Tag Archive | "c.j. mosley"

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Wallace out of concussion protocol, poised to return against Tennessee

Posted on 02 November 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace has passed concussion protocol and is on track to play against Tennessee despite a lingering back issue.

In fact, the veteran wideout could have played in last week’s win over Miami instead of missing only the second game of his nine-year career. Wallace revealed Thursday that he was medically cleared to play against the Dolphins, but he didn’t feel comfortable doing so just four days after taking a penalized hit from Minnesota safety Andrew Sendejo, who was suspended one game by the NFL.

The 31-year-old said he wanted to play, but the risk of taking another blow to the head in such a short period of time prompted him to err on the side of caution after much deliberation.

“It’s always a possibility when you step on the field, and I don’t want to be out there second-guessing anything,” said Wallace, who also cited his family’s concerns about returning to action so soon after sustaining a concussion. “I want to feel comfortable, feel like myself. I just went with that decision. Coach [John Harbaugh] supported me and we won 40-0, so that’s always great.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco practiced fully for the second straight day and will start against the Titans after passing concussion protocol earlier this week. Defensive back Lardarius Webb also practiced fully Thursday after apparently suffering a concussion against the Dolphins.

Tight end Nick Boyle (toe) remained absent Thursday, making it unclear whether he will play Sunday. He played 55 of 65 offensive snaps in Week 8 and finished the game without any visible incident, but missing two days of practice after the three-day break last weekend creates cause for concern.

Defensive tackle Michael Pierce has also missed two practices in a row with an undisclosed illness.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles) was back on the practice field after receiving a day off as the Ravens continue to give their top defensive back rest for lingering tendinitis. The 29-year-old is arguably having the best season of his career despite being hampered with the ailment. Smith has scored two defensive touchdowns this season, and Pro Football Focus has graded him as the NFL’s seventh-best cornerback through Week 8.

“He has always had that type of big-play mentality,” inside linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “He’s made those plays over the years, but the injuries kind of just lingered on him, whether it caused him to miss some games or he just played through it. That is kind of the mentality he has. No matter what it is, he always is going to try to play through it.”

The Titans were without tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) for the second straight day, creating more concern about his availability for Sunday coming off their bye week.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Nick Boyle (toe), WR Michael Campanaro (shoulder), S Chuck Clark (thigh), WR Chris Matthews (thigh), DT Michael Pierce (illness), RB Terrance West (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Ryan Jensen (shoulder), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), TE Vince Mayle (concussion), OT Ronnie Stanley (shoulder), WR Mike Wallace (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Joe Flacco (concussion), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), DB Lardarius Webb (concussion), TE Maxx Williams (ankle), LB Tim Williams (thigh)

TENNESSEE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Jack Conklin (illness), LB Nate Palmer (ankle), G Quinton Spain (toe), WR Taywan Taylor (non-injury), TE Delanie Walker (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Jonathan Cyprien (hamstring), WR Corey Davis (hamstring)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 40-0 win over Miami

Posted on 29 October 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens earning the third-largest margin of victory in franchise history and their second shutout of the season in a 40-0 win over Miami, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Will the real Ravens stand up? After close games were the theme of the last few seasons, all but two of eight contests have been decided by multiple scores and one of those came on a garbage-time touchdown in Minnesota on the game’s final play. It’s more volatility than mediocrity.

2. The Baltimore defense gave up a 21-yard run to Jay Ajayi on the second play of the game and surrendered 24 more yards on 18 carries the rest of the way. Dean Pees effectively used run blitzes, and players tackled better than they had in weeks. It was about time.

3. I’d be more willing to listen to the argument that Joe Flacco started his slide late if Kiko Alonso had shown any semblance of an effort to divert his path to the quarterback. The hit was reckless at best and malicious at worst.

4. Ryan Jensen earned quite a few fans after coming to the defense of his quarterback by immediately going after Alonso. I’m not big on retaliation in most instances, but an offensive lineman has to stick up for the most important player on the team after a hit like that.

