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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Browns

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Browns

Posted on 17 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Torrey Smith 23 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 6 (3rd quarter)

4. Marlon Brown 10 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 7 (3rd quarter)

3. Brandon Stokley 11 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 8 (3rd quarter)

2. Marlon Brown 5 yard TD catch from Joe Flacco (4th quarter)

1. Brandon Weeden deep pass intended for Chris Ogbonnaya incomplete (3rd quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Ravens still trying to figure out who they are after narrow win over Cleveland

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Ravens still trying to figure out who they are after narrow win over Cleveland

Posted on 15 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Ravens coach John Harbaugh was speaking about the decision to insert Matt Elam and Jimmy Smith into the defensive starting lineup on Sunday, but he might as well have been describing the state of his entire team following an underwhelming 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns.

“You’re always going to chase, especially early in the year, trying to figure out who you are.”

Trying to figure out who the Ravens are after a blowout defeat at Denver and an uninspiring first-half showing at home against the Browns isn’t an easy task. You’re always happy with a win, especially one that brings your record to 1-1 and lands you in first place in the AFC North after the first two weeks of the 2013 season.

The Ravens know they have a great quarterback and a number of talented players on each side of the ball. Their defense rebounded from allowing a franchise-record 49 points and seven touchdown passes in the season opener to hold the Browns to six points and sack quarterback Brandon Weeden five times while hitting him 12 times in the game.

But, it was only the Browns, who appear to be continuing their yearly pattern of shooting themselves in the foot with the keystone play being a Weeden incompletion to a wide-open Chris Ogbonnaya down the sideline that could have been the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter. It’s not uncommon for these teams to play ugly affairs over the years — even in Baltimore — but the Ravens appeared as vulnerable as ever in the Browns’ bid to end their winless streak against their AFC North foe in the Harbaugh era.

Even kicker Justin Tucker missed a pair of field goals, adding at least a slight hint of doubt at a position where the Ravens believed they were set all offseason.

The sum of the parts looks like they should be enough for the Ravens to be a playoff team this year, but the deficiencies make that an uncertain proclamation. The Ravens appear to have a chance to be pretty good, but it’s difficult to figure out just how good.

And most of that concern rests with the offense despite some questions still remaining in the Baltimore secondary moving forward. Even through all the years of complaining about Cam Cameron running the Baltimore offense, the Ravens were a much better offensive unit at M&T Bank Stadium, making their scoreless performance through the first 30 minutes that much more concerning on Sunday afternoon. The Ravens were held to just 122 yards on 32 plays and had only seven first downs before halftime.

They should be commended for scoring 14 points and going 7-for-9 on third down in the second half, but the offense simply doesn’t pass the eyeball test at this early stage of the season when it comes to throwing the ball or grinding out yards on the ground.

On the day that his second son was born, quarterback Joe Flacco was solid despite his wide receivers and tight ends letting him down for the second straight week. Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown dropped what would have been touchdowns in the first half while Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark were complete non-factors all afternoon.

The tight end spot is so bad right now for the Ravens that No. 3 option Billy Bajema was their leading receiver at the position when he made an 18-yard reception in the first quarter. Dickson dropped a pass over the middle on the first play of the game and wasn’t targeted again while Clark made just one catch for eight yards.

Smith and Brown atoned for their first-half drops with solid performances overall. Smith capably worked the short-to-intermediate portion of the field to the tune of seven catches for 85 yards, and Brown caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

It’s clear that Smith’s ability as a vertical threat has been hindered by the injury to Jacoby Jones, but he is still the most reliable target Flacco has by far. The 6-foot-5 Brown appears to be emerging as the red-zone target Flacco desperately needs after the long-term hip injury to tight end Dennis Pitta.

After being shut out in the first half, Brandon Stokley made four receptions for 36 yards on third down as three moved the chains for the Ravens offense, but his ability is limited to third-and-manageable situations at this stage of his career.

