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Ravens “haven’t done anything” to be able to take Cleveland lightly

Posted on 09 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are playing the worst team in the NFL at home on a short week and are coming off a critical win over their biggest AFC North rival that moved them into a first-place tie.

Yes, the woeful Cleveland Browns haven’t won a game in nearly 11 months, but we’re also talking about a Baltimore team that’s lost four of its last five games and has made several below-average defenses look exceptional over that time. The Ravens also haven’t beaten a team by more than one possession in nearly two years and have seen 22 of their last 24 games decided by a single score.

There’s also that matter of what happened in Week 2 if there were any lingering question of whether the Browns had the Ravens’ attention. That’s why any thoughts about a potential letdown are being met with a different response than the one you usually hear from a team in first place.

The Ravens aren’t good enough themselves to take any team — even the Browns — lightly.

“We haven’t done anything yet. We’re 4-4,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We sit at the top of the division, but one loss and you’re out. This is a division game, a rival. They were up 20-0 on us and easily could have beaten us, so we can look at many factors to remind ourselves that we can’t take anything for granted.”

It’s easy to dismiss the Browns, who are 0-9 and own the worst point differential in the league at minus-105. First-year head coach and former Ravens assistant Hue Jackson knows what he’s dealing with as he spoke just this week about finding a way to avoid going 0-16.

The Browns do have a handful of talented players such as nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, and young wide receivers Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman, but the problem is the rest of the roster that resembles an expansion team.

They have been competitive at times, starting with their surprising performance against the Ravens in which they jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first quarter before Baltimore scored 25 unanswered points the rest of the way. The Browns forced overtime at Miami the following week and held a second-half lead on the road against Washington in Week 4. They even held a 20-7 halftime lead over a New York Jets team that had beaten the Ravens just a week earlier.

“If you watch the tape, they are making a lot of really good plays,” head coach John Harbugh said. “This is a very formidable challenge. It was the first time we played them this year. It was both games last year. It was both games the year before that. It always is that way, so our guys understand the rivalry that we have with Cleveland. We understand how tough a game it’s going to be. We don’t put any stock in that [winless record].”

Despite those polite comments, the Ravens know they have no excuse not to win Thursday’s game.

The Browns rank 31st or 32nd in the league in total defense, run defense, points allowed per game, third-down defense, and red-zone defense. If Joe Flacco and the offense can’t get going against this miserable group, then it’s difficult to think they ever will this season.

The Ravens defense continued to earn more respect after overwhelming Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers for most of this past Sunday’s contest and will now have a chance to make life miserable for rookie Cody Kessler and an offense ranked 19th in total yards and 29th in points per game.

It likely won’t be the prettiest performance as we’ve come to expect for any Thursday night game, but it’s an opportunity to move back over .500 that the Ravens cannot afford to squander. Amazingly, a Browns loss could officially eliminate them from playoff contention this weekend depending on what happens elsewhere, but Baltimore is only concerned with taking care of its own business in the second of four home games over a five-game stretch.

“We haven’t played as well as we wanted to yet, but we’ve positioned ourselves to this point,” said Flacco, who threw for 302 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions against Cleveland in Week 2. “Our goal over the next month will be to put ourselves in a position to play meaningful games in December. If we can get ourselves to the point where we’re playing meaningful games in December, then that usually leads to playoff games where anything can happen.

“We have a lot of room to get better.”

That starts with doing what they’re supposed to do against a woeful opponent on Thursday.

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Ravens rule Yanda doubtful, four others out for Thursday night

Posted on 09 November 2016 by Luke Jones

Just when it looked like the Ravens had finally gotten their starting offensive line in order, they again look like they’ll be without the best member of that group against Cleveland.

After missing practices all week, right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) was designated as doubtful to play against the Browns on Thursday night. The five-time Pro Bowl selection had only returned to action this past Sunday against Pittsburgh after a two-game absence.

