Tag Archive | "Courtney UpShaw"

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Ravens Grades After a Quarter of the Season

Posted on 02 October 2012 by jeffreygilley

After a quarter of the 2012 season, the Ravens are 3-1.  The three victories have come against the Bengals, Patriots, and Browns with the only loss coming against the Eagles in week two.  The road ahead has some difficult stretches which includes the Steelers in week 11, the Chargers in week 12, and the Steelers again in week 13.

Here are my grades for the Ravens through the first quarter of the season:

Joe Flacco – A.

Statistics: 63.5 completion percentage, 1,269 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT, 95.8 QB rating.

Joe Flacco looks much different this season.  He is more decisive and has a great supporting cast of receivers, tight ends, and running backs.  For the first time in Flacco’s NFL career, he has a receiving core that is complete and showcases his arm talent.  Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are speedy wide outs that have the potential to take the top off a defense.  Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin work underneath and act as Flacco’s security blankets but can also make big time plays when needed.  Finally, Ray Rice can come out of the backfield and even run routes in the slot to give Flacco an extra target.

Flacco is very comfortable in the new no-huddle offense.  If Flacco can keep playing at a high level, the Ravens might find themselves in the Super Bowl.

Offensive Line: B

When considering all the changes the offensive line has gone through, they have been fantastic this season.  Ramon Harewood is by far the biggest surprise and has been one of the Ravens best offensive lineman through the first quater of the season.  He is a talented run blocker and is good in pass protection.  The line has given up 9 sacks which puts them on pase for 36.  This would be tied for the second highest in Flacco’s career.  Even though the line has struggled at times, keep in mind that they are going through a lot of changes and by the end of the season, this line will continue to improve and could be one of the best in the league.

Running backs: B+

Ray Rice Statistics: 64 carries, 317 yards, 3 TD

Bernard Pierce Statistics: 17 carries, 88 yards, 0 TD

Both the Ravens running backs are averaging at least five yards per carry.  Obviously, Rice is the better of the two players but Pierce has provided a good second option and is a very powerful runner.  Rice is averaging just under 80 yards rushing per game but has done a lot for the Ravens in the play-action passing game.  Rice is very valuable to this offense and Cam Cameron is using him very effectively.

Receivers: B

This receiving core is the most complete that I can remember.  Smith and Jones are down field threats but the Ravens also have a myriad of underneath threats that provide good match ups against linebackers and safeties.  At times, the receivers have struggled to get separation but for the most part, they have been fantastic.  Tandon Doss is a name to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.  The third year receiver out of Indiana has recently received a lot of praise from John Harbaugh.  Harbaugh said Doss will be a threat all season after his 39 yard catch against the Browns.  Doss offers a lot of upside but has to compete with Jacoby Jones who is ahead of Doss on the depth chart.

Defensive Line: C+

The Ravens have struggled to create a pass rush throughout the season.  Haloti Ngata is playing at an all-pro level but Pernell McPhee  has not been the force many thought he would be this season.  Luckily, the season is still young so expect McPhee to play at a higher level.  Although they have struggled at times to generate pass rush, they have been great at stopping the run.  They held LeSean McCoy, one of the league’s elite running backs to 81 yards on 25 attempts and have looked been good in the other games with the exception of the Bengals.

Linebackers: C

The loss of Terrell Suggs has been devastating.  Younger players like Paul Kruger, Courtney UpShaw, and Albert McClellan havent been able to get the job done and win one-on-one match ups.     Combined, the three players have only amassed two sacks.  UpShaw has received much more playing time lately and has played much better than he did in the preseason.  Terrell Suggs is expected to return around week seven.  Suggs wont be himself for the first few games but the Ravens really need him late in the season when they play the Steelers twice in three weeks.  If Suggs returns by week seven, which is his target return date, he might be one hundred percent healthy by the playoffs, should the Ravens make the playoffs.

Defensive backs: C

The Ravens have struggled mightily against the pass this season.  They have given up an average of 295 yards in each game and most recently gave up 320 passing yards to rookie Brandon Weeden in Baltimore.  Overall, the weak spot for the secondary has been Carry Williams.  With the exception of the pick-six last week, Williams has struggled.  Teams have been avoiding Lardarius Webb who is one of the better cornerbacks in the league and Jimmy Smith has played well at times.  I would like to see the Ravens play more press coverage to take advantage of the size Smith and Williams possess.

