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Five up, five down: Ravens stock at midway point

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Five up, five down: Ravens stock at midway point

Posted on 29 October 2014 by Luke Jones

At the midway point of the season, we take a look at which Ravens players’ stock is up and down after the first eight games of 2014 …

STOCK UP

1. Justin Forsett
Skinny: What else can be said about the 29-year-old journeyman who currently ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards (571) and second among running backs in yards per carry (5.5). Forsett said it best last week in quipping that many people didn’t even know he was still in the NFL entering 2014, but he’s been a saving grace in the aftermath of the Ray Rice saga. For an organization that’s found plenty of diamonds in the rough over the years, Forsett has been as good of a story as any.

2. Pernell McPhee
Skinny: The rush specialist has picked the perfect time to have a career year with his rookie contract set to expire. McPhee is second on the team in sacks (four) despite playing fewer snaps than Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil, a reflection of how effective he’s been in putting pressure on quarterbacks. The 2011 fifth-round pick’s improved health as well as defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ effective use of McPhee have added up to the Ravens having their best interior rusher in quite some time.

3. C.J. Mosley
Skinny: Many were obviously high on the 2014 first-round pick, but Mosley has been better than advertised in serving as the Ravens’ best inside linebacker and a top candidate for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Mosley ranks fourth in the NFL in tackles entering Week 9 and has recorded two interceptions, six pass breakups, five quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. For a front seven that needed some new blood, Mosley has been a high-impact addition.

4. Rick Wagner
Skinny: Remember when right tackle was a major topic of discussion throughout the offseason? Wagner has not only quelled those concerns, but the 2013 fifth-round selection has been an above-average player at his position, a major reason why the offensive line has been one of the strengths of the 2014 Ravens. He and perennial Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda have been an impressive tandem opening lanes on the right side of the line for the league’s eighth-ranked running game.

5. Brandon Williams
Skinny: There were high hopes for the second-year nose tackle to slide into a starting role and Williams hasn’t disappointed while wreaking havoc for interior offensive linemen against the run. He is seventh on the team in tackles and has made it far more difficult for teams to focus their attention on defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Very athletic for his size, Williams has recorded 25 tackles, 1/2 sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in his first year as a starter.

Others receiving consideration: Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Steve Smith

STOCK DOWN

1. Jacoby Jones
Skinny: His season has been nothing short of disastrous as he’s dropped more passes (five) than he’s caught (four) and has twice lost fumbles on returns. The Ravens re-signed him to a four-year, $12 million contract that included a $3.5 million signing bonus in March, which is now looking like one of the worst contracts the organization has handed out in recent memory. He’ll need a big second half just to avoid being cut after the 2014 season, but his role has all but disappeared in the offense.

2. Bernard Pierce
Skinny: It’s been a dramatic fall for the 2012 third-round pick, who began the year as the starting running back and was a healthy inactive in Sunday’s game against Cincinnati. Pierce’s 3.6 yards per carry average is nearly two yards worse than Forsett’s (5.5) and lags behind rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro (4.4), which reflects his struggles and indecisiveness running in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking system. Pierce hasn’t taken advantage of what was a huge chance to prove himself as a feature back.

3. Matt Elam
Skinny: It’s fair to point out that Elam has been out of position for a large portion of his career, playing free safety as a rookie and often filling in at the nickel spot often in 2014. However, it isn’t just his pass coverage that’s been unsatisfactory as the 2013 first-round pick leads the team in missed tackles with 12, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s too early to label Elam a bust, but he hasn’t consistently displayed qualities of a good strong safety, let alone the versatility the Ravens expected him to have.

4. Torrey Smith
Skinny: The fourth-year receiver has had his moments and has drawn several significant pass interference calls, but he’s gone from a wideout who produced 1,128 receiving yards a year ago to one on pace for 36 catches and 616 yards in 2014. The Steve Smith factor is obvious, but Torrey Smith has averaged just 1.22 yards per route run, which is the 14th-worst mark in the NFL among players targeted at least 20 times. A down season couldn’t have come at a worse time with his rookie contract expiring.

5. Arthur Brown
Skinny: The 2013 second-round pick has been a healthy inactive for eight straight games as the Ravens have elected to use the likes of Albert McClellan and rookie free agent Zach Orr on special teams. The re-signing of Daryl Smith and the drafting of Mosley made it pretty obvious that Brown would need to remain patient in terms of expanding his role from a year ago when he served as a nickel linebacker. But for him to not even suit up for games is pretty telling of his current status.

