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Ravens-49ers preseason primer: Five players to watch

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Ravens-49ers preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 06 August 2014 by Luke Jones

A brotherly reunion and Super Bowl XLVII rematch adds a little more spice to the preseason opener as the Ravens welcome the San Francisco 49ers to Baltimore on Thursday night.

As is always the case with the first preseason game, the contest will offer little more than a cameo appearance for veteran starters expected to make the biggest impact this season, but it does provide welcome change for a group of players tired of working against one another after two weeks of practices in Owings Mills. While most veteran starters figure to see little more than a series or two, younger starters figure to see more extensive action in the first half if history holds to form.

“We’re kind of on a standard plan right now, as far as that [goes],” coach John Harbaugh said. “I don’t know exactly the number of plays yet, but it won’t be anything we haven’t done in the past.”

Of course, the first preseason game won’t be the standard road trip for the 49ers as they’ll then join the Ravens at their training facility in Owings Mills for three days of practices, providing extra competition as well as opportunities to evaluate just how much improvement has been made to a team that failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time since 2007. Much will hinge on the offense under new coordinator Gary Kubiak, who is bringing his version of the West Coast attack to reinvigorate a group that finished 29th in the NFL last year.

Entering his seventh season at the helm of the Ravens offense, Joe Flacco has been all business this summer as Kubiak and quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison have focused on the veteran quarterback getting rid of the ball quickly while improving his footwork. Flacco isn’t the only one who will be under the microscope with the new offensive attack, but even he acknowledges the preseason opener carrying more significance than in past years because of the dramatic changes made this offseason.

Of course, the outcome of the opener won’t provide any definitive answers for questions facing the Ravens on both sides of the football, but the game will sharpen points of emphasis for both coaches and players after facing another team.

“Anytime you’re running a new offense and you think you’re doing it pretty well, it’s always nice to get out there and have a real test,” Flacco said. “Have people hitting you and flying around and going full speed under the lights. It’s probably a little more important.”

Thursday will mark the first ever preseason meeting between the Ravens and the 49ers, but Baltimore owns the 3-1 edge in the regular season and a 1-0 advantage in the postseason after their 34-31 win in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. The Ravens are 42-29 all-time in the preseason and have a 15-9 preseason mark in the Harbaugh era.

Unofficial (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 on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is not expected to play in either of the first two preseason games as he’s been sidelined with a lower back injury since July 25.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: CB Lardarius Webb (back), G Will Rackley (head), DT Terrence Cody (hip), DE Brent Urban (knee)
DOUBTFUL: LB Daryl Smith (groin)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Michael Campanaro (ribs), CB Marrio Norman (unspecified)
PROBABLE: DT Timmy Jernigan (back), CB Jimmy Smith (back)

Five players to watch Thursday night

1. RB Ray Rice

With so much attention justifiably paid to his off-field transgressions, you almost forget the 27-year-old back is coming off the worst season of his career in which he averaged a meager 3.1 yards per carry. Rice was heavy, slow, and banged up during the 2013 season and must play well to not only hold off backup Bernard Pierce but give the Ravens confidence that they can move forward with the three-time Pro Bowl selection beyond the 2014 season. Rice will want to use the first couple preseason games to make a favorable impression on Kubiak with his two-game suspension looming at the start of the season.

“Ray has looked really good,” Harbaugh said. “Comparisons to years in the past, we’ll find all that out during the season. But he’s in tremendous shape. I’m seeing him make good lateral cuts. He has really good burst, acceleration is there, [and] vision is there. He’s been very patient with the zone runs, which is something that I believe to be an improvement over the past — even two years ago.”

2. FS Darian Stewart

Signed to a one-year, $1.3 million contract in the offseason, the former St. Louis Ram has yet to be seriously challenged at the free safety position with third-round pick Terrence Brooks struggling to grasp the playbook in his first season. Stewart isn’t spectacular, but he’s been complimented by Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees for knowing his assignments and being in the right place, traits that shouldn’t be taken for granted considering the Baltimore defense gave up too many big plays a year ago. Stewart isn’t a long-term answer or dynamic player, but the Ravens hope he can be a value signing comparable to when they signed Corey Graham a couple years ago.

