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Ngata fighting through injuries as Ravens defensive line struggles

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Ngata fighting through injuries as Ravens defensive line struggles

Posted on 05 November 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With a slew of injuries hampering a depleted Ravens defensive line, All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has tried to play through two ailments of his own over the last month of the season.

Listed as questionable on the final injury report in the Ravens’ last two games against the Texans and Browns, the seventh-year defensive lineman has played with knee and shoulder injuries, but his performance hasn’t lived up to his usual standards as one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Though stat sheets rarely tell the story in describing the effectiveness of a defensive tackle, Ngata has just one tackle over his last two games as he’s played in a reduced number of snaps.

Ngata registered one tackle in the 43-13 loss to Houston two weeks ago as he played 48 of the Ravens’ 80 defensive snaps. In Cleveland on Sunday, the 28-year old increased his workload to 53 of 70 possible defensive reps, but he failed to record a tackle and appeared unable to control and beat blockers at the line of scrimmage in the way he typically does.

“I thought he played solidly,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s not 100 percent — he’s got the shoulder and the knee a little bit — but he’s fighting through it. He’s playing well.”

Harbaugh remained noncommittal in how the Ravens will handle his practice work as many are beginning to suggest the possibility of sitting down the Pro Bowl defensive tackle in hopes of improved health for the final stretch of the regular season. It doesn’t help that the Baltimore defensive line has struggled to find any play-makers to complement Ngata as younger players such as Terrence Cody, Pernell McPhee, and Arthur Jones have failed to step up.

For now, the Ravens are likely to continue limiting his practice time, but they desperately need Ngata to regain the dominant form not seen since early last year when he was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate prior to sustaining a thigh injury that hampered him in the second half of the season.

“I think you take that day by day and week by week,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just have to see. We need to win every game. Every game the division championship’s on the line.”

The only notable injuries suffered in Sunday’s game came along the offensive line as right guard Marshal Yanda tweaked his knee and ankle and was replaced by backup Jah Reid for five offensive plays while he received treatment. Right guard Bobbie Williams also suffered a mild ankle sprain, so the Ravens will closely monitor their practice time leading into this Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders.

Yanda would figure to be ready to play, but it will be interesting to see how Williams responds after suffering a fractured ankle last season in his final weeks with the Cincinnati Bengals.

“[Yanda's] moving around. The MRIs were all positive, nothing there,” Harbaugh said. “Bobbie Williams had an ankle — nothing on the MRI — sprain, so we’ll see. We’ll probably give him some rest during the week sometime and try to get him to Sunday. Those were the only two things that were really anything that were significant injury-wise.”

Should either player be deemed unfit to play, Reid would likely receive the first opportunity in the starting lineup after he was active for the first time all season against the Browns. He took nine offensive snaps, with five coming at left guard and the others as a blocking tight end in run-play situations.

“Jah played well,” Harbaugh said. “He played 10 or 15 snaps at different positions in there, and he played well and did a nice job. First time of really taking any kind of extended time out there and he wasn’t overwhelmed at all. That’s kind of what you look for in a young guy.”

Pees goes upstairs

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>

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Our Ravens/Texans “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Texans “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 21 October 2012 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Houston Texans 43-13 Sunday at Reliant Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I again offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

(NOTE: Not all photos from today, some photos courtesy of Houston Chronicle.)

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Christian Thompson

4. Terrence Cody

3. Michael Oher

2. Jimmy Smith

1. Joe Flacco (Two slaps)


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Our Ravens/Cowboys “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Cowboys “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 14 October 2012 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple 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’ 31-29 win over Dallas Cowboys at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: Not all photos are from today’s game, some photos provided by Fort Worth Star-Telegram…)

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Anthony Allen

4. Jimmy Smith

3. Cary Williams

2. Joe Flacco

1. Ray Rice (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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Five pressing questions for the 2012 season

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Five pressing questions for the 2012 season

Posted on 09 September 2012 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens begin defense of their AFC North division crown against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night and hope to embark on a journey to Super Bowl XLVII in John Harbaugh’s fifth year as head coach, they play the fourth-toughest schedule in the league statistically as their opponents held a .523 winning percentage (134-122) last season.