Others receiving consideration: Marlon Brown, Chykie Brown, Lardarius Webb

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 3

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 3

Posted on 16 September 2014 by Luke Jones

Every week, we’ll take a look at which Ravens players’ stock is rising and falling …

STOCK RISING

Justin Forsett
Skinny: Even though Bernard Pierce received most of the workload against Pittsburgh, you still get the sense that Forsett is more comfortable running in a zone-blocking system and the veteran is superior to Pierce in pass protection. His size and age make you think he’ll continue to be the complementary back in the Baltimore running game, but Forsett has already provided a nice return on a one-year contract that garnered little attention in the offseason.

Kelechi Osemele
Skinny: Any lingering concerns about the left guard’s ability to return from last season’s back surgery have been quelled after Osemele turned in an All-Pro performance against Cincinnati in Week 1. A key to offensive improvement in 2014 was better play from the interior line and Osemele, Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, and center Jeremy Zuttah have received the highest grades of anyone on the offense, according to Pro Football Focus.

Brandon Williams
Skinny: Though limited to only nine defensive snaps against Pittsburgh because the Ravens used their nickel package for most of the game, Williams has done exactly what the Ravens have asked of him by disrupting run plays with a good push at the line of scrimmage. The second-year nose tackle has even put a little heat on the quarterback in the rare opportunities he’s had to play in passing situations. 

Jeremy Zuttah
Skinny: His pass blocking hasn’t stood out, but Zuttah’s ability to get a strong push off the line of scrimmage has been evident on inside run plays through the first two weeks of the season. Sunday will mark his first road game with the Ravens, which will be a test in terms of making the proper protection calls with crowd noise being a factor, but it’s difficult not to be pleased with the sizable upgrade Zuttah has provided over last year’s starter Gino Gradkowski. 

STOCK FALLING

Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson
Skinny: These two are grouped together, because it’s apparent there will still be significant concern at the No. 3 cornerback position when Lardarius Webb does return. Brown is still too vulnerable in coverage on the outside while Jackson has missed several tackles from the nickel spot, factors that prompted the Ravens to use safety Matt Elam at the nickel position against Pittsburgh. It remains to be seen whether Jackson will be cleared to return Sunday from last week’s concussion.

Kyle Juszczyk
Skinny: The second-year fullback looked like he would carve out a nice role in the passing game based on his preseason play, but Juszczyk has been limited to just 43 snaps in two games and has been targeted only once as a receiver out of the backfield. Even more concerning has been his vulnerability as a lead blocker as he hasn’t been able to generate much of a push to create space for Pierce or Forsett to maneuver behind him. 

Daryl Smith
Skinny: His first season in Baltimore was a pleasant surprise, but the 32-year-old veteran’s struggles against the run late last season have carried over in the first two games of 2014 as he has struggled to shed blocks to make tackles closer to the line of scrimmage. Smith’s biggest strength is in pass coverage, but you do wonder if the Ravens’ inside linebackers will wear down against the run as the year goes on with the light C.J. Mosley playing next to the veteran in the starting defense. 

Marlon Brown
Skinny: One of the few bright spots in a horrendous offense last year, the second-year receiver has all but disappeared in Gary Kubiak’s system after seeing just three offensive snaps against the Steelers a week after being targeted only once. Drop-off was to be expected with Steve Smith, Owen Daniels, and a fully-healthy Dennis Pitta now in the mix, but the 6-foot-4 receiver struggled to grasp the offense over the summer and hasn’t even been a factor in the red zone through the first two games.

 

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Ravens’ cornerback situation can’t be overlooked in win over Cowboys

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Ravens’ cornerback situation can’t be overlooked in win over Cowboys

Posted on 16 August 2014 by Luke Jones

A 37-30 win for the Ravens over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night doesn’t reflect what was the most concerning image from the opening minutes of the second preseason game of the summer.

Already without starter Lardarius Webb and No. 3 corner contender Asa Jackson due to injuries, the Ravens lost their most important piece of the secondary — and likely their entire defense — as Jimmy Smith landed hard on his back defending a sideline pass intended for Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. The good news is that X-rays were negative on his chest and the fourth-year watched the remainder of the game from the sideline despite spitting up blood on the sideline as he was helped off the field.