“I see a grown, mature, confident guy that I think fits really well in our room,” said secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was Stewart’s head coach for two years in St. Louis. “He’s kind of slipped in there. I’ve noticed he’s taken a backseat, which you have to do when you change teams a little bit, and that was early on. Now, I see his personality coming out. I think that will happen more and more. I think he’s going to be a great leader for us. I really do.”

3. RT Rick Wagner

Perhaps the storyline received too much attention during spring workouts, but there’s been less buzz about the right tackle position than you’d expect with second-year lineman Rick Wagner continuing to be the favorite to start over fourth-year disappointment Jah Reid. The Ravens have been higher on Wagner than most of the outside world all along, but the Wisconsin product will need to prove capable against preseason opponents to put concerns to rest. Wagner doesn’t need to be a Pro Bowl tackle, but he needs to hold his own as the Ravens are too challenged offensively to be forced to constantly provide help in protection on the right side of the line.

“He is doing a lot better,” said linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who often matches up against Wagner during practice. “You’ve got to stay consistent with [offensive line coach] Juan Castillo’s scheme — his protection, his switching it up. But for the most part, he’s just doing a really good job.”

4. DT Brandon Williams

The 2013 third-round pick appeared to be emerging as a contributor in the defensive line rotation last year before wearing down and being inactive over five of the last six games, but the Ravens have shown plenty of confidence in Williams so far this summer by sliding Haloti Ngata back to the 3-technique defensive tackle position and lining up the Missouri Southern State product at the nose. His strength and athleticism have been mentioned frequently, but Williams will need to show those traits translate in taking on interior blockers and making plays in stopping the run. If Williams is not up to the challenge, the Ravens could elect to shift Ngata back to the nose and take longer looks at second-round rookie Timmy Jernigan and third-year lineman DeAngelo Tyson.

“Now, his strength is a lot more functional because he understands the technical part of the game a lot better,” defensive line coach Clarence Brooks said. “He understands how we play a lot better and how we want things done. He understands that, and he was able to take his natural strength and work it into what we want. So far, everything is on the upswing.”

5. CB Tramain Jacobs

Most eyes will inevitably fall on Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson as the Ravens try to figure out who will be lining up at the No. 3 cornerback spot in the regular-season opener, but Jacobs is on a short list of rookie free agents to watch this summer. Playing at Texas A&M, the 5-foot-11, 182-pound cornerback saw plenty of tough competition in college practices matching up against wideout Mike Evans with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel throwing the football. Jacobs has shown good athleticism and a nose for the football to put him in the conversation for a spot on the 53-man roster. With so much concern over the lack of depth at the cornerback position, Jacobs will have opportunities to turn heads if his play carries over to preseason games.

“Everybody’s getting a good look. It’s a stiff competition right now,” said starter Jimmy Smith, who mentioned Jacobs as someone in contention for the No. 3 cornerback job. “Obviously, we don’t want Webb hurt, but that gives opportunity for [others]. It’s a stiff battle at the third cornerback position right now.”

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Five young players the Ravens need more from in 2014

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Five young players the Ravens need more from in 2014

Posted on 20 January 2014 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens coming off an 8-8 season and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007, it’s easy to conclude that the organization needs more from everyone with a vested interest in 2014.

However, with a limited amount of cap space and only so many holes that can be filled through the draft and free agency, the Ravens will lean heavily on a handful of young players already on the roster to emerge and make a difference with another year of experience under their belts.

Here’s a look at five young players the Ravens will need more from in order to bounce back from an underwhelming 2013 campaign:

1. LB Courtney Upshaw

Veteran outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil received the most attention for their second-half slides, but Upshaw did little to establish himself as a force within the Baltimore defense in his second NFL season. The 2012 second-round pick once again battled weight and conditioning issues in the spring and summer before serving as the strong-side outside linebacker in the base defense while Dumervil took his place in passing situations. Upshaw played fewer defensive snaps — down to 650 from 762 a year earlier — with Dumervil’s arrival in 2013, but his tackle total declined from 60 as a rookie to just 30 and he continued to offer little as a pass rusher or in coverage. With Suggs’ future with the organization up in the air and Dumervil recently turning 30, the Ravens need younger players such as Upshaw and 2013 fourth-round pick John Simon to become real factors if the defense is to continue to build on the progress it made this past season.

