Tag Archive | "Courtney UpShaw"

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What to Look for on Thursday Night

Posted on 22 August 2012 by jeffreygilley

Come thursday night, the Ravens will be looking to exercise some demons against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  In week seven of last season, the Ravens suffered an embarrassing loss to the Jaguars on national television.  Joe Flacco and the offense could not move the ball as the Ravens fell 12-7.

Even though this is the preseason, the Ravens still want to win the game.  More importantly, the first team offense and defense must show improvement.

In the preseason, the offensive and defensive schemes are very vanilla.  Defenses dont give away their exotic blitzes for other teams to study.  Because of this, there is usually a three to four man rush which means a lot of one on one match-ups on the offensive and defensive line.  That said, the Ravens defensive line has not generated any pressure this entire preseason.

The loss of Terrell Suggs might prove to be more of a predicament than first expected.  Courtney UpShaw had a disappointing performance in his debut against the Lions but I think he will get his act together and perform well throughout the season.  UpShaw wont be handed the job but he will be expected to play a lot and make a sizable impact.

In addition to UpShaw, the Ravens have many other young and unproven linebackers.  Albert McClellan, Paul Kruger, and Sergio Kindle will be asked to take the place of Suggs.  I am not so optimistic that they can do that.  Kruger had a good year in 2011 but Suggs was a big part of his performance.  Suggs was able to command double teams which would in turn, leave Kruger one-on-one with an offensive lineman.  Even with Suggs’s help, Kruger only amassed 5.5 sacks.

Hopefully, I am wrong and Kruger can play well this season but I just dont see it.  If the front seven cant put pressure on the quarterback, expect the Ravens secondary to struggle.

Joe Flacco needs to have a good game this thursday.  He has looked solid but not great this preseason.  Torrey Smith should be back which will help Flacco tremendously.  The Jaguars will be a good test for Flacco seeing as the Jaguars had a top ten defense last season.  But, I think Flacco will have a very good game against the Jaguars.  He seems to be more confident and decisive after the AFC Championship game where he outperformed Tom Brady.

Jim Caldwell has also had an impact on the growth of Joe Flacco.  In the first two games, Flacco seems to be surveying the field more rather than just checking the ball down to Ray Rice.  He has also gotten better at looking off safeties to make plays.

Also keep an eye on rookies Omar Brown, Bobby Rainey, Deonte Thompson, and Asa Jackson.  All four of these players have performed very well and if the preseason ended today, I think they would be on the team.  Thompson, Rainey, and Jackson have all showed their potential on special teams as return men and on coverage.  Jackson and Thompson have performed extremely well returning kicks and both had long returns against the Lions which were both called back on penalties.

Omar Brown on the other hand, is making play after play.  Brown is a turnover machine and seems to have a future on the team if he continues to perform at a high level.

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As you’d expect, Ravens still very much a work in progress

Posted on 18 August 2012 by Luke Jones

As was the case in the Ravens’ preseason-opening win over the Atlanta Falcons, you can’t take anything away from the final score after the Detroit Lions won by a 27-12 margin at M&T Bank Stadium Friday night.

On the surface, the first-team units struggled once again as the offense twice drove inside the Detroit 30-yard-line — one taking them all the way to the 7 — before settling for field goals and the defense was unable to stop a high-octane passing attack for the second straight week. However, what’s lost in the scrutiny and excitement of this particular preseason is that the Ravens are reinventing themselves on both sides of the football.

And that remains a major work in progress with 23 days remaining before the regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

“I thought we played well early,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We just need to finish the drives [offensively], finish the drives on defense and get off the field on third downs.”

Offensively, quarterback Joe Flacco and the starting offense once again utilized a no-huddle attack for their three series of work. Unlike the preseason opener in which they went three-and-out three straight times, the Ravens developed a decent rhythm early as they used three-wide sets of Anquan Boldin, Jacoby Jones, and LaQuan Williams — Torrey Smith sat out with a lingering ankle injury — and dropped back to pass on 16 of the 26 play-calls the first offense ran.

It remains to be seen how committed the Ravens are to executing the no-huddle offense when the regular season begins, but it’s becoming clear that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is taking a page from new quarterback coach and former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell in trying to make the high-speed attack a proficient option they can use in larger doses than in the past. The Ravens are facing the challenge of being without top tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta for the remainder of the preseason, but they’re utilizing a third receiver instead of having Pitta work in the slot as he did late last season.