A bruised chest isn’t necessarily cause for panic — The Sun reported Smith was still coughing up blood following the game — but watching Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks handle the cornerback spots with the starting defense conjured memories of David Pittman and Willie Gaston manning the Baltimore secondary in the disastrous 2007 season. And it was another reminder of just how thin the Ravens’ cornerback depth is considering Brown has been picked on for much of the summer and Franks had been relegated to third-string duties until the last week.

Franks was beaten on a jump ball to Bryant for a 31-yard touchdown — a matchup that was simply unfair — while Brown was later burned by Cowboys wideout Terrance Williams on a deep route that was badly underthrown. To Brown’s credit, he did recover to break up the pass, but the play was more about a poor throw from Cowboys backup Brandon Weeden than an impressive play by the fourth-year cornerback.

It didn’t help that Dean Pees’ defense struggled to stop the run and generated little pressure in the pocket in the first half, but general manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office must address what is obvious with the start of the season only three weeks away. The Ravens need to add an established cornerback to their secondary in order to not be exposed by potent passing games in the throw-happy NFL.

All you need to know about the confidence level in the current batch of cornerbacks is the Ravens’ experimentation with using three safeties in the nickel defense with rookie Terrence Brooks lining up at the slot corner position. Jackson was emerging as a promising option for the No. 3 job, but he remains too much of an unknown and was spotted in a walking boot Saturday after injuring his ankle a week ago. John Harbaugh said it was a “minor” ankle sprain at the time, but the head coach is often ambiguous and vague when discussing injuries, making you wonder when Jackson will even make it back to the practice field.

Even if Smith and Webb are healthy for the start of the season — the latter has been sidelined with a back injury since July 25 — no one on the current roster instills enough confidence in being able to handle the No. 3 cornerback spot. That reality has made the free-agent departure of Corey Graham to Buffalo in the offseason that much more glaring as the Ravens didn’t draft a cornerback or sign a veteran at the position until the middle of June.

The problem will be addressing the problem at this stage as quality cornerbacks aren’t exactly waiting in abundance. A free-agent veteran such as Asante Samuel is always a possibility, but that won’t necessarily solve the problem as the Ravens already signed veterans Aaron Ross — who tore his Achilles tendon at the start of training camp — and Franks at the end of mandatory minicamp and have seen disappointing results. The Ravens’ best bet — or only hope — might be to dangle a future draft pick in hopes of acquiring another team’s second or third cornerback.

The nickel defense has become too much of a staple in today’s NFL to continue to expect an in-house candidate to handle the job. That concern will become a major problem if any of the Ravens’ current injuries linger into the start of the season with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh first up on the schedule.

The clock is ticking and the concern only grew as Smith landed hard on the turf at AT&T Stadium and needed to be helped off the field.

The Ravens need help in the secondary.

But it’s going to be difficult to find it.

 

 

 

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Webb injury makes cornerback no secondary concern for Ravens

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Webb injury makes cornerback no secondary concern for Ravens

Posted on 02 August 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens entered training camp with cornerback depth high on the list of concerns following the free-agent departure of Corey Graham and the lack of a significant offseason addition through free agency or the draft.

The anxiety has only grown with a lingering back injury for starter Lardarius Webb that is likely to keep him sidelined for most of the preseason, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Webb “probably” won’t play in the first two preseason games and could even miss the all-important third game of the summer despite tests revealing no structural damage to the sixth-year defensive back.

“He has some things going on in there that aren’t long-term things,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not going to get into it and give you the exact diagnosis of it. It’s probably as much me as anything. This early part of camp –- I just don’t want to put him through this on his back. He’s had sports hernia surgery [earlier in the offseason], also. There’s still some scar tissue in there. I just would rather keep him out of this first part of training camp, and we’ll just see how it feels more toward the end of camp.”

As anyone could tell you, back injuries are tricky, and there’s no guarantee that Webb will be in the clear even when he returns to action. The Ravens are taking the prudent approach considering the regular-season opener against Cincinnati is still more than a month away, but that will only quell concerns so much in a day and age when the NFL is all about defending the passing game.

Entering the summer, the competition was already wide open for the No. 3 cornerback spot with young defensive backs Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson expected to be pushed by veterans Aaron Ross and Dominique Franks, who were both signed following June’s mandatory minicamp. Instead, Ross tore his Achilles tendon taking the conditioning test at the start of camp and Franks took several days to pass the test to even get on the field. The former Atlanta Falcons cornerback has done very little to distinguish himself while working with the second- and third-string defenses in practice.

