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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Thursday’s official injury report:

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

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

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

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

Posted on 18 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Wednesday’s official injury report:

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

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

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Rice won’t need to practice to play against Texans on Sunday

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Rice won’t need to practice to play against Texans on Sunday

Posted on 16 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continued to present a positive outlook for running back Ray Rice’s status following the left hip flexor strain he suffered in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over Cleveland.

Rice did not return to the game, but the sixth-year back did not undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test, a good sign that the injury isn’t considered a long-term concern. The Ravens were held 99 yards on 36 carries with Rice carrying 13 times for 36 yards before exiting the game, but coach John Harbaugh was optimistic once again about Rice’s prognosis moving forward.

“That’s the indication, that it’s not anything that’s really serious,” Harbaugh said. “They would be looking at it if they thought it was. We’ll just be day to day with him.”

With the Ravens struggling to run the ball in each of their first two games of the regular season, Rice’s availability will be crucial with the Houston Texans coming to Baltimore on Sunday. However, the injury reports for practices this week probably won’t provide a strong indication of Rice’s progress and you’d assume his hip ailment will lead to more opportunities than normal for backup Bernard Pierce on Sunday.

Pierce gained 57 yards on 19 carries, including a 5-yard touchdown to put the Ravens in front of Cleveland for the first time with 5:13 remaining in the third quarter. Through two weeks, the Ravens rank 22nd in the NFL with 78.5 rushing yards per game and their 2.8 yards per carry average is 28th in the league.

“Ray’s a guy I’d probably lean toward resting him this week [during practices] and then seeing how he looks this weekend,” Harbaugh said. “He’s not going to need the practice to play in the game, but if he feels great, we’ll put him out there. If he doesn’t, we’ll probably rest him and get him ready to go on Sunday if possible.”

Harbaugh did not have any significant updates on the Ravens’ other injuries from Sunday’s game aside from defensive end Chris Canty undergoing an MRI for his injured groin. Cornerback Chykie Brown (knee) and linebacker Arthur Brown (pectoral strain) both underwent MRIs on Monday, but the latter took part in Monday’s walk-through, which could be an indication that his pectoral injury isn’t too serious.

Ready for Reed’s return

Former Ravens safety Ed Reed has yet to make his debut with the Houston Texans due to offseason hip surgery, but Harbaugh and the Ravens fully expect to see the future Hall of Famer lurking in the secondary in his return to Baltimore on Sunday.

Texans head coach Gary Kubiak was optimistic on Monday when asked about Reed’s status after the safety appeared to be close to playing in Houston’s Week 2 win over Tennessee before being ruled inactive. Reed has taken his time in rehabbing his surgically-repaired hip, but you know he had the Week 3 meeting with the Ravens circled on his calendar as a game in which he desperately wanted to play.

“We’ll have to assume that he is going to play,” Harbaugh said. “We’d be surprised if he didn’t play in this game, and we’ll have to assume he’s going to play the way he’s played in the past.”

The Ravens are clearly familiar with Reed’s skill set and mental prowess in the secondary, but there is some level of unknown in how he’ll fit in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ system. Harbaugh acknowledged the Texans’ 3-4 system has similar elements to what the Ravens run in Baltimore, but quarterback Joe Flacco will now face the 35-year-old defensive back for the first time in a non-practice setting.

Harbaugh acknowledged that it will be strange seeing No. 20 on the enemy sideline after his 11 years spent in Baltimore.

“It’s going to be like it was for other teams game planning against us in the past, I suppose,” Harbaugh said. “It will be a different feeling. I’ll let you know afterwards. It’s a little tougher because we haven’t seen him on tape, so we really don’t know how he fits in their defense.”

Lewis entering Ring of Honor

In addition to Reed, the Ravens will also induct future Hall of Fame linebacker into their Ring of Honor on Sunday, adding to what will already be a special day and a meaningful game against one of the best teams in the AFC.

Lewis will speak to the media through a national conference call on Tuesday afternoon before being honored during halftime of Sunday’s game.