5. You never want your quarterback sustaining a concussion, but you wonder if something like this galvanizes John Harbaugh’s team moving forward. The Ravens haven’t played with nearly the same edge in recent years as they used to, and being ticked off can be a good thing if properly channeled.

6. The secondary showed several looks, but my favorite was Marlon Humphrey entering the game as an outside corner in the nickel with Brandon Carr moving to the slot. The rookie first-rounder played 37 of 66 snaps and needs to remain heavily involved no matter the status of the veteran starters.

7. I had to smile seeing C.J. Mosley protect the ball with both arms as he crossed the goal line on his interception return. He wasn’t going to repeat what happened against Washington last year. You have to appreciate someone learning from a mistake.

8. Not that the offense was lighting it up before Flacco’s exit, but the previous two weeks showed how critical it is for Jeremy Maclin to be on the field for the passing game to even be functional. His 34-yard touchdown reception came on Flacco’s prettiest throw of the season.

9. Breshad Perriman didn’t have a catch despite playing 49 offensive snaps. He has four receptions on 19 targets — one more catch than Danny Woodhead — despite ranking fifth in snaps among all Ravens skill players. His dramatic regression from 2016 when he was at least a contributor is impossible to ignore.

10. Despite dealing with Achilles tendinitis, Jimmy Smith is playing his best football since at least the first half of the 2014 season and entered Sunday as Pro Football Focus’ seventh-highest graded cornerback. Even if you take away his two defensive touchdowns this season, he’s still been terrific.

11. The Dolphins have won 13 of their last 18 regular-season games, but that stretch includes two losses to the Ravens by a combined 78-6 margin. Talk about having a team’s number. Counting the playoffs, Baltimore is now 7-1 against Miami in the Harbaugh era.

12. Compared to other teams’ editions of “Color Rush” uniforms, the all-purple look is relatively easy on the eyes. I’d even be curious to see how the purple pants look with the white and black jerseys.

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Ravens remain banged up at receiver ahead of Minnesota game

Posted on 19 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As if a poor performance in the Chicago loss weren’t bad enough, the Ravens offense remains banged up at the pass-catching positions ahead of their trip to Minnesota on Sunday.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace (back) and Breshad Perriman (concussion) were absent during the portion of Thursday’s workout open to the media while No. 1 wideout Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) was once again practicing in a red non-contact vest over his practice jersey. The status of those three remains unclear as Perriman left in the first half of last Sunday’s game and Maclin did not suit up against Chicago.

Wallace expressed optimism about his availability in the locker room after Thursday’s practice.

“My back’s just a little sore. I got hit with a helmet in my back [last Sunday],” Wallace said. “It’s just like a bone bruise. It’s just a matter of feeling better, but I should be fine for Sunday.”

Listed as a limited participant on Wednesday, Wallace being absent took concern at the position to a new level as general manager Ozzie Newsome re-signed veteran Griff Whalen to the 53-man roster. The 27-year-old Whalen was with Baltimore over the summer, making four catches for 32 yards in the preseason before being cut in early September.

To make room for Whalen, the Ravens cut offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom. Cornerback Sheldon Price was also waived from injured reserve on Thursday.

Tight ends Benjamin Watson (knee) and Maxx Williams (ankle) were also absent for the second straight day. Williams re-injured his left ankle in Sunday’s loss and is once again wearing a walking boot, making it unlikely that he’ll play against the Vikings.

Other absences from Thursday’s practice included defensive backs Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon) and Lardarius Webb (undisclosed), running back Terrance West (calf), wide receiver Chris Matthews (undisclosed), guard Matt Skura (knee), and outside linebacker Tim Williams (thigh).

Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley was practicing in a red non-contact vest for the second straight day, but he did not appear on Wednesday’s injury report.

In better news, defensive tackles Brandon Williams (foot) and Carl Davis (hamstring) both practiced for the second straight day as they hope to return to action in Week 7. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (mouth) also returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Vikings welcomed back standout outside linebacker Anthony Barr (concussion/ankle) to practice on a limited basis. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs (groin) and quarterback Sam Bradford (knee) were non-participants once again, but Diggs reportedly did some work off to the side of the practice field.