Special Teams: A

The special teams unit has greatly improved from last season.  Corey Graham, Chykie Brown, Deonte Thompson, and Justin Tucker have all played at a high level.  Tucker is the biggest story because he won the kicking job from Billy Cundiff and has only missed one kick.

Overall, I am very optimistic about the Ravens.  They have a favorable matchup this Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and then have the Dallas Cowboys who looked dreadful against the Bears on Monday Night Football.  If Flacco continues to play at a high level and Terrell Suggs can return and play well, the Ravens will have a high playoff seed.

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Jones Brothers Take Center Stage as the Ravens Take on the Patriots

Posted on 22 September 2012 by jeffreygilley

When the Baltimore Ravens line up against the New England Patriots Sunday night, the Ravens will be looking for revenge.  The Patriots ended the Ravens season in the AFC Championship but the Ravens had many chances to win the game.  Joe Flacco outplayed Brady and the defense bailed him out of the rare mistakes and reads he did not make.

Although the Ravens will be looking for revenge, this game does not hold any real significance come Monday morning.  Sure, both of these teams are considered Super Bowl contenders but the season is still young.  This game does however, have the potential to determine the playoff standings come the end of the regular season.

Throughout the first two weeks of the 2012 season, the Ravens and Patriots have not lived up to expectations.  Both had a disappointing week two loss and have not been particularly good in their areas of usual strength.  The Patriots added new weapons in the offseason such as Brandon Lloyd.  Although Brady has new pieces to work with, the offense has showcased the explosive potential they are capable of.  The Ravens on the other hand have struggled defensively.  The defense gave up 371 passing yards to Michael Vick and struggled defending the Bengals rushing attack in week one.

Many are picking the Ravens to win this game, and I hope they are right but I dont see the Ravens winning this game.  Tom Brady doesn’t lose back to back games and the Patriots have improved defensively.  The loss of Aaron Hernandez will prove to be significant though.  Hernandez can play every skill position on offense and with his absence, the Patriots and Tom Brady are going to have to be more creative.  I expect the Patriots to spread the Ravens out and force the Ravens to play in space.

If the Ravens want to win this game, they will have to stop Rob Gronkowski.  They have the cornerback depth to deal with the Patriots receivers but their linebacking core is a different story.  Many of the Ravens outside linebackers are young and inexperienced.  Paul Kruger and Albert McClellan will have to play well in run and pass defense.

Although the Ravens outside linebackers are young, I think Courtney UpShaw has a chance to have a breakout game.  He wont play as much seeing as Paul Kruger is healthy but he has a chance to make a big impact on this game.  The Patriots will be so focused on stopping Haloti Ngata that Upshaw, when playing on third downs, will not be facing many double teams.  Look for UpShaw to have a good game.

Last time the Patriots played in Baltimore, they were undefeated but the Ravens almost pulled off the upset of the century.  All of the recent games between the Patriots and Ravens have been very close and this game will be no different.  In my opinion, the Patriots will win this game by a field goal but I really hope I am wrong.  Having Arthur and Chandler Jones playing for opposing teams will make this game much more interesting.

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Tuesday musings from the Ravens beat

Posted on 18 September 2012 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens enjoying their customary Tuesday off before turning their full attention to the New England Patriots on Sunday night, I offer some thoughts from the beat through the first two weeks of the regular season …

> One of the few defensive bright spots of the 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday was the play of outside linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Albert McClellan. Drawing the start in place of the injured Paul Kruger at the strongside linebacker spot, the rookie Upshaw did a solid job setting the edge on run plays and was one of the few players to pressure quarterback Michael Vick with any level of consistency.

Compared to his preseason performances in which he seemed sluggish and hesitant in his defensive responsibilities, Upshaw displayed a good motor in backside pursuit and finished with six tackles with one going for a loss. He wore down a bit in the second half after receiving his most extensive action to date and still looks uncomfortable when asked to drop into pass coverage, but Upshaw looks to be in much better shape and is finally starting to show the potential general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens saw in him with the 35th overall selection in April’s draft.

McClellan was one of the best players on the field for the Baltimore defense against the Eagles, finishing with six tackles with two going for losses and breaking up a pass in coverage. Though undersized at 6-feet-2 and 245 pounds, McClellan did an excellent job setting the edge as the Eagles averaged just 3.1 yards per carry.