The Ravens might even ask for an extra lift from the 38-year-old, who is now making a name for himself off the field as an NFL analyst on ESPN.

“We’ll be emotional about the game, and we’ll feel great about Ray being here for that,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a great honor. It’s something that we’ll all take pride in. Maybe Ray will be ready to give us a little [pep] talk? We’ll be looking for that as well.”

Flacco spends day with family

With his wife Dana giving birth to the couple’s second son on Sunday, Flacco left M&T Bank Stadium immediately after the 14-6 win over the Browns and was given the day off Monday to spend time with baby Daniel.

“We did give Joe some time today to stay up [in New Jersey], because of getting up there so late last night,” Harbaugh said. “I just talked to him through texts, and he seems pretty happy.”

Players will have their regular day off on Tuesday before returning to their Owings Mills facility on Wednesday to continue preparations for Houston.

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Rice’s hip injury headlines list of health concerns from win over Cleveland

Posted on 15 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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

BALTIMORE — The Ravens came away with a 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but with it came a new list of health concerns topped by the status of running back Ray Rice.

Rice went down with a left hip injury in the fourth quarter on a non-contact play and was immediately taken to the locker room where he was diagnosed with a hip flexor strain, according to coach John Harbaugh. Backup Bernard Pierce handled the workload the rest of the way to help the Ravens improve to 1-1 on the season.

Baltimore was optimistic after the game about Rice, who wasn’t scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging as of Sunday afternoon. However, it had to be a scary scene for Harbaugh and the Ravens to see one of their best offensive players go down in pain without being touched.

“I don’t have the ‘scary gauge’ on me right now,” said Harbaugh when asked to express how he felt upon seeing the injury occur. “He might’ve gone down to protect himself, too. That’s just something that we’ll have to see. We’re confident and optimistic right now. We’ll have to see tomorrow how he responds to that.”

The Ravens also suffered several injuries on the defensive side of the ball as linebacker Arthur Brown (pectoral strain) and cornerback Chykie Brown (knee strain) both left the game with injuries and are each expected to undergo an MRI on Monday. There was some fear in the post-game locker room that the second-round linebacker’s pectoral injury could be significant, but Harbaugh expressed optimism that Chykie Brown’s knee injury didn’t appear to be serious.

Defensive end Chris Canty left the game after the opening series of the second half with a groin injury and didn’t return as he received treatment on the bench but wasn’t taken to the locker room at any point.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith had his helmet knocked off after a violent collision with safety James Ihedigbo in the second half and was taken to the locker room for a concussion evaluation but returned to action soon thereafter. The 2011 first-round pick also started at corner over Corey Graham in the base defense, which was a change from Week 1.

“Jimmy has been practicing really well,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a really good player.”

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Baltimore Ravens 2013 Season Preview Part Three: Predicting the Biggest Positional Battles

Posted on 06 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

It’s no secret the Ravens are a different team. Starters that must be replaced include Carry Williams, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, Vonta Leach, and Anquan Boldin. Paul Kruger is also gone but he was more of a role player that rotated starts with rookie Courtney UpShaw.

The following are my projections for the most heated roster battles.

Receiver:

Torrey Smith is the only receiver guaranteed a starting spot. Jacoby Jones is a veteran but struggled in Houston when given a larger workload. Therefore, Jones will be competing with Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, Tommy Streeter, David Reed, and LaQuan Williams. So far, Thompson has made the most of offseason workouts. According to reports, he displays great hands and improved route running ability to go along with his blazing speed.

When the Ravens face the Broncos on Sept. 5, Jacoby Jones will start across from Torrey Smith. He is experienced and made plays when given the opportunity last season. The third receiver will be Danton Doss with Deonte Thompson winning the fourth receiver spot on the depth chart. Doss’s skill set translates well to the slot receiver position. His hands, physicality, and ability to get upfield after the catch will make him a nice weapon for Flacco.

Cornerback:

I am a huge Jimmy Smith fan. Smith has too much potential to be the Ravens nickel corner. If he can put everything together, he will be starting opposite Lardarius Webb. Corey Graham would then be the team’s nickel corner. Successfully defending two passes to Michael Crabtree towards the end of the Super Bowl will be positive plays for Smith to build upon.