Rookie free agents Tramain Jacobs, Deji Olatoye, and Sammy Seamster have all flashed ability and are intriguing candidates to potentially make the 53-man roster, but none can reasonably be counted on to handle a significant defensive role in Week 1.

The only certainty right now is 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith handling one of the starting spots.

“Somebody has to rise to the top,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “The cream has to come to the top and somebody has to take the job, and I don’t know right now who that is. I feel pretty good about Jimmy Smith on the one side, and then there’s a lot of competition over on the other side. Right now, I couldn’t tell you who that is. Those guys just have to keep competing.”

Through the early stages of camp, Jackson has played better than Brown, but neither has shown enough consistency to feel comfortable about penciling one into the nickel defense. When it comes to experience, Brown has the edge as he’s filled in as an outside corner in the nickel due to injuries while Jackson has yet to play a defensive snap as he enters his third season.

Pees and secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo prefer to slide Webb inside in the nickel package where his ability to play the run and blitz can be better utilized, and Brown is better suited to play outside, but the 2011 fifth-round pick consistently struggles to find the football in coverage. Meanwhile, Jackson is more of an inside corner with a height listed at 5-foot-10.

“That’s something that I went into this latest break trying to really work on and really working on my technique on the outside,” Jackson told AM 1570 WNST.net last week. “Being a smaller guy, it gets a little hairy out there sometimes, but I’ve put in a lot of good work this offseason. I’m excited to keep trying to improve and play on the outside.”

The Ravens have experimented with a variety of different looks including moving strong safety Matt Elam to the nickel spot, but it’s fair to wonder whether the defense’s No. 3 cornerback isn’t currently on the roster. General manager Ozzie Newsome has found contributors who have become available at the end of the preseason in the past, but there’s no guarantee a quality cornerback will shake free with the pass-happy nature of the league and the premium placed on coverage.

Newsome spoke highly of Brown and Jackson throughout the offseason, but the inability to add an impact cornerback this offseason is even more concerning with the absence of Webb.

“We may do some things that I may not normally do in a game just to put those guys out there and see what they can do,” Pees said. “This is the time to experiment and see if they can do it — not when the season starts.”

Of course, the Ravens are expressing confidence that Webb will be ready to go by the end of the summer, but they’ll need to find a comfort level with their No. 3 cornerback before they can even begin thinking about how to align the defense should Webb’s absence linger into the regular season.

It’s not a comfortable place to be with a group of unproven and unheralded cornerbacks competing for what has essentially become a starting position in the NFL. And that discomfort becomes a nightmare if the Ravens aren’t being completely transparent about Webb’s injured back.

For now, Harbaugh and his coaching staff can only hope one of the young cornerbacks answers the bell while Newsome keeps his eyes peeled for what might become available through trade or free agency.

“There is a lot of competition out here for that third spot,” Jackson said. “I think we’re all kind of raising each other’s level of play. Hopefully, we can keep doing that and then once the games get here, it’ll sort out how it will.”

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Ravens CB Chykie Brown tossed from practice as Harbaugh preaches discipline

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Ravens CB Chykie Brown tossed from practice as Harbaugh preaches discipline

Posted on 02 August 2014 by Ryan Chell

Despite a great practice on Saturday on the field for the Baltimore Ravens, head coach John Harbaugh was not well pleased with how his team was handling their success, and ultimately it became a teaching moment for one of the Ravens young players.

During team drills, quarterback Joe Flacco completed a short drag route on the left side of the field. The pass was complete, but short of the first down.

But minutes later, as the defense was celebrating the short stop-Harbaugh signaled first down and had the chain gang move down the field, shocking Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and several other Ravens defenders who were lined up on the sideline.

Harbaugh told his defense that they lingered on the field too long , and that several of the guys-including linebackers coach Don “Wink” Martindale came off the sideline onto the practice field.

“We talked about that in the meeting!” Harbaugh exclaimed.

It was made abundantly clear Saturday that with camp that Harbaugh is trying to get his team disciplined coming off the practice fields at Owings Mills and ready for 60 minutes of football at M&T Bank Stadium and on the road.

The Ravens will play the San Francisco 49ers at home this Thursday in their first preseason game, with a rematch of Super Bowl 47 and the “Harbaugh Bowl” between brothers John and Jim Harbaugh.

