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Boyle questionable, Canady activated for Tennessee game

Posted on 03 November 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are in danger of not having their best blocking tight end for Sunday’s tilt against Tennessee as Nick Boyle remains sidelined with a toe injury.

Boyle was listed as questionable after missing his third straight practice and was labeled a game-time decision by head coach John Harbaugh on Friday. His absence would be a tough blow as Baltimore faces a Tennessee run defense allowing just 3.6 yards per carry this season.

“He has played a bunch, so he does not need to practice to play,” Harbaugh said. “We will take him out there on Sunday and see how he looks. And if he can go, he will go. If he can’t, he won’t. The coaches have put together compensation plans if he can’t go.”

Included in those plans should be tight end Maxx Williams, who practiced fully for the third straight day and is expected to play despite being listed as questionable. The 2015 second-round pick has missed five games this season with a left ankle injury suffered in Week 2 and aggravated in Week 6.

Defensive tackle Michael Pierce (illness) said he’s still feeling some effects from the flu, but he returned to practice on a limited basis Friday. He was officially designated as questionable to play against the Titans.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (shoulder) is also listed as questionable after practicing on a limited basis throughout the week. He missed four offensive snaps after hurting his right shoulder in the second half of last week’s win over Miami, but he did return to the game.

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro (shoulder) and safety Chuck Clark (hamstring) were absent from practice once again and were officially ruled out for Sunday’s game. Running back Terrance West (calf) will miss his fourth straight game, but he made a brief appearance on the practice field for the first time since Week 5, an encouraging sign for a return after the Week 10 bye.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (concussion) was officially listed as questionable, but he is fully expected to start after passing concussion protocol and practicing fully all week. Center Ryan Jensen (shoulder), wide receivers Mike Wallace (back) and Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), and defensive back Lardarius Webb (concussion) were also among those designated as questionable who are expected to play.

Baltimore has officially activated cornerback Maurice Canady from injured reserve, who underwent knee surgery early in training camp and returned to practice last month. He is expected to contribute on special teams and could serve a role in sub packages in the secondary.

“He has done a heck of a job. He looks good and prepared,” Harbaugh said. “He looks, really, the way he did in training camp, so he’s ready to roll. Whether we can get him active or not and all that kind of stuff depends on how the roster shakes out by Sunday, but he is ready to play if needed.”

Wide receiver Chris Matthews (thigh) was waived with an injury designation to make room on the 53-man roster.

The Titans officially ruled out left guard Quinton Spain (toe) and listed standout tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) as questionable. The latter practiced on a limited basis Friday and is considered a game-time decision.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast in Nashville calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the high 70s and winds 10 to 20 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report for the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Michael Campanaro (shoulder), S Chuck Clark (thigh), RB Terrance West (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Nick Boyle (toe), QB Joe Flacco (concussion), C Ryan Jensen (shoulder), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), TE Vince Mayle (concussion), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), DT Michael Pierce (illness), OT Ronnie Stanley (shoulder), WR Mike Wallace (back), DB Lardarius Webb (concussion), TE Maxx Williams (ankle), LB Tim Williams (thigh)

TENNESSEE
OUT: G Quinton Spain (toe)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Nate Palmer (ankle), TE Delanie Walker (ankle)

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Ravens officially rule out Brandon Williams, three others for Sunday

Posted on 22 September 2017 by Luke Jones

LONDON — Already facing the challenge of replacing six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda for the remainder of the season, the Ravens will also be without their best defensive lineman in London.

After missing practices in Owings Mills this week with a foot injury, defensive tackle Brandon Williams did not make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean and was officially ruled out for Sunday’s contest against Jacksonville. The absence of Williams presents a bigger challenge against a Jaguars offense committed to running the ball with first-round rookie Leonard Fournette and veteran Chris Ivory.

Third-year defensive tackle Carl Davis is expected to start in Williams’ place at Wembley Stadium. In 13 snaps against Cleveland in Week 2, the 2015 third-round pick from Iowa finished with two tackles.

“Carl is going to have to step up,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Thursday. “We played him a little bit last week, and we thought he did a pretty good job against the run. He had a nice tackle for loss down there in the backed-up area.”