Success with the no-huddle is contingent upon timing and sustaining drives in order to bring your own defense adequate rest.

However, the same problems we’ve seen in the past crept up when the Ravens were moving the ball well. On their second drive, Flacco guided Baltimore inside the 10 before Williams could not bring it what would have been a touchdown and left tackle Michael Oher committed a holding penalty that pushed the Ravens back to the 17. They settled for a 33-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff.

A drive later, they moved the ball to the Detroit 29 before reserve running back Anthony Allen whiffed picking up a blitzer for the second straight week and Flacco was sacked on a third-and-1 situation, leading to a 50-yard field goal by rookie Justin Tucker.

At that point, you could close the book on the starting offense’s night, with the same lack of efficiency — in terms of scoring touchdowns, anyway — inside the 30 hanging over their heads.

“That’s why when you do get those two chances, that’s why it’s all about finishing off, finishing off,” Flacco said. “The biggest thing with that is if we’re going to be the offense that we want to be, in order to put up 30-some points every week, you have to score touchdowns. You don’t want to get in the business of just not converting and kicking.”

The most positive news to take away from the offensive side Friday was the improvement of the offensive line. With veteran Matt Birk back at center, the Ravens once again used Oher at left tackle and rookie Kelechi Osemele at right tackle while Bryant McKinnie stood on the sideline. Run blocking had mixed results as the bulk of their rushing yards came courtesy of a 35-yard run by Jones, but the Ravens did a much better job protecting Flacco than they did in Atlanta when the quarterback was repeatedly running for his life.

“We’re definitely starting to come together,” offensive tackle Michael Oher said. “We’re still learning and guys are still getting used to some things, but we’re getting better every day.”

Once again, McKinnie did not work with the starting offensive line as you wonder more and more if the Ravens are serious about going with the more athletic combination of Oher and Osemele and how that might be a better fit for their ability to utilize the no-huddle offense. The mammoth veteran tackle blocked well against second-team defenders, but the assumption that he would eventually regain his starting left tackle job appears more uncertain after he wasn’t even rotated in for some work with the first unit.

Watching the Baltimore defense Friday, the most definitive conclusion I took away is that the Ravens are fortunate only to have to play Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson in a game that matters once every four years. The best pass-catcher on the planet torched the Ravens in the second quarter with a 57-yard reception matched up against Cary Williams and an 18-yard touchdown over a well-positioned Jimmy Smith.

CONTINUE >>>

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Ravens-Lions pre-game notes and inactives

Posted on 17 August 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Playing the first of two preseason games at M&T Bank Stadium this month, the Ravens welcome the Detroit Lions to town as the two teams will meet for the third time ever in the preseason.

Baltimore owns a 2-0 advantage over the Lions in the preseason and is 2-1 in the regular-season series, with the most recent matchup taking place in 2009 when the Ravens won by a staggering 48-3 margin. This is the first preseason meeting between the teams since 2004.

There were no real surprises among the Baltimore inactives though many thought offensive lineman Jah Reid might get his first action of the preseason. Wide receiver Torrey Smith (ankle), cornerback Jimmy Smith (back), linebacker Courtney Upshaw (shoulder), and running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring) are all active, but it remains to be seen how much they’ll play.

(Update 7:30 p.m. — It appears that Torrey Smith will not play as he’s dressed in street clothes as the wide receivers go through pre-game warmups.)

Here are tonight’s inactives:

Baltimore
WR David Reed
LB Josh Bynes
LB Darryl Blackstock
LB Terrell Suggs
OT Jah Reid
TE Ed Dickson
WR Devin Goda
TE Dennis Pitta
DT Ryan McBean

Detroit
RB Mikel Leshoure
S Louis Delmas
CB Chris Greenwood
CB Drew Coleman
RB Jahvid Best
OT Jonathan Scott
DT Sammie Hill
DE Kyle Vanden Bosch

Follow WNST on Twitter HERE throughout the evening as I bring the latest updates and analysis from M&T Bank. Stadium.

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Bovada gives Rice 25/1 odds to win NFL MVP

Posted on 14 August 2012 by WNST Staff

courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv,  Twitter: @BovadaLV).