With so much concern over the Ravens’ ability to pass, there has been plenty of clamoring for offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to run the ball, but Baltimore averaged just 2.8 yards per carry against a formidable Cleveland front seven on Sunday. The Browns deserve some credit for their ability to keep Rice and backup Bernard Pierce in check for most of the afternoon, but you have to wonder if there’s enough physicality from this offensive line — particularly from second-year center Gino Gradkowski — to warrant an increased focus on running the football other than a pure need to do it.

The Ravens expressed optimism following the game that they don’t believe Rice’s hip flexor injury is serious, but it only adds to the sinking feeling of uneasiness accompanying the 1-1 start as the undefeated Houston Texans will come to Baltimore next Sunday. The defense made strides against a Cleveland offense that couldn’t get out of its own way, but the lackluster Baltimore offense still makes you wonder if the Ravens will have what it takes to beat the better teams in the AFC this year.

Harbaugh and the Ravens continue to try to figure out who they are just like the rest of us.

On Sunday, they were good enough to beat the lowly Browns, but that’s not saying very much for the weeks ahead.

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Rice’s hip injury headlines list of health concerns from win over Cleveland

Posted on 15 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — The Ravens came away with a 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but with it came a new list of health concerns topped by the status of running back Ray Rice.

Rice went down with a left hip injury in the fourth quarter on a non-contact play and was immediately taken to the locker room where he was diagnosed with a hip flexor strain, according to coach John Harbaugh. Backup Bernard Pierce handled the workload the rest of the way to help the Ravens improve to 1-1 on the season.

Baltimore was optimistic after the game about Rice, who wasn’t scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging as of Sunday afternoon. However, it had to be a scary scene for Harbaugh and the Ravens to see one of their best offensive players go down in pain without being touched.

“I don’t have the ‘scary gauge’ on me right now,” said Harbaugh when asked to express how he felt upon seeing the injury occur. “He might’ve gone down to protect himself, too. That’s just something that we’ll have to see. We’re confident and optimistic right now. We’ll have to see tomorrow how he responds to that.”

The Ravens also suffered several injuries on the defensive side of the ball as linebacker Arthur Brown (pectoral strain) and cornerback Chykie Brown (knee strain) both left the game with injuries and are each expected to undergo an MRI on Monday. There was some fear in the post-game locker room that the second-round linebacker’s pectoral injury could be significant, but Harbaugh expressed optimism that Chykie Brown’s knee injury didn’t appear to be serious.

Defensive end Chris Canty left the game after the opening series of the second half with a groin injury and didn’t return as he received treatment on the bench but wasn’t taken to the locker room at any point.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith had his helmet knocked off after a violent collision with safety James Ihedigbo in the second half and was taken to the locker room for a concussion evaluation but returned to action soon thereafter. The 2011 first-round pick also started at corner over Corey Graham in the base defense, which was a change from Week 1.

“Jimmy has been practicing really well,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a really good player.”

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 15 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Arthur Jones

4. Elvis Dumervil

3. Bernard Pierce

2. Daryl Smith

1. Torrey Smith (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Oher probable; A. Jones, Pierce questionable against Browns on Sunday

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Oher probable; A. Jones, Pierce questionable against Browns on Sunday

Posted on 13 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Any concern over the status of Ravens right tackle Michael Oher for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns was eliminated earlier in the week as the lineman was listed as probable on the final injury report of the week.

Oher practiced fully all week after suffering a sprained right ankle in the second quarter of the season-opening loss at Denver on Sept. 5. The 2009 first-round pick credited the extra days of rest following the Thursday game as a major reason why he was able to return to the practice field so quickly.

“I’m feeling really good. Hopefully, I’m feeling good Sunday as well,” Oher said after practicing on Friday. “The motivation is we want to win games. We want to win this week and continue to get better as well.”

Defensive tackle Arthur Jones (illness) and running back Bernard Pierce (thigh) were both designated as questionable for Sunday’s game after practicing on a limited basis all week. The biggest concern with Jones is his conditioning after missing over two weeks of action with an irregular heartbeat.

