missed a game since his rookie season.

“Not being in the game and watching your brothers go out to battle, it is always tough to watch,” Williams said. “You want to be out there and you want to help, but there is nothing you can do. It stinks watching from the sidelines, but hopefully I can get right and get back out there soon.”

Williams may not be “just a guy” for the Ravens, but teammates acknowledged Wednesday that they all need to pick up their play after such a disappointing month. The problems stopping the run haven’t solely occurred between the tackles as outside linebackers haven’t set the edge consistently and inside linebackers and safeties have missed too many tackles.

Baltimore will catch a break Sunday with Vikings rookie running back Dalvin Cook now out for the season after suffering a torn ACL a few weeks ago, but it will take more than Williams’ return for this defense to regroup and reclaim its place as a top-10 run defense, a title held in 14 of the last 18 seasons.

“I think he’s a part of the answer,” said Pierce of his defensive line partner. “Everybody should be accountable for their gap integrity on each and every play. You just see leaks here and there from myself and from everybody on the defense. We have to clean that up, and he’s going to be a big help just taking on those double teams and freeing up guys.

“It’s a big help, but at the end of the day, everybody has to be accountable.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 27-24 loss to Chicago

Posted on 17 October 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens suffering their first home defeat to a rookie quarterback in 20 years in the 27-24 loss to Chicago, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After earning a stop-the-bleeding win last week, the putrid Ravens offense resurfaced and was responsible for just 11 of the team’s 24 points. Marty Mornhinweg may not deserve all blame, but he should take a cue from Chicago’s playbook that included a halfback pass. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

2. Forgive the baseball comparison, but we were reminded that the Ravens are to wide receivers what the Orioles are to starting pitching. This is a major weakness, but the organization never commits to fixing the issue for the long haul. Sunday was an embarrassing performance from that group.

3. Matthew Judon followed a strong Week 5 with the best game of his career by leading the defense with 12 tackles, two sacks, and two other tackles for a loss. With Terrell Suggs having just turned 35, the Ravens need their young edge rushers to grow up sooner than later.

4. In the first 21 seasons in Baltimore, the Ravens defense never finished worse than 23rd in rushing yards per game and only once (1996) finished worse than 10th in rushing yards per attempt. They currently rank 30th and 21st in those categories. Is this really only about Brandon Williams’ absence?

5. Supporters who refuse to find fault in Joe Flacco are as tiresome as those who want to blame him for everything, but I don’t know how anyone who actually watched the game can criticize him above everything else. He certainly made some mistakes, but did you see those receivers play?

6. Tony Jefferson was beaten for two touchdown passes and ranks 60th among safeties in Pro Football Focus’ grading system after finishing fifth last year. Fellow safety Eric Weddle has also struggled, but the Ravens need to start seeing a better return on the $19 million guaranteed to Jefferson in March.

7. I felt good for Bobby Rainey returning a kickoff for a touchdown after being hit by his own man and alertly getting up. Five years after signing with Baltimore as a rookie free agent and playing for three other teams, Rainey finally appeared in a game for the Ravens.

8. John Harbaugh didn’t offer a glowing endorsement of Bronson Kaufusi after the rest of the defensive line was overworked and he barely played Sunday. Ronnie Stanley certainly hasn’t disappointed, but remember the Ravens could have traded the pick used on Kaufusi to move up for cornerback Jalen Ramsey in 2016.

9. The rushing attack had another strong day, but is the ceiling high enough for it to all but single-handedly win games in a fashion similar to what the Bears did? Considering how inept the passing offense has been across the board, that’s what it might take to be successful.

10. Harbaugh isn’t the only coach with this problem and this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this, but it’s maddening how wasteful the Ravens are with timeouts. Burning one when you’re trailing by 11 points and about to attempt a 50-yard field goal with three minutes left is indefensible.

11. We’ll never know if Ozzie Newsome would have made another deal before the start of the season, but how delusional were the Ravens to even suggest they were confident at wide receiver before Maclin fell into their laps in mid-June? And, yes, I know I’m belaboring the point now.

12. The good news is the NFL reeks of mediocrity more than ever and the Ravens’ schedule appears even more favorable after the Aaron Rodgers injury. The bad news is that Sunday’s loss confirms that Baltimore could also lose any of its remaining 10 games. Yes, even the one in Cleveland.