Yanda injured his left shoulder in the Week 5 loss to Washington, an ailment that forced him to miss his first games since the end of the 2012 regular season. Wearing a harness on his left shoulder, the 32-year-old played every offensive snap in the 21-14 win over the Steelers.

Needless to say, it’s a concerning development to see Yanda sidelined once again after having close to a month to rehab the injury when accounting for the Week 8 bye. The short week clearly didn’t help matters with the Ravens scheduled to kickoff roughly 97 hours after the conclusion of Sunday’s win.

Ryan Jensen started two games in place of Yanda last month.

The Ravens ruled out linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and Kamalei Correa (thigh), cornerback Shareece Wright (hamstring) and tight end Crockett Gilmore (thigh) after those four missed practices all week. Dumervil will be missing his seventh game of the season as he continues to work his way back to full strength from offseason surgery.

Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (chest) was designated as questionable to play, but the fourth-round selection was a full participant in practices all week.

Meanwhile, the Browns listed only one player on their final injury report, but it’s a significant loss as starting cornerback Jamar Taylor was ruled out with a groin injury.

The referee for Thursday’s game will be Jerome Boger.

Thursday night’s forecast calls for clear skies with temperatures in the mid-50s and winds up to seven miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report for Week 10:

BALTIMORE
OUT: LB Kamalei Correa (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), CB Shareece Wright (thigh)
DOUBTFUL: G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Kenneth Dixon (chest)

CLEVELAND
OUT: CB Jamar Taylor (groin)

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Yanda still resting shoulder as Ravens move closer to Thursday

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda continues to rest his left shoulder as the Ravens move closer to their Thursday night matchup with Cleveland.

Yanda was absent during Tuesday’s walk-through and continues to receive treatment for an injury suffered against Washington on Oct. 9. After missing his first two games since the end of the 2012 regular season, the 32-year-old returned to action in Sunday’s 21-14 win over Pittsburgh.

He wore a harness on his left shoulder and did not miss a single snap against the Steelers.

Linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and Kamalei Correa (thigh), cornerback Shareece Wright (hamstring), and tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) were also absent on Tuesday. Running back Kenneth Dixon (chest) was present and working once again after being listed as a full participant on Monday.

The Ravens made more changes to their practice squad on Tuesday, cutting quarterback David Fales and adding cornerback Robertson Daniel and guard Jarell Broxton.

Daniel had recently been on the 53-man roster before being waived to make room for returning safety Matt Elam. He played 19 special-teams snaps in the Week 7 loss to the New York Jets, which was his first NFL game.

The Browns were without two starters for the second straight day as Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas (knee) and cornerback Jamar Taylor (groin) sat out their Tuesday practice.

Below is Tuesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Kamalei Correa (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Kenneth Dixon (chest)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Jamar Taylor (groin), OT Joe Thomas (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Ricardo Louis (hamstring), DE Carl Nassib (eye), WR Terrelle Pryor (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Joe Haden (groin), DT Jamie Meder (knee)

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Ravens preparing on short week, re-sign Campanaro to practice squad

Posted on 07 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens reunited with a familiar face as they returned to the practice field to quickly begin preparations for a Thursday meeting with the winless Cleveland Browns.

Less than two months after parting ways with 2014 seventh-round pick Michael Campanaro, Baltimore re-signed the River Hill product to its practice squad on Monday. The wide receiver suffered a calf injury at the end of the preseason and was only eligible to re-sign with the Ravens this week after receiving an injury settlement in mid-September.

With veteran return specialist Devin Hester struggling to make a positive impact despite a decorated NFL career, Campanaro could serve as an eventual replacement with some experience returning kickoffs and punts. However, injuries have derailed each of his first three seasons as he’s appeared in just eight games since being drafted.

Conducting a walk-through without helmets or pads just 24 hours after their 21-14 win over Pittsburgh, the Ravens were without six players during the portion of the workout open to media: wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh), cornerback Shareece Wright (hamstring), and linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and Kamalei Correa (thigh). Yanda and Smith both played against the Steelers and were likely receiving the day off to rest their respective ailments while the other four were inactive for Week 9.

Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon was participating in the walk-through despite exiting Sunday’s game with a chest injury in the second half.

In addition to Campanaro, the Ravens also signed tight end Mitchell Henry to their practice squad and released wide receiver Dobson Collins. Practice-squad offensive lineman Blaine Clausell was signed to Washington’s 53-man roster on Monday.

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Fresh off their bye, Ravens have no choice but to get well quickly

Posted on 31 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens returned to work Monday aiming to start anew.

Using a much-needed bye week to get their bodies and minds right after a winless October, they won’t have long to wait to set the tone for the second half of the season. Playing two games in a five-day period is always a challenge, but those contests are against familiar AFC North foes — a de facto first-place Pittsburgh team that could be without Ben Roethlisberger followed by winless Cleveland — both at M&T Bank Stadium.

It certainly could be worse from a scheduling standpoint with the Ravens able to get a head start on the game plans for both opponents during the bye.

Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged the good timing of the condensed stretch, but the urgency is clear if the Ravens want to make something out of the remainder of the 2016 season.

“I want to knock some of this disappointment off,” said Harbaugh as Baltimore still carries a four-game losing streak. “This is something you carry around with you. It’s not what you want. It is not the goal. The goal is to win these games and have the kind of record that you think reflects how hard you have worked.”

Despite falling to 3-4 after a 3-0 start in September, the Ravens and their fans have cited the wide-open nature of the division with the Steelers sporting the only winning record as reason for optimism. A win on Sunday propels Baltimore into a first-place tie with a chance to then move back over .500 against the woeful Browns just four nights later.

It gets tougher after that for the Ravens, however, while the schedule softens for both the Steelers and second-place Cincinnati.

Baltimore’s remaining nine opponents sport a .522 winning percentage with the four road foes — Dallas, New England, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati — owning a combined .683 mark. The challenging second-half schedule was why so many opined that the Ravens needed to win at least five of their first seven games, but that potential margin for error is long gone.

Meanwhile, the Steelers’ remaining schedule sports a winning percentage of just .396 with their five road opponents a combined 13-25-1. After a Nov. 13 meeting with the NFC East-leading Cowboys at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh has just one more game on its schedule against a team currently above .500.

If the Steelers can tread water until Roethlisberger returns to good health — a big if with three of their next four games on the road — they are the consensus favorite to win the division, making Sunday’s game even more crucial for the Ravens.

The Bengals have stumbled out of the gate to a 3-4-1 start, but their eight remaining opponents have combined for a .458 winning percentage and their four road opponents are just 12-18. Cincinnati hasn’t looked nearly as formidable as it did a year ago, but each of its four losses has come against a first-place team.

Winning the division is always the goal, but that’s especially true in a year in which the AFC West currently holds three teams with just two losses each, making that division the mid-season favorite to claim the two wild-card spots. Of course, there’s plenty of football to be played across the league, but counting on enough mediocrity elsewhere to sneak in as a 9-7 wild card could be a particularly tricky recipe this season.

That’s why the Ravens must win the next two games to not only eliminate the foul taste of October from their palates but to begin stacking enough wins ahead of a brutal final month that features road games against New England, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. The last two road defeats to the New York Giants and New York Jets were painful enough, but Harbaugh made it clear on Monday how critical the next two contests in the Ravens’ home building are.

“We need to win these games,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t care where they are being played. We needed to win the two on the road the last two weeks; we didn’t. We need to win these at home.”

The remainder of the season depends on it.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on Week 2 win in Cleveland

Posted on 19 September 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens completing the second-largest comeback in franchise history with a 25-20 victory at Cleveland on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After a quiet performance in the opener, C.J. Mosley came up with the game-saving interception in the closing seconds, but he also added six tackles — two for losses — and a quarterback knockdown. This was the kind of high-impact performance we didn’t see from Mosley last season.

