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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 10 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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

BALTIMORE — Approaching must-win territory this early in a season for quite some time, the Ravens look to snap a three-game losing streak while narrowing the gap in the AFC North when they take on the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon.

At 3-5 and trailing Cincinnati by 2 1/2 games entering Week 10, the Ravens have little margin for error if they want to advance to the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year under head coach John Harbaugh. Baltimore is trying to avoid a third straight division loss and is off to its worst start through eight games since the 2005 season.

A banged-up Ravens defense will have the tall order of slowing Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and the league’s seventh-ranked passing game, but defensive backs James Ihedigbo (toe), Jimmy Smith (groin), and Corey Graham (calf) are all active and will play. In addition, starting inside linebacker Daryl Smith was deemed active after dealing with what was listed as a thigh injury all week.

The Ravens ruled second-year cornerback Asa Jackson inactive, making you assume they’re confident in the health of both Smith and Graham in the secondary. Rookie defensive tackle Brandon Williams was the only other player ruled inactive that could be deemed a surprise as the Bengals average 106.8 rushing yards per game despite their passing game being their biggest strength.

Former Bengals running back Bernard Scott is a healthy scratch for the second straight week and will not have an opportunity to face his former team.

Meanwhile, the Bengals will be without starting tight end Jermaine Gresham, who tested out his injured groin during pre-game warmups but was deemed inactive. As expected, rookie running back Giovani Bernard (ribs) is active. Cincinnati is already reeling from the loss of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who suffered a torn ACL in the Week 9 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

The Bengals are also without starting inside linebacker Rey Maualuga, who continues to be sidelined by a knee injury.

The Ravens have won four of their last five games over the Bengals, with their only defeat over that stretch coming in Week 17 last season when they rested an overwhelming number of starters after wrapping up the AFC North title a week earlier. Baltimore leads the all-time series by a 19-15 margin and are 12-5 at home.

Sunday’s referee will be Walt Coleman.

The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 60s, but winds up to 20 miles per hour could wreak havoc for both teams’ passing attacks and kicking game at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens will wear purple jerseys with black pants while Cincinnati dons white jerseys with black pants.

Here are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Asa Jackson
S Omar Brown
RB Bernard Scott
C Ryan Jensen
WR Brandon Stokley
LB John Simon
DT Brandon Williams

CINCINNATI
TE Jermaine Gresham
CB Chris Lewis-Harris
LB Michael Boley
LB Rey Maualuga
C Trevor Robinson
G Tanner Hawkinson
DT Devon Still

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the afternoon for updates and analysis as Nestor Aparicio, Drew Forrester, and I bring live coverage from Baltimore throughout the day.

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Three defensive starters listed as questionable for Bengals game

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Three defensive starters listed as questionable for Bengals game

Posted on 08 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens presented a healthier outlook on Friday with the return of three defensive starters to the practice field but listed five as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Linebackers Terrell Suggs and Daryl Smith and cornerback Jimmy Smith all took part in the final full workout of the week, and the latter two were listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week. Safety James Ihedigbo, cornerback Corey Graham, and wide receiver Brandon Stokley were also designated as questionable.

Listed as probable for Sunday’s game, Suggs (foot) was added to the injury report as a non-participant on Thursday but appeared to simply be given a day off based on his pre-practice theatrics on Friday. Upon seeing reporters while walking out to the practice field, the 31-year-old linebacker walked with an over-the-top limp before breaking into a brisk jog, indicating he would be ready to go for Sunday’s game.

Daryl Smith (thigh) and Jimmy Smith (groin) both missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday, but their presence for the final full practice of the week was an encouraging sign for their status against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The third-year cornerback exited last Sunday’s loss in Cleveland early when his groin tightened up on him.

The inside linebacker received treatment for his thigh injury throughout the week and painted an optimistic outlook for his chances of playing against the Bengals. Coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal about the status of Daryl Smith and Jimmy Smith.

“That’s the whole goal,” said Daryl Smith when asked if he expected to play. “I’m feeling good and looking forward to Sunday. A couple days rest on it and rehab, and I should be ready to ride.”

A concerning development from Friday’s injury report was the addition of starting strong safety James Ihedigbo, who was limited with a toe injury in the final practice of the week despite working fully the previous two days. This is sometimes an indication of an injury taking place during practice, and he did not appear to be limited during the portion of practice open to reporters Friday morning.

Graham (calf) took part in Friday’s practice after sitting out a day earlier and expressed optimism that he would be ready to play on Sunday.