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Harbaugh sticks up for Mornhinweg amidst Ravens’ offensive woes

Posted on 17 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens sporting one of the worst offenses in the NFL, John Harbaugh had to know the question was coming about offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

What gives the 10th-year head coach confidence that Mornhinweg has the struggling unit going in the right direction?

“I think Marty’s a great coach. There’s no question in my mind about it,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve seen him over the years. I know what he can do. I know what he’s trying to do. I know what all the coaches are trying to do.

“You do everything you can to put your guys in position to make plays, and you’re in it together. The players are in it together; the coaches are in it together. We’re fighting together to try and do it.”

Baltimore currently ranks 28th or worse in the NFL in total yards per game, passing yards per game, yards per passing attempt, and third-down conversion percentage. The Ravens’ 19.0 points per game rank 24th, but the defense and special teams have combined to score three touchdowns over the last two games and three of their nine offensive touchdowns on the season have come on drives of 40 or fewer yards.

In other words, the offense has received plenty of help and is still scoring at a below-average level.

The only saving grace of the unit has been the running game as the Ravens rank seventh in rushing yards per contest and 10th in yards per carry, but much of that credit goes to senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach Greg Roman, who was specifically hired to revamp a rushing attack that had struggled the previous two seasons. That success has led many to wonder if Roman might be the better choice to lead the offense if the Ravens continue to struggle to such a dramatic degree.

To be fair, Mornhinweg has endured a slew of injuries to offensive players dating back to organized team activities and wasn’t the one who chose to exhaust most offseason resources on the defense despite a below-average offense from last season losing several key players. Nine of the 16 Ravens currently on injured reserve are offensive players, a list that doesn’t include former tight end Dennis Pitta.

“Anytime you try to pin the blame on any one person in a team sport like this, that’s always going to be a mistake,” Harbaugh said. “That’s nonsensical. It just doesn’t work that way. But I understand that’s how it works. We all understand that.”

Mornhinweg certainly doesn’t deserve all of the blame for the offensive failures, but the same was true for former offensive coordinators Cam Cameron and Marc Trestman when Harbaugh fired them in 2012 and 2016, respectively. The one-year anniversary of Trestman’s dismissal fell last week, and the Ravens offense currently ranks worse statistically than it did last year in nearly every major category.

Injury report

Harbaugh didn’t offer much clarity on the status of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who missed Sunday’s game against Chicago with a shoulder injury.

Maclin practiced all week on a limited basis and even went through a pre-game workout on Sunday morning, but the Ravens coach didn’t indicate how close the veteran wideout was to being able to play. The Ravens failed to score an offensive touchdown for the first time all season in the 27-24 loss to the Bears

“I don’t really know how close it was. That’s up to the doctors,” Harbaugh said. “That would be something you have to ask them. They don’t really tell us how close a guy is. There is no percentage on that that I am aware of.”

In addition to Maclin’s absence, the Ravens lost both wide receiver Breshad Perriman (concussion) and tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) in the second quarter Sunday. Harbaugh had no update on either member of the 2015 draft class.

“We hope to have all of our guys back next week,” Harbaugh said. “We will just have to see how it shakes out.”

Defensive tackles Brandon Williams (foot) and Carl Davis (hamstring), guard Matt Skura (knee), running back Terrance West (calf), cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring), and linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) were all inactive on Sunday. It was the first time this season that the Ravens didn’t have a single healthy scratch among their seven game-day inactives.

Jimmy Smith increases workload

After being limited to seven snaps in the Week 5 win at Oakland, cornerback Jimmy Smith played 69 of 80 snaps against the Bears, a positive sign for a standout defensive player who’s been limited by Achilles tendinitis in recent weeks.

“He made it out of the game great. Jimmy did well,” Harbaugh said. “He was good. He’s probably sore from the game, but he played all the snaps. He played excellent. I thought all our corners played exceptionally well.”

With Smith nearly back to full strength, rookie first-round pick Marlon Humphrey played only 12 defensive snaps while veteran starter Brandon Carr played all but two on Sunday. The Ravens didn’t run their nickel and dime packages nearly as frequently with the Bears running the ball a whopping 54 times for 231 yards.

Kaufusi doesn’t help thin defensive line

That heavy volume in the Chicago running game led to a long day for an already-thin defensive line.