With Upshaw showing signs of improvement and Kruger’s struggles at the strongside linebacker position going back to the preseason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see defensive coordinator Dean Pees settle on McClellan and Upshaw as his starting outside linebackers and move Kruger to the situational pass-rushing role he held in past seasons. McClellan hasn’t shown an ability to get to the quarterback, so it might be in the Ravens’ best interests to replace him on third down with Kruger and allow Upshaw to line up at the other defensive end spot in obvious passing situations.

> Speaking of passing plays, much has already been said about the Ravens’ decisions in short-yardage situations on Sunday with few supporting the calls of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

The Ravens were faced with six situations in which it was third or fourth down and two or less yards to go and the offense elected to pass every single time. Running all six plays from the shotgun formation, the Ravens failed to convert on any as the final two offensive plays with less than a minute remaining drew the most scrutiny.

Whether observers want to admit it or not, third-and-short has become a passing situation more often than not in today’s NFL. The Ravens aren’t the only team in the league to throw the football in those spots as it’s become a more wide-open game than what we watched in the past.

That said, it’s perplexing to not only watch the Ravens throw exclusively on that down and distance but also do it from the shotgun formation, a package in which your choice of running plays is more limited. Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice said it best following Sunday’s game when reminding everyone that the Ravens have arguably the best fullback in the league in Vonta Leach. It seems wasteful not to at least present a bigger threat of a run in those situations by having quarterback Joe Flacco line up under center, with Leach and Rice behind him. Even if the Ravens still elect to throw, this simple alteration might keep defenses guessing more in those short-yardage spots.

Coach John Harbaugh said it best Monday when reminding everyone that hindsight is 20-20 and that any play call looks great when it works and foolish when it doesn’t, and it is worth reminding everyone that Flacco missed an open Dennis Pitta on that third-and-1 play on the game’s final drive. However, the Ravens’ 0-for-6 showing in short-yardage situations on third and fourth down screams that it might be time to change up their philosophies a bit.

> Through the first two weeks of the season, it’s no secret that Flacco has picked up right where he left off late last season in targeting Pitta frequently in the passing game as the pair has connected 13 times for 128 yards and a touchdown. Seven of those catches have gone for first downs as the third-year tight end has been a go-to target when the Ravens need to move the chains.

CONTINUE >>>

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Keys to Sunday’s Game Against the Eagles

Posted on 16 September 2012 by jeffreygilley

The Baltimore Ravens looked very impressive against the Cincinnati Bengals in week one.  While the Ravens were feasting on the Bengals, the Philadelphia Eagles were struggling against the Cleveland Browns.  Michael Vick turned the ball over five times but also led a game winning drive with a touchdown pass to Clay Harbor.  Although the Eagles looked awful, expect them to bounce back and challenge the Ravens.

The offensive line must protect Flacco

With the exception of Matt Birk, the Ravens offensive line was impressive in their victory over the Bengals.  Ramon Harewood, a sixth round pick in 2010, made a surprising start at left guard.  He struggled at times but was a devastating run blocker.  With his size and athleticism, the Ravens can have success running the ball against the wide-nine in Philadelphia.

If the Ravens want to have success on offense, Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele must perform at a high level.  The Ravens new offense seems to be based on the vertical passing game which makes protecting Flacco even more pivotal.  If Flacco doesn’t have time to throw, the Ravens can turn to the run game which is a weakness of playing the wide-nine.

Stop LeSean McCoy

When this game is over, Ravens fans will miss Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson even more.  Both excelled at setting the edge and forcing ball carriers back inside.  The Eagles like to run to the outside and LeSean McCoy has the speed to turn the corner and get upfield extremely fast.  Therefore, the Ravens young linebackers must be able to set the edge and shed blockers.  Luckily for the Ravens, the Eagles are without Jason Peters which should make stopping the run much easier for the Ravens.  Expect the Eagles to challenge the Ravens to the outside throughout the entire game.

Pressure Michael Vick

This seems obvious but if the Ravens can pressure Vick like the Browns did in week one, the Ravens have a very good chance to win the game.  Young linebackers like Courtney UpShaw, Paul Kruger, Albert McClellan, and Sergio Kindle must pressure Vick early and often.  Courtney UpShaw received more playing time than expected last week and is pushing Albert McClellan and Paul Kruger for either of the starting outside linebacker spots.  UpShaw was unimpressive in the preseason but showed a lot of promise in week one.  Expect to see UpShaw a lot more as the season progresses.