Both coach John Harbaugh and Jones provided cautious optimism for the fourth-year lineman’s availability on Sunday. Jones began experiencing an irregular heartbeat following the team’s third preseason game on Aug. 22 and was inactive for the season opener.

“I would say he didn’t get too out of shape,” Harbaugh said. “He’s progressing well. He looked OK at practice, but that’s something that we’ll have to see how he is feeling on Sunday. He’s got a chance [to play].”

Wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), defensive tackle Brandon Williams (toe), and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot) were all listed as doubtful and aren’t expected to play. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones (knee) was ruled out earlier in the week after suffering a right MCL injury against Denver in Week 1.

For Cleveland, first-round linebacker Barkevious Mingo (bruised lung) was designated as probable to play after practicing all week.

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Jacoby Jones
DOUBTFUL: C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Art Jones (illness – NFI), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)
PROBABLE: T Michael Oher (ankle)

CLEVELAND
OUT: G Shawn Lauvao (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: DL Ahtyba Rubin (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Travis Benjamin (thigh), DB T.J. Ward (shoulder)
PROBABLE: LB Barkevious Mingo (lung), DB Buster Skrine (shoulder)

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Old friend Stokley officially rejoins Ravens at stadium practice Sunday

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Old friend Stokley officially rejoins Ravens at stadium practice Sunday

Posted on 11 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — The man who caught the first touchdown in Ravens Super Bowl history officially reunited with the team who drafted him as wide receiver Brandon Stokley was present for Sunday’s practice at M&T Bank Stadium.

The 37-year-old receiver who played in Baltimore from 1999 through 2002 watched practice but didn’t participate as the Ravens held their second public practice of the summer. Earlier in the day, the Ravens officially announced a one-year contract with Stokley and waived wide receiver Marcus Rivers to create room on their 90-man preseason roster.

With the foot injury to wide receiver Deonte Thompson and the questions surrounding the wide receiver position, Stokley’s addition became a no-brainer in the Ravens’ minds.

“It gives us experience,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It gives us a guy who can catch balls in the slot and has done that over a number of years. He’s done a great job of that. It’s an asset for us. More than anything, it’s a need potentially in a certain area, but we still have guys who are in the process of stepping up there.”

Stokley had a solid season with former Indianapolis teammate Peyton Manning in Denver last year, catching 45 passes for 544 yards and five touchdowns.

For the veteran receiver, Sunday felt like a homecoming as Stokley recalled arriving in Baltimore 14 years earlier as a fresh-faced rookie taken in the fourth round of the 1999 draft out of Louisiana-Lafayette. It only took 384 catches, 5,224 yards, and 39 touchdowns for the 15th-year veteran to come full circle.

“This is where I started. A lot of old, good memories,” said Stokley, who believes he can provide the Ravens with a target who can help move the chains and provide another option inside the red zone. “It’s just a great organization, great fans, just all around a great place. I’m just trying to come in here and work hard, do my best, and hopefully help out in any way that I can.”

Of course, Stokley’s first run with the Ravens didn’t include the opportunity to play with a franchise signal-caller like Joe Flacco as Stokley played with the likes of Tony Banks, Trent Dilfer, Chris Redman, and Elvis Grbac. In four seasons with Baltimore, he caught just 60 passes before joining Indianapolis where he caught 139 passes while playing with Peyton Manning over the next four seasons.

Stokley was quite complimentary of Flacco after being reminded by reporters that he was on the opposing sideline in Denver when the Baltimore quarterback connected with Jacoby Jones on the 70-yard touchdown to force overtime in the divisional-round thriller against the Broncos.

“He’s unbelievable,” Stokley said. “You saw what he did last year in the playoffs. That run that they went on was awesome. It takes a special quarterback to do that.”

Thompson out, Pierce possible for Atlanta game Thursday night

Harbaugh confirmed that Thompson’s left foot sprain wasn’t something that will keep him sidelined for an extended period of time but ruled out the second-year receiver for Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Thompson injured the foot making a 5-yard catch in the second quarter of the preseason opener against Tampa Bay and didn’t return. He was seen wearing a walking boot following the game and hasn’t practiced since. It appears, however, he will be ready to play in the all-important third preseason game in less than two weeks.