The next play, Ravens CB Chykie Brown nearly came down with an interception off Joe Flacco, and with the ball lying on the turf, Brown kicked the ball several yards down the field in frustration.

Harbaugh was none too pleased with Brown’s actions and made it known to the fourth-year CB, as he kicked Brown off the practice field.

Brown ran off the field to Harbaugh saying, “Are we going to be a disciplined team or a bullsh*t one?”

Harbaugh said they had a meeting Friday night about possible infractions the referees were going to be more serious about enforcing, and the Ravens coach said he needed to set an example of Brown.

“I took an opportunity to make a point,” he said. “It was a little exuberance, but those things it’s practicing. As a head coach when you have an opportunity to make a point that they’ll remember in a situation like that, that’s why practice is important.”

Brown returned ten minutes later, and clearly had a chip on his shoulder to get back in his coach’s good graces. Maybe too much-as he and wide receiver Steve Smith, who got a day off on Friday, exchanged punches during one of the drills.

Offensive lineman Ryan Jensen and Kapron Lewis-Moore also got into it during practice.

Overall though, Harbaugh said Brown had a very impressive practice Saturday-along with the total defense.

“That’s what I love about him…he responded with a great practice…that’s a sign that he’s going to be alright.”

10 Baltimore Ravens missed practice Saturday, including the usual likes of CB Lardarius Webb (back), LB Daryl Smith (groin), DT Terrence Cody (hip), G Will Rackley (concussion), DT Timmy Jernigan (back), and DE Brent Urban, who tore his ACL Thursday and is going to miss the season.

Harbaugh said that Webb likely will not play in the first two preseason games nursing that back injury. His absence at this point is mostly precautionary, and that he likely would only play in the third preseason game.

“He’s got some things going on that aren’t long term…it’s probably just as much me as anything. I don’t want to put him through a lot this early in camp.”

Harbaugh said that Timmy Jernigan, who left Thursday with a back injury, could be back on the practice field soon. His back injury is all muscle, and Harbaugh didn’t want him practicing with discomfort.

“He assures me he’ll play Thursday night.”

OT Eugene Monroe, CB Jimmy Smith, and WR Steve Smith all returned to practice after a day off Friday.  OG Kelechi Osemele, OG Marshal Yanda, TE Owen Daniels, and DE/OLB Pernell McPhee were given Saturday off.

With the two guards out, second-year man Ryan Jensen lined up at LG while AQ Shipley took Yanda’s place in the starting five. Ricky Wagner returned to RT as a starter after Jah Reid got some reps at the position this week.

WR/KR Michael Campanaro left practice early with a trainer with what the Baltimore Sun reported as a rib injury.

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Early observations from 2014 Ravens training camp

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Early observations from 2014 Ravens training camp

Posted on 27 July 2014 by Luke Jones

With 2014 training camp officially underway and the Ravens attempting to bounce back from their first non-playoff season of the John Harbaugh era, there are a number of early (too early?) takeaways from the practice field in Owings Mills.

1. Steve Smith has looked like an elite player.

It’s fair to express doubts over a 35-year-old wide receiver whose yards per catch average has dropped in three consecutive years, but Smith has been as good as advertised going back to organized team activities in the spring, catching everything in sight and regularly beating cornerbacks during practices. On Saturday, he made an excellent catch on a deep ball defended by Chykie Brown and later made an impressive adjustment on a pass thrown behind him on a slant pattern. Of course, it’s important not to get carried away with how anyone performs in July, but if Smith can be that reliable target to help move the chains and provide a safety net for quarterback Joe Flacco, the investment in the 14th-year receiver will be well worth it.

2. The No. 3 cornerback for the 2014 Ravens may not yet be on the roster.

The organization spent plenty of time this offseason talking up the potential of Brown and Asa Jackson, but it’s difficult to find anyone on the field in which defensive coordinator Dean Pees would have confidence using in the nickel package along with Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. Brown has bit on play-action fakes and has struggled to find the ball when he is in position while Jackson — who is an inside defender in the nickel package — has also been beaten deep on a couple occasions. To make matters worse, Dominique Franks still hasn’t passed his conditioning test after fellow veteran newcomer Aaron Ross tore his Achilles tendon taking the same test. The Ravens would prefer to use Webb inside in the nickel, but there have been no signs of anyone currently on the roster being capable of handling duties as the third cornerback.