2. You had to feel good for Dennis Pitta having that kind of game in his return to the place where he suffered his second career-threatening hip injury. He took full advantage of the defense respecting the Ravens’ speed and effectively worked underneath against Cleveland.

3. It will be interesting to see how Kenneth Dixon fares when he returns, because the running game hasn’t been getting it done. Averaging 3.0 yards per carry, the Ravens need better blocking from their offensive line, but neither Justin Forsett nor Terrance West looks like a true No. 1 back.

4. His return for a defensive two-point conversion grabbed the attention, but Tavon Young is quietly playing at a high level for a rookie fourth-rounder. Sharing time with Anthony Levine as the slot cornerback, Young made two key open-field tackles on the final defensive series of the game.

5. Never one to shy away from being aggressive, John Harbaugh forgoing a 45-yard field goal try to go for a fourth-and-2 to start the second quarter was a panic move, especially with a running game that’s been abysmal in those spots. Take the points from your high-paid kicker that early.

6. Others have played well, but Timmy Jernigan has been Baltimore’s best defensive player through two games. The 2014 second-round pick leads the team with two sacks, four tackles for a loss, and five quarterback hits and has provided a much-needed interior rush presence.

7. The presence of veterans Steve Smith and Mike Wallace figured to impact the production of Kamar Aiken, but the leading receiver last season has been an afterthought so far with just two receptions on three targets. The Ravens would certainly like to get him more involved.

8. I was impressed with Browns rookie Corey Coleman, who caught two touchdowns and went over 100 receiving yards. With Josh Gordon coming off suspension, Cleveland could have had a fun little passing game if not for the left shoulder injury to Josh McCown that’s believed to be serious.

9. For a team that regularly says it takes pride in being physical, the Ravens sure like to use shotgun formations and run outside in short-yardage situations.

10. It’s no secret that third-down defense was an issue on Sunday, but Dean Pees’ unit deserves credit for settling down midway through the second quarter. After the Browns converted six of their first seven third downs, the Ravens made stops on six of the final eight.

11. Not lost in victory was poor clock management late. First, Forsett ran out of bounds with 3:00 left. The Ravens proceeded to take their final timeout, throw an incompletion, and kick a field goal with 2:53 remaining instead of forcing Cleveland’s final timeout or taking it to the two-minute warning.

12. We always talk about Joe Flacco having an even-keeled personality, but you could tell how fired up he was after the win, complimenting his teammates for being a “bunch of freaking men” in coming back. No matter their deficiencies, the Ravens always have a chance with him at the helm.

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Game-changing plays, good fortune lead to comeback win for Ravens

Posted on 19 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The final score alone wouldn’t have been surprising with the Ravens often making things difficult on themselves over the years, especially when playing on the road.

But falling behind 20-0 to the lowly Cleveland Browns less than 11 minutes into the game?

That’s the kind of nightmare start that makes everyone take pause as you ponder how many teams against which the Ravens could have afforded to do that and still come away with a win. The 25-20 victory was the second-largest comeback in franchise history, but the overall performance still leaves observers asking how good the Ravens truly are despite starting 2-0 for the first time since 2009.

In the end, you’d much rather apologize for an ugly win than pump your chest out about a pretty loss or moral victory any day of the week. John Harbaugh’s team knows it has a lot of work to do, regardless of what the record indicates.

But Sunday represented another example of how 2016 might be different than last year’s 5-11 nightmare.

How many times did fans lament the Ravens’ inability to make game-changing plays to swing the momentum in the opposite direction last year?

That’s exactly what Lawrence Guy provided by blocking Cleveland kicker Patrick Murray’s extra point, leading to rookie Tavon Young’s return for a defensive two-point score that transformed an expected 21-0 deficit into a 20-2 score in the first quarter. The three-point swing not only stopped the first-quarter hemorrhaging, but it provided the pep in the step that the Ravens desperately needed after an emotional Saturday mourning the death of beloved defensive assistant Clarence Brooks.