The Ravens also ruled out tight end Maxx Williams (ankle), cornerback Jaylen Hill (thigh), and recently-signed offensive tackle Dieugot Joseph (non-injury related) for Sunday’s game, leaving them with just three other players to deactivate for Week 3. Maxx Williams injured his left ankle late in last Sunday’s win over the Browns and exited the post-game locker room wearing a walking boot.

In more encouraging news, running back Terrance West (calf) returned to practice as a full participant Friday after missing the first two practices of the week. The starter received only two carries in the second half of the Browns game and is officially listed as questionable to play on Sunday, but his participation level in the final workout of the week would appear to bode well for his status.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (knee/ankle) was also listed as questionable, but he is poised to return to action after practicing fully all week. He did not play in Week 2 after injuring his leg early in the second quarter of the season opener on Sept. 10.

The Jaguars officially ruled out recently-acquired wide receiver Jaelen Strong with a hamstring injury while 2016 first-round cornerback Jalen Ramsey (ankle) was designated as questionable. The latter is expected to play, however.

Sunday’s forecast at Wembley Stadium calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures reaching the low 70s and only a 10 percent chance of precipitation, according to Weather.com.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), OT Dieugot Joseph (non-injury), DT Brandon Williams (foot), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Michael Campanaro (ankle), DB Anthony Levine (chest), WR Chris Matthews (ankle), LB Za’Darius Smith (knee/ankle), RB Terrance West (calf)

JACKSONVILLE
OUT: WR Jaelen Strong (hamstring), LB Lerentee McCray (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: QB Chad Henne (illness), CB Jalen Ramsey (ankle), OL Cam Robinson (shoulder)

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Ravens place cornerback Canady on IR, re-sign wide receiver Matthews

Posted on 04 September 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens officially placed cornerback Maurice Canady on injured reserve and re-signed wide receiver Chris Matthews to the active roster on Monday morning.

The transaction was anticipated after Canady was included in the initial 53-man roster set on Saturday, a procedural move that allowed the injured defensive back to remain eligible to receive a designation to return later in the season. Canady underwent knee surgery early in training camp, but he had made significant strides as a slot cornerback after Tavon Young suffered a season-ending knee injury during spring workouts.

Veteran safety Lardarius Webb is expected to begin the regular season as Baltimore’s nickel cornerback with surprising rookie free agent Jaylen Hill also in the mix at that spot.

Matthews was waived on Saturday when the Ravens made their final cuts to trim the preseason roster to the league-mandated 53, but he was a substantial part of their special-teams units over the summer and remained a candidate to be re-signed at some point. He caught four passes for 88 yards in the preseason after spending last season on IR.

A player designated to return may begin practicing after being on IR for six weeks and can be activated after eight weeks on the sideline. Beginning this season, teams may use the designation on two injured players after being allowed to use it just once in the past.

The move does not guarantee that Canady will be designated for a return as teams do not have to make that determination until a player is ready to return to practice. Until last season, teams had to decide whether a player would be designated for a return at the time he was placed on IR, but the change allows teams to remain flexible without knowing what other injuries will occur over the course of a season.

A sixth-round selection out of Virginia in 2016, Canady saw action in four games as a rookie before a hamstring injury landed him on IR.

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Mizzell, Skura, Matthews among final Ravens cuts to get to 53

Posted on 02 September 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens made their final subtractions to form their initial roster for the 2017 regular season without any major surprises.

Running back Taquan Mizzell, offensive lineman Matt Skura, and wide receivers Chris Matthews and Quincy Adeboyejo headlined a list of 14 cuts made to trim the preseason roster down to the 53-man limit. Baltimore also placed veteran cornerback Brandon Boykin on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.

A trio of rookie free agents — cornerback Jaylen Hill, linebacker Bam Bradley, and defensive lineman and hybrid blocking fullback and tight end Patrick Ricard — made the team, meaning the Ravens have kept at least one undrafted rookie on their 53-man roster for the 14th consecutive season. Hill and Ricard turned heads with their performance even dating back to spring workouts while Bradley made plays on defensive and special teams during the preseason and benefited from a numbers standpoint after the season-ending knee injury suffered by veteran Albert McClellan.