3. Left guard Kelechi Osemele is moving well and is the biggest key for the offensive line.

The third-year lineman has moved well early in camp and will be the key in determining how effective the interior offensive line can be in 2014 after it was undersized and ineffective last season. It’s still too early to gauge whether his surgically-repaired back will be in issue, but Osemele delivered an impressive block 10 yards downfield that sent safety Darian Stewart to the ground on Saturday afternoon, a telling example of the improved mobility he simply didn’t have early last year. If the Ravens can be strong inside with Osemele and Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda flanking new center Jeremy Zuttah, it will alleviate much of the pressure on Rick Wagner or whoever mans the right tackle position.

4. Veteran newcomer Darian Stewart has impressed and is the early favorite to start at free safety.

His unfortunate encounter with Osemele aside, Stewart has displayed good athleticism at the safety position and looks to be the favorite to line up next to Matt Elam in the starting defense. The former St. Louis Rams safety is versatile with the ability to line up closer to the line of scrimmage or to play the more traditional free position, and Pees has said on a number of occasions that he’s looking to mirror his safeties more than just having a traditional strong and free one. Rookie Terrence Brooks will need to make significant strides between now and the start of the season as he appears to be thinking too much when lined up on the field and has worked primarily with the third-string defense to this early point. Secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo is familiar with Stewart going back to their days in St. Louis, so the Ravens hope they’ve found another value signing like they did with Corey Graham a couple years ago.

5. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak loves to move his skill players around in formations.

The Ravens are sure to experience growing pains implementing their new offensive system, but Kubiak has experimented plenty with his skill players to find strengths and weakness as well as potentially exploit vulnerabilities in a defense in a given matchup. His creative use of tight ends is a well-documented characteristic of his West Coast system, but it will be fun to watch how he uses fullback Kyle Juszczyk and big wide receiver Marlon Brown in addition to Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels this season. Ultimately, offensive success in the NFL comes down to winning 1-on-1 matchups no matter how clever your schemes might be, but pre-snap movement has been a regular feature of what we’ve seen so far in Owings Mills.

6. Linebacker Courtney Upshaw looks too heavy for the third straight preseason.

Coach John Harbaugh was more complimentary of Upshaw’s conditioning in the spring, but the third-year linebacker looks bigger at the start of training camp than he did during OTAs, continuing a theme of the 2012 second-round pick not taking the best care of his body. In fairness to Upshaw, he hasn’t noticeably labored during his first few practices, but temperatures have also been favorable thus far. He has been solid in his first couple seasons and has flashed potential to be better than that, but it’s just difficult to project a player to improve when he spends too much time playing catchup with his weight every summer. The early expectation is that Upshaw will once again split time with Elvis Dumervil at the strongside outside linebacker position.

7. Rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan has a rare combination of strength and quickness that’s fun to watch.

More attention has been paid to first-round linebacker C.J. Mosley, but Jernigan is becoming an early favorite of Pees as he’s been very active and has shown plenty of power in the trenches early in camp. Brandon Williams is the favorite to line up as the starting nose tackle, but there’s no reason Jernigan won’t be a regular member in the rotation, and his play could be a deciding factor in how the Ravens handle the final year of Haloti Ngata’s contract after the season. Pees quipped on Saturday that Jernigan doesn’t always follow his assignment, but he’ll make a big play anyway, which is pretty high praise for a rookie defensive lineman just a few days into his first training camp.

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Cornerback Graham signs four-year contract with Buffalo

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Cornerback Graham signs four-year contract with Buffalo

Posted on 12 March 2014 by Luke Jones

While the Ravens were able to re-sign wide receiver Jacoby Jones earlier in the day, cornerback Corey Graham agreed to a four-year contract with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday.

According to CBS Sports, the deal is worth $16 million and could rise to $19 million with playing-time incentives as Graham was looking for more money and playing time than the Ravens would provide. A Buffalo, N.Y. native, Graham came to Baltimore known primarily as a special-teams player and emerged as a starting cornerback for the Super Bowl XLVII championship team after injuries forced him into a significant role.

The 28-year-old grabbed six interceptions and made 134 tackles in 32 regular-season games for the Ravens after signing a two-year, $3.95 million contract in 2012. His biggest claim to fame came in the 2012 divisional round when he twice picked off Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, returning one for a touchdown and securing a second to set up the Ravens on a short field in overtime that eventually led to the game-winning field goal.