He told reporters in Minnesota that his status is “kind of in the air right now” for Sunday’s game.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Breshad Perriman (concussion), G Matt Skura (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (achilles), WR Mike Wallace (back), TE Benjamin Watson (knee), DB Lardarius Webb (knee), RB Terrance West (calf), TE Maxx Williams (ankle), LB Tim Williams (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Anthony Levine (thigh), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), WR Chris Matthews (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Carl Davis (thigh), CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), OT Ronnie Stanley (mouth), DT Brandon Williams (foot)

MINNESOTA
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: QB Sam Bradford (knee), WR Stefon Diggs (groin), G Nick Easton (calf), WR Michael Floyd (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Mackensie Alexander (hip), LB Anthony Barr (concussion/ankle), CB Tramaine Brock (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Emmanuel Lamur (ribs), RB Jerick McKinnon (ankle), CB Xavier Rhodes (shoulder), S Andrew Sendejo (groin), WR Laquon Treadwell (toe)

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Eight offensive players on first injury report of week for Ravens

Posted on 18 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — On the same day the Ravens welcomed standout defensive tackle Brandon Williams back to practice, six offensive players were absent with both starting wide receivers also less than 100 percent during Wednesday’s workout.

It’s the latest concern for an already-floundering offense with a challenging trip to Minnesota looming against the NFL’s fifth-ranked defense on Sunday.

In addition to the continued absences of right guard Matt Skura (knee) and running back Terrance West (calf), the Ravens were without left tackle Ronnie Stanley (mouth), tight ends Benjamin Watson (knee) and Maxx Williams (ankle), and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (concussion) as preparations continued for the Week 7 meeting with the Vikings. Making matters worse, wide receivers Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) and Mike Wallace (back) were also limited.

Maclin was sporting a red non-contact jersey during the session and missed last Sunday’s loss to Chicago despite practicing on a limited basis all last week. It remains unclear whether the veteran wideout will play this weekend.

“You just trust the doctors,” said Maclin, who wouldn’t reveal how close he came to playing against the Bears after going through a pre-game workout. “When they sit up there and they think that it’s probably not best for you to play, that’s kind of what you go with. Clearly anytime you’re dealing with any type of injury and you’re off of it, it definitely helps with the recovery process.”

The good news was that Williams (foot) and fellow defensive tackle Carl Davis (hamstring) participated fully in Wednesday’s session. Rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring) was also a full participant after missing his sixth straight game Sunday.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was held out of practice, but that wasn’t surprising as the Ravens continue to provide him rest for his Achilles tendinitis. The veteran defensive back played 69 of 80 defensive snaps against the Bears, his biggest workload in several weeks.

“I want to be in the game,” said Smith, who anticipated a heavy workload in Week 6. “I don’t want to be sitting on the sideline for anything.”

Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley practiced in a red non-contact vest during the portion of practice open to media, but he did not appear on the injury report.

The Ravens designated second-year cornerback Maurice Canady to return to practice 2 1/2 months after he underwent knee surgery early in training camp. Canady will now begin a 21-day practice window and could be activated for the Week 9 contest at Tennessee at the earliest.

Baltimore still has one more designation to return from injured reserve as the NFL now allows teams to bring back two players from IR after a minimum eight-week period. That second designation is expected to be running back Danny Woodhead, who suffered a long-term hamstring injury in the season opener and was placed on IR a few days later.