Mizzell led the team in both rushing and receiving in the preseason, but general manager Ozzie Newsome elected to keep only three running backs. Fellow rookie free agent Ricky Ortiz was also waived, meaning the Ravens do not have a traditional fullback on the current roster. Both would appear to be reasonable candidates to be signed to the practice squad.

Skura had started all four preseason games at left guard, but the acquisitions of offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko left him and former starting center Jeremy Zuttah on the outside looking in. The Ravens would likely be open to re-signing Skura to the practice squad for the second straight season.

Matthews had played a prominent role on special teams throughout the summer, but the Ravens elected to keep only five receivers on their roster with 2016 fourth-round pick Chris Moore receiving the nod. A rookie free agent from Mississippi, Adeboyejo turned heads with big plays early in training camp, but he dealt with a nagging knee issue as the summer continued and was unable to duplicate his success in preseason contests.

The Ravens also cut linebackers Boseko Lokombo and Donald Payne, tight end Ryan Malleck, cornerback Reggie Porter, guard Maurquice Shakir, and quarterback Josh Woodrum. A candidate for the practice squad, Woodrum earned attention for his performance in the second preseason game at Miami, but he did little to distinguish himself as a serious roster candidate in the final two exhibition contests.

Outside linebacker Brennen Beyer, cornerback Robertson Daniel, and offensive tackle Stephane Nembot were all waived with injury designations.

As expected, injured cornerback Maurice Canady was included in the initial 53-man roster, a move that makes the 2016 sixth-round pick eligible for the designation to return later in the season. He underwent knee surgery early in training camp and is out indefinitely.

With starter Joe Flacco returning to practice on Saturday, the Ravens have elected to enter a season with only two quarterbacks for the eighth consecutive season.

Below is a look at the initial 53-man roster:

Quarterbacks (2): Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
Running backs (3): Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
Wide receivers (5): Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore
Tight ends (4): Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle
Offensive linemen (8): Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor, Tony Bergstrom, Luke Bowanko

Defensive linemen (8): Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
Inside linebackers (4): C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
Outside linebackers (5): Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
Cornerbacks (6): Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
Safeties (5): Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark

Specialists (3): Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five bubble players to watch

Posted on 31 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have reached the final chapter of a difficult preseason.

Having already endured a number of season-ending injuries and the summer-long absence of quarterback Joe Flacco, Baltimore concludes its exhibition schedule against New Orleans on Thursday night. Since teams are no longer required to trim their roster from 90 players to 75 before the final preseason contest, very few notable players are expected to see action.

The rule change certainly won’t make for a better product in the eyes of most casual fans, but head coach John Harbaugh appreciates having the extra roster flexibility with the season opener now only 10 days away.

“There is no way you are going to play certain guys in this game,” Harbaugh said. “This gives us a chance to put a good game out there, for one thing, but it also gives guys a chance to play. Young guys who are fighting for a spot on this team still or on other teams, they get a chance to get out there and play more reps rather than be sitting home looking at the phone.”

The Ravens and New Orleans are meeting in the preseason for the fourth straight year and the fifth time overall with Baltimore having won all four of the previous contests. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens own a 27-12 record in preseason games.

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 ahead of Thursday’s game.

Most of the players ruled out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider the many starters and key reserves who will be held out of the final preseason game due to the coaching staff’s preference.

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

OUT: QB Joe Flacco (back), WR Breshad Perriman (hamstring), RB Danny Woodhead (hamstring), CB Maurice Canady (knee), RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), OL Nico Siragusa (knee), CB Tavon Young (knee), OL Alex Lewis (shoulder), LB Albert McClellan (knee), WR Tim White (thumb)
DOUBTFUL: OT Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), CB Brandon Boykin (undisclosed), OT Stephane Nembot (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Marlon Humphrey (hamstring), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (knee), LB Donald Payne (undisclosed)

Five bubble players to watch Thursday night

RB Taquan Mizzell

The undrafted free agent from Virginia leads the Ravens in both rushing and receiving in the preseason to put himself on the radar. His skill as a receiver out of the backfield is intriguing with Danny Woodhead currently sidelined, and he fared well when given snaps against Buffalo’s starting defense last week. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound back shows some upside in a group not having much of it.