Prediction

I see the Ravens winning this game but it will be no easy task.  Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson are expected to play for the Eagles and pose a home run threat on every play.

Although Flacco played very well against the Bengals, he cant test the Eagles secondary too much.  Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha are very talented cornerbacks and can blanket receivers.

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Five pressing questions for the 2012 season

Posted on 09 September 2012 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens begin defense of their AFC North division crown against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night and hope to embark on a journey to Super Bowl XLVII in John Harbaugh’s fifth year as head coach, they play the fourth-toughest schedule in the league statistically as their opponents held a .523 winning percentage (134-122) last season.

Expectations remain sky-high in Baltimore, even after a trying offseason than included key injuries and significant departures due to limited salary cap room.

Here are the five biggest questions weighing on my mind for the Ravens’ 2012 season:

1. Is the starting line good enough for the offense to take the next step?

Deemed a priority to upgrade at the beginning of the season, the offensive line remains a major question mark as the Ravens tinkered with various alignments throughout the preseason. Even determining which starting five will line up has been quite a challenge considering the circumstances the organization has dealt with since last January.

The Ravens knew Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs — now with New Orleans — would be difficult to replace as they eventually settled on former Bengals guard Bobbie Williams. Playing with a surgically-repaired right ankle, the 35-year-old has dealt with swelling as scar tissue is still breaking up in the ankle, making you wonder if Williams will hold up over the course of a 16-game regular season.

The bigger surprise has been the uncertainty at the tackle position as the Ravens weren’t satisfied with Bryant McKinnie’s weight and conditioning this offseason and the tackle reported late to training camp, opening the door to the idea of Michael Oher returning to left tackle. All seemed to be straightened out when McKinnie started at left tackle and Oher shifted back to the right side in the third preseason game, but the Ravens surprisingly played hardball with McKinnie by cutting his pay last week, a tactic that nearly led to his departure.

In another twist, rookie Kelechi Osemele revealed Saturday that he expected to start at right tackle against the Bengals, meaning Michael Oher will play on the left side and McKinnie will hold a backup role for now. Osemele played well at the position in the preseason and is the most pleasant surprise of the 2012 draft class to this point, but his insertion in the starting lineup creates the question whether Oher can handle protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blind side, which led to the Ravens signing McKinnie in the first place last August.

The Ravens’ handling of their line is unsettling considering the offense is expected to take a significant step forward this season. The combination of Oher and Osemele is more athletic and better conditioned, factors worth remembering when you consider how much they expect to run a no-huddle offense, but much doubt remains about their ability as pass blockers. Though McKinnie is considered a below-average run blocker, he is still the best pass blocker among the Baltimore tackles, which should be the most important factor in trying to protect the most important player on the field.

It’s clear the Ravens have grown tired of McKinnie’s act, but they also didn’t have enough confidence in life without him or they would have pulled the trigger in releasing him last week when he balked at their original pay-cut demand. They appear set to try the younger duo against Cincinnati, but you have to wonder if it will work week in and week out, especially when considering Williams’ health and age at left guard and the fact that there’s no viable option behind him other than Osemele on the 53-man roster.

Even when finally appearing to settle on a starting five moving forward, the Ravens will need to show improvement in short-yardage run situations, an area in which they struggled immensely last season.

Regardless of the factors working against them, the Ravens deemed upgrading the offensive line a major priority in the offseason and even the optimistic takes on the current group couldn’t possibly feel more confident about it than last season’s group.

2. How will the defense find a consistent pass rush without Terrell Suggs?

No one knows if and when the Pro Bowl linebacker will return this season and whether he’ll display the same explosiveness he displayed last season on his way to the 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year award. His absence has created a gigantic black cloud over a defense ranking among the NFL’s elite annually for over a decade.

The Ravens have used their “next man up” mantra since the news broke about the injury in early May, but they appear no closer to answering their pass-rush question than they were when first learning about Suggs’ partially-torn Achilles tendon. And it’s a sobering thought when you remember the defense will encounter 11 quarterbacks who have made at least one Pro Bowl this season.