Wide receiver Mike Wallace has provided the ingredient that the passing game had sorely lacked since the departure of Torrey Smith. The veteran newcomer caught two more touchdowns from quarterback Joe Flacco on Sunday and is providing the speed to open up the short-to-intermediate portion of the field for Dennis Pitta, who led the way with nine receptions for 102 yards.

Even the defense brushed itself off from a nightmare first quarter to make the game-saving play as inside linebacker C.J. Mosley picked off a Josh McCown pass at the 1-yard line with 13 seconds to go. How many times was the Ravens defense unable to make a play in a critical spot last year?

The Ravens were also fortunate on Sunday, which isn’t a bad thing. Both Super Bowl runs in franchise history were accompanied by some good luck along the way. Baltimore had little of that last season, ranging from the many injuries to a questionable holding call against Will Hill in Oakland’s final drive and a missed false start call that gave Jacksonville the chance to make the game-winning field goal on the final play of the game.

Harbaugh and the Ravens were the beneficiaries of an absurd taunting call against Terrelle Pryor after the Browns receiver had made a terrific 20-yard reception to put the ball on the Baltimore 10 with 20 seconds remaining. With an official right behind Lardarius Webb when Pryor harmlessly flipped the ball in that direction after the catch, how could anyone consciously throw such a flag in that critical moment?

You can only imagine the outrage in Baltimore had such a call come against Wallace or Steve Smith in that spot. The penalty wiped away the 20-yard gain as McCown threw the pick to Mosley on the next play.

It tainted an exciting finish to a close game, but the Ravens shouldn’t care as long as they and their fans remember this one the next time Baltimore comes up on the short end of an all-too-common officiating gaffe in the NFL. You know it will happen sooner or later.

Like their close season-opening win against a Buffalo team that’s already in disarray, the Ravens didn’t earn style points for such an uneven performance against a Cleveland team with 17 rookies on the roster. But they are exhibiting positive traits that just weren’t there last season.

On Sunday, they made big plays when they needed to and had a little bit of luck at the end.

That’s good enough for now.

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Ravens are perfect so far ­– and even that isn’t good enough

Posted on 19 September 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

So, the Baltimore Ravens – the same ones who limped to a 5-11 finish last season – have begun this 2016 campaign with renewed optimism and have been perfect through the first 120 minutes and two wins over the downtrodden of the National Football League.

Sure, the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns might only win six games combined over the next 15 weeks, but the Ravens found some fortitude on Sunday on Lake Erie after a start so dreadful that even Joe Flacco acknowledged that the offensive guys were “MFing each other” similarly to you and your friends, wherever you were watching the game. You never want to spot a team – even a team as dismal as the current Brownies – a three-touchdown advantage.

But, the Ravens dug out and the defense tightened up after a few dramatic gaffes, including allowing rookie Casey Coleman to get behind the defense and then a Isaiah Crowell 85-yard scamper through the middle of the field that had the Browns faithful believing an upset was brewing on a beautiful day in Cleveland.

But, alas, there are very few beautiful days in the Land of Cleve – especially when it involves the Browns.

The two-point block by Lawrence Guy and the long runback by Tavon Young after the second Coleman TD grab not only put the Ravens on the board, but in the end it proved the difference in a tight game when the Browns needed a touchdown – not a field goal – in the final minutes of the game.

That phantom taunting call on Terrelle Pryor was also a massive factory in keeping defeat and sadness on the factory of losses by Lake Erie. Sometimes just being the Browns gets you the Charlie Brown treatment.

Flacco and the offense kept chipping away. And the Ravens found some ways to move the chains and get back in the game.

The inspirational story of the weekend involved the loss of longtime defensive line coach Clarence Brooks to cancer on Saturday morning before the team boarded the plane to Cleveland. He was a larger-than-life figure for players than spanned the Ravens timeline from Rob Burnett to Haloti Ngata to Brandon Williams. He was also a tremendous person, coach, leader and gentleman.