“Deonte sprained his foot. It’s not serious,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to hold him out of this game and re-evaluate him on Friday [to] see where he’s at. I would expect him back for the Carolina game.”

The Baltimore coach also confirmed reports that the injury to running back Bernard Pierce’s knee wasn’t serious, labeling the injury as a bruise. The second-year back tweaked his knee on a 20-yard touchdown early in the second quarter of Thursday’ game and didn’t return.

Despite not practicing over the last two days, Pierce still has a chance to play against the Falcons, according to Harbaugh.

Dickson on mend, no timetable for return

Sunday marked a week since Ed Dickson suffered a slightly-torn hamstring tear and while he’s not ready to announce a date for his return, the fourth-year tight end continues to make progress in rehabbing the injury.

“Every little thing I can do, I’m taking it day by day,” Dickson said. “This type of injury with a muscle, you’ve got to take it day by day. I’m doing all the little things, staying conditioned, and trying to catch as many balls as I can.”

Dickson has taken some consolation in knowing he can take his time recovering fully after the recent veteran additions of Visanthe Shiancoe and Dallas Clark, but the 2010 third-round pick said it’s been frustrating being sidelined after the season-ending loss of Dennis Pitta on July 27.

Asked whether he was confident that he’d be ready to go for the start of the regular season as Harbaugh has previously said, Dickson wouldn’t speak in specific terms, only expressing concern that he doesn’t want the injury to linger into the regular season.

“I can’t make any predictions,” said Dickson about his availability for the season opener on Sept. 5, “but I’m working hard to do that. I’m trying my hardest to get back out there. It kills me. I’m hard on myself.”

Absences growing at practice

The Ravens were without 13 players for Sunday’s stadium practice as linebacker Courtney Upshaw was a new absence to add to the list.

Joining him as non-participants were wide receivers Thompson (foot) and Marlon Brown, Pierce (knee), tight ends Dickson (hamstring) and Pitta (hip), offensive linemen Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Ryan Jensen (foot), cornerback Chris Johnson (undisclosed), linebackers Bryan Hall (hamstring) and Jameel McClain (neck), and defensive linemen Marcus Spears (undisclosed) and Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee).

Johnson had practiced on Saturday before once again being sidelined for Sunday’s workout.

Odds & ends

Kicker Justin Tucker continued his outstanding training camp as he connected on field goals from 20, 39, 48, 35, 52, and 58 yards. He then proceeded to miss attempts from 64 and 67 yards even though each kick had more than enough distance. The NFL record for the longest field goal is 63 yards. … A day after being chastised for lackadaisical play by Harbaugh, rookie wide receiver Aaron Mellette turned in his strongest practice of the summer, making consecutive difficult catches on a slant pattern and sideline route during 7-on-7 drills and topping those receptions with an outstanding leaping catch over the middle for a long gain while working with the second-team offense a few minutes later. … With Thompson sidelined, the Ravens primarily used Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Tandon Doss in their three-wide sets, but David Reed also received some reps with the first-team offense. Harbaugh said after Sunday’s practice that they’re going to take a closer look at Doss in the slot after using him in the slot and on the outside in the first couple weeks of practice. … As he did in his first tour of duty with the Ravens, Stokley will wear No. 80 and plans to practice on Monday. … The Ravens announced approximately 25,000 fans were in attendance for Sunday’s open and free practice at M&T Bank Stadium.

 

 

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Thompson, Pierce suffer injuries in preseason opener

Posted on 09 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

In what was otherwise a satisfying 44-16 victory in the preseason opener, the Ravens suffered two injuries of note against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.

The most concerning at this point appears to happen to wide receiver Deonte Thompson, who injured his left ankle making a 5-yard reception in the second quarter. The second-year wideout was in visible pain as he limped to the sidelined and was tended to by members of the training staff. Reports from Tampa indicated he was seen in a walking boot following the game.