Fourth-year linebacker Paul Kruger is being asked to play the strongside linebacker position in place of the departed Jarret Johnson and struggled setting the edge against the run in the preseason. However, an even more disappointing outcome of the summer was the slow development of rookie Courtney Upshaw, who dealt with a shoulder injury for much of training camp. Upshaw appeared overweight and lacked explosiveness coming off the edge and was beaten out by former practice squad member Albert McClellan for the rush linebacker spot.

While no one should have expected Upshaw to immediately enter the league as a poor man’s version of Suggs, the fact that he was unable to show any tangible signs of being a threat as a pass rusher in the preseason is disheartening after he was selected with the 35th overall pick in late April. To suggest Upshaw is a draft bust is absurdly premature, but the Ravens hope the light comes on quickly for the rookie from Alabama to be a bigger factor on passing downs.

In terms of maximizing their pass rush, the Ravens might be better served by scrapping the idea of Kruger at the “Sam” position and allowing him to move back to the rush linebacker spot where he can focus more often than not on simply getting after the quarterback. His 5 1/2 sacks in limited time last season showed he can put heat on the quarterback, but those also came with a healthy Suggs on the opposite side of the defensive line.

Defensive end Pernell McPhee will also be critical to the pass rush as his six sacks last year were a major surprise. The Ravens will elect to use him more extensively on first and second down given his pass-rushing ability, but McPhee also bulked up to 290 pounds to aid in playing the run. The second-year defensive lineman made positive plays in run support in the preseason, but you also wonder how the extra weight will affect the combination of strength and quickness he displayed as a pass rusher last year.

There’s simply no replacing the loss of Suggs and the secondary will be challenged in coverage much more without him tormenting quarterbacks for at least the bulk of the regular season. It’s difficult envisioning the defense maintaining the same level of excellence we’ve come to expect over the years, meaning the offense will be asked to be more productive if the Ravens are to remain a legitimate Super Bowl threat.

3. With the no-huddle attack expected to become a prominent part of the offense, how will it affect Ray Rice’s touches?

CONTINUE >>>

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Bovada sets Flacco passing yards at 3500 for 2012

Posted on 05 September 2012 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV). I also have odds for players on the other 31 NFL teams. If you’d like a specific team or the whole list, please let me know. 

Ravens Player Performance Props

Joe Flacco – Total Passing Yards in the 2012 Regular Season

Over/Under                    3500

 

Joe Flacco – Total Passing Touchdowns in the 2012 Regular Season

Over/Under                    22 ½

 

Joe Flacco – Total Interceptions thrown in the 2012 Regular Season 

Over/Under                    12 ½

 

Ray Rice – Total Rushing Yards in the 2012 Regular Season  

Over/Under                    1250 ½

 

Ray Rice – Total Receiving Yards in the 2012 Regular Season           

Over/Under                    625 ½

 

Ray Rice – Total Receptions in the 2012 Regular Season       

Over/Under                    67 ½

 

Ray Rice – Total Rushing & Receiving Touchdowns in the 2012 Regular Season       

Over/Under                    12 ½

 

Anquan Boldin – Total Receiving Yards in the 2012 Regular Season  

Over/Under                    850 ½

 

Anquan Boldin – Total Receiving Touchdowns in the 2012 Regular Season   

Over/Under                    5 ½

 

Torrey Smith – Total Receiving Yards in the 2012 Regular Season     

Over/Under                    900 ½

 

Torrey Smith – Total Receiving Yards in the 2012 Regular Season     

Over/Under                    7

 

Courtney Upshaw – Total Sacks in the 2012 Regular Season  

Over/Under                    3 ½

 

Haloti Ngata – Total Sacks in the 2011 Regular Season          

Over/Under                    5

 

Ed Reed – Total Interceptions in the 2011 Regular Season     

Over/Under                    4 ½

           

Miscellaneous

Who will be the first head coach fired during the 2012 Regular Season?     

Ken Whisenhunt            3/1

Norv Turner                    7/2

Pat Shurmer                  4/1

Rex Ryan                      5/1

Lovie Smith                   6/1

Andy Reid                     7/1

 

Who will record more passing Yards Week 1 of the 2012 Regular Season?

Andrew Luck (IND) QB                           7/4

Robert Griffin III (WSH) QB                      2/1

Russell Wilson (SEA) QB                       2/1

Ryan Tannehill (MIA) QB                        15/2

Brandon Weeden (CLE) QB                    15/2

 

Will an NFL Coach, Player or owner be fined by the NFL for comments made regarding replacement officials about Week 1’s games?