 

2012 NFL MVP – Odds to Win  

Aaron Rodgers (GB) QB                         11/2

Tom Brady (NE) QB                               13/2

Drew Brees (NO) QB                              9/1

Michael Vick (PHI) QB                           10/1

Peyton Maninng (IND) QB                       10/1

Matthew Stafford (DET) QB                     12/1

Arian Foster (HOU) RB                           15/1

Calvin Johnson (DET) WR                       15/1

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) QB                   18/1

Eli Manning (NYG) QB                           18/1

Cam Newton (CAR) QB                          22/1

Matt Ryan (ATL) QB                               22/1

Tony Romo (DAL) QB                             22/1

Alex Smith (SF) QB                               25/1

Chris Johnson (TEN) RB                         25/1

LeSean McCoy (PHI) RB                        25/1

Ray Rice (BAL) RB                                25/1

Jay Cutler (CHI) QB                                30/1

Jimmy Graham (NO) TE                         35/1

Matt Forte (CHI) RB                               40/1

Rob Gronkowski (NE) TE                        40/1

Andre Johnson (HOU) WR                      50/1

Andrew Luck (IND) QB                           50/1

Andy Dalton (CIN) QB                            50/1

Jared Allen (MIN) DE                              50/1

Robert Griffin III (WSH) QB                      50/1

Wes Welker (NE) WR                            50/1

Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) WR                       75/1

Tim Tebow (NYJ) QB                              100/1

 

2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year – Odds to Win 

Andrew Luck (IND) QB                           5/2

Robert Griffin III (WSH) QB                      9/2

Trent Richardson (CLE) RB                     11/2

Brandon Weeden (CLE) QB                    15/2

Justin Blackmon (JAC) WR                     15/2

Ryan Tannehill (MIA) QB                        10/1

Michael Floyd (ARI) WR                         12/1

Doug Martin (TB) RB                              15/1

Alshon Jeffery (CHI) WR                         20/1

David Wilson (NYG) RB                          25/1

LaMichael James (SF) RB                      25/1

Rueben Randle (NYG) WR                      25/1

Ryan Broyles (DET) WR                         25/1

Coby Fleener (IND) TE                            30/1

Kendall Wright (TEN) WR                       30/1

Stephen Hill (NYJ) WR                           30/1

A.J. Jenkins (SF) WR                             35/1

 

2012 NFL 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year – Odds to Win

Luke Kuechly (CAR) LB                          4/1

Morris Claiborne (DAL) DB                      6/1

Chandler Jones (NE) DE                         9/1

Melvin Ingram (SD) DE                           10/1

Mark Barron (TB) DB                              10/1

Fletcher Cox (PHI) DT                            10/1

Courtney Upshaw (BAL) LB                    12/1

Dont’a Hightower (NE) LB                       12/1

Dre Kirkpatrick (CIN) DB                         12/1

Harrison Smith (MIN) DB                        12/1

Mychal Kendricks (PHI) LB                     14/1

 

2012 NFL Regular Season – Who will lead the league in Passing Yards?       

Drew Brees (NO) QB                              9/2

Tom Brady (NE) QB                               5/1

Aaron Rodgers (GB) QB                         11/2

Matthew Stafford (DET) QB                     13/2

Philip Rivers (SD) QB                             10/1

Peyton Maninng (IND) QB                       10/1

Eli Manning (NYG) QB                           12/1

Tony Romo (DAL) QB                             18/1

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) QB                   18/1

Jay Cutler (CHI) QB                                20/1

Matt Ryan (ATL) QB                               20/1

Matt Schaub (HOU) QB                          20/1

Carson Palmer (CIN) QB                         25/1

Cam Newton (CAR) QB                          25/1

Andrew Luck (IND) QB                           30/1

Michael Vick (PHI) QB                           30/1

Joe Flacco (BAL) QB                             40/1

Andy Dalton (CIN) QB                            40/1

Robert Griffin III (WAS) QB                      50/1

Josh Freeman (TB) QB                           50/1

Sam Bradford (STL) QB                          66/1

Matt Cassel (KC) QB                             66/1

 

2012 NFL Regular Season – Who will lead the league in Rushing Yards?      

Arian Foster (HOU) RB                           9/2

Ray Rice (BAL) RB                                13/2

Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) RB                15/2

Chris Johnson (TEN) RB                         15/2

LeSean McCoy (PHI) RB                        12/1

Jamaal Charles (KC) RB                         12/1

Darren McFadden (OAK) RB                   14/1

Matt Forte (CHI) RB                               15/1

Marshawn Lynch (BUF) RB                     15/1

Adrian Peterson (MIN) RB                       18/1

Ryan Mathews (SD) RB                          18/1

Michael Turner (ATL) RB                         18/1

DeMarco Murray (DAL) RB                     18/1

Frank Gore (SF) RB                               20/1

Trent Richardson (CLE) RB                     20/1

Steven Jackson (STL) RB                       20/1

Shonn Greene (NYJ) RB                         25/1

Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) RB                   30/1

Fred Jackson (BUF) RB                          35/1

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (CIN) RB               50/1

 

