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Ravens-Saints: Five predictions for Monday night

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Ravens-Saints: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 23 November 2014 by Luke Jones

Fresh off their bye week and trying to complete a 2014 sweep of the NFC South, the Ravens return to the site of Super Bowl XLVII to take on the reeling New Orleans Saints Monday night.

Baltimore hopes that a Week 11 bye coupled with the Saints’ two-game losing streak will create enough momentum to snap New Orleans’ 14-game winning streak in prime-time home games. The 4-6 Saints are trying to find some semblance of consistency in a division in which no team has made a strong claim as a viable playoff contender.

The Ravens are 5-1 in games coming off their bye week in the John Harbaugh era and will attempt to win their third road game of the season. While they were able to find success against an underwhelming Tennessee offense in Week 10, the Baltimore secondary will have its hands full against the league’s third-ranked passing attack.

Monday marks the sixth all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens holding a 4-1 advantage. This is the first contest between these teams at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since the 2006 season — which resulted in a 35-22 win for Baltimore — but the Ravens are obviously familiar with the surroundings after winning the Super Bowl in New Orleans two years ago.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 7-4 to keep pace in the AFC North …

1. Will Hill will draw the bulk of the assignment against Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who will catch a touchdown and eclipse 80 receiving yards. Much was made about Cincinnati’s physicality last week in limiting the All-Pro tight end to just three catches for 29 yards, but the Ravens haven’t exactly been imposing in the back end of the defense aside from Terrence Brooks’ big hit on Tennessee’s Delanie Walker two weeks ago. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to mix it up as much as possible against Graham, but Hill is the best fit with his 6-foot-1, 207-pound frame and ability in coverage. The Ravens have held tight ends in check for most of the season, but they haven’t encountered a talent like Graham and he will bounce back from a tough week against the Bengals with a strong game in Week 12.

2. Steve Smith and Marlon Brown will catch touchdowns passes against a banged-up New Orleans secondary. A week off and a meeting with an old foe he tormented year after year as a member of the Carolina Panthers are just what the doctor ordered for the 35-year-old Smith whose production has declined in recent weeks. The Saints are down to their third-string free safety and top cornerback Keenan Lewis has been dealing with a knee issue, which will lead to the veteran wideout finding the end zone for the first time since Week 6. Looking to boost their 19th-ranked red-zone offense, the Ravens will rediscover Brown as a viable option inside the 20 as the 6-foot-5 receiver will rein in a pass in the back of the end zone for his first touchdown of the 2014 season.

3. The Ravens will contain top rusher Mark Ingram, but a returning Pierre Thomas will create problems as a receiver out of the backfield. After a very slow start to his NFL career, Ingram has emerged in 2014 with a 4.5 yards per carry average to take over the feature back role for New Orleans, but the Baltimore defense has allowed only 3.4 yards per carry and won’t have an issue keeping him in check. The return of Thomas — who hasn’t played since Week 7 — will be critical for a passing game that will miss the injured Brandin Cooks, who was becoming the Saints’ second-best receiver behind Graham as a short-to-intermediate target. With the secondary providing plenty of cushion and linebackers paying close attention to wherever Graham is, the Saints will slip Thomas free out of the backfield repeatedly to move the chains.

4. C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith will both collect sacks as the Ravens use inside blitzing to try to get to Drew Brees. Pees knows his defense must create pressure in the pocket against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but Saints tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief have been the strengths of their offensive line, meaning it won’t be a given that Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs will create enough heat. The best way to pressure Brees is up the middle where center Jonathan Goodwin and guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs have struggled in pass protection. Smith and Mosley have both been effective as A-gap blitzers, making it a good bet that the Ravens will try to ambush Brees up the middle. The strategy will pay off with each inside linebacker collecting a sack on Monday night.

5. Joe Flacco and Brees will each throw for over 250 yards, but the veteran will be a little better in a 31-23 win for New Orleans. A few weeks ago, it would have been tough to give the Ravens much of a chance in this one following the injury to Jimmy Smith on top of the Saints’ reputation for playing so well at home. But New Orleans is difficult to figure out with two straight losses at home that came after blowing out mighty Green Bay less than a month ago. On the other hand, a solid performance against the Titans isn’t enough to ease concerns that the Ravens secondary will be able to prevent the Saints from passing up and down the field all night. Flacco and the offense will put together one of their better road performances of the year, but it won’t be quite enough to put the Ravens over the top on Monday night.