Baltimore’s three starters up front — Willie Henry, Michael Pierce, and Chris Wormley — all played at least 54 defensive snaps with Henry finishing with a whopping 68, a very high total for a defensive lineman. In contrast, reserve 5-technique defensive end Bronson Kaufusi played only five defensive snaps, leading one to wonder if he may have sustained an injury at some point over the course of the game.

“He was healthy. You have to play well, and he’s learning, to be honest with you,” Harbaugh said. “We had to stop the run, and we needed a little more physicality in there. Fifty-four snaps [for each starting defensive lineman] is probably a lot, but we had 80 defensive snaps [total]. You earn your snaps.”

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howard

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Long-held constants for Ravens go up in smoke in overtime

Posted on 16 October 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens had no business being in the game, yet they somehow entered overtime against Chicago with momentum on their side.

A defense that had given up a handful of big plays over the first 40 minutes of action had tightened up to force three three-and-outs and two fumbles on the Bears’ final five drives of regulation. Michael Campanaro’s 77-yard punt return for a touchdown — with a 2-point conversion — had miraculously tied the score at 24 with 1:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Even with a bumbling offense that was nothing short of dreadful all afternoon, how could you not like the Ravens’ chances starting over against a 1-4 opponent and a rookie quarterback in overtime? After all, Baltimore hadn’t lost a home game to a first-year signal-caller in 20 years.

The time of possession and number of plays run by each side was virtually identical at the end of four quarters, meaning there was no real excuse for the defense to be tired. And it showed on the opening possession of overtime when the Ravens forced another punt after only four plays.

Now is when we’re supposed to criticize the offense for a three-and-out after a bad punt had given Baltimore the ball at its own 40-yard line, but I haven’t the energy to belabor the point anymore. This disastrous unit is the product of injuries and a poor offseason approach from general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh, and there’s little reason to hope for meaningful improvement at this point. It’s not as though this group had been clicking even with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on the field beyond last week’s win in Oakland, so to watch a completely broken passing game without him on Sunday wasn’t surprising.

Still, a Baltimore defense comprised of free-agent acquisitions and a slew of draft picks in recent years took the field with Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears backed up at their own 7 with 5:40 remaining. You had to know Chicago offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was going to call for a run in that situation, and that’s exactly what he did.

Bears running back Jordan Howard had rushed for 114 yards to that point, but he’d needed 32 carries to do it. That’s hardly great run defense as the Bears’ ground game had managed to remain functional throughout the day — allowing them to keep the game out of their rookie quarterback’s hands — but the Ravens had surrendered a very respectable 3.4 yards per carry in regulation.

Surely a franchise that’s prided itself in stopping the run for the better part of two decades wasn’t going to be beaten on the ground in overtime, right?

Howard ran outside left, eluded lunging Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley, and was engaged by Eric Weddle. Instead of wrapping tight and waiting for reinforcements on a short gain, the 11th-year safety focused on trying to strip the ball and allowed the 224-pound back to break free for a 53-yard gain.

You can’t have two of your best defensive players whiff in that crucial situation.

Even after that disastrous play, the Ravens still had a chance to make a stop on third-and-11 from the 41, which would have made for a long field goal try at best. All they had to do was come up with a play against a rookie quarterback as they’d done so many times at home over the last 20 years, whether it was Peyton Manning in 1998 or DeShone Kizer earlier this year.

Trubisky stood up to pressure in the pocket, however, and delivered an 18-yard strike to a leaping Kendall Wright.

Ballgame.

Yes, the offense deserves the lion’s share of the blame for Sunday’s 27-24 defeat when it mustered just three field goals and a 2-point conversion in its home stadium. But this is a defense that was supposed to be great — that was the overwhelming focus of the offseason, after all — and really hasn’t been close to that level since the first two weeks of the season. Make no mistake, the absence of defensive tackle Brandon Williams has been a major factor, but using that as the sole explanation is letting the rest of the players and coaching staff off the hook.

A great defense doesn’t surrender the longest play of the game in overtime when you know a run is coming and doesn’t let a quarterback in his first career road start drive a stake through its heart on a third-and-long play.

Stopping the run and making life miserable for rookie quarterbacks at M&T Bank Stadium have been two constants for the Ravens over the years, but those went up in smoke when it mattered most.

As did their chances to win after they were fortunate to be given new life in the first place.