2012 NFL Regular Season – Who will lead the league in Receiving Yards?   

Calvin Johnson (DET) WR                       7/2

Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) WR                       15/2

Andre Johnson (HOU) WR                      10/1

Julio Jones (WR) ATL                             12/1

Victor Cruz (NYG) WR                           12/1

Hakeem Nicks (NYG) WR                      14/1

A.J. Green (CIN) WR                              15/1

Roddy White (ATL) WR                          15/1

Brandon Marshall (CHI) WR                    15/1

Jimmy Graham (NO) TE                         16/1

Mike Wallace (PIT) WR                          16/1

Rob Gronkowski (NE) TE                        18/1

Wes Welker (NE) WR                            18/1

Greg Jennings (GB) WR                         20/1

Steve Smith (CAR) WR                          20/1

Jordy Nelson (GB) WR                           22/1

Vincent Jackson (TB) WR                       25/1

Demaryius Thomas (DEN) WR                28/1

Eric Decker (DEN) WR                           28/1
Miles Austin (DAL) WR                          30/1

Marques Colston (NO) WR                     30/1

Dez Bryant (DAL) WR                            30/1

DeSean Jackson (PHI) WR                     35/1

Randy Moss (SF) WR                            100/1

Terrell Owens (SEA) WR                        100/1

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Flacco embracing increased focus on no-huddle offense

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Luke Jones

The Ravens appear primed to use the no-huddle attack more this season than they have at any point during the John Harbaugh era, and that’s perfectly fine with Joe Flacco.

In fact, the fifth-year quarterback wouldn’t have it any other way if given the choice.

“I love the no-huddle,” Flacco said. “We’ve got to get quicker and quicker at it. I like to go up there and run a play, run a play, run play. That’s what we’re going to be, and I think we have to make sure we get it as fast as we can.”

The Baltimore offense operated almost exclusively without a huddle in the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons, running 82 plays over the course of the game. Of course, that number becomes even more astonishing when you consider the first-quarter struggles that led the Ravens to only run nine plays for nine total yards in the first 15 minutes.

Running 73 plays in the final three quarters, the Ravens won’t always use the strategy, but Harbaugh stated Saturday that it’s been a major point of focus during organized team activities in the spring and over the first three weeks of training camp.

“That’s something that we have been practicing from the beginning, so obviously, that’s going to be a big part of what we do. We just have to pick our spots and all that.”

What can’t happen when using the no-huddle attack is to go three-and-out as the Ravens did for three consecutive series against the Falcons in the first quarter. Not only does it force a punt back to the opposition, but it leaves the defense even more fatigued than usual and will often result in the opposition controlling the tempo.

“It works really well when you convert; it doesn’t look so good when you don’t convert,” Harbaugh said. “When we have situations during the season, if we are out there, if we chose to go that tempo, that we don’t convert, our defense is going to have to get stops. When we do convert, we are going to build some momentum on our opponents. You have to understand how that goes.”

Veteran defensive lineman pushing Cody

Perhaps the most surprising sight from Sunday’s practice in Annapolis was seeing veteran defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu lining up with the starting defensive line during several periods while starter Terrence Cody worked with the second-team defense.

Cody is still listed as the starting nose tackle on the team’s most recent depth chart released Saturday, but the 33-year-old Kemoeatu has appeared to not only lock down a spot on the 53-man roster but is now pushing for serious playing time after not even playing in the NFL last season.

“I would say Kemo is pushing for a starting job,” Harbaugh said. “He has done that the last couple of [weeks], really since training camp has started. He’s in great shape, and he’s played extremely well.”

Kemoeatu has battled Achilles tendon and shoulder injuries in recent years and has played in only 14 games over the last three NFL seasons. The veteran played in Baltimore from 2002 through 2005 before signing a long-term contract with the Carolina Panthers.

He signed a one-year contract with the Ravens in early May after being released by the Washington Redskins last July and sitting out the 2011 season.

Upshaw working way back slowly

Rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw worked in his third straight practice on Sunday after he sat out the preseason opener in Atlanta while still recovering from a right shoulder sprain.