2. RB Bernard Pierce

If someone had told you before the 2013 campaign that Ray Rice would only rush for 660 yards in a career-worst season, you would have assumed Pierce had taken his job to become the Ravens’ feature back. Instead, the second-year back was even worse in averaging 2.9 yards per carry and gaining just 436 yards for the season. In fairness, both backs dealt with nagging injuries and had an undersized and overmatched offensive line trying to block for them, but it was clear that neither Rice nor Pierce was especially effective in identifying running lanes before they quickly closed shut. Rice will receive more heat going into next season as he enters the third year of his five-year deal signed two summers ago, but Pierce’s underwhelming sophomore campaign has led many to believe the Ravens should be looking for another running back in the middle-to-late rounds of the 2014 draft. Pierce played in all 16 games in his second year, but his durability is still a question mark in terms of handling a bigger workload.

3. DT Brandon Williams

Despite missing the first three games of his rookie season while nursing a toe injury, the 2013 third-round pick appeared to be emerging as a reliable member of the defensive line rotation before winding up inactive in six of the final eight games. Coach John Harbaugh explained that Williams needed some “maturing” and was beaten out by the versatile DeAngelo Tyson for playing time, but it was still disappointing to see the Missouri Southern State product disappear completely in the second half of the season. With Arthur Jones and Terrence Cody good bets to depart via free agency, the Ravens will need Williams to live up to the high expectations they had when he impressed scouts so much at last year’s Senior Bowl. Whether it’s to play Jones’ 3-technique defensive tackle spot or to shift to nose tackle and allow veteran Haloti Ngata more flexibility to move around, the 335-pound Williams is expected to become a consistent contributor along the defensive line in his second season.

4. LB Arthur Brown

The Kansas State product immediately drew comparisons to future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis because he was undersized and very athletic, but Brown only saw 211 defensive snaps in his rookie season, with most of those coming in the nickel package. Listed at 235 pounds but playing lighter than that after being selected in the second round of the draft, Brown showed flashes in pass coverage and as a blitzer, but he must get bigger and stronger to become the three-down linebacker the Ravens envision. With Daryl Smith an unrestricted free agent and Jameel McClain a potential salary cap casualty, Brown is expected to win the Ravens’ weakside inside linebacker job. With so many other positions of need to address and only so many resources, the Ravens need Brown to put in the necessary work in the weight room and to master the defensive playbook to take care of one of the two inside linebacker positions.

5. OL Rick Wagner

It will be interesting to see how the offseason plays out in terms of where Wagner might fit along the offensive line. In a perfect world, the Ravens would probably prefer keeping the 2013 fifth-round pick in a role similar to the one he held last year as an extra tackle-eligible blocker and key reserve, but the sheer number of holes currently on the offensive line might force him into starting duty. As of now, only Marshal Yanda playing right guard appears to be a sure thing with Kelechi Osemele expected to play either left guard or right tackle. The Ravens want to re-sign left tackle Eugene Monroe and add more size to their interior offensive line, but Wagner might be needed to play either left guard or right tackle if they expend resources at center and left tackle. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo worked extensively with Wagner as a rookie, and his 6-foot-6, 310-pound frame and Wisconsin pedigree suggest he has some nice upside, making this offseason an intriguing one in terms of his development.

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Ravens-Bears: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Bears: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 17 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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

CHICAGO — Weather will play a major factor on Sunday as the Ravens travel to Soldier Field in Chicago looking to improve to 5-5 and improve their standing in the AFC playoff picture.

With intense storms, winds averaging 25-30 miles per hour with gusts upwards of 50, and a tornado watch in the forecast Sunday afternoon, both teams will likely need to lean on their respective running games with Chicago possessing the league’s 15th-ranked rush offense. Meanwhile, the Ravens’ dramatic struggles in running the ball have been well documented, but the Bears are ranked 31st against the run and have allowed 129.4 yards per game on the ground this season.