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Ravens-Bears: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 15 October 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens embark on a four-game stretch that could dramatically improve their playoff outlook by the time their Week 10 bye arrives next month.

The Chicago Bears are the first of four straight opponents currently dealing with concerns at quarterback as rookie first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky will make his first road start at M&T Bank Stadium, a place that’s been cruel to first-year quarterbacks over the years. In fact, the only rookie signal-caller to ever beat the Ravens in Baltimore was Arizona’s Jake Plummer at Memorial Stadium in 1997, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

In what comes as a surprise after he practiced all week on a limited basis, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) is inactive. The veteran wideout went through an on-field workout shortly before the inactive list was released Sunday morning, but overnight reports from ESPN and NFL Network indicated there was legitimate concern about his status for Week 6.

Maclin’s absence puts more pressure on Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman to produce against the league’s eighth-ranked pass defense. It could also trigger a greater workload for slot receiver Michael Campanaro, who would offer quarterback Joe Flacco more of a possession receiver option in the slot to go with Wallace and Perriman.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon) is active and will play despite missing two practices this week and playing only seven snaps in Oakland last Sunday. Smith told reporters Friday that he intended to play while continuing to manage the tendinitis that’s bothered him for a few weeks now.

Defensive tackle Carl Davis (hamstring) and cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring) are both inactive after being listed as questionable on the injury report. Tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) will make his return, however, after a three-game absence, which could lead to offensive coordinator featuring the tight ends more against Chicago.

As expected, defensive tackle Brandon Williams (foot) and outside linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) are inactive after being listed as doubtful on the final injury report. The good news is that the former practiced Friday for the first time since injuring his foot on Sept. 17, an encouraging sign for his availability at Minnesota next Sunday.

Running back Terrance West (calf) and right guard Matt Skura (knee) were officially declared out on Friday. Rookie Jermaine Eluemunor is expected to start in Skura’s place while Buck Allen and Alex Collins will share an increased workload in the backfield with West sidelined.

This marks the first time all year that the Ravens did not have a single healthy scratch among their seven inactive players as the injury bug continues to bite them hard.

There were no real surprises among Chicago’s inactives as wide receiver Markus Wheaton (groin) was officially ruled out on Friday. Starting inside linebacker Danny Trevathan is active and will play after serving a suspension last week.

Former Ravens running back Taquan Mizzell was a healthy scratch for the Bears.

Sunday’s referee is Ed Hochuli.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures reaching the high 70s with winds up to 10 miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys with white pants while Chicago dons white tops with blue pants.

Sunday marks the sixth all-time meeting between these teams with the Bears enjoying a 3-2 advantage. However, the Ravens have won each of the two games played in Baltimore

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Jeremy Maclin
RB Terrance West
CB Jaylen Hill
OLB Tim Williams
G Matt Skura
DT Carl Davis
DT Brandon Williams

CHICAGO
OL Hroniss Grasu
DL John Jenkins
LB Nick Kwiatkoski
RB Taquan Mizzell
QB Mark Sanchez
LB John Timu
WR Markus Wheaton

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Ravens-Bears: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 14 October 2017 by Luke Jones

A week after the season appeared on the verge of crashing downward, the Ravens picked up one of their better road wins in recent years to move back into a tie for first place in the AFC North.

Now they begin a four-game stretch that could propel them into an enviable position within the conference playoff picture by the time their Week 10 bye arrives. Of course, Chicago will have other intentions in rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s first career road start for a team off to a disappointing 1-4 start.

The Ravens are once again banged up as starting right guard Matt Skura and running back Terrance West won’t play and defensive tackle Brandon Williams and rookie outside linebacker Tim Williams are expected to sit out against the Bears. Cornerback Jimmy Smith is also questionable for the second straight week as he continues to deal with Achilles tendinitis.

It’s time to go on the record as the Bears play the Ravens in Baltimore for just the third time ever. Chicago leads the all-time series by a 3-2 margin and won the last meeting played at Soldier Field in 2013, but Baltimore has won both games at M&T Bank Stadium.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Tony Jefferson will grab his first interception as a Raven. The free-agent newcomer is second on the team in tackles, but we’ve yet to see Jefferson make a dynamic impact, which might be a product of how he’s been used as much as anything else. He collected a sack against Oakland blitzing in the dime, and that’s a package the Ravens should use more often considering how strong he is playing close to the line of scrimmage. Baltimore linebackers have had problems covering tight ends, so look for Jefferson to match up with Zach Miller, who figures to be a popular target for a rookie quarterback on the road.