After struggling in the season-opening loss to the Broncos last season, Graham was replaced by Jimmy Smith as a starter and served as the No. 3 corner for the remainder of the year. His departure leaves Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson in a competition for the third spot in the nickel package, but the Ravens are likely to add another cornerback via free agency or the draft to bolster their depth.

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Steelers

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Steelers

Posted on 03 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 22-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Thanksgiving night at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Shaun Suisham tackled for 12 yard loss on aborted/fake field goal (2nd quarter)

The only “turnover” of the game. Went from three points one way to a short field (and three points) the other way.

4. Heath Miller ruled down at 1 yard line via replay after 20 yard catch from Ben Roethlisberger (4th quarter)

The Steelers were ultimately forced to run more clock and use a timeout after Miller was ruled to have not gotten in.

3. Torrey Smith 7 yard TD catch from Joe Flacco (1st quarter)

The Ravens’ only TD of the game came in a big early spot after a sack.

2. Torrey Smith 54 yard catch from Joe Flacco (1st quarter)

The Ravens didn’t go back to it much, but it was a huge statement early.

1. Chykie Brown defends Ben Roethlisberger pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders on two point conversion (4th quarter)

It wasn’t over until.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ngata, J. Jones, Osemele among 11 Ravens players questionable for Sunday

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Ngata, J. Jones, Osemele among 11 Ravens players questionable for Sunday

Posted on 11 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After he missed the first two practices of the week while dealing with a hip injury, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata returned to practice on Friday and was listed as questionable with 10 other Ravens players for Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.

There was no indication over the course of the week that Ngata’s injury was serious, and his presence during Friday’s workout was a positive development as the Ravens try to improve to 11-0 at home against NFC opponents in the John Harbaugh era. No injury for Ngata was reported by the Ravens in the immediate aftermath of their Week 5 win in Miami last weekend.

“We gave Haloti a few days [off]. He had little tweaks and strains and things like that,” coach John Harbaugh said after Friday’s practice. “We gave him a couple days, but he looked good today. He’s going to play. He should be fine.”

Wide receivers Jacoby Jones (knee), Marlon Brown (hamstring), and Brandon Stokley (groin), offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele (back) and Ryan Jensen (foot), running back Bernard Pierce (thigh), and defensive tackle Marcus Spears (knee) were all listed as questionable after practicing as limited participants on Friday. Of that group, Jensen is the most unlikely to play after only returning to the practice field on Thursday for the first time since late July. All others practiced on a limited basis for the entire week, giving them favorable odds to play against the Packers.

While defensive players practiced their customary jersey swap for Friday’s practice, cornerback Chykie Brown (thigh) was absent from the workout. He was added to Thursday’s injury report as a limited participant, which could be an indication that an injury occurred during that day’s practice. The third-year cornerback was also designated as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Linebacker Albert McClellan (shoulder) and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (knee) were not practicing for the third straight day. Cody was listed as doubtful and is expected to miss his third straight game while McClellan — deemed questionable — played against the Dolphins last Sunday despite having not practiced at all in the week leading up to that contest in Miami.

Safety Michael Huff is also questionable for Sunday’s game after being added to the injury report as a limited participant on Friday.

Harbaugh offered a positive report on Jones, who completed his second week of practice and told reporters earlier this week that he intended to increase his activity level in hopes of playing for the first time since the season opener on Sept. 5.

“All the guys who practiced looked good. Jacoby comes to mind,” Harbaugh said. “He looked good, so [we’re] encouraged.”

Meanwhile, the Packers have already ruled out five players for Sunday’s game, including Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews and inside linebacker Brad Jones.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: DT Terrence Cody (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Chykie Brown (thigh), WR Marlon Brown (thigh), S Michael Huff (back), C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Jacoby Jones (knee), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DT Haloti Ngata (hip), G Kelechi Osemele (back), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh), DT Marcus Spears (knee), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)

GREEN BAY
OUT: CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), LB Brad Jones (hamstring), LB Clay Matthews (thumb), RB James Starks (knee), G/C Greg Van Roten (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring)
PROBABLE: LB Sam Barrington (hip), LB Andy Mulumba (ankle), DT Ryan Pickett (hand)

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Rice absent from practice for second straight day

Posted on 19 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Thursday’s official injury report:

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

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

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