The Ravens will be without two key starters as defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and wide receiver Marlon Brown were both ruled inactive prior to kickoff. Ngata sprained his left knee in last Sunday’s win over the Bengals and missed practice all week despite suiting up and making an appearance at the beginning of Friday’s practice. Terrence Cody and Brandon Williams will be leaned upon to play a more significant role at the nose tackle position in Ngata’s absence.

Brown’s deactivation leaves the Ravens with just four active receivers for Sunday’s game, and 6-foot-5 rookie will be missed in the red zone. His absence will likely lead to more opportunities for Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson in the passing game.

For the Bears, tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle) is active and will start, but starting defensive end Shea McClellin (hamstring) is inactive after being listed as doubtful on Chicago’s final injury report of the week.

Sunday’s referee will be Gene Steratore.

The Ravens are wearing white jerseys with black pants while Chicago is donning dark blue throwback jerseys with white pants.

The all-time series between these teams is tied 2-2 with the Ravens winning the last meeting in Baltimore back in 2009. However, the Bears are 2-0 against the Ravens at Soldier Field with victories in 1998 and 2005.

Here are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
DT Haloti Ngata
WR Marlon Brown
S Omar Brown
RB Bernard Scott
WR Brandon Stokley
OL Ryan Jensen
LB John Simon

CHICAGO
DE Shea McClellin
DT Jeremiah Ratliff
LS Pat Mannelly
OL Jonathan Scott
OL James Brown
QB Jay Cutler
LB Lance Briggs

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the afternoon for updates and analysis as Nestor Aparicio and I bring live coverage from Chicago throughout the day.

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Rice absent from practice for second straight day

Posted on 19 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. — A day after six players missed practice, the Ravens didn’t receive much better news on Thursday as Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice was absent once again while continuing to recover from a hip flexor strain.

Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Rice would not need to practice to potentially play in Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans, but his continued absence makes it apparent that backup Bernard Pierce will play a bigger role in the offense even if Rice is available. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell acknowledged this reality prior to Thursday’s practice after Pierce carried the ball 19 times for 57 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland last Sunday.

“He’s been a guy that’s run extremely hard,” Caldwell said. “In particular, when you look at our situation right now, he’s going to have to carry a little bit more of a load, but we fully expect him to be able to step up and do the job.”

Defensive end Chris Canty (groin), linebacker Arthur Brown (pectoral strain), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), and wide receiver Jacoby Jones (knee) all missed practice for a second straight day. Jones has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game as he continues to recover from an MCL sprain suffered in the season opener two weeks ago.

Expressing optimism that he’d be able to play on Sunday prior to missing Thursday’s practice, Canty acknowledged the possibility of still being able to play on Sunday without practicing all week. The ninth-year defensive lineman exited the Week 2 win against the Browns early in the second half and didn’t return, but magnetic resonance imaging returned no indication of structural damage earlier this week.

“It feels pretty good,” Canty said. “We’ll continue to go about the process and hopefully be able to participate on Sunday. As a veteran football player, you think you can be ready. I’ve been in this situation before. I’m just trying to get in the best physical condition I can, so I can have an opportunity to help my football team win.”

Wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot) was not present during the portion of practice open to the media, which is concerning after the second-year wideout took part in Wednesday’s workout on a limited basis. He has not played in a game since injuring his foot in the preseason opener on Aug. 9.

The good news on the injury front came in the return of cornerback Chykie Brown to the practice field after an MRI earlier this week indicated there was no structural damage to the knee he strained against Cleveland. The third-year defensive back did not participate in Wednesday’s practice.

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams (toe) was practicing for the second consecutive day after working on a limited basis on Wednesday.

For Houston, free safety Ed Reed (hip) and wide receiver Andre Johnson (concussion) were limited participants as both appear to be good candidates to play on Sunday. Left tackle Duane Brown continues to be sidelined with a turf toe injury, leaving his status in doubt for Week 3.