Expectations remain sky-high in Baltimore, even after a trying offseason than included key injuries and significant departures due to limited salary cap room.

Here are the five biggest questions weighing on my mind for the Ravens’ 2012 season:

1. Is the starting line good enough for the offense to take the next step?

Deemed a priority to upgrade at the beginning of the season, the offensive line remains a major question mark as the Ravens tinkered with various alignments throughout the preseason. Even determining which starting five will line up has been quite a challenge considering the circumstances the organization has dealt with since last January.

The Ravens knew Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs — now with New Orleans — would be difficult to replace as they eventually settled on former Bengals guard Bobbie Williams. Playing with a surgically-repaired right ankle, the 35-year-old has dealt with swelling as scar tissue is still breaking up in the ankle, making you wonder if Williams will hold up over the course of a 16-game regular season.

The bigger surprise has been the uncertainty at the tackle position as the Ravens weren’t satisfied with Bryant McKinnie’s weight and conditioning this offseason and the tackle reported late to training camp, opening the door to the idea of Michael Oher returning to left tackle. All seemed to be straightened out when McKinnie started at left tackle and Oher shifted back to the right side in the third preseason game, but the Ravens surprisingly played hardball with McKinnie by cutting his pay last week, a tactic that nearly led to his departure.

In another twist, rookie Kelechi Osemele revealed Saturday that he expected to start at right tackle against the Bengals, meaning Michael Oher will play on the left side and McKinnie will hold a backup role for now. Osemele played well at the position in the preseason and is the most pleasant surprise of the 2012 draft class to this point, but his insertion in the starting lineup creates the question whether Oher can handle protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blind side, which led to the Ravens signing McKinnie in the first place last August.

The Ravens’ handling of their line is unsettling considering the offense is expected to take a significant step forward this season. The combination of Oher and Osemele is more athletic and better conditioned, factors worth remembering when you consider how much they expect to run a no-huddle offense, but much doubt remains about their ability as pass blockers. Though McKinnie is considered a below-average run blocker, he is still the best pass blocker among the Baltimore tackles, which should be the most important factor in trying to protect the most important player on the field.

It’s clear the Ravens have grown tired of McKinnie’s act, but they also didn’t have enough confidence in life without him or they would have pulled the trigger in releasing him last week when he balked at their original pay-cut demand. They appear set to try the younger duo against Cincinnati, but you have to wonder if it will work week in and week out, especially when considering Williams’ health and age at left guard and the fact that there’s no viable option behind him other than Osemele on the 53-man roster.

Even when finally appearing to settle on a starting five moving forward, the Ravens will need to show improvement in short-yardage run situations, an area in which they struggled immensely last season.

Regardless of the factors working against them, the Ravens deemed upgrading the offensive line a major priority in the offseason and even the optimistic takes on the current group couldn’t possibly feel more confident about it than last season’s group.

2. How will the defense find a consistent pass rush without Terrell Suggs?

No one knows if and when the Pro Bowl linebacker will return this season and whether he’ll display the same explosiveness he displayed last season on his way to the 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year award. His absence has created a gigantic black cloud over a defense ranking among the NFL’s elite annually for over a decade.

The Ravens have used their “next man up” mantra since the news broke about the injury in early May, but they appear no closer to answering their pass-rush question than they were when first learning about Suggs’ partially-torn Achilles tendon. And it’s a sobering thought when you remember the defense will encounter 11 quarterbacks who have made at least one Pro Bowl this season.

Fourth-year linebacker Paul Kruger is being asked to play the strongside linebacker position in place of the departed Jarret Johnson and struggled setting the edge against the run in the preseason. However, an even more disappointing outcome of the summer was the slow development of rookie Courtney Upshaw, who dealt with a shoulder injury for much of training camp. Upshaw appeared overweight and lacked explosiveness coming off the edge and was beaten out by former practice squad member Albert McClellan for the rush linebacker spot.