Yes                  +140     (7/5)

No                     -180     (5/9)

 

Eli Manning vs. Peyton Manning – Who will throw for more Passing Yards in the 2012 Regular Season          

Eli Manning (NYG) QB                 -150     

Peyton Maninng (DEN) QB         +120    

 

Eli Manning vs. Peyton Manning – Who will throw more TD Passes in the 2012 Regular Season       

Eli Manning (NYG) QB               EVEN  

Peyton Maninng (DEN) QB         -130     

 

Eli Manning vs. Peyton Manning – Will they Meet in the Super Bowl this Season?   

Yes                              75/1                             

 

Peyton Manning – Will he start all 16 games of the 2012 Regular Season? 

Yes                     -300

No                     +200

 

Andrew Luck – Will he break the single season record for most Passing Yards by a rookie (Cam Newton 4051)?      

Yes                  +250     (5/2)

No                    -400     (1/4)

 

Will Matt Ryan win a playoff game this Season?  

Yes                  +250

No                    -400

 

Michael Vick – Total games started in the 2012 Regular Season    

Over/Under                    14

 

Darren McFadden – Will he play in all 16 games in the 2012 Regular Season?         

Yes                  +110    

No                     -150     

 

Jake Locker – Total Starts in the 2012 Regular Season     

Over/Under                    14 ½

 

Russell Wilson – Total Starts in the 2012 Regular Season 

Over/Under                    10 ½

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Ravens tight ends expect to be game-time decisions Monday

Posted on 05 September 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Since both of their tight ends went down with injuries early in the preseason, the Ravens have maintained all along that Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson would be ready for the start of the regular season.

And while both have been practicing on a limited basis since last week, the pair took a more cautious approach in assessing their chances for taking the field against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. Both Dickson and Pitta said they expect to be game-time decisions following practice on Wednesday.

Pitta has been sidelined since undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his right hand early in camp while Dickson sprained his right shoulder in the Ravens’ preseason opener in Atlanta. Their absence from the field has provided an extra challenge to quarterback Joe Flacco and an offense with an increased emphasis on the no-huddle attack this season.

“A lot more mental preparation, obviously, but it’s nice to be back on the field now,” Pitta said. “I’ve been able to be out there for the last week or so running around and catching the football. It’s nice to be back running plays and developing that chemistry again with Joe and with the offense. Hopefully, it will feel good come game day.”

Coach John Harbaugh insists that players not discuss information related to injuries, so it’s difficult to determine just how serious the tight ends are about being in danger of not playing. The first official injury report of the week will not be released until Thursday evening, but Dickson and Pitta will have been practicing for a full two weeks, which makes it difficult to believe they might not play.

Both players have not partaken in any contact during practices, so it will be interesting to see what their level of participation is this week in practice. Veteran Billy Bajema is the third tight end on the roster.

“Practice until we get to that game,” Dickson said. “Like I said, if it was a personal decision, I don’t care how I’d feel — I’d be out there. I’m here to help the team win. I want to be out there for my team, but I don’t want to hurt the team.”

As you’d expect, Pitta is trying to gain more confidence in catching the football after being sidelined for a month and having his hand in a cast. The third-year tight end felt thankful that he injured the hand so early in camp to allow plenty of time for recovery.

“We just prepare ourselves each day, and we hope to play,” Pitta said. “Obviously, we don’t know at this point and we’ll see how it feels in the next few days, but we’re doing everything we can to prepare ourselves to play because we want to be out there and help our team.”

While both tight ends expressed the need to regain their timing with Flacco, neither anticipated that process taking very long after the success the pair enjoyed last season. Dickson and Pitta combined for 94 catches, 933 yards, and eight touchdown catches last year.

“Joe and I have a good relationship,” Pitta said. “We trust one other on the field, so it’s just about regaining that timing and confidence and all that. We’re able to do that a little bit this week.”

Yanda, Upshaw ready to go Monday

As we learned late last season when rib and leg injuries landed him in the hospital before he still wound up playing in the regular-season finale, it takes quite a bit to keep Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda off the field.

Therefore, it was no secret that the tweaked knee Yanda had suffered after being accidentally undercut by a teammate in practice two weeks ago was a little more serious than the Ravens were leading on. The sixth-year lineman revealed Wednesday he suffered an MCL sprain but declared himself ready to play in the season opener.