Chykie Brown could be a sleeper to receive playing time this season. He showed promise last season and played frequently towards the end of the season.

Inside linebacker:

John Harbaugh and the Ravens have a lot of options at inside linebacker. Jameel McClain will likely start. Therefore, the competition really comes down to Arthur Brown and Darryl Smith. Brown was a second round selection in the 2013 draft and is projected to be a defensive rookie of the year candidate. But Smith brings experience and proven ability at inside linebacker. In the beginning of the season, I think Smith will start on running downs and Brown will play on passing downs. Brown has excellent coverage ability and when paired with McClain, they could make up a great duo in pass coverage.

Bryan Hall could also receive playing time pending the training camp competition. Hall played along the defensive line last season but is making the switch to inside linebacker. Hall could play in certain blitz packages but for the most part, will be a special teams player.

Nose tackle

After a solid 2011 season, many thought Mount Cody would break out in 2012. But Cody struggled. He was consistently pushed around and made little impact against teams with great running games. Ozzie Newsome has made an effort to improve the middle of the defense through the draft and free agency. Brandon Williams was drafted in the third round and Marcus Spears and Chris Canty were signed in free agency. Spears and Canty won’t play nose tackle but they will improve the middle of the defense.

I think Brandon Williams will win the starting job. Cody had hip surgery which could explain his poor play in 2012. If Cody can get healthy and play like he did in 2011, the Ravens will have a great rotation at nose tackle.

Center

Replacing Matt Birk will be difficult. Birk was a great leader and will be replaced by either Gino Gradkowski or AQ Shipley. Gradkowski was drafted out of Delaware in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. Gradkowski was projected to be the starter once Birk retired but Shipley played very well for the Colts last season. He played so well that he earned a plus 6.9 rating from Pro Football Focus.

Gradkowski is the early favorite but Shipley is a solid veteran that could start should Gradkowski struggle.

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X-Factors For Saturday’s Game

Posted on 11 January 2013 by jeffreygilley

The Ravens have quite a task on their hands. The team has won only two games since week thirteen and have never looked like a dominant team except for three wins against the Raiders, Bengals, and Giants. Now, they must face Peyton Manning with a beat up defense in harsh conditions.

While Manning has been dominant all season long, the Ravens did hold Manning to a season low 204 passing yards in week fifteen. If it were not for Flacco’s pick-six at the end of the half and the Ravens contained Knowshawn Moreno, the game would have been much different.

Here are some players that I consider to be x-factors for the game.

1. Bernard Pierce
Pierce has been a sensational rookie. He has rushed for over 100 yards in two of the last three weeks and runs with tremendous physicality and under rated speed. The Ravens have to keep Manning off the field if they want to win this game. Therefore, Pierce even though he is a backup, should get a lot of touches.

2. Chykie Brown
Brown has received much more playing time of late. He was stellar against the Giants and was praised by Ed Reed after the game. Brown was one of the few players that benefited from being on the field for eighty plus plays against the Colts. That allowed him to gain experience that he will need against the Broncos.

3. Dennis Pitta
Pitta had a career game against the Broncos in week fifteen. The Broncos struggled tackling him and he will present a match-up problem in the red zone on Saturday. Pitta is going to get a lot of attention in this game so he will have to win the one-on-one match-ups when given the opportunity.

4. Kelechi Osemeli
Osemele played well at right tackle the entire year but at this point in his career, is a better guard. He opened up a lot of holes for Rice and was good in pass blocking as well. With his inexperience at guard, I expect the Broncos to blitz up the middle in an attempt to confuse the rookie which in turn, could give Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil one-on-one match-ups.

5. Tandon Doss
Many Ravens fans have been waiting for Doss to have any sort of impact on the Ravens’ offense. He had opportunities against the Colts but dropped every pass that came his way. From everything I have heard about Doss’s hands, those should have been easy catches for him. Colder weather obviously makes it harder to catch the football so Doss must make plays when given opportunities.

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