DT Carl Davis

The 2015 third-round pick has had a solid preseason, but there may not be enough roster space for him, 2016 fourth-round selection Willie Henry, and rookie free agent Patrick Ricard. The fact that the latter two are under team control for a longer period of time could work against Davis, but he showed early promise as a rookie before missing the entire 2016 season due to injury.

WR Chris Matthews

Nothing beyond Matthews’s 6-foot-5 frame stands out as it relates to being a wide receiver, but he’s been a mainstay on most special-teams units this summer and at least looks the part of a red-zone target, something the Ravens are lacking right now. Other young receivers have failed to distinguish themselves, leaving the door open for Matthews’ special-team prowess to break any ties.

CB Robertson Daniel

Signed to the practice squad last October, Daniel is someone the Ravens have liked enough to keep in the organization, but the depth at outside cornerback ahead of him is stout. His 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame has allowed him to take a few reps at safety, the kind of versatility that doesn’t hurt a player’s chances. He and Sheldon Price could be competing for one spot on the 53-man roster.

OT De’Ondre Wesley

The 6-foot-6, 331-pound specimen really hasn’t done much this summer, but left tackle Ronnie Stanley just returned from injury this week and reserve left tackle James Husrt may end up starting at left guard, presumably creating a need for another offensive tackle. The Ravens have to be disappointed that Wesley and Stephane Nembot haven’t stepped forward in their development, but finding tackle depth isn’t easy.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 13-9 win over Buffalo

Posted on 27 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 3-0 in the preseason with a 13-9 win over Buffalo, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The narrative remained the same for the third preseason game with the defense excelling and the offense struggling to move the ball. Maybe the defense will be up to the task in 2017, but winning 13-9 games leaves very little margin for error.

2. I’ve said this before, but the defensive depth continues to impress as there’s been little drop-off in play from the opening quarter to the final minutes of each game. Ozzie Newsome isn’t going to be able to keep a few defensive players who definitely would have stuck in the past.

3. After averaging 3.5 yards per carry in the first half of the first two preseason games, the Ravens gained 41 yards on 16 carries in the first two quarters against the Bills. The running game is even more important with Joe Flacco’s situation, but it hasn’t shown many encouraging signs.

4. Baltimore was credited with six passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. The secondary has been strong and the young outside linebackers have received plenty of attention, but this deep defensive front has been very disruptive this summer.

5. Watching Justin Tucker make tackles or even pick up a fumble in Miami last week makes for a fun story until he suffers a close call like he did on Saturday night. The Ravens really need their All-Pro kicker to show more restraint, especially in a meaningless preseason game.

6. Rather than asking whether Jaylen Hill makes the roster, I’m now wondering how long it will be before he carves out a meaningful role on the defense. Lardarius Webb has had a strong summer at the nickel, but there’s a reason why he was moved to safety two years ago.

7. Nothing enhances the enjoyment of preseason football more than a combined 17 penalties for 156 yards in the first half. Our poor eyes.

8. Patrick Onwuasor alternating series with Kamalei Correa at inside linebacker was one of the more interesting developments of the third preseason game. He’s only 227 pounds, but Onwuasor plays with a mean streak that was evident in his rookie season and just continues to improve.

9. Filling in for the injured Danny Woodhead, Taquan Mizzell presented himself well by catching six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. His skill set is similar to Woodhead’s, which hurts his roster chances and makes him intriguing at the same time.

10. Bubble players filling a prominent role on special teams included Chris Matthews, Sheldon Price, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Robertson Daniel, and Vince Mayle. That doesn’t mean they’re all making the roster, of course, but that tends to be an indication of any tiebreaker with another bubble player.

11. Marshal Yanda has been one of my favorite players for a long time, but seeing him as the last offensive player out of the tunnel during stadium introductions says a lot about the current state of that side of the ball.

12. Breshad Perriman and Marlon Humphrey showed encouraging signs before the game. Perriman ran at three-quarters speed and was cutting and running routes effectively while Humphrey looked like someone ready to return to the field, backpedaling and sprinting at full speed.