Here is Thursday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Jacoby Jones (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Deonte Thompson (foot), LB Arthur Brown (chest), DE Chris Canty (thigh), C Ryan Jensen (foot), RB Ray Rice (hip)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Chykie Brown (knee), DT Brandon Williams (toe)

HOUSTON
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LT Duane Brown (toe), TE Garrett Graham (hip/groin)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Andre Johnson (concussion), TE Owen Daniels (rest – NIR), FS Ed Reed (hip), LG Wade Smith (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Jonathan Joseph (rest – NIR), LB Brian Cushing (knee), RB Arian Foster (calf/chest), LB Joe Mays (quad), CB Brice McCain (knee), C Chris Meyers (back), RT Derek Newton (knee/calf), WR DeVier Posey (Achilles/foot), LB Darryl Sharpton (hip), RB Ben Tate (shoulder)

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Rice misses Wednesday’s practice, J. Jones already ruled out for Sunday

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Rice misses Wednesday’s practice, J. Jones already ruled out for Sunday

Posted on 18 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. — The Ravens were missing a number of players from the practice field on Wednesday with running back Ray Rice topping the list of absentees.

The sixth-year back was not present for the portion of practice open to media after he sustained a hip flexor strain in Sunday’s 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns. Coach John Harbaugh indicated on Monday that Rice would not need to practice at all this week in order to play in Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans, meaning his absence for the first practice of the week shouldn’t be interpreted as a strong indicator of his status for Week 3.

Harbaugh wasn’t in the mood to offer any further update on Rice’s health prior to Wednesday’s practice.

“How he feels? No, I haven’t had a chance to say [much to him],” Harbaugh said. “I said, ‘How are you doing, Ray?’ He said, ‘Good.’ So, there’s your update.”

As expected, wide receiver Jacoby Jones (knee) wasn’t working on Wednesday and has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game as he continues to recover from a sprained MCL.

Defensive end Chris Canty (groin), linebacker Arthur Brown (pectoral strain), and cornerback Chykie Brown (knee) were also missing from the opening part of practice after each underwent a magnetic imaging resonance test for their respective injuries sustained against the Browns. However, Harbaugh passed along the good news that none of their MRIs indicated long-term concern for their ailments.

Where each player stands for Sunday’s game remained up in the air.

“With the rest of it, we’ll just stand on the injury report with that,” Harbaugh said. “There was nothing of a long-term nature [on the MRIs].”

The Ravens did see two players return to the practice field as wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot) and defensive tackle Brandon Williams were working on a limited basis. Each player worse shorts while others were in full pads, but their attendance was a step in the right direction.

Thompson hadn’t practiced since injuring his foot in the preseason opener on Aug. 9 while Williams injured his toe in the preseason finale on Aug. 29. The rookie defensive tackle expressed optimism to finally be out of a walking boot and to have the ability to move around normally again.

“It’s just one more step to being closer to the field,” Williams said prior to Wednesday’s workout. “It’s frustrating because you want to be out there. It’s good to finally be in a regular pair of shoes. It feels good and increases your positivity.”

Offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot) was not practicing on Wednesday and is not expected to play against the Texans.

For Houston, free safety Ed Reed (hip) practiced on a limited basis while starting left tackle Duane Brown (toe) and wide receiver Andre Johnson (concussion) did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. The overall opinion in Houston is that Brown will miss Sunday’s game while recovering from a significant case of turf toe, but Johnson is expected to be cleared in time for Sunday’s game in Baltimore.

Here is Wednesday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Jacoby Jones (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Arthur Brown (chest), CB Chykie Brown (knee), DE Chris Canty (thigh), C Ryan Jensen (foot), RB Ray Rice (hip)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe)

HOUSTON
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LT Duane Brown (toe), WR Andre Johnson (concussion)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Owen Daniels (rest – NIR), CB Jonathan Joseph (rest – NIR), FS Ed Reed (hip), LG Wade Smith (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Brian Cushing (knee), RB Arian Foster (calf/chest), TE Garrett Graham (hip/groin), LB Joe Mays (quad), CB Brice McCain (knee), C Chris Meyers (back), RT Derek Newton (knee/calf), WR DeVier Posey (Achilles/foot), LB Darryl Sharpton (hip)

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Oher practices fully, J. Jones already ruled out for Sunday’s game

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Oher practices fully, J. Jones already ruled out for Sunday’s game

Posted on 11 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. — Just a couple hours after proclaiming the ankle injury he suffered in the season opener to be one of the worst of his career, Ravens right tackle Michael Oher returned to the practice field on Wednesday.