While no one should have expected Upshaw to immediately enter the league as a poor man’s version of Suggs, the fact that he was unable to show any tangible signs of being a threat as a pass rusher in the preseason is disheartening after he was selected with the 35th overall pick in late April. To suggest Upshaw is a draft bust is absurdly premature, but the Ravens hope the light comes on quickly for the rookie from Alabama to be a bigger factor on passing downs.

In terms of maximizing their pass rush, the Ravens might be better served by scrapping the idea of Kruger at the “Sam” position and allowing him to move back to the rush linebacker spot where he can focus more often than not on simply getting after the quarterback. His 5 1/2 sacks in limited time last season showed he can put heat on the quarterback, but those also came with a healthy Suggs on the opposite side of the defensive line.

Defensive end Pernell McPhee will also be critical to the pass rush as his six sacks last year were a major surprise. The Ravens will elect to use him more extensively on first and second down given his pass-rushing ability, but McPhee also bulked up to 290 pounds to aid in playing the run. The second-year defensive lineman made positive plays in run support in the preseason, but you also wonder how the extra weight will affect the combination of strength and quickness he displayed as a pass rusher last year.

There’s simply no replacing the loss of Suggs and the secondary will be challenged in coverage much more without him tormenting quarterbacks for at least the bulk of the regular season. It’s difficult envisioning the defense maintaining the same level of excellence we’ve come to expect over the years, meaning the offense will be asked to be more productive if the Ravens are to remain a legitimate Super Bowl threat.

3. With the no-huddle attack expected to become a prominent part of the offense, how will it affect Ray Rice’s touches?

CONTINUE >>>

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Ravens-Jaguars preseason primer: Five position battles to watch

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Ravens-Jaguars preseason primer: Five position battles to watch

Posted on 22 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Moving ever closer to games that actually count, the Ravens will play their third preseason contest of the summer Thursday as they welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars to M&T Bank Stadium.

Coach John Harbaugh is planning to play his starters well into the third quarter as Baltimore meets Jacksonville in the preseason for the first time ever. Traditionally, the third preseason game is considered the final real test for the regular season as starters see their most extensive action before barely making a cameo — if they even do that — in the final preseason game.

The Ravens will try to find more rhythm on both sides of the football, but the vanilla looks we saw in each of the first two preseason games will remain as the coaching staff does not game-plan for opponents in the preseason. For this reason, some downplay the significance placed on the “dress rehearsal” of the preseason.

“I guess that’s the way we’re trained to kind of look at it, just because that is the game [the starters] play the most in,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We want to go out there and put good work forward and good footage that we can look at and learn from. This week is kind of the same. We want to go out there and we want to play well, but at the same time, we need to clean some things up and see what we’re getting better at and see what we still need to work on maybe even a little bit more.”

As is always the case, the preseason holds the most significance for players competing for starting positions or spots on the 53-man roster, but the coaching staff wants to see rhythm and communication improve as some starters will be playing together in a game for the final time before the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

Issues facing the Ravens in the offseason such as becoming more efficient in the red-zone offense and establishing a pass rush without Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs have carried into the preseason, and Harbaugh would like to see glimpses of optimism in those areas with the season set to kick off in less than three weeks.

“The performances of certain players are a really big part of it, but the performances of groups and units together is probably more important, because that’s how the game is played,” Harbaugh said. “We would expect that to be the case – guys working together better, fewer communication mistakes, being more synchronized.”

Even for longtime veterans such as 17-year linebacker Ray Lewis, the third preseason game provides a nice tuneup to not only be on the field for an extended period but to provide the emotional charge they’ll experience in beginning their quest to return to the AFC Championship game — and try to advance a step further — in 2012.

And while it’s not on the list of priorities for Thursday’s game, the Ravens’ embarrassing 12-7 loss to Jacksonville last season was on the mind of at least one Baltimore defensive player. The Jaguars ran for 132 yards against the Ravens on Oct. 24 of last season, but 105 came from the legs of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who is currently holding out over a contract dispute.