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Yanda practices as Ravens continue preparations for New Orleans

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Yanda practices as Ravens continue preparations for New Orleans

Posted on 20 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Right guard Marshal Yanda returned to the practice field Thursday as the Ravens continued preparations for their Monday night game against the New Orleans Saints.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection sat out Wednesday’s practice as Baltimore worked out in full pads. He had been nursing a knee injury prior to the bye week, but the Ravens did not have to release an injury report until Thursday. Yanda was listed as a limited participant on the first injury report of the week.

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (hand) both remained sidelined on Thursday, creating even more doubt for their availability in Week 12. Campanaro hasn’t played since the Oct. 26 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals while Reid broke his hand a few days before the Tennessee game.

Tight end Owen Daniels and linebacker Daryl Smith weren’t practicing after receiving the day off as they periodically do on Thursdays.

The Ravens are practicing inside their field house all week due to the cold temperatures outside and Monday’s game being played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

The Saints continue to deal with injury concerns in their secondary as starting cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee) did not practice on Thursday. The former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back was limited last week before playing 10 snaps in the loss to Cincinnati.

Starting inside linebacker (ankle) and return specialist Travaris Cadet (hamstring) was also absent from practice on Thursday.

Below is the official injury report for Thursday:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), T Jah Reid (hand), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Marshal Yanda (knee)

NEW ORLEANS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Travaris Cadet (hamstring), LB Kyle Knox (hand), CB Keenan Lewis (knee), LB Curtis Lofton (ankle), RB Khiry Robinson (forearm)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Robert Meachem (ankle), RB Pierre Thomas (rib/shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Mark Ingram (shoulder), T Zach Strief (chest)

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Yanda, Zuttah back at practice for Ravens on Thursday

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Yanda, Zuttah back at practice for Ravens on Thursday

Posted on 06 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens’ injury picture is coming into focus for Sunday’s matchup with the Tennessee Titans as center Jeremy Zuttah and right guard Marshal Yanda returned to practice after a one-day absence.

Zuttah (ankle) and Yanda (knee) are nursing minor injuries, but both are expected to play in the Ravens’ final game before their Week 11 bye. Cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot) and wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) were both missing for the second straight day and were already expected to miss Sunday’s game before news came later in the day that Smith would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery.

Wide receiver Steve Smith, tight end Owen Daniels, and linebacker Daryl Smith were all absent during the portion of practice open to media as all three received veteran days off, which typically falls on Thursday. None of the three were listed on Wednesday’s injury report.

Newly-acquired cornerback Danny Gorrer continued working with secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo during the special-teams portion of practice as he’s continuing to catch up on the intricacies of the Baltimore defense. The 28-year-old is expected to start opposite Lardarius Webb with rookie free agent Tramain Jacobs serving as the No. 3 corner against the Titans.

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Jimmy Smith (foot)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Steve Smith (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Marshal Yanda (knee), C Jeremy Zuttah (ankle)

TENNESSEE
OUT: TE Taylor Thompson (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DT Sammie Hill (hamstring), WR Nate Washington (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Coty Sensabaugh (knee)

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Forsett, Ngata, Yanda return to practice on Thursday

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Forsett, Ngata, Yanda return to practice on Thursday

Posted on 30 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After seven players missed Wednesday’s practice as the Ravens prepare to play the arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers, three starters returned to the field a day later.

Running back Justin Forsett (ankle), right guard Marshal Yanda (knee), and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shin) were all present and working after sitting out Wednesday’s workout. Cornerback Lardarius Webb (non-injury) was also practicing after receiving a veteran day off.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs (neck), wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring), and cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot) remained sidelined. Tight end Owen Daniels (knee) was not present during the portion of practice open to media after working on a limited basis Wednesday.

It remains to be seen whether the Ravens were simply resting Daniels or his knee didn’t respond as favorably as they’d hoped to him practicing so soon after last week’s cleanup procedure.

Wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Daryl Smith were not present during the viewing portion of practice, but they were not listed on Thursday’s injury report.

Defensive end Chris Canty (wrist surgery) was practicing once again after being listed as a full participant on Wednesday’s injury report. It appears the veteran will have a good chance of returning to action against Pittsburgh if his conditioning is up to par after a four-game absence due to an infection in his wrist.