The fifth-year lineman was listed as a full participant on Wednesday’s injury report, confirming reports that indicated the sprained ankle he suffered when right guard Marshal Yanda rolled into his leg was not considered serious. Oher has never missed a game in his NFL career and Wednesday’s development was a strong indication of that streak continuing on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

“It’s definitely hurting me pretty good, pretty bad, so I’m just getting a lot of treatment and trying to stay on top of it,” Oher said prior to practicing. “Hopefully, I can go Sunday. I work hard to be out there every Sunday for the team, but this is one of the worst sprains I’ve had.”

Newly-signed kick returner and No. 3 running back Shaun Draughn was on the practice field just hours after being signed by the Ravens to sure up the void they have at the kick return spot after the MCL injury sustained by wide receiver Jacoby Jones last week. Backup running back Bernard Pierce will remain in the mix on kickoffs, but the Ravens would prefer not exposing him to the regular wear and tear of the return game if possible.

As expected, defensive tackle Arthur Jones also returned to the practice field on a limited basis after missing nearly three weeks due to a viral infection. Coach John Harbaugh indicated earlier in the week that the Ravens will need to see where Jones is from a conditioning standpoint to determine whether he will return to game action in Week 2.

Wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Deonte Thompson (foot), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), and defensive tackle Brandon Williams were not practicing on Wednesday. The Pro Bowl return specialist Jones has already been ruled out for Sunday as he’s projected to miss at least a month, and it remains unlikely that the other three will be ready to play against Cleveland this Sunday.

Also absent from the field on Wednesday was rookie wide receiver Aaron Mellette, which was an interesting development after he was inactive for the season opener against Denver. The Ravens later placed Mellette on injured reserve with what was listed as a knee injury, clearing a roster spot for Draughn.

For the Cleveland Browns, rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo (lung) returned the the practice field and has been cleared for contact, meaning he could make his NFL debut in Baltimore on Sunday.

Here’s the official injury report for Wednesday:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Jacoby Jones (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DT Art Jones (illness – NFI), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Michael Oher (ankle)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Shawn Lauvao (ankle), DL Ahtyba Rubin (calf), DB T.J. Ward (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Buster Skrine (shoulder), LB Barkevious Mingo (lung), WR Travis Benjamin (thigh)

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Ravens TE Dickson probable, Broncos CB Bailey out for Thursday

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Ravens TE Dickson probable, Broncos CB Bailey out for Thursday

Posted on 04 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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

With little drama surrounding the four biggest injury concerns for the Ravens on the final injury report of the week, the Denver Broncos provided the biggest headline with the news of Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey missing Thursday night’s opener.

After already ruling out defensive tackle Arthur Jones with an undisclosed illness earlier in the week, the Ravens are extremely unlikely to have the services of wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), defensive tackle Brandon Williams (toe), and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), who were all listed as doubtful. The trio missed practices all week and aren’t expected to play.

Bailey has been dealing with a foot injury and hadn’t practiced all week as reports earlier Wednesday suggested the 35-year-old was becoming increasingly pessimistic about his status in the opener. The 12-time Pro Bowl selection was infamously beaten for two long touchdowns by wide receiver Torrey Smith in the Ravens’ 38-35 double-overtime victory last January.

The Broncos also ruled out backup tight end Joel Dreessen with a knee injury.

The good news for the Ravens was tight end Ed Dickson and rush specialist Pernell McPhee both being listed as probable for Thursday’s game. Dickson was a full participant in practices this week and had become increasingly optimistic over the last couple weeks in coming back from a torn hamstring suffered early in August. McPhee was estimated to be a full participant in Wednesday’s walk-through before the team departed for Denver.

Tight end Dennis Pitta was removed from Wednesday’s injury report since he was placed on injured reserve-designated to return earlier in the day.

BALTIMORE
OUT: DT Art Jones (illness – NFI)
DOUBTFUL: C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe)
PROBABLE: TE Ed Dickson (thigh), DE Pernell McPhee (knee)

DENVER
OUT: RB C.J. Anderson (knee), CB Champ Bailey (foot), TE Joel Dreessen (knee)
DOUBTFUL: G Chris Kuper (ankle)
PROBABLE: DE Robert Ayers (Achilles), T Ryan Clady (shoulder), QB Brock Osweiler (left shoulder), WR Wes Welker (ankle)

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A. Jones undergoing tests for undisclosed illness, McPhee limited Tuesday

Posted on 03 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. — There were no changes to practice attendance for the Ravens on Tuesday as they continued preparations for their season-opening game against the Denver Broncos.