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Several notable players back at practice as Ravens prepare for final cuts

Posted on 03 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens counting down the final hours before trimming their roster to the league-mandated 53-man limit, they welcomed back several notable players to the practice field on Saturday morning.

Tight ends Dennis Pitta and Maxx Williams, nose tackle Brandon Williams, guard John Urschel, and safety Kendrick Lewis were all present and working after lengthy absences due to various injuries. Pitta hadn’t practiced since breaking a finger in a scuffle with rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa on Aug. 1.

“He looked fine today,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Certainly, he has to get his timing back and work the rust off, if you want to use that term, and get going. He’s back today, and he’ll be back all next week, and I expect him to be ready to go.”

Meanwhile, Brandon Williams had been sidelined since getting banged up in the second preseason game on Aug. 20. Urschel, Lewis, and Maxx Williams had been missing since suffering injuries in the Aug. 11 preseason opener.

The Ravens were again without outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot surgery), who also missed Tuesday’s practice and did not appear in the preseason. That looks to at least be a mild concern with the season opener only a week away and Dumervil not having logged much practice time this summer.

“It’s all in the doctors’ hands and Elvis’ hands,” Harbaugh said. “He came off the [physically unable to perform list], and he worked a couple of days. I really don’t have an answer for that. It just depends how it progresses and how it feels. When he’s cleared to practice fully, he will be out there.

“I support him practicing fully; it won’t be until he is ready.”

Other players missing from Saturday morning’s session included wide receivers Chris Matthews and Michael Campanaro, offensive linemen Ryan Jensen and De’Ondre Wesley, cornerbacks Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, and Carrington Byndom, linebackers Victor Ochi and Za’Darius Smith (ankle), defensive tackle Carl Davis (ankle), safety Matt Elam (knee), and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee).

After The Sun reported that defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore had been waived, the 2013 sixth-round pick was not on the practice field, but the Ravens hadn’t announced an official move. Offensive lineman Blaine Clausell was present and working despite his agent, Brett Tessler, announcing that he’d been waived by the organization.

The absences of “bubble players” such as Campanaro, Matthews, and Ochi were notable ahead of Saturday’s 4 p.m. roster deadline, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean they’ve been cut, either.

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Perriman, Dumervil come off Ravens’ PUP list

Posted on 22 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil returned to the practice field on Monday morning, head coach John Harbaugh announced a teammate would be joining him in coming off the physically unable to perform list.

Sidelined since suffering a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during organized team activities in June, wide receiver Breshad Perriman was set to take part in the afternoon walk-through. Harbaugh says he’s excited to see Perriman practice, but he acknowledged that the 2015 first-round pick would be brought back to practices slowly as he works his way into football shape.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Central Florida product missed his entire rookie season with a partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee sustained on the first day of training camp.

“I’m sure we’ll all be holding our breath a little bit. It’s just natural,” Harbaugh said. “But he’s in great spirits — I can tell you that. He’s worked extremely hard. I think he’s really grown through all of this, and he’s learned how to really work at the rehab. You know he’s been forced to do that, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he looks when he comes back.”

With Perriman not having practiced to this point, many had begun speculating that he would begin the regular season on the reserve PUP list, which would have sidelined him for at least the first six games. However, Monday’s activation makes it clear that the Ravens are confident that he is healthy enough to return to live-game action sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Dumervil was taking part in his first practice since undergoing offseason foot surgery. Entering his 11th NFL season and fourth with the Ravens, the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker made it clear his primary concern is being ready for Buffalo on Sept. 11.

It remains to be seen whether he or Perriman will play in the preseason.

“That’s a day-by-day situation. We’ll see how that works out,” Dumervil said. “The goal is for the opener for sure. If I can try to get a preseason [game] in, that would be awesome. If not, then I’m looking forward to the opener.”

Also returning to the practice field on Monday was wide receiver Chris Matthews, who had missed two weeks with a soft-tissue injury.

Other absences included tight ends Dennis Pitta (finger) and Maxx Williams, guard John Urschel (contusion), defensive backs Kyle Arrington (head) and Kendrick Lewis. New players missing from practice after Saturday’s preseason win were safety Matt Elam (knee), cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Maurice Canady (hamstring), and nose tackle Brandon Williams.