For the Steelers, cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) was a limited participant for the second straight day, leaving open the possibility of him playing for the first time since Week 3.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), TE Owen Daniels (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (neck)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Justin Forsett (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Chris Canty (wrist), DT Haloti Ngata (shin), , CB Lardarius Webb (non-injury)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Brett Keisel (non-injury), TE Heath Miller (non-injury), S Troy Polamalu (non-injury), S Ross Ventrone (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S Michael Mitchell (non-injury), CB Ike Taylor (forearm)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Marcus Gilbert (concussion), DT Steve McLendon (shoulder), LB Ryan Shazier (knee), TE Matt Spaeth (hamstring), S Shamarko Thomas (hamstring)

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Osemele, Monroe practice fully for second straight day

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Osemele, Monroe practice fully for second straight day

Posted on 23 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens appear primed to get the starting left side of their offensive line back in time for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals as tackle Eugene Monroe and guard Kelechi Osemele both practiced fully for the second straight day.

Monroe has missed the last four games since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last month and Osemele has been sidelined for the last two games, but both have practiced without incident this week and are on track to play against the Bengals barring a setback. Baltimore has used rookies James Hurst and John Urschel in their place but has managed to go 3-1 without Monroe and 2-0 without Osemele.

“It’s very important to get them back,” offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “I think we still work through [Friday]. They’ve had a good week. They took a full practice today, but we’ll continue to get James and John ready to play.”

Tight end Owen Daniels was absent for the second straight day as he continues to nurse a sore knee, but Kubiak downplayed any concern about the veteran’s availability for the key AFC North meeting with Cincinnati. Head coach John Harbaugh managed Daniels’ reps during training camp as he rested a hamstring issue for more than two weeks in August.

Rookie Crockett Gillmore is the primary backup behind Daniels.

“Owen is fine. John has a plan for these veteran guys,” Kubiak said. “I know he has had a plan for [Daniels] and how he keeps him fresh and keeps him ready to go. But as far as what we’re doing [with the] game plan, those types of things, O.D. will be fine.”

Wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Daryl Smith did not practice on Thursday after receiving the day off to rest.

The Bengals continued to be without Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, who hasn’t played since Week 5 and has yet to practice this week. Green had expressed optimism a few days ago that he might be able to return to play against the Ravens, but progress with his injured toe has been slow.

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (neck) practiced fully on Thursday as it appears there is little doubt that he’ll be able to play after hurting his neck in last Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis.

Below is Thursday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Chris Canty (wrist), TE Owen Daniels (knee), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Steve Smith (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Eugene Monroe (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)

CINCINNATI
OUT: LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring)
DID NOT PARTICIPATION: WR A.J. Green (toe), OT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Giovani Bernard (ribs), G Clint Boling (non-injury), CB Leon Hall (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Kevin Brock (neck), LB Vontaze Burfict (neck), DE Robert Geathers (toe), DE Wallace Gilberry (eye), LB Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder), T Marshall Newhouse (back), G/C Mike Pollak (knee), T Andre Smith (shoulder), DT Brandon Thompson (knee)

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Osemele questionable, M. Brown doubtful to play against Tampa Bay

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Osemele questionable, M. Brown doubtful to play against Tampa Bay

Posted on 10 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are facing the prospects of playing without the entire starting left side of their offensive line against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

It was no surprise that left tackle Eugene Monroe was ruled out while he continues to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery, but left guard Kelechi Osemele was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game after not practicing all week. The third-year lineman hyperextended his knee in last Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis, but he was able to return to action and downplayed the injury after the game.

Given his experience, Osemele would still have a chance of playing against Tampa Bay despite missing three straight days of practice. Gino Gradkowski is listed as Osemele’s backup on the depth chart released by the Ravens’ public relations staff.

“[Osemele] can play on Sunday not having practiced all week,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He has a chance to play on Sunday.”

In addition to Monroe, defensive end Chris Canty (wrist surgery) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (meniscus injury) were declared out for Sunday’s game. Wide receiver Marlon Brown (pelvis) practiced on a limited basis Friday before being designated as doubtful to play.

Safety Matt Elam (shoulder), linebacker Daryl Smith (knee), and center Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) were all upgraded to full participation in Friday’s practice and listed as probable to play against the Buccaneers.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay ruled out starting safety Dashon Goldson (ankle) while designating starting wide receivers Vincent Jackson (rib) and Mike Evans (groin) as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: DE Chris Canty (wrist), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), T Eugene Monroe (knee)
DOUBTFUL: WR Marlon Brown (pelvis)
QUESTIONABLE: G Kelechi Osemele (knee)
PROBABLE: S Matt Elam (shoulder), LB Daryl Smith (knee), C Jeremy Zuttah (ankle)

TAMPA BAY
OUT: LB Jonathan Casillas (hamstring), S Dashon Goldson (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: QB Josh McCown (right thumb)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Johnthan Banks (neck), C Evan Dietrich-Smith (illness), DE Larry English (hamstring), WR Mike Evans (groin), WR Vincent Jackson (rib)
PROBABLE: LB Mason Foster (shoulder)

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Mosley beginning to make game-changing impact for Ravens defense

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Mosley beginning to make game-changing impact for Ravens defense

Posted on 06 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The highlights were few and far between for the Ravens in Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley was seemingly all over the field.