The 22-year-old continues to be very limited and has his right shoulder heavily wrapped. He missed seven straight practices after sustaining the injury in a collision with rookie running back Bernard Pierce on July 28.

Upshaw is stilled listed as the Ravens’ starting rush linebacker on the official depth chart, but Albert McClellan and Sergio Kindle have received the reps in the rookie’s absent. McClellan has played well and is vying to win the starting job, according to Harbaugh.

“I’m not really feeling any pressure,” Upshaw said. “It’s just all these guys are here fighting, and I knew that coming in after they drafted me. But they just want me to get back to fight with them. Honestly, I just want to get back on the field. It’s not even about competing with [McClellan]. I just love the game so much, and I want to be out there playing the game of football.”

Expressing confidence that he would play in the Ravens’ second preseason game this Friday, Upshaw acknowledged that he still feels soreness in the shoulder and would have to be cleared to play by the training staff to compete against the Detroit Lions.

Reed sets record straight

CONTINUE >>>

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Ravens plan for “standard” preseason opener in Atlanta

Posted on 07 August 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Wednesday 8:05 a.m.)

Much anticipation exists for the Ravens’ preseason opener in Atlanta on Thursday night, but don’t expect too many surprises in how coach John Harbaugh handles the first game of the summer.

As is typically the case, you can expect little more than a cameo appearance from most starters.

“It will be a standard first preseason game concept, so we’ll be looking at anywhere from a certain set number of plays to about a quarter, maybe a quarter-plus for some of the starters,” Harbaugh said. “That’s kind of what we’re targeting, but not everybody is on exactly the same schedule. Some guys won’t play at all. Some of the more senior veterans guys won’t play at all by design.”

Harbaugh is likely referring to 37-year-old linebacker Ray Lewis and 33-year-old safety Ed Reed, who have occasionally sat out the first preseason game in past years. It would be surprising to see either defensive star for more than a series if they do take the field against the Falcons.

The Ravens will also be missing a number of players due to injuries as 13 members of the 90-man preseason roster sat out Tuesday’s practice, including center Matt Birk, cornerback Jimmy Smith, wide receiver Jacoby Jones, and defensive end Arthur Jones. Unlike the regular season and playoffs, NFL teams are not required to release an injury report during the preseason.

“The guys who you didn’t see out here [at Tuesday’s practice] won’t be playing in the game,” Harbaugh said.

How the Ravens will handle players who have recently returned to the practice field remains more of a mystery.

Linebacker Courtney Upshaw practiced on a limited basis Tuesday for the first time since July 28 but is not expected to play. Harbaugh and the coaching staff must also decide whether to play defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee and offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie. All three returned to practice late last week but didn’t crank up their respective workloads until Monday.

McKinnie told WNST.net Wednesday morning that he will play against the Falcons, explaining that he needs the reps to get into better football shape. The Ravens may be forcing McKinnie into action as they try to evaluate their left tackle position, but they are more likely to be cautious with the three-time Pro Bowl selection Ngata. In the past, Harbaugh has preferred previously-injured players to stack a number of consecutive practices before playing in preseason games.

“We’ll decide by Thursday, but that would be the thought,” Harbaugh said. “They probably need to practice a little more. [Upshaw’s] been out for over a week, so we probably want to get him practice before we play him.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco will likely play a couple series, but that will depend on the number of plays and flow of the game in the first quarter. In last season’s preseason opener, the 27-year-old played two series, completing 3 of 6 passes for 60 yards in the Ravens’ 13-6 loss to Philadelphia.

It’s apparent Flacco isn’t reading too much into the importance of the first preseason game and wants the starting offense to be efficient for however long it might be on the field.

“I haven’t even figured out how long I’m playing yet,” said Flacco, who labeled Thursday’s game as little more than a warmup. “We’ll see, but hopefully my expectations will be we get the ball, whether it’s to open the game or once they turn the ball over on downs or whatever happens, and we go down and score a touchdown, and then that will be a good day.”

Of course, the Ravens hope to avoid adding new injuries to their already-extensive infirmary report, but Harbaugh said players cannot change how they play to avoid getting hurt.

To do so would put them at even greater risk, according to the head coach.

“You can’t draw that line; you have to be completely aggressive,” Harbaugh said. “You have to be 100 percent aggressive in order to give yourself the 100 percent best chance not to get hurt. As soon as you start thinking about not getting hurt, that’s when you get caught up in a bad situation.”