The Vikings are also dealing with a number of injuries to key players as standout wide receiver and University of Maryland product Stefon Diggs (groin), linebacker Anthony Barr (concussion/ankle), left guard Nick Easton (calf) and quarterback Sam Bradford (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer was noncommittal about Diggs’ status for Sunday, saying only that he is “getting better” after missing last week’s contest against Green Bay.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Breshad Perriman (concussion), G Matt Skura (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (achilles), OT Ronnie Stanley (mouth), TE Benjamin Watson (knee), RB Terrance West (calf), TE Maxx Williams (ankle), LB Tim Williams (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Anthony Levine (thigh), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), WR Mike Wallace (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Carl Davis (thigh), CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DT Brandon Williams (foot)

MINNESOTA
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Anthony Barr (concussion/ankle), QB Sam Bradford (knee), WR Stefon Diggs (groin), G Nick Easton (calf), WR Michael Floyd (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Mackensie Alexander (hip), CB Xavier Rhodes (shoulder), S Andrew Sendejo (groin)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Emmanuel Lamur (ribs), RB Jerick McKinnon (ankle)

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

Posted on 16 October 2017 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ballgame.

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

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

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

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

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Amid Ravens’ offensive line trials, Jensen emerging as answer at center

Posted on 12 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ask any Ravens player which teammate is most likely to get into a scuffle in training camp, and the answer would be unanimous.

It’s the man who’s helped stabilize the middle of an offensive line that’s endured more than its share of injuries this season. And after years of competing and scrapping in relative obscurity, center Ryan Jensen has been one of the Ravens’ biggest surprises in his first full season as a starter.

“He gets a little feisty; he’ll throw a helmet here and there,” inside linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “He’s a great competitor, and you want that kind of play with all your players, especially on the o-line. He’s not going to let anyone [bully] him. He’s always going to get the better end of it. Playing against him in practice, that keeps you aware.

“Even though you think he’s being a butthole, he’s actually making you better because you’re protecting yourself.”

Jensen says he takes such a description from a teammate as a compliment and quips that his red hair explains why he’s so “ornery” on the field, but such a temperament can be a challenge for a young player trying to establish himself among veteran teammates. A 2013 sixth-round pick out of Division II Colorado State-Pueblo, Jensen didn’t appear in a game as a rookie after breaking his foot early in his first training camp and was then waived at the end of the 2014 preseason, which led to him spending most of that campaign on Baltimore’s practice squad.

If those setbacks weren’t enough to make Jensen wonder if he would ever become a full-time NFL starter, the 6-foot-4, 319-pound lineman was a healthy scratch for the final nine weeks of 2016 after he’d made three fill-in starts early in the season. He’d also started six games because of injuries late in 2015, but the Ravens always seemed to end up going in a different direction whenever he’d receive a look as a starter.

“My second year when I got released, there is always a little doubt that gets put in the back of your mind,” Jensen said. “Working through that is big.”

Despite appearing to fall out of favor last season, Jensen received a $1.797 million tender as a restricted free agent in March. And after incumbent starting center Jeremy Zuttah was traded to San Francisco later that month, head coach John Harbaugh and his staff liked that Jensen had gotten bigger and stronger in the offseason. Senior offensive assistant Greg Roman and new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris wanted more size and physicality at the center position in the transition from an outside-zone blocking system to a multiple approach that would include more man blocking and downhill running.

As many continued to clamor for former New York Jets center Eric Mangold and the focus on the in-house competition remained on John Urschel before his abrupt retirement in late July, Jensen lined up as the starting center on the first day of training camp and never relinquished the job. In fact, he was the only constant on the field throughout the summer as projected starters at every other position battled injuries or were working their way back from offseason surgeries.

Jensen’s first career start at center was uneven as he helped the Ravens run for a season-high 157 yards in the season-opening win at Cincinnati, but he also committed three holding penalties, prompting critics to wonder if he could channel his aggressiveness to play with enough discipline. Since then, however, he hasn’t committed a penalty and is coming off arguably the best game of his career last Sunday in Oakland as he was graded out higher than any center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

“I feel good about my performance. I feel good about the offensive line performance,” said Jensen, who currently ranks third among centers in PFF’s grading system for 2017. “We have been meshing together really well. We have injuries and stuff like that, but we are plowing forward and we are getting there.”