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Even with Smith’s return, Ravens have work to do at receiver

Posted on 31 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Steve Smith returning for the 2016 season is good news for the Ravens.

You don’t easily replace the leadership, fire, and experience of a possible Hall of Fame player, and I won’t be the one to doubt his ability to defy the odds as a 37-year-old wide receiver coming back from a torn Achilles tendon, a serious injury for players even much younger than him.

But Ozzie Newsome must be realistic and can’t just plan on Smith being his No. 1 wide receiver in 2016. The longtime general manager needs to do more at the position this offseason after not doing enough this past year.

When the Ravens signed Smith to a three-year, $10.5 million contract two offseasons ago, the veteran said he anticipated being a “complementary” receiver behind Torrey Smith, but we know how that turned out as the veteran was the clear No.1 guy — and deserved to be. This time around, however, the organization quietly needs to view him as a No. 2 or No. 3 option in his 16th NFL season and can then be pleasantly surprised if he posts the ninth 1,000-yard season of his brilliant career.

Contrary to most of the 20-year history of this franchise, it’s not against NFL bylaws to have a surplus of talent at the wide receiver position.

As the Ravens conclude the first losing season of the John Harbaugh era, they have Kamar Aiken and an abundance of No. 5 and No. 6 receivers on the current roster. Aiken has more than proven himself as a starting possession receiver in Smith’s absence, but the two have similar attributes at this point and didn’t mesh as well being on the field at the same time early this season.

Baltimore still needs more speed at the position.

No, I haven’t forgotten about 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, but the Ravens can’t make the same mistake twice in counting on the Central Florida product without a backup plan. The 6-foot-2 Perriman may still realize his potential in the NFL, but questions will persist about his health and his overall ability until he can stay on the football field to silence them.

It’s easy to say the Ravens need a No. 1 receiver, but those talents aren’t just congregating outside the gates at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills waiting for a league-minimum contract. A less-than-ideal salary cap position makes it unlikely that a top free agent like Alshon Jeffery will be an option, and Newsome probably can’t afford to trade multiple picks for a bona fide No. 1 wideout when the Ravens need an infusion of talent at multiple positions on either side of the ball.

But hedging their bets on the trio of Smith, Aiken, and Perriman is a must. Whether it’s signing or trading for a starting-caliber veteran or selecting another receiver in the early rounds of the 2016 draft, the Ravens need another legitimate option to throw into the mix. It would be a move for the post-Smith future as much as next season.

Even if that addition wouldn’t be a No. 1 receiver himself, Newsome adding more impact talent can only help the current group.

As for other receivers on the roster such as Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Darren Waller, Chris Matthews, and Daniel Brown, the Ravens can bring as many as they’d like to organized team activities and training camp, but none should be projected as anything better than No. 5 or No. 6 options at this point. Let’s face it, we’ve heard the hype about the late-round picks and rookie free agents on an annual basis with little to show for it as even Aiken had spent time with three other organizations before finally arriving in Baltimore in 2013.

The Ravens left themselves with no margin for error at the wide receiver position this season and paid dearly for it when Perriman went down on the first day of training camp and Smith was lost midway through the season. Both have the potential to help the Ravens immensely in 2016, but Aiken is the only safe bet of their top three right now.

Even if he’s not his old explosive self after the injury, Smith can still help on the field and in the meeting rooms.

But he can’t be viewed as the only solution this offseason to the problems at wide receiver.

Such expectations would be unfair to him and unfair to the Ravens.

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Mallett shows why Ravens were so eager to play him

Posted on 28 December 2015 by Luke Jones

It was a baptism by fire starting their fourth quarterback in six weeks against their biggest rival on Sunday, but the Ravens clearly wanted to see what Ryan Mallett could do.

Less than two weeks after being signed, the talented but troubled quarterback responded with the biggest game of his NFL career and made his mark in Ravens lore by completing a season sweep of the Pittsburgh Steelers and putting their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.

“I know what it’s about now. I like it,” said Mallett after the 20-17 upset victory. “What Steve Smith said, ‘big-boy football,’ right?”