The second notable injury was to Bernard Pierce as the backup running back scored a 20-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. Pierce took a helmet shot to the hip as he was crossing the goal line and landed awkwardly, appearing to tweak his knee. He was limping noticeably until he jogged to the sideline.

“We look pretty good right now,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who didn’t name any specific injuries. “We’ll have some things we’ll have to see about [Friday] – X-rays, MRIs, things like that. So we’ll have to see.”

Players are off on Friday before they return to the practice field in Owings Mills on Saturday afternoon.

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Jameel McClain, John Harbaugh, Arthur Brown, Nigel Carr

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Baltimore Ravens: Bold Predictions for 2013 Season

Posted on 22 July 2013 by benheck

Baltimore’s rookies have officially reported to training camp at the team’s facility in Owings Mills, Maryland, and the veterans are just a couple of days away from joining them on a quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Winning the Super Bowl is a tough task to complete, which makes repeating as Super Bowl champs twice as tough as Baltimore will have a huge target on their back heading into the 2013 regular season. Here are a couple of bold predictions and things to expect from Baltimore this season:

*Joe Flacco Records Career-highs in Passing Yards and Touchdowns

After signing his then-record-setting contract extension this past off-season, just about a month after winning Super Bowl MVP, Flacco has finally gotten the monkey off his back. Now that he’s financially set, you’d think he’d have less pressure to perform and can just sit back and throw touchdown passes. He’s a proven winner and at 28 years of age it appears he’s still got several more seasons of solid play for Baltimore. If a few of his receivers step their games up, there’s no doubt 2013 has the potential to be his most successful season stat-wise.

*Bernard Pierce Becomes Biggest Piece to Baltimore’s 3rd Down Offense

Though the carries will not be split 50/50 between Pro Bowler Ray Rice and second-year Temple alum Bernard Pierce as was originally stated earlier this off-season, Pierce is still poised to become a vital part in John Harbaugh’s offense. Pierce, in his limited role as a rookie, was incredibly effective with the ball in his hands and has the potential to see a lot of playing time in order to keep Rice’s legs fresh. In 2011 veteran running back Ricky Williams saw 108 carries behind Rice, but you can expect Pierce to see much closer to 150 carries and a couple of touchdowns as the team’s primary third down back.

*Dennis Pitta Emerges as Top 5 AFC Tight End

In his third professional season for the Ravens last season, Pitta’s career-highs improved drastically. His 61 receptions, 669 yards and 7 touchdowns were good enough for 2nd (tied with Ray Rice), 3rd and 2nd among his teammates, respectively. The loss of veteran wideout Anquan Boldin will allow for the 6’4″/245 pound tight end to see more targets from his quarterback. Not to mention the fact that Flacco will likely see even more control over the offense, and will be able to air it out more than he ever has after last postseason’s performance. No more Boldin and more confidence from Flacco equals a career season from Pitta.

*Rookie Arthur Brown Leads Team in Tackles

Obviously replacing future Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis is not an easy task, and second round selection Arthur Brown will have a lot of pressure on him to perform right from the get-go. But the drafting of Brown with the No. 56 overall pick was a very smart choice and he will be able to make an immediate impact on Harbaugh’s revamped defense. Brown was a tackling machine in his K-State days, posting two consecutive seasons with 100+ total tackles in his junior and senior seasons. The losses of linebackers Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe up the middle opens the door for the rookie to start from Day 1 in Baltimore, and he’ll be a key piece on defense.

*Houston Safety Ed Reed Records a Pick-Six Against Baltimore

Okay, so maybe this isn’t a positive prediction for the Ravens, but the home match-up between Houston and Baltimore on September 23 will obviously be a big deal. Not only is that the day that Ray Lewis will be inducted into Baltimore’s Ring of Honor, but it’s also when the franchise’s best free safety of all-time will make his return to M&T Bank Stadium after winning the Super Bowl with the team last year. It’ll be a highly-anticipated game for both sides, and in honor of his Baltimore playing days it’s only fair for Reed to record a pick-six against his former team. And I’m sure it would be tough for Baltimore fans to be mad at him for doing so, right?