2. Bears rookie Tarik Cohen will finish with more total yards than starter Jordan Howard. The latter was one of the surprise rookies of last season, but he’s off to a rather ordinary start this season with a 4.0 yards per carry average. Meanwhile, the 5-foot-6 Cohen has done quite a Darren Sproles impression by averaging 5.4 yards per carry and catching 25 passes in his first five games. Regardless of which back is touching the ball, the Ravens need to tighten up their run defense, which ranks an unimpressive 23rd in yards allowed per game and 20th in yards surrendered per rush attempt at 4.3.

3. Breshad Perriman will catch his first touchdown of the season. It speaks volumes about how disappointing the 2015 first-round pick has been with the way such a big deal was made over his 13-yard reception on a third down late in the third quarter against Oakland. Perriman ranks eighth on the team in receptions and receiving yards despite averaging just over 41 offensive snaps per game. John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco have both spoken about the need to get Perriman more involved in the passing game, so look for the Ravens to try that as they did successfully last week with Mike Wallace.

4. A plus-three turnover advantage will allow Baltimore to lean on its running game in the second half. Trubisky has a strong arm and can move around, which will lead to him having his moments if the Ravens’ pass rush loses containment like it did on a few occasions against EJ Manuel. However, the rookie lacks enough talent at the wide receiver position to consistently be able to push the ball down the field and will make mistakes due to impatience. The Ravens defense has forced only two turnovers over the last three games after forcing 10 in their first two games. That changes on Sunday.

5. The Ravens will improve to 12-0 at home against rookie quarterbacks in the Harbaugh era with a 23-10 victory. Chicago sports a solid defense that will give Flacco and the offense some problems, but the Bears haven’t been dynamic enough to create turnovers, which is the only realistic path I envision for them to pull off an upset on Sunday. On the flip side, John Fox’s team would like to be able to lean on its running game, but the Ravens will make yards tough to come by in that department and do enough offensively to force the Bears to put the ball in Trubisky’s hands in the second half. This one will have a similar feel to the Week 2 home victory over Cleveland with a score almost identical.

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J. Smith questionable, B. Williams doubtful to play against Chicago

Posted on 13 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith is listed as questionable and defensive tackle Brandon Williams is doubtful to play in the Week 6 meeting with the Chicago Bears.

For the second straight week, Smith sat out Wednesday and Thursday before taking part in Friday’s lighter session. Smith aggravated his sore Achilles tendon returning a fumble for a touchdown on the first defensive series in Oakland last Sunday and played only four snaps the rest of the way as rookie Marlon Humphrey took his place in the base defense.

Smith confirmed he’s been dealing with tendinitis and plans to play on Sunday if the decision is up to him. After practice, head coach John Harbaugh said he would review the workout film and confer with Smith to see how he was feeling before any decisions would be made about his status.

“I’ve never actually dealt with this before, so I don’t really know the major approach to it,” Smith said. “The plan is to just get ahead of it — which we have — and keep it calm, so I can go out there and perform.”

Williams made his long-awaited return to practice on a limited basis Friday, a positive sign for his availability against Minnesota next week. He said he took part in some scout-team work and was running and doing sprints the previous day.

The standout defensive lineman has a target date in mind for his return, but he wouldn’t disclose it.

“I’m right on schedule,” Williams said. “Right where [the foot] needs to be. I feel good.”

Defensive tackle Carl Davis also returned to practice for the first time since injuring his hamstring in the first quarter against the Raiders. He is listed as questionable to play against the Bears.

Running back Terrance West (calf) and guard Matt Skura (knee) were officially ruled out for Sunday while outside linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) was listed as doubtful after once again missing practice.

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) and tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) were again practicing without incident Friday and are expected to play despite being listed as questionable. Williams was a full participant all week and is poised to return after a three-game absence.

Rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring) was a limited participant in practice for a third consecutive day and is questionable to make his NFL debut this week.