“This is a good test for us,” Lewis said. “These guys run the ball pretty well, and for us to come in and have this type of test right now, being our third preseason game, yeah, I’m a little ready.”

Unofficially (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess at what the injury report would look like if there were one.

Though not dealing with an injury, defensive end Pernell McPhee’s status for Thursday remains unknown as he’s been away from the team since the weekend due to the death of a family member.

Again, this is not meant to be an official injury report:

OUT: OT Jah Reid (calf), LB Josh Bynes (back), TE Dennis Pitta (hand), TE Ed Dickson (shoulder), LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), WR David Reed (knee), DL Ryan McBean (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: G Marshal Yanda (leg), LB Sergio Kindle (shoulder), S Sean Considine (head), LB Darryl Blackstock (groin)
PROBABLE: WR Torrey Smith (ankle), G Bobbie Williams (ankle)

Five positions to watch Thursday night

1. Left guard – Bobbie Williams and Kelechi Osemele

Should starting right guard Marshal Yanda be held out Thursday after accidentally being undercut by linebacker Chavis Williams during Monday’s practice, it will be more difficult to get a read on where the Ravens stand with their left guard position. It appears the coaching staff has finally settled on veteran Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and Michael Oher on the right side — the two have practiced in those spots exclusively since the second preseason game — but Osemele has begun working at guard more extensively with the 35-year-old Williams still dealing with scar tissue breaking up in his surgically-repaired ankle.

Interestingly enough, Williams was working at right guard in Yanda’s place, which seemed odd for the lineman expected to start on the left side, but it was the position the veteran primarily played in his years with the Cincinnati Bengals. Osemele has been very impressive this summer, making you wonder if he could eventually unseat Williams in the starting lineup. His ankle makes you question whether Williams will hold up over a 16-game schedule, but the Ravens feel confident that Osemele can be a contributor as a rookie if necessary.

My gut choice if the season started today: Williams gets the nod due to experience, but the Ravens won’t hesitate to go with Osemele if the veteran struggles as the season progresses.

2. Defensive end – Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee

Thursday would be a golden opportunity for Jones to make up ground if McPhee remains away from the team due to a death in the family. A hip flexor injury cost Jones valuable practice time, allowing McPhee to receive the bulk of the reps and take the lead in the push for the starting job. A 2011 fifth-round pick out of Mississippi State, McPhee had the reputation of being stronger against the run prior to a surprising rookie season that included six sacks, and he played well against the run in the Ravens’ first two preseason games.

Jones has a strong lower body that translates well in run-stopping situations, but he doesn’t stand out when asked to get after the quarterback, which led many to believe he would see time on first and second downs with McPhee spelling him in passing situations. However, it now appears McPhee can handle the duties of a three-down lineman, and Jones could find himself as more of a situational player like he was last season. Regardless of which player the Ravens anoint as the starter, both will factor heavily into the defensive line rotation.

My gut choice if the season started today: McPhee has stood out on the defensive line as a more complete player and would be the choice as the starter even though Jones will still see plenty of opportunities.

3. Rush linebacker – Albert McClellan and Courtney Upshaw

CONTINUE >>>

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Our Ravens-Lions “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens-Lions “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 18 August 2012 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Lions 27-12 in their second preseason game Friday night at M&T Bank Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I again offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Tyrod Taylor

4. Billy Bajema

3. Jacoby Jones

2. Jimmy Smith

1. Nigel Carr (Two slaps)

(Ryan’s slaps on Page 2…) 

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Ravens looking as healthy as they’ve been all summer

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Ravens looking as healthy as they’ve been all summer

Posted on 15 August 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 6:05 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens completed their final official practice of training camp, they appear to be healthier than they’ve been at any point this summer.

Left guard Bobbie Williams, safety Ed Reed, and wide receiver Jacoby Jones returned to the field on Wednesday, leaving the Ravens with only nine players absent for the opening portion of practice. There were no new absences as the Ravens saw their full allotment of offensive linemen and defensive backs working.