*Baltimore Returns to Postseason, but Not as AFC North Champions

Like I stated before, it’s tough to repeat and Baltimore will be seeing the best of every team they play. And with a very young and talented team on the rise within their division––the Cincinnati Bengals––I can’t say that the Ravens will even be able to repeat as champions of the North. Expect a solid season both offensively and defensively, but Cincinnati is a very talented and overlooked squad that will need to be taken seriously in 2013. Baltimore will be in the postseason for the sixth consecutive season in 2013, but not as division champions.

The Baltimore Ravens will not be able to pull off the rare Super Bowl repeat, but that will not take away from the success that coach Harbaugh and Flacco will see in their sixth season together. The 2013 season will end with Baltimore posting its 11th winning season in its 18-year history.

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Ravens positional stock report entering training camp

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Ravens positional stock report entering training camp

Posted on 19 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

With players beginning to report to Owings Mills by the end of the weekend and the first full-squad workout less than a week away, training camp signifies the official start of the Ravens’ marathon journey to defend their Super Bowl championship from a year ago.

Coach John Harbaugh will undoubtedly be eager to learn which players report in better shape — Courtney Upshaw, anyone? — and which ones with preexisting injury concerns — Lardarius Webb and Jameel McClain among others — are ready to return to the practice field.

With that in mind, the time for pondering the upcoming season is nearly over as I predict whose stock will rise and which players will fall during camp and the preseason. I’ve made two selections from each position group, with some units obviously being more intriguing than others to watch this summer.

On Friday’s edition of The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction, I provided a more extensive breakdown of the offensive units and defensive units and Drew Forrester offered his own choices. You can listen to those segments HERE and HERE.

QUARTERBACKS
Rising: Joe Flacco
Falling: Caleb Hanie
Tip: The Ravens will rely on their franchise quarterback more heavily than ever in terms of both play on the field and leadership off it as Flacco will be working with the least-experienced group of wideouts he’s seen over his six seasons. Meanwhile, Hanie is the latest contestant in fans’ annual game of “Who Will Unseat Tyrod Taylor as Backup Quarterback?” with which I haven’t been impressed.

RUNNING BACKS
Rising: Bernard Pierce
Falling: Ray Rice
Tip: These choices seem too obvious, but they are simply a product of the Ravens wanting to get Pierce more involved in the offense while keeping Rice fresh for the latter portion of the season. The veteran will remain the feature back and Pierce the change of pace, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rice receives fewer carries than in past years while posting a career high in receptions this season.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Rising: Torrey Smith
Falling: Jacoby Jones
Tip: We’ve discussed the merits of such names as Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson ad nauseam, but Smith becoming a receiver capable of making 70 or more receptions would be far more significant than predicting which other young receiver might make more than a token contribution on the field. Much has been made by Jones’ improved footwork from his time spent dancing this offseason, but I just don’t see him showing enough versatility to be an every-down receiver in the Baltimore offense.

TIGHT ENDS
Rising: Dennis Pitta
Falling: Billy Bajema
Tip: It will be fascinating to see how much offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell elects to use Pitta out of the slot and how that might impact his production as well as Ed Dickson as they approach unrestricted free agency next winter. Meanwhile, Bajema will have a tough time beating out Maryland product Matt Furstenburg and 2012 practice-squad member Alex Silvestro for the third tight end spot.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Rising: Kelechi Osemele
Falling: Bryant McKinnie
Tip: Entering his second year and finally able to focus on the left guard position, Osemele has made the free-agent departure of Ben Grubbs a distant memory, hasn’t he? I don’t anticipate McKinnie having any real issues in terms of his work ethic or keeping his starting job, but many have glossed over the reality that he’ll turn 34 early in September and has never been a very strong run blocker, two realities that are likely to be exposed over a 16-game schedule.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
Rising: Chris Canty
Falling: Terrence Cody
Tip: One of the most overlooked aspects of the Ravens’ defensive struggles last season was the inability to find a suitable replacement for Cory Redding, which Canty will bring as an effective 5-technique player this season. Cody appears to be the easy choice in this unit after he was sidelined this spring while recovering from hip surgery and will be pushed by rookie nose tackle Brandon Williams in the defensive line rotation.