Making Jensen’s emergence even more impressive has been the disruption at both guard positions. Second-year left guard Alex Lewis underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in August — and has since been replaced by James Hurst — and six-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda was lost for the year due to a broken ankle in Week 2, leaving Jensen to work with three different players at right guard since then. With Matt Skura now expected to miss action with a knee injury, the Ravens will be on their third different starting right guard in the season’s first six weeks.

Yanda’s absence in particular has forced Jensen to grow up quickly as he’s responsible for assessing the defense’s pre-snap alignment and making protection calls at the line of scrimmage.

“He is a great communicator. He’s a fine player. He’s a tough guy,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “You guys know how up front that stuff happens fast and furious. It is wicked fast, so the communication has to be there. We have been through several guys [at guard], and he has done a great job of sort of running the show there.”

An offense still trying to find its footing is also benefiting from his attitude. With so many of his offensive teammates having more reserved personalities, Jensen isn’t afraid to get in the face of an opponent, something the Ravens had lost in the offseason with the retirement of wide receiver Steve Smith.

Jensen has managed to harness his temper that was so often on display during those practice-field scuffles in Owings Mills over the last few years and is forcing the rest of the league to take notice of his play.

“Ryan is a confident person. I think he has always been that way,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “The thing that you see with him the most is how nasty he is on Sunday and the style that he plays with. We play football, so that’s what it’s all about.

“You need that kind of player. You love to have those guys on your side.”

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 15 September 2017 by Luke Jones

What will the Ravens defense do for an encore?

After recording their first shutout since 2009 in a 20-0 victory over Cincinnati, the Ravens host Cleveland in M&T Bank Stadium’s 20th home opener. And a defense that picked off Bengals veteran Andy Dalton four times and collected five sacks will face a rookie quarterback. Under head coach John Harbaugh, Baltimore hasn’t lost a home game to a first-year quarterback.

A victory would give the Ravens their fourth 2-0 start in Harbaugh’s 10 seasons while the Browns are trying to avoid an 0-2 start that would put them in a last-place tie with Cincinnati. Both teams are on the road next week.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens look to improve to 17-2 against the Browns in the Harbaugh era. Baltimore swept the season series last year and is 27-9 against Cleveland and 14-4 against the AFC North opponent at home in the all-time series.

Below are five predictions for Sunday afternoon:

1. Buck Allen will lead the Ravens in receptions filling in for the injured Danny Woodhead. Much discussion this week has centered around the novelty of Michael Campanaro taking on Woodhead’s responsibilities, but a 191-pound receiver isn’t a threat to run between the tackles or pass block in the backfield. It’s easy to forget after Allen’s disappointing 2016 campaign, but he caught 45 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns in 393 offensive snaps as a rookie. He’s the best in-house bet to try to replicate Woodhead, and the Ravens need him to do a decent impression for the offense to click.

2. Baltimore will register its first defensive touchdown in nearly two years. Despite finishing tied for fourth in the NFL with 28 takeaways a year ago, the Ravens defense wasn’t able to take any of those back to the end zone, which hurt with a below-average offense that often struggled to finish drives. Lardarius Webb came very close last week with his interception off a batted pass that was returned to the Cincinnati 2. Given the ability and depth of this defense going against a rookie quarterback, Sunday feels like the overdue time for the first defensive score since C.J. Mosley’s fumble return on Sept. 27, 2015.

3. Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer will show some moxie orchestrating a touchdown drive despite being sacked four times. The second-round pick from Notre Dame had his moments against Pittsburgh, but the challenge is even tougher on the road against a defense vying to be the NFL’s best. Kizer was sacked seven times in Week 1, but a few of those were a result of him holding the ball too long. The Ravens aren’t going to shut out their opponent and have five takeaways every week, but they’ll still create pressure against an offensive line better than the one they faced in the season opener.

4. Joe Flacco will connect with Mike Wallace for a long touchdown in an otherwise run-heavy day for the offense. The Ravens won’t carry the ball 40-plus times again, but it’s easy to be committed to the run when holding a lead at home like they will Sunday. That said, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg does want to see more from Flacco and the passing game with some tough games approaching in the not-too-distant future. Browns cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Jamar Taylor are shaky at best, meaning Wallace will find enough space for a deep ball after a quiet Week 1 performance.