 

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Upshaw, Ed Reed return to practice on Tuesday

Posted on 07 August 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After dealing with a shoulder sprain for over a week, linebacker Courtney Upshaw returned to the field as the Ravens worked indoors in their final full practice before traveling to Atlanta for their preseason opener on Thursday night.

The rookie from Alabama last practiced on July 28 after he appeared to suffer the injury in a collision with rookie running back Bernard Pierce. While Upshaw’s return is certainly good news, it’s unlikely he’ll be cleared to play in the Ravens’ first preseason game considering he’s only taken part in one full-pad practice this summer.

Upshaw was very limited in his participation on Tuesday.

“We’ll decide on Thursday, but that would be the thought,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They probably need to practice a little more. He’s been out for over a week, so we probably want to get him [more] practice before we play him.”

The Ravens were practicing in helmets, shells, and shorts on Tuesday afternoon.

Safety Ed Reed was a late arrival on the field after the opening portion of practice and is practicing. The veteran watched the latter portion of Monday’s practice from the sideline and had a black sleeve on his left leg.

Defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu returned to practice on Tuesday a day after sitting out while running back Anthony Allen, linebacker Jameel McClain, defensive end Pernell McPhee, and right guard Marshal Yanda were all working after sitting out the latter portion of Monday’s practice. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones also left practice early Monday and was watching Tuesday’s practice but did not appear to be participating.

Others absent from the field included offensive linemen Matt Birk (back) and Jah Reid (calf), cornerback Jimmy Smith (back), defensive lineman Arthur Jones (hip), tight end Dennis Pitta (hand), wide receiver Patrick Williams (leg), Pierce (hamstring), and linebackers Darryl Blackstock (groin), Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), and Josh Bynes (back).

Harbaugh said following practice that players missing from practice on Tuesday would not play in Thursday’s preseason opener. He also revealed the nature of Bynes’ injury, who hasn’t practiced since injuring his back in a goal-line scrimmage session last week.

“He basically chipped a couple pieces off the bony protrusions on the spine,” Harbaugh said. “It happens sometimes in car accidents. It was really unusual for a football injury. It’s about a four-week injury, maybe a five-week injury. So, that’s what he’s doing right now, and he’s coming along really well.”

Linebacker Terrell Suggs (non-football injury list – Achilles tendon) and wide receiver David Reed (physically unable to perform list – knee) are expected to miss the entire preseason.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco, and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell HERE.

 

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Friday notes from training camp

Posted on 03 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Trying to figure out exactly how the Ravens plan to handle their starting outside linebacker positions has been challenging with conflicting information out there since the start of organized team activities.

While fourth-year linebacker Paul Kruger and rookie Courney Upshaw are still listed as the projected starters on the first depth chart released earlier this week, Kruger is listed as the strongside — or “Sam” — linebacker while Upshaw is at the rush linebacker spot, which contradicts what Kruger told reporters during OTAs. Further complicating the situation is the shoulder injury that’s sidelined Upshaw since Monday.

Kruger and the combination of Sergio Kindle and Albert McClellan — with Kindle getting first-team reps while McClellan worked with the second unit Friday — have manned the outside linebacker spots for the starting defense this week, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees is keeping everyone guessing as Kruger has lined up at the strongside position as well as the rush linebacker spot.

When the starting defense came out in its nickel alignment Friday, Kruger and Kindle lined up as defensive ends with Ryan McBean and Bryan Hall lining up at the tackle positions as Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee are still being brought back slowly after injuries.

Regardless of who ultimately lines up at each outside linebacker position at the start of the regular season, there are question marks over the ability of both Kruger and Upshaw to drop into pass coverage, making it understandable that the Ravens are playing around with as many looks as they can to see what will work best without the services of Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Return game

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg hasn’t offered much in revealing what the Ravens’ plans are in the return game, but veteran wide receiver Jacoby Jones has a strong hold on the punt return job and is listed in the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Jones has taken the majority of reps as the punt returner even though former punt returner Lardarius Webb may occasionally find himself back deep.

However, the kick returner job appears to be more wide open with no definitive player emerging to receive more reps during practices. Jones is listed as the No. 1 kick returner on the depth chart, but backup running backs Anthony Allen and Damien Berry as well as rookie wide receiver Deonte Thompson received reps returning kickoffs on Friday.

Jones has the clear edge in experience, but you have to wonder if the Ravens will want him to handle return duties for both punts and kickoffs when he is expected to be the team’s No. 3 receiver this season.

We will begin to gain more clarity when the Ravens take on the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener on Thursday.