LINEBACKERS
Rising: Arthur Brown
Falling: Jameel McClain
Tip: With Brown expected to be 100 percent after undergoing sports hernia surgery this spring, he will have every chance to win one of the starting inside linebacker jobs. The Ravens and McClain have said all the right things in being optimistic that he’ll be cleared to play, but I remain skeptical until that day actually arrives and others such as veteran Daryl Smith and the emerging Josh Bynes will have the opportunity to close the gap in the meantime.

CORNERBACKS
Rising: Jimmy Smith
Falling: Chykie Brown
Tip: After two disappointing campaigns to begin his NFL career, Smith will finally start to show more consistency at the cornerback position and he’ll need it to unseat Corey Graham as a starter opposite Lardarius Webb. Brown will remain a strong special-teams player, but his opportunities in the nickel package will dwindle with Webb and Smith both healthy this year.

SAFETIES
Rising: Matt Elam
Falling: Christian Thompson
Tip: The first-round pick Elam may not be a Pro Bowl player, but his skills in pass coverage to go along with his physicality will be an upgrade over Bernard Pollard in the Baltimore secondary. It didn’t speak well for Thompson, a 2012 fourth-round pick, that the Ravens drafted a safety in the first round, re-signed James Ihedigbo, and signed veteran Michael Huff in the offseason and that’s not even taking into account his four-game suspension to start the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

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Pierce

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Why Splitting Carries Between Rice and Pierce Benefits the Ravens

Posted on 07 July 2013 by benheck

In his five-year career in the National Football League, Ray Rice has been an integral part of the Baltimore Ravens offense.

In four of his five seasons, the 5’8″ running back has broken 1,100 yards rushing and has combined for 5,520 yards on the ground, 2,713 yards through the air and a total of 39 touchdowns over his career. The defending Super Bowl champion’s offense revolves completely around the 26-year old back and quarterback Joe Flacco likely wouldn’t have been able to be as effective this season without him.

That’s why it may come as somewhat of a surprise that Rice will likely be sharing carries this coming season for Baltimore. But it’s true.

With the emergence of rookie third-round draft pick Bernard Pierce last season, Rice fell from 307 and 291 carries in 2010 and ’11 to just 257 carries last season. Pierce, coming in on third downs quite often last season, finished the regular season with 532 yards and a touchdown on 108 carries. During the postseason Rice battled a fumbling issue and Pierce came up in a big way: 202 rushing yards on 39 carries (5.18 yards/carry), including 103 in a Wild Card victory over Indy.

The superb rookie performance from Pierce caught the attention of the Baltimore front office, and fans everywhere. With Flacco getting his big contract over the off-season, it’s important that the offense around him is in tip-top shape and keeping Rice fresh would be a huge boost for Joe’s game. Splitting the carries between Ray and Bernard, even more so then 2012, could benefit all parties involved.

A couple weeks ago it was ProFootballTalk that first came out with a report that Pierce would share touches with Rice this season, and that the distribution of carries would likely be much closer to equal in 2013.

Luckily for Baltimore, Rice is okay with that. He went on NFL Network’s NFL AM on June 25 to publicly state his opinion on the matter and simply said it isn’t something that bothers him. He praised Pierce and said that having him as the backup makes it tougher on defenses to prepare (for both of them) on game days.

Rice hit the nail on the head with his comments. If anything, this decision will just make the offense scarier if they were to split the carries 50/50. What’s more scary than Ray Rice with the football in his hands? A Ray Rice with fresh legs, of course. And that’s what this will do, keep both backs fresh and ready to go. Not to mention make the Baltimore running game a nightmare to game plan against.

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