Meanwhile, the Bears officially ruled out wide receiver Markus Wheaton a day after he suffered a groin injury that’s expected to sideline him for several weeks. Starting right guard Kyle Long (ankle) was a full participant and wasn’t included on the final injury report after sitting out on Thursday.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the low 80s and winds 10 to 15 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Matt Skura (knee), RB Terrance West (calf)
DOUBTFUL: DT Brandon Williams (foot), LB Tim Williams (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Carl Davis (thigh), CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (thigh), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (achilles), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)

CHICAGO
OUT: WR Markus Wheaton (groin), LB John Timu (knee, ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: C Hroniss Grasu (hand), LB Nick Kwiatkoski (chest)

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jimmysmith

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Jimmy Smith, Brandon Williams still absent from Ravens practice

Posted on 12 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were still without two of their best defensive players as they continued preparations for their Week 6 meeting with Chicago.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was absent from Thursday’s practice while defensive tackle Brandon Williams appears very likely to miss his fourth straight game while recovering from a foot injury suffered on Sept. 17. Smith missed two days of practice last week before ultimately playing against Oakland, but he was limited to seven defensive snaps and re-aggravated his Achilles tendon on his 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Rookie Marlon Humphrey would start in Smith’s place if Baltimore elects to hold out the veteran defensive back against the Bears.

Running back Terrance West (calf), guard Matt Skura (knee), defensive tackle Carl Davis (hamstring), and outside linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) were also absent from Thursday’s session. Williams was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday, but he was not present during the media viewing period, meaning the rookie may have sustained the injury during the special-teams portion of practice.

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman returned to practice and was a full participant after sitting out Wednesday with a knee injury.

Defensive backs Jaylen Hill (hamstring) and Anthony Levine (thigh) as well as wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) were all listed as limited participants for the second straight day.

Meanwhile, the Bears suffered their latest injury to a wide receiver as former Pittsburgh Steeler Markus Wheaton will reportedly miss four to six weeks with a groin injury. Chicago lost top receiver Cam Meredith to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason and former first-round pick Kevin White to a broken shoulder blade in Week 1.

Starting right guard Kyle Long (ankle) was added to the injury report Thursday after sitting out practice.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Carl Davis (thigh), G Matt Skura (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), RB Terrance West (calf), DT Brandon Williams (foot), LB Tim Williams (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (thigh), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)

CHICAGO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Kyle Long (ankle), LB John Timu (knee, ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Marcus Cooper (back), C Hroniss Grasu (hand), DT Nick Kwiatkoski (chest), WR Markus Wheaton (groin)

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Perriman among six Ravens players absent from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 11 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are still feeling the effects of a physically-demanding win in Oakland as six players sat out Wednesday’s practice in preparation for a Week 6 meeting with Chicago.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon), defensive tackles Brandon Williams (foot) and Carl Davis (hamstring), guard Matt Skura (knee), running back Terrance West (calf), and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) were all missing from the field during the portion of practice open to media. Davis, Skura, and West all left last Sunday’s game with injuries and didn’t return while Smith’s Achilles flare-up limited him to just seven defensive snaps against the Raiders.

Should Brandon Williams not return to practice this week, he would miss his fourth straight game. Head coach John Harbaugh did not have any update when asked about the standout defensive lineman’s status during his Monday press conference, but Williams published a tweet on Wednesday hinting that his return would be in the near future.

Perriman caught two passes for 15 yards against the Raiders, doubling his reception total in what’s been a disappointing start to his third NFL season. It’s unknown whether his knee ailment will jeopardize his status for Sunday’s game against the Bears, but a health issue certainly won’t help him get going in 2017.

“We have to get him involved. Right now, there are not a ton of opportunities out there,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “You hope that when he gets in those situations — like he was on Sunday — he can make the play. I think that’s going to do wonders for our offense and for him moving forward just to make a couple plays like that and prove to himself that he can go do it out there.”

Tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) and cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring) were both present and working after missing Sunday’s game. Williams has missed three straight contests while Hill hasn’t played in a game since the third week of the preseason.

Outside linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) was listed as a limited participant during Wednesday’s practice, but he was not present during the media viewing portion. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was also limited with what was listed as a shoulder issue.