Whether he was getting lower than lead blocker Jake Doyle to blow up a fourth-and-1 run by Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw on the opening drive of the game or maneuvering through blockers to minimize the damage on several short passes, there was a certain familiarity in watching the 2014 first-round pick make plays everywhere at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was almost — almost –  reminiscent of a certain inside linebacker who famously did it better than anyone for the vaunted Baltimore defense.

Mosley has a long way to go to routinely even be mentioned in the same breath as future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, but the sheer fact that many fans and media alike watching Sunday’s game made the comparisons spoke to how well he played in Sunday’s defeat. Finishing the game with 14 tackles, an interception, a quarterback hit, and a pass breakup, Mosley at least looked the part of the rookie version of Lewis in leading the defense in tackles and making several impressive plays throughout the afternoon.

“He had three screens out there where he made the tackles pretty much single-handedly,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “The posse was coming, but he was the guy there and weaved through blockers and made tackles. He tipped passes. He had [quarterback hits]. C.J. is playing really, really well.”

Mosley’s feel for the game has been praised from the moment the Ravens selected him with the 17th overall pick of May’s draft, but his game speed only gets better each week as he leads the team in tackles through the first five games of his NFL career. No, the University of Alabama product is not a finished product as he was beaten in coverage by tight end Dwayne Allen for a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but Mosley has quickly justified why general manager Ozzie Newsome elected to draft another inside linebacker with an early-round pick after taking Arthur Brown in the second round a year ago.

For a defense in transition and in need of game-changing youth with five key members of the front seven over the age of 30, Mosley appeared to be playing at a faster speed that everyone else on the field attempting to slow the Indianapolis offense.

“It’s all about knowing what you have to do, doing your job, and watching film,” Mosley said. “When you know what you’re doing, you can play fast like that.”

The Baltimore defense is still finding its way this season, trying to get more from its aging pass rush while also dealing with health issues and deficiencies in the secondary. Investing a plethora of high draft picks on the defensive side of the ball in recent years, the Ravens have seen mixed results with only Jimmy Smith emerging as a consistent game-changing player to this point.

It appears that Mosley is on his way to joining the top cornerback in that category, which is good news with perennial Pro Bowl players Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata nearing the end of their run as standout players. Coaches and teammates view Mosley as the kind of player who will never be satisfied with reaching a certain level of play, always expecting more from himself.

It’s a mindset that sounds awfully familiar as well.

“He’s not a guy that’s going to sit there and say, ‘OK, I had a couple good games, and I’ve arrived,’” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to want to stack that success and build a body of work up behind him. And that’s probably why he’s as good as he is right now. That’s how he looks at it.”

Having already impressed veteran teammates by cracking the top of the depth chart next to fellow inside linebacker Daryl Smith early in training camp, Mosley has been everything the Ravens expected as a three-down player only getting better as he gains more experience.

The Ravens’ overall play in Indianapolis was forgettable as they dropped their first road game of the season, but it was a standout performance by the rookie that will be remembered. And his showing against the Colts had teammates feeling the urgency to step up their own game to match him.

“I think he played phenomenal. We’ve all got to catch up to him,” Suggs said after Sunday’s loss. “He was out there making a lot of plays. We knew the kid was special coming in, and that’s why we brought him in and Ozzie drafted him. He had a hell of a day [Sunday].”

 

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 3

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 3

Posted on 16 September 2014 by Luke Jones

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

STOCK RISING

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

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

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

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

STOCK FALLING

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

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

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

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

 

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Five numbers behind Ravens’ 26-6 win over Pittsburgh

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Five numbers behind Ravens’ 26-6 win over Pittsburgh

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Luke Jones

After every Ravens game this season, we’ll take a look at five numbers that help explain the outcome …

1 — The number of pass attempts thrown by Joe Flacco that traveled 20 or more yards
Skinny: Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s West Coast system is based on shorter throws in which the quarterback releases the ball quickly, and that’s exactly what Flacco did against the Steelers on Thursday. Knowing what kind of arm Flacco has, the Ravens will certainly mix in some deep shots, but Flacco completed 72.4 percent of his passes as the offense possessed the ball for 35:08. That kind of a game plan — along with the arrival of veteran Steve Smith — has temporarily stunted the production of speedy wide receiver Torrey Smith, but the Steelers failed to record a sack or even a quarterback hit against the Baltimore offense, which is exactly what you want every week.