5. The Ravens will steadily remain in control in a 23-10 win to improve to 2-0 on the season. Cleveland has an improved roster and now needs to find out whether Kizer can be that elusive franchise quarterback the organization has lacked for decades. The Ravens will have their struggles moving the ball consistently against a decent front, but the Browns offense just isn’t going to do enough to seriously challenge in this game. It will be interesting to see what kind of progress Cleveland has made when these teams meet again in December, but the Ravens shouldn’t have too much trouble in Week 2.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 20-0 win over Cincinnati

Posted on 12 September 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens posting their first shutout since 2009 in a 20-0 win over Cincinnati to begin the 2017 season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. C.J. Mosley’s end-zone interception in the second quarter was the turning point. Between that red-zone turnover and Andy Dalton’s poor throw to a wide-open Cody Core streaking down the sideline on the next drive, the Bengals could have led 10-3 late in the half. Instead, the Ravens dominated after that.

2. If that Mosley pick was the turning point, the 17-play drive lasting nearly 10 minutes in the third quarter killed what was left of Cincinnati’s spirit. The Ravens converted three times with runs on third-and-short on that long march. How many times has that happened in recent years?

3. I had to laugh at hearing some take exception with Joe Flacco’s quip that it wasn’t that fun for the offense while overlooking him saying winning was what mattered. So many complain about athletes being disingenuous in interviews, but then we never like what they have to say when honest.

4. Watching Terrell Suggs play at this stage of his career reminds me of Ray Lewis in his final few seasons. What he might lack physically compared to his younger self he makes up for with his impeccable mental preparation and instincts. He took Bengals left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi to school.

5. Other than a few exceptions, the Ravens generated most of their pocket pressure without using blitzes against the Bengals. Sending an extra defender or two in the right spot is great, but the special defenses can wreak havoc on the quarterback with a four-man rush.

6. It didn’t show up on the stat sheet, but Brandon Williams had one of the better games of his career as a pass rusher. His pressure on Dalton impacted the aforementioned poor pass that could have easily been a touchdown, and Pro Football Focus credited him with four quarterback pressures.

7. You can only hope Danny Woodhead is able to return sooner than later as you could see what kind of weapon he can be as a receiver out of the backfield and in the slot. Alas, the Ravens were aware of his injury history when they signed him in March.

8. Za’Darius Smith silenced critics with a strong preseason and looked like one of the best players on the field before injuring his left leg in the second quarter. Losing him would hurt Baltimore’s versatility as he can be used as an interior rusher in sub packages.

9. Buck Allen handled the No. 2 running back duties as his 21 carries more than doubled the nine total he received in his disappointing 2016 season. The running game wasn’t overwhelming, but it was up to the task of controlling the clock and protecting a sizable lead.

10. Between Marvin Lewis’ white-flag-waving punt from the Baltimore 43 with less than 10 minutes to go and trailing by 20 and Dalton throwing the ball away on fourth down inside the red zone on the following drive, the reaction is summed up nicely here:

11. Perhaps they haven’t yet realized, but it sure looks like the Bengals’ window with the current regime slammed shut after their colossal meltdown against Pittsburgh in the wild-card playoffs two years ago. Cincinnati’s offensive line made the Ravens’ questionable group look like the Dallas Cowboys.

12. I enjoyed seeing Zach Orr on the sideline and celebrating with Mosley after the latter’s key interception. You know Sunday had to be a bittersweet day for the retired linebacker, but he’ll have every opportunity to learn what it takes to be a coach or a scout this season.

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Breaking down the 2017 Ravens’ initial 53-man roster

Posted on 02 September 2017 by Luke Jones

A year after the Ravens surprisingly released veteran running back Justin Forsett on final cut-down day, there were no real surprises in the formulation of the first 53-man roster for the 2017 season.