There is no quarterback controversy in Baltimore for 2016, but Mallett showed exactly why the Ravens envision him being their backup to a healthy Joe Flacco. Possessing a strong arm and a 6-foot-6 frame, the 27-year-old is similar to Flacco physically, which is what you’re typically looking for in a backup quarterback.

It was apparent from the beginning of Sunday’s game that Mallett is more talented than Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen, but the 2011 third-round pick also played smart football and didn’t look like someone with less than two weeks working in offensive coordinator Marc Trestman’s system.

Mallett turned in the first turnover-free performance by a Ravens quarterback since Nov. 1, a stretch that included Flacco’s final two starts of 2015.

“To operate the way he did, change plays at the line the way he did, I think it says a lot about him, but it says a lot about our coaches as well,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Just a great effort. This kid was in there 24-7. This kid was in the staff meetings at night.”

Mallett has made an excellent first impression with his new team, but he must continue to show that the concerns about his maturity and commitment that led to his demise in Houston are behind him for good. Showing ability and fire that inspired his teammates on Sunday, Mallett should benefit from working with the even-keeled Flacco in the coming months.

With quality quarterback play at a premium around the NFL, you can’t ask for much more than Mallett offered on Sunday as he threw for a career-high 274 yards, completed 68.3 percent of his passes, and threw a touchdown pass on his opening drive. A quality backup effectively runs your offense and gives you a solid chance to win some games with your regular supporting cast when the starter is out for a short period of time.

Mallett more than looked that part on Sunday.

“I want to thank the Ravens organization for bringing me in and giving me a shot and giving me a workout and coach Harbaugh,” Mallett said. “Just being here, I don’t even know what to say right now. It’s an emotional time, but it’s fun.”

Allen bounces back

After being benched for losing a fumble for the second straight game last week, rookie running back Buck Allen bounced back with one of his best performances of the year as he collected 114 yards from scrimmage and the first rushing touchdown of his NFL career against Pittsburgh.

His six carries for 26 yards over the final 6:24 of the fourth quarter don’t jump out on the stat sheet, but that sequence proved the Ravens hadn’t lost confidence in Allen from a ball security standpoint while only holding a three-point lead. The fourth-round rookie didn’t disappoint as he protected the ball against a Steelers front that was desperate for a turnover.

“Last week hurt to go out there and fumble and change the momentum of the game,” Allen said. “That’s all on me — nobody’s fault but mine and I took full responsibility. I knew coming into this game that I couldn’t make that mistake. The coaching staff believed in me and kept feeding me the ball. I just want to thank them for doing that.”

Upshaw redemption

Courtney Upshaw’s offside penalty that wiped away Jimmy Smith’s 101-yard interception return for a touchdown felt like it would be the turning point and the latest misfortune in a lost season.

But the outside linebacker responded emphatically on the following drive by sacking Ben Roethlisberger to set up a second-and-long situation and then hit the Steelers quarterback again on the fourth-down incompletion that ended Pittsburgh’s last real drive. Upshaw said he still owed Smith after the game, but his pressure prevented Roethlisberger from orchestrating his late-game magic.

“That’s just how you do it. I was on the bench, and I was like ‘I’ve got to make up for that,'” Upshaw said. ” I had the opportunity to go in and apply some kind of pressure. I ended up getting a sack — me and [Elvis Dumervil] — and then on that last one, get a hit on Ben. At the end of the day, we come out here and we try to fight for the win together.”

Mallett to… Matthews?

It wasn’t as synonymous with Ravens football as Flacco to Steve Smith, but Mallett’s run in Baltimore officially began with a pretty touchdown pass to… Chris Matthews?

The little-used receiver who earned fame for a 100-yard performance with Seattle in last year’s Super Bowl caught the first regular-season touchdown pass of his NFL career to put the Ravens on the board in the first quarter. Matthews was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Dec. 12 and had just two receptions for 27 yards in his first two games with Baltimore.

“We were just looking for a certain defense,” Matthews said. “They came out in that two-shell and we wanted to exploit it. I was the single man down the middle and I’m 6-foot-5, so you can’t really miss that. Ryan threw an amazing ball and I went up there and caught it.”

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