The Bears produced a fairly uneventful injury report Wednesday, but they cut former Ravens wide receiver and return specialist Deonte Thompson earlier in the day.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Carl Davis (thigh), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), G Matt Skura (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), RB Terrance West (calf), DT Brandon Williams (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (thigh), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), LB Tim Williams (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Maxx Williams (ankle)

CHICAGO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Marcus Cooper (back), LB John Timu (knee, ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Hroniss Grasu (hand), DT Nick Kwiatkoski (chest)

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Ravens defense passes first test facing familiar problem

Posted on 09 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Jimmy Smith’s 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Sunday’s 30-17 win over Oakland came at a price for the Ravens.

The veteran cornerback felt his tender Achilles tendon flare up toward the end of the run, putting the defense in an all-too-familiar position as he played just four defensive snaps in third-down situations the rest of the way. But unlike past instances when the secondary all but collapsed without its best talent on the field, the Ravens persevered to hold Raiders quarterback EJ Manuel to 159 yards and a single touchdown pass for the game.

Perhaps it would have played out differently had two-time Pro Bowl selection Derek Carr been under center, but the Ravens passed their first test in the exact situation for which they’d prepared this offseason. It’s unknown whether the lack of drop-off in Smith’s absence will prompt the Ravens to sit him down for some period of time in hopes of his Achilles improving for the second half of the season.

“We just have guys that we can play. We are very good with the guys that we have,” Harbaugh said. “We want Jimmy out there. He is a topnotch corner. I think he is one of the best corners in football. I am a big Jimmy Smith fan.”

But the organization also knows injuries have plagued the talented defensive back throughout his career. It was just last year when the Ravens went 2-5 in games in which Smith missed significant time, a major reason why they missed the postseason for the third time in four seasons.

General manager Ozzie Newsome addressed that reality by signing free-agent veteran Brandon Carr and drafting Marlon Humphrey in the first round, the first time he’d taken a cornerback on the opening day of the draft since picking Smith in 2011. And while Humphrey’s selection with the 16th overall pick raised a few eyebrows with the roster having more pressing needs, the Alabama product again looked the part in Week 5 as he frequently faced Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

The Oakland veteran entered Sunday having produced four touchdown receptions and 199 receiving yards in his last two contests against the Ravens, but Humphrey mostly held his own playing man-to-man coverage. Crabtree’s 41-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter came against Carr in coverage after Manuel escaped the pocket to extend the play. The No. 1 receiver finished with six catches for 82 yards overall.

“Crabtree is pretty special. We have had some experience with him, haven’t we, in Baltimore?” Harbaugh said. “He is a great one. Marlon didn’t back down. Marlon is confident. They got him on the three-stop nines or hitch [routes], if you want to call them that, versus press. Marlon played him a certain way. That was really the plan.

“Hindsight being 20-20, I think we might have played that with a little different technique than we did and helped Marlon out a little bit. Those are great learning experiences.”

Not only is Humphrey continuing to learn on the job, but he’s affording the Ravens the luxury of being able to rest their top corner without the fear of a collapse coming.

Injury report grows

Smith wasn’t the only injury concern emerging on Sunday as running back Terrance West (left calf), right guard Matt Skura (knee), and defensive tackle Carl Davis (hamstring) left the game and didn’t return.

On Monday, Harbaugh deferred to an NFL Network report indicating West would not be a long-term absence, but he didn’t offer any details on a timeline for his return or about a contingency plan at running back. Buck Allen and Alex Collins are the only healthy running backs currently on the roster, meaning Baltimore will likely look to add depth in the short term.

“We have to see if we can execute it right now in terms of what we’re going to do, who we’re going to look at,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just wait until we know. I don’t want to start putting the plans out there until we know if we can pull it off.”

According to The Sun, Skura could miss two to four weeks with a medial collateral ligament sprain in his knee. That means rookie Jermaine Eluemunor will likely be the next man up at the position, and the offensive line will need to adjust to another starting combination.

“It just doesn’t matter,” Harbaugh said. “It is not something we think about. It is not something we quantify. We don’t waste any energy thinking about that. You just go and get ready for the next game.”

Monday night scouting

Harbaugh and the Ravens had the rare opportunity to scout their next two opponents — Chicago and Minnesota — by merely turning on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was making his first NFL start for the Bears and is expected to start his first road contest at M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday.

“Normally on these Monday nights, I get home maybe at halftime and decide if I want to stay awake or not. Usually the answer is no,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “Sometimes if it’s an AFC North team, you have to do it, or the Patriots or somebody like that.

“But this game we’ll be watching. I will get home in time to watch this one.”

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