The acquisitions of reserve offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko likely pushed veteran Jeremy Zuttah and former practice-squad member Matt Skura off the roster, but cornerback Robertson Daniel and linebacker Brennen Beyer were the only other players from last year’s team not to survive Saturday’s final cuts and neither saw meaningful action in 2016.

More roster changes are inevitable in the coming days as Baltimore has already made two trades to augment its offensive line depth and could look for another running back or a veteran inside linebacker. General manager Ozzie Newsome should have another roster spot to play with once cornerback Maurice Canady is placed on injured reserve as expected. Still recovering from knee surgery, Canady needed to be on the initial 53-man roster to remain eligible for a designation to return later in the season.

The Ravens will certainly scan the open market for potential additions to enhance the roster that’s already been assembled as hundreds of players hit the waiver wire on Saturday. Beginning Sunday, they will also put together a 10-man practice squad with a number of Baltimore players who were cut over the weekend potentially returning to the organization.

Below are some early impressions of the 53-man roster as it stood on Saturday evening:

QUARTERBACKS (2) — Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
Analysis: The Ravens and their fans will continue to hold their breath until Flacco stays on the field and shows his back is no longer a concern after he was sidelined for the entire summer. However, the fact that there are only two quarterbacks on the roster leads you to believe the organization is confident that Flacco is truly healthy and ready to go. At the very least, you’d expect the Ravens to re-sign Josh Woodrum or another quarterback to the practice squad for some extra depth.

RUNNING BACKS (3) — Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
Analysis: This group lost much of its upside after Kenneth Dixon suffered a season-ending knee injury right before training camp, but the unrest on the offensive line this summer made it difficult to evaluate the backs. Woodhead figures to be a major part of the passing game if healthy, but how well West fares as the No. 1 back will depend on how effectively the line gels. This is a position the Ravens should explore upgrading, especially if they can find a back possessing some return skills.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5) — Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore
Analysis: The competition among a batch of young receivers on the preseason roster never really materialized as Moore, a 2016 fourth-round pick, did little to distinguish himself and still landed on the roster. The major question will be how quickly Flacco can build a rapport with Maclin, who didn’t sign with the Ravens until the week of mandatory minicamp in mid-June. It’s difficult to identify a trustworthy red-zone threat in this group, but that’s been a problem for this offense for years. 

TIGHT ENDS (4) — Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle
Analysis: Few would have guessed Mayle would be one of four tight ends on the roster when there were questions months ago about how the Ravens would pick among six viable options. The losses of Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, and Darren Waller subtracted production, physicality, and upside from the equation, but Boyle has been solid and Watson and Williams are healthy. It remains to be seen whether the Ravens will get enough production from these tight ends as blockers or receivers.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8) — Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor, Tony Bergstrom, Luke Bowanko
Analysis: The Ravens finally have their projected starting offensive line on the practice field, but there are plenty of questions beyond Yanda and Stanley. Newsome attempted to address the depth by making two trades, but neither Bergstrom nor Bowanko are established commodities. Beyond taking a leap of faith that Greg Roman’s blocking schemes will work their magic, there isn’t a ton to love about this group on paper, which is unsettling when your quarterback is just returning from a back injury.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8) — Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
Analysis: Eight defensive linemen in a 3-4 base system are too many, but the Ravens are smart not wanting to lose a talented defensive lineman just to keep an inferior player elsewhere. You would think the organization will attempt to use its defensive line depth to potentially acquire talent at another position of need or will eventually try to stash one with a injury. Of course, don’t dismiss the possibility of Ricard being used more as a fullback and blocking tight end to help justify the high number here.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4) — C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
Analysis: Correa hasn’t seized control of the starting job next to Mosley, leaving the door open for Onwuasor or even Bradley to potentially push him for playing time further into the season. The loss of special-teams standout Albert McClellan really hurts their depth as he could play any of the four linebacker positions, a valuable asset on Sundays with only 46 players active. Bradley earned his job with a strong summer, but a veteran addition to compete with Correa would ease some concerns.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5) — Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
Analysis: Entering his 15th year, Suggs remains the soul of the defense and is still an above-average three-down outside linebacker, but you have to be intrigued with the young talent and depth here. Judon and Bowser have battled for the starting “Sam” linebacker spot with both looking like viable options while Za’Darius Smith solidified his roster standing as a situational rusher. Williams is raw, but he has shown impressive potential as a pure rush specialist, something this defense needs.