3 — The number of takeaways by the Baltimore defense
Skinny: Though the Steelers were held to six points, they only produced 22 fewer total yards than the Ravens as three turnovers thwarted a couple attempts to get things going offensively. No takeaway was bigger than the one that came on the opening drive of the game when Pittsburgh had marched inside the red zone before linebacker Daryl Smith stripped the ball away from wide receiver Justin Brown to end a drive that had lasted 12 plays and gained 54 yards. Fellow inside backer C.J. Mosley forced and recovered a fumble of his own that led to a short field goal, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata tipped a pass to himself for the third takeaway of the night, putting an exclamation point on an opportunistic performance by the defense.

4 — The number of drives lasting 10 or more plays completed by the Ravens
Skinny: You should be noticing a trend of dictating the tempo of the game as the Ravens were essentially in complete control from their first offensive drive of the night. The unusual statistic accompanying this was the Ravens only going 5-for-12 on third down, but that just shows how effective they were on first and second down. Baltimore scored on all four of these drives — totaling 20 points — while the Steelers managed only three total points on their two drives that were 10 or more plays. The biggest negative you can draw from Thursday’s game was the red-zone offense in which the Ravens only scored touchdowns on two of six trips, three times settling for short field goals after driving inside the 5.

4.39 — The number of yards per play the Ravens averaged on first down
Skinny: I mentioned this number to follow up the stat from last week’s game in which the Ravens averaged just 1.67 yards per first-down play before the final drive of the first half. We constantly talk about the importance of third-down conversions, but success or failure on first down has an overwhelming impact on the outlook of a drive in terms of what play options are reasonably at your disposal. The Ravens success on first down against the Pittsburgh defense allowed them to maintain a better semblance of balance with the opponent not knowing whether to expect the run or pass when you’re consistently avoiding second-and-long situations.

36 — The number of rushes by the Ravens
Skinny: Throwing 62 passes is almost never an acceptable outcome, but last week’s passing total stuck out even more after an offseason in which the Ravens spoke ad nauseam about returning to their roots and committing to the running game. The final rushing total of 157 yards in Week 2 was a bit deceiving when you remember the Ravens only averaged 2.7 yards per carry through the first three quarters, but they ran effectively enough early to keep it as a viable part of the game plan and to avoid becoming one-dimensional. When they reached the fourth quarter with a 17-6 lead, the Ravens were committed to simply beating up the Pittsburgh front and that’s exactly what they did to the tune of 96 yards on 13 carries to sew up the first win of the season.

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Daryl Smith returns to field as Ravens take practice to Annapolis

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Daryl Smith returns to field as Ravens take practice to Annapolis

Posted on 04 August 2014 by Luke Jones

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Taking training camp on the road to the Naval Academy for their final full practice before their preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens saw inside linebacker Daryl Smith return to action Monday night.

The 32-year-old had been sidelined with a groin injury for the last five days of practice but worked on a limited basis as the Ravens practiced in helmets, shells, and shorts. With Smith having not practiced in a week, it remains unclear whether coach John Harbaugh will want the veteran to play in Thursday’s preseason game. In the Harbaugh era, veteran starters have typically played no more than a couple series in the first preseason game.

“We’re kind of in a standard plan right now, as far as that [goes],” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know exactly the number of plays yet, but it won’t be anything we haven’t done in the past.”

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (back), offensive lineman Will Rackley (concussion symptoms), rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (ribs), and defensive back Marrio Norman (undisclosed) did not participate in Monday’s practice. Webb has all but been ruled out for the first two preseason games and hasn’t practiced since July 25.

The Ravens breathed a sigh of relief with cornerback Jimmy Smith being back on the practice field after appearing to tweak his lower back Sunday and sitting out in obvious discomfort during the second half of the workout. Smith downplayed any concerns about his back following Monday’s practice.

“I’ll be ready to go whenever the time is [here],” he said.

Defensive tackle Terrence Cody remains on the active physically unable to perform list and isn’t expected to return to the practice field for at least a couple more weeks, according to Harbaugh.

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