“I feel great, I’m 100 percent — the knee’s good,” Yanda said. “[The ligament] was loose for a while, but it’s definitely tightening back up. I just wear the brace and the tape just for precaution.”

Yanda missed the final two preseason games as veteran Bobbie Williams shifted over to right guard and rookie Kelechi Osemele played left guard against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens rested their starting offensive line in the fourth preseason game.

After an uncertain summer in which the Ravens rotated tackles and left guards in determining what their starting lineup would look like against Cincinnati — a question that still remains unanswered to some degree — Yanda remains the dependable foundation of the unit. The timing of the injury allowed Yanda to rest his body when he otherwise would have pushed through the ailment had it occurred in the regular season.

“It was hurt. It was loose, so I wasn’t going to fight through it during the preseason and make it worse,” said Yanda, who believed he could have played had it been the regular season. “We were just going to let it heal all the way, and that’s what it’s done.”

Questions remain regarding the stability of Williams’ surgically-repaired right ankle and the fact that three  of the five projected starters are on the wrong side of thirty, but the unit appears to be in much better shape with Yanda’s knee no longer being a concern.

“You always want to start the season healthy,” Yanda said. “It’s a long year and I’m going to do that, so that’s great. I’ll be ready to roll [and] flying around.”

Rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw also said he will be ready to play after tweaking the same shoulder he sprained earlier in the summer in the Ravens’ preseason finale last Thursday.

Ihedigbo ready to step in wherever needed

CONTINUE >>>

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Four Questions for the Ravens Season

Posted on 04 September 2012 by jeffreygilley

Personally, I have high hopes and expectations for the Ravens this season.  But then again, when are expectations not high in Baltimore?  The success the Ravens have had in their short existence is truly unbelievable.  As I said, this season is no different and the Ravens are hoping to make the Super Bowl after reaching the AFC Championship in two of the last four years.  But, no team enters a season without question marks.

Can the Ravens young linebackers replace the production of Suggs?  

As we all know, Terrell Suggs tore his ACL in the off-season.  Because of his injury, linebackers Paul Kruger, Courtney UpShaw, Sergio Kindle, and Albert McClellan must step up.  Kruger had a nice season in 2011 but that was when he had Terrell Suggs on the field commanding double teams.  Kruger is not alone though.  He has the help of some young players but young is the key word.  Kindle, UpShaw, and McClellan are all young and unexperienced.

If the Ravens can not produce any pressure, the team will struggle.  Pernell McPhee is a defensive lineman to keep an eye on.  He was most effective last season when he lined up against guards.  Pernell McPhee and Haloti Ngata will be a deadly combination this season and can occupy blockers which will help the Ravens young linebackers.

Can Torrey Smith have a break out season? 

Another way the Ravens can make up for the loss of Terrell Suggs is for the offense to be more productive and the pre-season has looked promising for the offense.  Joe Flacco looks much different.  He seems more composed and is scanning the field more effectively.  His favorite target seems to be Torrey Smith.  Smith also looks better.  His route running is more polished and he is now more than a down field threat.

If Torrey Smith had an 800-yard season in 2011 by being a down field threat only, immagine what he can do now that he is more polished?

How will the Ravens use Bobby Rainey and Deonte Thompson?

Bobby Rainey and Deonte Thompson were both stars of the pre-season.  They were brought into Ravens camp with little expectations but once they got to camp, they did nothing but perform at a high level.  Rainey, a running back out of Western Kentucky has shown a vast skill set throughout the preseason.  Rainey can run the ball effectively, catch the ball out of the backfield, he can block, and he can even return punts and kicks.  I think Rainey will play a role very similar to how Darren Sproles is used in New Orleans.  He is a play maker and the Ravens need as many of them as possible.

Deonte Thompson has also been very impressive in the preseason.  Like Raney, Thompson has been effective in multiple areas.  He has been explosive at wide receiver and as a kick returner.  Thompson has an opportunity to climb the depth chart even more.  Players like LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss are ahead of him but Thompson has been more impressive in the preseason.  I expect Thompson to be used in multiple situations this season.

Will the special teams improve? 