Highlights from practice

Tight end Ed Dickson continues to have an impressive camp as he caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Flacco in an 11-on-11 portion of practice.

Matched up across from Kruger at the line of scrimmage, Dickson found a tiny window as Kruger dropped into zone coverage and Flacco threw a beautiful pass into the end zone for the score.

Though Flacco seemed to develop a better rapport with Dennis Pitta over the course of last season, he appears to be on the same page with Dickson during camp, which is good news after Pitta broke his hand earlier this week.

Flacco also delivered a bullet to wide receiver Torrey Smith on a slant pattern that beat cornerback Danny Gorrer and likely would have gone for a touchdown had the whistle not blown shortly after the reception. Smith has looked more comfortable with the entire passing tree through the early portion of camp and appears to be catching the ball more often with his hands instead of his body as he would tend to do last season.

After receiving Thursday off, rookie kicker Justin Tucker was 5-for-6 on field goal attempts as he connected on tries from 46 and 53 yards before coming up just short on a kick from 60 yards away.

Veteran kicker Billy Cundiff was given Friday off as Rosburg told media a day earlier that he would.

Roster move

With Bryant McKinnie returning to the practice field on Friday, the Ravens waived offensive lineman Paul Madsen after they had signed him in early June.

The rookie from Colorado State had previously been with the Buffalo Bills before being claimed off waivers by Baltimore.

He is the brother of former NBA player Mark Madsen.

 

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Ravens more interested to see banged-up Upshaw in game situations

Posted on 03 August 2012 by Luke Jones

The Ravens continued to be without rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw Thursday as the top draft pick recovers from a shoulder injury.

The 35th overall pick has missed four straight practices after sustaining a shoulder injury in Saturday’s workout. Upshaw appeared to suffer a stinger in a collision with rookie running back Bernard Pierece, but the 272-pound linebacker finished practice.

Though the Ravens want to see Upshaw return to action as he’s expected to be the starting strongside linebacker, they aren’t concerned as long as the 22-year-old is ready to play in preseason games, starting with the opener in Atlanta next Thursday.

“I’ll start getting worried if it’s halfway through the preseason,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “What we just need to do is get him out there, especially in some preseason games, and have him hit, get hit, and actually play. It’s one thing to go out and practice. There’s different situations here in practice that are just not the same as game-type tempo and game-type situations, and that’s why we need to get him out there. I’m not too concerned, yet, until if we get down the road and he’s not playing any games. Then I will be concerned.”

In Upshaw’s absence, Albert McClellan and Sergio Kindle have received more reps with the starting defense, and coach John Harbaugh said earlier this week that McClellan is competing for the starting job. Upshaw has an impressive pedigree after playing in the vaunted Alabama defense, but he failed his first attempt at the team’s conditioning test at the start of training camp and the team would like to see him slim down a bit as he’ll be expected to drop into pass coverage more than he did in college.

While the Ravens labeled it a shoulder bruise, it’s appearing more likely the injury is more severe than that. Upshaw has walked out to the practice field during the latter portion of a few practices this week after receiving treatment on the shoulder.

“Courtney Upshaw got a bruise on his shoulder, so he is out for now,” Harbaugh said Monday afternoon after Upshaw missed his first practice. “It’s a bruise, and he’ll just take the time that it takes to get healed up. Jimmy Smith bruised his shoulder [Saturday], too, and he was able to get back [Monday]. So, it kind of gives you an indication.”

Unlike Smith, however, Upshaw’s recovery time has taken much longer.

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Kruger adjusting to full-time role in fourth season

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Luke Jones

Upon learning 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs had suffered a torn Achilles tendon in late April, Paul Kruger knew it would create the kind of opportunity he’s been waiting for, even if it didn’t come under the most desirable circumstances for the Ravens.

The 2009 second-round pick struggled to find his niche in the Baltimore defense in his first two seasons before finally seeing consistent time as a pass-rush specialist on third down last season. Kruger collected 5 1/2 sacks while providing a viable option on the opposite edge of Suggs, who posted a career-high 14 sacks.

Now being asked to play Suggs’ rush linebacker position, Kruger knows no single player will be able to replicate the star linebacker’s impact. Kruger is simply hoping to occupy the spot to the best of his ability in hopes that Suggs will be able to return to the field at some point during the second half of the season.

“You’re talking about the best defensive player in the league,” the fourth-year linebacker said. “It’s pretty much impossible to replace a guy like that. We just need to get him healthy and get him back, but for me, it’s about just me being the best player that I can be and filling that role.”