CORNERBACKS (6) — Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
Analysis: The Ravens haven’t had this kind of outside corner depth in a long time with Humphrey likely to push the veteran Carr for his starting spot at some point in 2017. Tavon Young’s spring knee injury was a blow to the nickel spot, but the undrafted Hill may have been the best story of the summer after only receiving a tryout during rookie camp weekend. With safeties Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine expected to play the nickel and dime spots, respectively, five cornerbacks are likely enough.

SAFETIES (5) — Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark
Analysis: The depth here is strong after Jefferson was signed to a lucrative deal to be a major factor against the run and in covering tight ends. There is plenty of room for defensive coordinator Dean Pees to be creative in the secondary with Webb and Levine having so much versatility. The rookie Clark will likely be more of a special-teams contributor than anything else, but the Ravens needed another safety with their primary backups projected to be so involved in sub packages.

SPECIALISTS (3) — Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
Analysis: This trio enters its sixth consecutive season together. That continuity is just one reason why these three are so tremendous at what they do.

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Two Pro Bowl players return to field for start of Ravens training camp

Posted on 27 July 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Having lost five players to season-ending injury, suspension, or retirement since June 1 and currently without starting quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens had to be excited to see two star players back on the field Thursday.

Six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda and two-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley were present and working for the start of training camp after missing spring workouts. Both underwent offseason shoulder surgeries, and it hadn’t been clear when they would be ready to return this summer.

Yanda worked only on a limited basis, but his return alleviates any lingering concern about his availability for the start of the regular season. The 32-year-old missed three games with a left shoulder injury that forced him to move from right guard to the left side last season, but that didn’t stop him from making a sixth consecutive Pro Bowl.

Head coach John Harbaugh revealed in May that Mosley had undergone the procedure, but he was  active in his first practice since the end of last season. With Kamalei Correa taking over for former starter Zach Orr at the weak-side inside linebacker spot, the Ravens will count on Mosley to help tutor the 2016 second-round pick who only played sparingly as a rookie.

“C.J. really wants to go out and practice,” Harbaugh said. “He wants to get his legs underneath him and get moving. I thought he practiced great. Anytime your top players are out there, it makes you feel good.”

Free-agent newcomer Tony Jefferson sat out most of Thursday’s practice as Harbaugh revealed that he underwent sports hernia surgery after June’s mandatory minicamp. The strong safety told his coach that he’s 100 percent, but he was limited to individual work.

Former starter Lardarius Webb filled in for him next to Eric Weddle in the defensive backfield.

“He is so mad at me right now, but I put him through individual [drills] and held him out the rest of it,” said Harbaugh about Jefferson. “I just want to make sure that he does not burst too quickly and have something reoccur. That is my decision to ease him back in there a little bit.”

As expected, Flacco was absent from practice and is expected to sit out the first week in hopes of calming down a back issue. Backup Ryan Mallett took the first-team reps, but Ravens players downplayed any negative impact from Flacco’s absence at this early stage of camp.

“We’re all professionals,” wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. “While you would like to have all your guns, if something doesn’t work, you have to move on to the next. The most important thing right now is for Joe to get healthy. When Joe is out here, we’ll get the work in. Right now, we’re going to get all the reps we can get in with Ryan.”

Defensive tackle Carl Davis (pectoral) and tight ends Benjamin Watson (Achilles tendon), Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), and Maxx Williams (knee) were all practicing after missing time during spring organized team activites.

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro (toe) remains on the active physically unable to perform list, but his return to practice is considered close.

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