Already ruled out for Thursday night’s game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, defensive tackle Arthur Jones (undisclosed illness) was once again missing from the field and hasn’t practiced since playing in the Ravens’ third preseason game on Aug. 22. Coach John Harbaugh reiterated Tuesday that the health issue is not related to football and once again deferred to Jones to decide what details he eventually discloses.

“It’s not anything that’s like life-threatening or anything like that, but it’s non-football related,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve just got to get some tests done to make sure he’s OK. Until the tests come out the right way, he’s not going to be able to play. It’s something that I’ve been told now they can’t tell you how long it will be. It could be a week; it could be indefinitely. We don’t think it’s going to be the second part of it.”

According to the Ravens coach, Jones will see a specialist and undergo further tests on Wednesday as veteran defensive lineman Marcus Spears is expected to take his place along the defensive line in the base 3-4 defense.

A couple hours after Harbaugh’s update, the fourth-year lineman wrote a message on his official Twitter account for the first time since Aug. 19.

“As many of you know i’m [sic] having personal health issues,” Jones wrote. “Please respect my privacy. We as athlete’s [sic] go through real life problems also. Thank You all for your love and support. Ravens fans are the best!! See you all on the field soon!!!”

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams (toe), wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot) were also absent during the portion of practice open to the media. None of those three are expected to play against the Broncos.

Pass-rush specialist Pernell McPhee (knee) was the only new addition to Tuesday’s injury report as he continues to manage a sore knee and was a limited participant.

Of course, tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) was officially declared out for Thursday’s game and is expected to be placed on injured reserve with the designation to return when NFL teams are allowed to use that exemption beginning at 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.

“I think we’ll have an announcement for that on Wednesday,” Harbaugh said. “[We'll] just get some final evaluations from the doctors and make sure that we’re doing the right thing for everybody involved.”

This would free up an open spot on the 53-man roster in time for Thursday night’s game.

Tight end Ed Dickson (hamstring) was once again present and working after being listed as a full participant on Monday’s injury report. He made his return to the practice field two weeks ago and has looked good, according to Harbaugh.

“If I can practice out there, I feel like I can play in any game,” said Dickson, who added that he had never suffered such a severe hamstring injury in his football career. “With practice, personally, I feel like I can play. In the end, it’s not my decision to say I can go out there and [potentially] hurt the team by re-injuring anything.”

As they’ve done in past seasons, Ravens players practiced their jersey swap that’s traditionally seen on Fridays during normal game weeks. Running back Ray Rice wore retired linebacker Ray Lewis’ No. 52 jersey while cornerback Chykie Brown sported former safety Ed Reed’s No. 20. Rice’s close friendship with Lewis is common knowledge, and Reed took Brown under his win in their two years together and the pair often swapped jerseys on Fridays last season.

The Ravens will hold a closed walk-through on Wednesday before departing for Denver later in the day.

Here is Tuesday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
OUT: DT Art Jones (illness – non-football injury), TE Dennis Pitta (hip)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe)
LIMITED: DE Pernell McPhee (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Ed Dickson (thigh)

DENVER
OUT: none
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB C.J. Anderson (knee), CB Champ Bailey (foot), TE Joel Dreessen (knee)
LIMITED: G Chris Kuper (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Robert Ayers (Achilles), T Ryan Clady (shoulder), QB Brock Osweiler (left shoulder), WR Wes Welker (ankle)

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Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones ruled out for Thursday opener

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Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones ruled out for Thursday opener

Posted on 02 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continue to deal with health concerns along their defensive line as defensive tackle Arthur Jones has already been ruled out for Thursday’s opener against the Denver Broncos with what was listed as an illness.

Jones’ status remains a mystery as the starting defensive tackle hasn’t practiced since playing in the team’s third preseason game on Aug. 22. Coach John Harbaugh said on Aug. 27 that Jones was dealing with a personal health issue but didn’t divulge any other specifics.