Jones was believed to be away from the team for the birth of his child while Williams was given two practices off to rest his surgically-repaired right ankle, which was swollen after the weekend. Reed was presumably given Tuesday’s practice off.

The news wasn’t as promising for wide receiver Torrey Smith who missed his second straight practice as he continues to deal with a sprained ankle. The second-year wideout worked on a limited basis on Sunday and Monday but appeared to be limited and was favoring his ankle toward the end of Monday’s practice.

“I felt alright,” Smith said Sunday after returning to practice for the first time since the preseason opener. “Any time I’m walking, I’m not hurt, so you all aren’t going to get that out of me. It’s a little nick. It’s football. You have to deal with it; you have to learn to play with it. I’m fine.”

His status for Friday’s preseason game against the Detroit Lions now appears to be in doubt.

“We’ll see,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I don’t really want to mention anybody in particular right now.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith left the field midway through the afternoon practice, walking inside gingerly with a member of the training staff. The second-year cornerback had been dealing with a back issue before returning to practice on Saturday.

Others not practicing included tight ends Dennis Pitta (hand) and Ed Dickson (shoulder), defensive lineman Ryan McBean (ankle), wide receivers Devin Goda and David Reed (knee), and linebackers Josh Bynes (back), Darryl Blackstock (groin), and Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon).

The Ravens will hold a walk-through on Thursday that’s closed to the media as they make final preparations for their second preseason game of the season on Friday.

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Ravens shuffle offensive line during Monday’s practice

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Ravens shuffle offensive line during Monday’s practice

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Counting down to their second preseason game on Friday night, the Ravens are still trying to find the perfect combination on their offensive line as they begin their fourth week of training camp.

With left guard Bobbie Williams sitting out Monday’s practice with a swollen ankle, Baltimore showed a new alignment up front as veteran Bryant McKinnie lined up at left tackle and Michael Oher moved back to the right tackle spot in the outside alignment the Ravens used last season. Even more intriguing was who took Williams place at left guard with rookie Kelechi Osemele shifting inside.

Osemele hadn’t worked at the left guard spot since organized team activities and had been used as the team’s starting right tackle with Oher on the left side and McKinnie receiving reps with the second-string line. Coach John Harbaugh downplayed the significance of the new alignment and chalked it up to simple experimentation, but the timing is interesting after Williams struggled against the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener last week.

“We’re going to work different combinations,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I think it’s important to look at guys in different spots. In the end, it will pay off for us, because guys will be more versatile, and we want to make sure we don’t miss anything. So, we have an opportunity to do that now.”

Most have predicted that McKinnie will eventually work his way back into the starting lineup, but Osemele has been the biggest surprise among offensive linemen and was complimented by Harbaugh for his play against Atlanta. The Ravens were expected to have Osemele and second-year tackle Jah Reid — who practiced Monday for the first time during training camp — compete for the starting left guard job before they signed the 35-year-old Williams in early June.

With Williams receiving rest and his durability likely coming into question, the Ravens appear to be re-examining their options to find the optimal starting five to protect quarterback Joe Flacco and to open holes for Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice. Despite his struggles in Atlanta, Williams has received positive reviews during camp and had practiced nearly every day this summer.

“That’s where we’re at right now,” Harbaugh said. “We just kind of work in some different guys and combinations and let them compete.”

Cundiff struggles

The rough days have been few and far between for veteran Billy Cundiff and rookie Justin Tucker, but the former experienced arguably his worst day of the summer Monday.

Cundiff went 2-for-5 on field goals including surprising misses from 24 and 34 yards. The 2010 Pro Bowl kicker hooked the 24-yarder wide left and pushed the 34-yard attempt to the right. Cundiff also missed a 52-yard field goal at the end of practice.

Meanwhile, Tucker finished the day going 6-for-7 with his only miss coming from 52 yards in the final portion of the workout. Unlike Cundiff, the rookie from Texas was awarded another try from the same spot and made the second one.