The Ravens are stacked with options to return punts and kicks.  Jacoby Jones, Asa Jackson, Deonte Thompson, and Bobby Rainey have all shown flashes of brilliance in the return game but returning punts and kicks is not the problem.  The coverage was dreadful last season.  To improve the kickoff and punt coverage, the Ravens made several moves in the offseason.  Cory Graham, a special teams ace from the Bears is expected to play a big role on special teams this year and possibly on defense.  Sean Considine was also signed and is expected to contribute in a big way on special teams.

The special teams coverage did not look good in the preseason but it’s only the preseason.  I expect the special teams to be greatly improved from last season.

 

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Your Tuesday Reality Check: Let’s bust Upshaw talk

Posted on 04 September 2012 by Glenn Clark

I love the word “bust.”

Honest to God, it’s one of my favorite words in the English language.  If you check Dicitionary.com, there are 18 different uses of the word “bust” including seven verbs, five nouns, an adjective, a verb phrase and three idioms.

Coincidentally, “Three Idioms” was also a rejected name I suggested for a cover band I briefly joined in college. I thought it would have played better with the journalism school crowd. Shows what I know.

Think of the many ways you use the term “bust.” Perhaps you’ve used it to describe a sculpture. Perhaps you’re like me and only discovered one particular use of the word when you were first introduced to Pamela Anderson. Perhaps (again like me) you’re used the word quite a bit because you’re absolutely terrible at poker. Heck, perhaps you’ve even taken a cue from the worst college sports “pump up” video of all time and suggested you were “busting in” something or other.

I really hope it’s not the last scenario. God I hope it’s not the last scenario.

My interest today is in a different form of the word “bust”, the same form we heard Baltimore Ravens fans (and a few analysts covering the team) using to describe WR Torrey Smith just about 12 months ago.

Did that form of the word “bust” hit home because sheepishly you thought to yourself “oh no…I was one of those people. He’s talking about me!”?

It’s fine. You’re not alone. This is a safe place. You’re among friends here.

You probably described the former University of Maryland star as a “bust” because during the preseason he had only four catches total for just 20 yards. His hands appeared to be such an issue that only a few weeks into the preseason the team decided to trade for then Buffalo Bills WR Lee Evans in hopes to push Smith back to being the team’s third receiver instead of a starter.

You probably said something along the lines of “I can see why this guy fell to the bottom of the second round when some people thought he had first round talent.” You might have even called my show (you know who you are) to say “this guy is just the second coming of (fellow former Terps WR) Darrius Heyward-Bey.”

It was weird because after he caught the game winning touchdown at Heinz Field to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, I didn’t get too many of the same calls.

Go ahead. If you considered Torrey Smith a “bust” during the preseason or the beginning of last year’s regular season, please raise your hand. I just hope you have the fortitude to make the admission. I wouldn’t want to think that you were the type that made such proclamations and then later stated “I knew all along.”

I did not make such proclamations, personally. I also didn’t proclaim Smith to be ready to be a Rookie of the Year candidate either. The only things I really said were along the lines of “he hasn’t even played an actual NFL game” and “I have absolutely no idea how Smith is going to perform when the lights come on. We’ll have to wait and see.”

(Continued on Page 2…

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Upshaw reinjures shoulder in preseason loss to St. Louis

Posted on 31 August 2012 by Luke Jones

With a final opportunity to make a statement in the competition with Albert McClellan for the Ravens’ starting rush linebacker spot, rookie Courtney Upshaw instead reinjured the shoulder that’s plagued him throughout the summer.

The 35th overall pick in April’s draft left the game in the second quarter of the Ravens’ 31-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams Thursday, and his status for the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10 is now in question. Upshaw is scheduled to undergo an MRI Friday.

“I’m concerned,” Harbaugh told reporters following the game. “We’ll find out tomorrow with an MRI what it is.”

Upshaw originally injured his shoulder on July 28 in a collision with rookie running back Bernard Pierce, which caused him to miss the preseason opener in Atlanta. He finished the preseason with three tackles and one sack in three games.

Concerns already existed over Upshaw’s slow progression as the Ravens are trying to generate a pass rush without Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is on the physically unable to perform list and not expected to return until mid-November at the earliest. The Ravens were counting on the rookie from Alabama to step in as the starting rush linebacker, but McClellan outperformed him in the preseason to claim the job for the start of the season.

In other injury news, offensive lineman Justin Boren injured his right foot and will undergo an MRI on Friday. Tight ends Matt Balasavage (ankle) and Bruce Figgins (shoulder) were also banged up against the Rams.

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