“Art had an issue — it’s not football-related,” Harbaugh said at the time. “I’m going to leave it to Art to explain what it was, but it was more of a personal health thing that’s not serious. But we just held him back this week.”

Though the Ravens figure to be playing extensively in the nickel package against Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and a trio of talented receivers, Jones is one of the team’s better defensive linemen against the run, making his absence concerning for defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Free-agent acquisition Marcus Spears will likely start in Jones’ place in the Ravens’ base defense.

Jones isn’t the only injured member of the defensive line as rookie Brandon Williams missed his second straight practice and had his right foot in a walking boot on Monday, an indication that he won’t be available in Thursday’s season-opening game. He played 39 defensive snaps in the preseason finale against the St. Louis Rams last Thursday but hasn’t practiced since then.

Others who weren’t absent during the portion of practice open to the media on Monday included wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), and tight end Dennis Pitta (hip). As expected, Pitta was officially ruled out for Thursday’s game and is expected to be placed on injured reserve with the designation to return on Tuesday afternoon.

Rush specialist Pernell McPhee (knee) was practicing for the second straight day after missing the last two weeks of preseason action.

The good news for the Ravens was tight end Ed Dickson being listed as a full participant in Monday’s workout, a strong indication that he will be ready to go against the Broncos as many expected when he made his return to the practice field two weeks ago.

Newly-claimed veteran linebacker Robert James was taking part in his first practice a day after being added from the Atlanta Falcons. He is expected to mostly be a special-teams contributor.

“He’s played on all four special-teams phases,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “He’s been a productive tackler for [the Falcons]. He’s a real good blocker, and we’ll see how it works out in practice today. But I think we’re able to get a guy — much like our personnel office has done in the past — at the last second and come in and help us immediately. We’re excited about his presence here.”

Outside linebacker John Simon is now wearing No. 94 after wearing No. 47 in the spring and preseason.

Here’s Monday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
OUT: DT Art Jones (illness – non-football injury), TE Dennis Pitta (hip)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe)
LIMITED: none
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Ed Dickson (thigh)

DENVER
OUT: none
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB CJ Anderson (knee), CB Champ Bailey (foot), TE Joel Dreessen (knee)
LIMITED: G Chris Kuper (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Robert Ayers (achilles), T Ryan Clady (shoulder), QB Brock Owsweiler (left shoulder), WR Wes Welker (ankle)

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Which Ravens Rookie Will Have the Biggest Impact in 2013?

Posted on 11 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

The Ravens aced the 2013 NFL Draft. They added many talented, hard working players to the team. Many of these talented rookies are competing for jobs and all of them may get a chance to see the field in 2013.

But let me start off by clarifying the usage of impact in the title. Impact, to me, does not mean projecting or looking at the stat sheet. One’s impact can reach far greater than the stat sheet. Doesn’t that sound like the job description of a nose tackle?

Enter Brandon Williams. Williams was drafted 94th overall in the 2013 draft and was brought to Baltimore to help improve the interior of the Ravens defense. The former Missouri Southern State Lion is a small school prospect who will compete with Terrence Cody for the starting nose tackle spot.

Cody had a rough 2012 season. He was consistently thrown around at the line of scrimmage and showed little power in the upper or lower body. As a result, the Ravens defense suffered immensely. The unit finished 17th in total defense but it seemed worse than that.

Ma’ake Kemoeatu was signed by the Ravens in the offseason and played well in stretches but was also pushed around on a routine basis. For a three-four defense to function properly, the nose tackle must eat up blockers at the line of scrimmage. Neither Cody or Kemoeatu were able to keep blockers off linebackers which in turn impacted the entire defense.

Brandon Williams may be a rookie but he is a better option than Cody at this point. There was been talk about using Haloti Ngata at nose tackle but Ngata’s real strength lies in his versatility to lineup anywhere along the line of scrimmage.

The thought of Brandon Williams and Haloti Ngata playing together is awesome. Together, they block out the sun and will be able to keep blockers off the Ravens young linebackers.

Sure, there are other rookies like Matt Elam and Arthur Brown who have the opportunity to start but the nose tackle position is what makes a three-four defense work. If the nose tackle struggles, the entire defense struggles.

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