But the story of the young season on the field so far involves a decorated Ravens veteran who is showing that his comeback is for real. Dennis Pitta led the team in receptions and yards on Sunday, showing his old ability to create seams in the defense and making a perfect target for Flacco in tough 3rd down spots.

A month ago, we were wondering if Flacco would have any healthy targets beyond Kamar Aiken. Now, he’s almost a forgotten man in an offense that has seen Steve Smith get back into the action, along with Pitta, and the emerging speed of Breshad Perriman has made for more weapons than we imagined.

Again – these are two, visibly bad football teams the Ravens have victimized over the past two Sundays. And Jacksonville, now 0-2 and reeling after another offseason of expectations of improvement, is waiting next weekend in North Florida (or is it South Georgia?).

The Ravens surely can’t “prove” much in beating bad football teams.

But, the wins are now stacking up and the Ravens own a piece of first place in the AFC North, while the Cincinnati Bengals will now play from third place after a stinging loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

They’ll get their cracks at their might division rivals but this isn’t a bad recipe to have a few games against the JV while the others slug it out among themselves for a little while. Besides, the Ravens need some seasoning and some time to begin to gel as a unit. At least they lined up properly and for the most part avoided penalty issues.

And defensively, there is potential. If you’ve seen the difference in the middle of the field with Eric Weddle and C.J. Mosley and Brandon Williams, then you know better days could be ahead. (Just eliminate all memories of that Crowell run!)

Perhaps Terrell Suggs will get better and find some semblance of his old form. The young offensive line still needs to open up some holes in the running game. It’s also been two games of Flacco taking as much punishment as you’d want to see him take, especially after the knee injury last fall.

And anything inside the 38-yard line feels like an automatic three points for Justin Tucker, who through a handful of kicks has done nothing but instill confidence in winning close games.

So if you’re a Ravens fan, this is no time for skepticism.

The team is 2-0. They’re playing another 0-2 team this weekend.

I’m not sure if they’re a Super Bowl contender at this point but they don’t need to be. Not until January, anyway. And right now, there’s nothing to suggest that this team can’t win 10 games this season and be involved in the tournament.

It’s as good of a start as is possible.

The Ravens are perfect so far.

So my fellow purple friends, simply enjoy the prosperity. I remember last season when there was none to enjoy.

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 18 September 2016 by Luke Jones

It’s a new week, but the same list of inactives for the Ravens as they face Cleveland in their second game of the 2016 regular season.

Despite missing practices all week with a lingering ankle issue, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith was indeed active for Sunday’s game against the Browns. With five-time Pro Bowl selection Elvis Dumervil out for the second straight week, the Ravens will need Smith to serve in a pass-rushing capacity opposite veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

It will be interesting to see how many snaps Smith will play after he led all Baltimore outside linebackers in that department against Buffalo.

Third-year offensive lineman John Urschel was inactive for the second straight game after head coach John Harbaugh declared him ready to play earlier in the week. Rookie Alex Lewis will start again at left guard and appears to have secured the job until he proves incapable of handling it.

Urschel has been a full participant in practices over the last two weeks after dealing with a shoulder injury during training camp. His deactivation meant the Ravens had only two reserve offensive linemen available against Cleveland.

Running back Buck Allen was also a healthy scratch for the second straight week, creating more questions about his status once rookie Kenneth Dixon returns from a knee injury. In the last meeting with the Browns last November, Allen ran for 55 yards and caught four passes for 29 yards and a touchdown in a 33-27 win.

Despite missing Wednesday’s practice with a calf injury, wide receiver Breshad Perriman was among the actives for Sunday’s game. He participated fully in workouts the rest of the week.

Cornerback Jerraud Powers (ankle) practiced fully on Thursday and Friday, but he remained inactive after being listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week.

There were no surprises among the Cleveland inactives as the Browns prepared for their home opener.