While most believe Kruger can make an impact rushing the passer, questions remain about his ability to be a three-down linebacker. Often overlooked by the sack totals and his ability to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks, Suggs blossomed into a consistent run stopper over the last few seasons after entering the league as a one-dimensional player.

Setting the edge and showing he can play the run consistently are the keys to the Ravens feeling confident in Kruger as a starter.

“That is our No. 1 priority,” linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. “When we look at guys all the way from pro free agents to the draft to the guys on our current roster, the three things we ask them to do is set the edge, rush the passer, and then cover. So, we all have a great deal of improvement to make in that area.”

Kruger has plenty to prove, but he’s relishing the opportunity to finally show why the Ravens invested a high draft pick in him. After the coaching staff bounced Kruger back and forth between defensive end and linebacker in his first few seasons, the 26-year-old is finally able to focus on one position, knowing a golden opportunity is staring him right in the face.

“It’s a lot more positive when you’re out there and [your role is] much more clear,” Kruger said. “In the past, it’s been rough to kind of not be able to see exactly what you’re working towards or where you’re going or what position. So, it’s been a long road, but it’s paid off, and I’m still grinding. We’re not there yet, but I’m pretty happy about it.”

Camp highlights

Billy Cundiff and Justin Tucker had been deadlocked through the first week of their kicking competition, but the rookie gained the upper hand on Tuesday.

Tucker was 5-for-6 on field goals while Cundiff only went 4-for-7. Both players went 3-for-4 in a series of kicks as each missed from 55 yards and connected from 60 yards in an impressive showing. However, when they were called upon to make kicks in more authentic conditions you’d find in a game, the veteran misfired twice while Tucker made both of his tries.

“We put them in a lot of game-like situations where they had to run out, make a kick [at] the end of the game, during a game, those kinds of things,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They did a good job of that. We try to do that as much as we can, as opposed to just go out and kick five field goals in a row, because you don’t do that in a game.”

Unlike Monday when the offense had the better day, the defense extracted some revenge as Bernard Pollard and Ray Lewis each intercepted quarterback Joe Flacco in an 11-on-11 team period. The quarterback gained some redemption by tossing a touchdown to No. 1 receiver Anquan Boldin, but the starting defense appeared more confident in coverage after Harbaugh chastised the unit a day earlier.

It probably didn’t hurt that Lewis and fellow veteran Ed Reed were back on the field after receiving Monday off.

Rookie cornerback Asa Jackson had a sparkling day as he picked off two passes while playing with the second defense. His first theft came against backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and he later secured an interception against Curtis Painter.

With rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw still sidelined with a bruised shoulder, Albert McClellan received extensive time at the strongside linebacker position. His versatility will earn him more opportunities as defensive coordinator Dean Pees can line him up at defensive end or any of the linebacker positions if needed.

“The more you can do in our whole system, the better off you are going to be,” Harbaugh said. “Albert can play a lot of positions because he is so smart. He did the same thing in college; I think he played seven or eight positions in college. He is in competition. He is competition for the starting ‘Sam’ [linebacker] spot.”

And while it may not qualify as the first real “fight” of camp, defensive tackle Terrence Cody and rookie offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski mixed it up during Tuesday’s practice, but the altercation was quickly extinguished.

Training camp tunes

In addition to welcoming a limited number of selected fans to their Owings Mills facility, the Ravens have also begun playing music during the team portion of workouts in an effort to recreate the buzz once experienced when training camp was open to the public in Westminster.

Players and coaches alike have been given the opportunity to make song suggestions, but the most bizarre song played on Tuesday had to be “Renegade” by Styx. Of course, any diehard Ravens fan could tell you that’s the infamous tune played at Heinz Field to fire up the Pittsburgh Steelers and their home crowd.

Was it a motivational ploy to keep players hungry during an otherwise routine practice or simply an appreciation for a classic song?

“We had ‘Renegade’ today, yeah,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a good song; it’s a great song. We love that song.”

A more objectionable choice was heard over the weekend as Lil Wayne and Rick Ross blared over the speakers, which probably didn’t go over well as younger fans were in attendance.

It appears the Ravens have now refined the song selection process to eliminate profanity-laced songs.

“You heard that one? That one has been scratched from the list,” Harbaugh quipped. “Did you notice? We haven’t heard that one since. And I like some rap music. There are a few of them I like, but that’s not one of them. Keep it clean.”

 

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