Harbaugh explained what contributed to Cundiff’s miss from 24 yards but also added that the try still needed to be converted.

“That was a real high snap, so that threw his timing off, and Billy was out in front of it,” Harbaugh said. “I think sometimes when you have bad conditions, the kicker will slow down to account for the possibility of a bad snap plus a plant foot sliding. So, a high snap like that [in] good conditions, he really didn’t expect that he was out in front of it, and that’s why he missed it. You still need to make it, but it makes it tougher.”

Defense shines

An impressive touchdown strike from Flacco to wide receiver LaQuan Williams highlighted the offense’s 11-on-11 work Monday, but the defense shined for much of the afternoon workout.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb stood out with an interception of Flacco and several other pass breakups. Safety Sean Considine also picked off a pass when a Flacco pass bounced off receiver Anquan Boldin’s hands on a quick slant pattern.

The second offense struggled just as much, as a Tyrod Taylor pass was thrown behind rookie tight end Matt Balasavage so badly that inside linebacker Jameel McClain began laughing and said, “He tried to catch it with his back!”

Rice clowning around

Perhaps the funniest moment of the day came when Rice was interacting with a young fan in attendance at the team’s Owings Mills facility.

With his backfield mate standing nearby, Rice insisted on trying to convince the spectator that Vonta Leach was his son. Even though the fullback is four inches taller, 48 pounds heavier, and five years older, Rice couldn’t help explaining how great it was to have his “son” playing with him on the same team.

For the record, the young Ravens fan wasn’t quite buying it.

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Veteran guard Williams dealing with swollen ankle

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Veteran guard Williams dealing with swollen ankle

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:45 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Just when you think the Ravens are getting healthier with players returning to action, a new batch of injury concerns arises as there were four new absences on Monday afternoon.

Offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) was activated from the active physically unable to perform list as he took the practice field for the first time during training camp. Reid was carted off the field with a calf injury on the final day of the Ravens’ mandatory minicamp on June 14 and suffered a setback shortly before the start of camp in late July.

The second-year lineman worked at right tackle with the second offense as the Ravens practiced in helmets, shells, and shorts on Monday. He will work at both guard and tackle as the coaching staff prefers to see how versatile he can be along the offensive line.

“It was a good start for him, and he got through most of the practice I believe,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He didn’t seem to have negative effects, so that was a good start for him, too.”

Wide receiver Tandon Doss (hamstring)) and cornerback Chykie Brown (hamstring) also returned to the practice field.

Meanwhile, defensive end Pernell McPhee, left guard Bobbie Williams, and wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Devin Goda didn’t participate in Monday’s workout. McPhee began the season on the active PUP list after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in the spring, but the second-year defensive lineman had declared himself to be 100 percent after Sunday’s practice in Annapolis.

Jones appeared to be dealing with a nagging leg issue during practice Sunday but finished the workout.

Williams is dealing with swelling in his right ankle and will also sit out Tuesday’s practice, according to Harbaugh. The 35-year-old guard missed the final three games of the 2011 season in Cincinnati after he fractured the ankle in Week 14.

“He’s really been working hard, but he needs [rest] and it will be good for him and it will help him,” Harbaugh said. “Now, you have an opportunity with that spot there to roll some guys in and move some guys around. It works out real well.”

In Williams’ absence, Bryant McKinnie worked at left tackle with the starting line while Michael Oher returned to the right tackle spot he manned last season. However, the most interesting move was rookie Kelechi Osemele occupying the left guard position, a spot he hasn’t worked during opening practices since organized team activities.

Tight ends Ed Dickson (shoulder) and Dennis Pitta (hand), cornerback Asa Jackson (hamstring), wide receiver David Reed (knee – active PUP list), defensive lineman Ryan McBean (ankle), and linebackers Josh Bynes (back), Darryl Blackstock (groin), and Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon – non-football injury list) were also absent from Monday’s practice.