Sunday’s referee is John Hussey.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday afternoon forecast in Cleveland calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-70s with winds up to nine miler per hour. However, the previous threat of scattered thunderstorms has disappeared.

The Ravens will wear purple jerseys with white pants while the Browns don white tops with brown pants.

Sunday marks the 35th meeting between these AFC North foes with Baltimore enjoying an overwhelming 25-9 advantage. The Ravens are 12-5 at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Jerraud Powers
RB Kenneth Dixon
CB Will Davis
RB Buck Allen
OLB Elvis Dumervil
OL John Urschel
DT Willie Henry

CLEVELAND
DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun
DB Marcus Burley
LB Scooby Wright
OL Shon Coleman
WR Jordan Payton
DL John Hughes
DL Gabe Wright

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 17 September 2016 by Luke Jones

Winning on the road isn’t easy in the NFL.

Even in John Harbaugh’s first five seasons that included a Super Bowl title, three AFC championship game appearances, and at least one playoff victory each year, a 21-19 road mark in the regular season was solid but hardly sensational. However, an 8-16 record away from M&T Bank Stadium over the last three seasons is a clear reflection of a team having only made the playoffs once over that stretch.

After their Week 1 victory against Buffalo, the Ravens take their show on the road for the first time in 2016 against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore seeks its eighth win in the last nine trips to Cleveland. The Ravens lead the all-time regular-season series with a 25-9 mark and are 12-5 at FirstEnergy Stadium dating back to the year it opened in 1999. The teams split a pair of games in 2015, but the Ravens have won 14 of the 16 games played in the series during the Harbaugh era.

1. The defensive line will pay tribute to the late Clarence Brooks by holding Cleveland to under 3.0 yards per carry. Coming off a 2015 season in which they rushed for an average 4.0 yards per attempt, Cleveland averaged 5.7 yards per rush against Philadelphia, snapping off four runs of 16 yards or more. That said, Brandon Williams and the Ravens front were stout against Buffalo in giving up only 2.7 yards per carry and will surely want to honor the memory of their longtime defensive line coach, who died Saturday. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson will find little room throughout the afternoon.

2. An ineffective pass rush will lead to a long touchdown pass to Browns receiver Corey Coleman. The defense will be without Elvis Dumervil and possibly Za’Darius Smith, once again leaving defensive coordinator Dean Pees little choice but to blitz to generate pressure. It won’t be easy for a rusty Terrell Suggs going up against nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, either. The Ravens know they must disrupt Josh McCown in the pocket after he threw for over 450 yards in a game against them last year, but he’ll get too much time at some point and the speedy Coleman will shake free for a big score.

3. The Baltimore running game still won’t click fully, but Terrance West will lead in rushing against his old team. West received more carries than veteran starter Justin Forsett in the opener, but the former found little running room, averaging only 2.7 yards per pop. With a one-possession lead in the second half, offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will lean on West to wear down an inexperienced Cleveland front. The average still won’t be where the Ravens want it, but West will run for 65 yards to help protect the lead with Forsett chipping in 50 of his own against the Browns.

4. Dennis Pitta will catch his first touchdown in 33 months. The veteran tight end downplayed his return to the place where he sustained his second hip fracture and dislocation two years ago, but there wouldn’t be a more appropriate place for him to make his first touchdown reception since Dec. 8, 2013. After surprisingly playing 82 percent of the offensive snaps against Buffalo while making a key 27-yard reception, Pitta will build on that solid performance with a red-zone score. Concern about his health will remain in observers’ minds, but you have to be happy for the 31-year-old in his comeback.

5. Joe Flacco will play how he usually does against the Browns in a 23-13 victory. In 15 career games against Cleveland, the 31-year-old has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions while averaging roughly 215 passing yards per game. Trestman won’t ask Flacco to take many chances in this road game, but the quarterback will be efficient while, most importantly, protecting the football. Some will complain about another grind-it-out performance lacking style points, but the Ravens will happily leave Cleveland holding their first 2-0 start since 2009.

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