 

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Ugly first half brings Ravens’ offseason concerns to light

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Ugly first half brings Ravens’ offseason concerns to light

Posted on 09 August 2012 by Luke Jones

The look on coach John Harbaugh’s face through most of the first half said it all in regards to the Ravens’ performance in what turned out to be a 31-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons after a strong second-half performance by the second and third-teamers on Thursday night.

You never want to take too much away from the first preseason game, but there was no sugarcoating how ugly the performance was over the first 30 minutes of action.

The Baltimore offense was held to just nine total yards on nine plays as it failed to collect a first down in the first quarter. Playing without linebacker Ray Lewis and rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the defense was carved up by Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense for 191 yards in the first 15 minutes and allowed 17 points in the first half.

The effort was sluggish, but the major story was the Ravens’ biggest offseason concerns coming to fruition in the first snapshot of a live-game situation this summer. To panic would be much too premature, but to ignore the lack of a pass rush and concerns along the offensive line means you haven’t been paying attention to the events of the last seven months.

The Ravens received their first dose of reality without linebacker Terrell Suggs as they were unable to generate any pressure on Ryan, who picked on cornerback Cary Williams and the rest of the secondary as wide receiver Julio Jones caught six passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. Matching up against Jones and fellow wideout Roddy White is challenging enough, but the Ravens’ front seven were barely able to breathe on Ryan, let alone bring him to the turf.

Upshaw’s absence certainly didn’t help, but outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Sergio Kindle made little impact and Albert McClellan didn’t find success until Atlanta’s reserves began entering the game in the second quarter. As we’ve said all along, the Ravens will need a collective effort from multiple players to make up for the absence of Suggs, but what they showed against the Atlanta offense simply won’t get it done.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees still has plenty of time to continue to find ways to generate consistent pressure, but he won’t see very much to like when he looks at the tape of the first half against the Falcons. In addition to the struggles with the pass rush, the Ravens displayed poor tackling and appeared to lack energy on the defensive side of the ball in the first half.

Despite finally waking up to march down the field for an 11-play, 77-yard drive that finished with a Joe Flacco touchdown pass to tight end Ed Dickson in the second quarter, the offense was anemic as the middle of the offensive line struggled to open running lanes and protect the pocket. Rookie Gino Gradkowski started at center for the injured Matt Birk while Michael Oher started at left tackle and rookie tackle Kelechi Osemele played on the right side.

Most alarming about the offensive line was a renewed concern at the left guard position, which was a major topic of discussion all offseason after the free-agent departure of 2011 Pro Bowl selection Ben Grubbs in March. After a strong showing through the first two weeks of training camp that had quelled most concerns at the spot, veteran left guard Bobbie Williams struggled mightily as he was consistently pushed backwards in pass coverage and had a breakdown in communication with Gradkowski that led to another sack.

On a high note for the offensive line, tackle Bryant McKinnie held up well with the second unit as he took reps into the third quarter. Though matched up against lesser defenders, his pass blocking appeared strong and his conditioning didn’t appear to be an issue, making you wonder if he showed the coaching staff enough for him to be reinserted at the left tackle position with the starting offensive line this coming week.

Despite being under duress for most of the time he was in the game, Flacco was 9 for 12 for 88 yards and a touchdown pass while operation out of quick-tempo offense over his four series of work, but the offensive line allowed him to be hit hard a few times.

With a 36-year-old center and a 35-year-old left guard projected to start, the Ravens need as much time as possible to build continuity along the offensive line. Questions will remain about how well Williams and Birk will hold up, but the options are thin behind them as Gradkowski showed flashes but often appeared to be overpowered at the line of scrimmage.

The good news for the Ravens is they still have a month to address these issues in trying to inject life in their Suggs-less pass rush and gain stability along the offensive line. The first half of Thursday night’s game is nothing more than 30 minutes of meaningless football in the scope of the 2012 season.

But it was visual evidence that the prevailing concerns of the offseason are very real and still need to be addressed before the Ravens welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to town on Sept. 10.

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