With both Smith and Graham listed on the injury report and less than 100 percent, the Ravens elected to place second-year cornerback Asa Jackson on the 53-man roster to add depth to a secondary. Jackson practiced all week after completing an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy and provides another special-teams option on Sundays.

The Ravens officially placed left guard Kelechi Osemele (back) on season-ending injured reserve to make room for Jackson.

“Asa looked good. He looked like he was in shape,” Harbaugh said. “Like always, working the little nuances of the game and stuff like that after a few weeks off in terms of knocking the rust off. But I thought he was surprisingly sharp and looked good.”

Stokley (groin) was present and suited up to work after missing the first two practices of the week. He hasn’t played since Week 3 as he’s battled the groin ailment for more than a month while other receivers on the roster have gotten healthy.

For the Bengals, starting tight end Jermaine Gresham (groin) missed his second straight practice on Friday and is listed as questionable. Reports from Cincinnati indicate he will be a game-time decision against Baltimore.

Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard (ribs) was limited in practice all week and was deemed questionable, but the play-making back is expected to play.

Cincinnati ruled out starting inside linebacker Rey Maualuga as he continues to recover from a knee injury and did not practice all week.

The referee for Sunday’s game between the Ravens and Bengals will be Walt Coleman.

Sunday’s forecast calls for a high of 60 degrees with winds up to 21 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

Here’s the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Kelechi Osemele (back)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Corey Graham (calf), S James Ihedigbo (toe), CB Jimmy Smith (thigh), LB Daryl Smith (thigh), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)
PROBABLE: LB Terrell Suggs (foot), WR Marlon Brown (finger)

CINCINNATI
OUT: LB Rey Maualuga (knee), DT Devon Still (elbow)
DOUBTFUL: LB Mike Boley (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Giovani Bernard (ribs), TE Jermaine Gresham (groin)
PROBABLE: G Kevin Zeitler (hamstring)

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Suggs, Graham new absences from practice on Thursday

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Suggs, Graham new absences from practice on Thursday

Posted on 07 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were further depleted on the defensive side of the ball Thursday as linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Corey Graham were added to a growing list of non-participants.

The defense was already dealing with the absences of linebacker Daryl Smith and starting cornerback Jimmy Smith, who were both missing for the second straight day on Thursday. The starting inside linebacker is dealing with a thigh injury while the third-year defensive back is nursing a groin injury that forced him out of last Sunday’s loss in Cleveland.

Suggs was present in the locker room earlier in the day and did not appear to be favoring an injury but was listed with a foot injury on Wednesday’s injury report. Graham, who would be slated to start if Jimmy Smith cannot play, was sidelined with a calf injury.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele (back) and wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) were also absent for Thursday’s practice. The Ravens are expected to place Osemele on injured reserve at some point this week, and Stokley has been dealing with a groin injury for over a month now.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown (finger) was present and working as a full participant after being limited on Wednesday while cornerback Asa Jackson and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore were also practicing. Jackson has been reinstated after serving an eight-game suspension — though he has yet to be placed on the 53-man roster — while Lewis-Moore began practicing Wednesday after starting the season on the non-football injury list while recovering from a torn ACL suffered last January.

For the Cincinnati Bengals, tight end Jermaine Gresham (groin) was downgraded on Thursday’s report after sitting out practice with a groin issue despite working on a limited basis a day earlier. Linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) and defensive tackle Devon Still (elbow) missed practice for the second straight day.

Here is Thursday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Kelechi Osemele (back)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Corey Graham (calf), CB Jimmy Smith (thigh), LB Daryl Smith (thigh), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh), LB Terrell Suggs (foot)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Marlon Brown (finger)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Jermaine Gresham (groin0, LB Rey Maualuga (knee), DT Devon Still (elbow)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Giovani Bernard (ribs), LB Mike Boley (hamstring), G Kevin Zeitler (hamstring)

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Jimmy Smith, Daryl Smith miss practice on Wednesday

Posted on 06 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to the practice field to intensify preparations for Sunday’s meeting against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens were without two defensive starters on Wednesday as cornerback Jimmy Smith and linebacker Daryl Smith were absent.

The third-year defensive back left early in the Week 9 loss to the Cleveland Browns with what was described as a groin injury by head coach John Harbaugh. Smith was feeling better on Monday, but his status will be monitored over the course of the week and veteran Corey Graham would start in his place should he be unable to play against the Bengals.

Meanwhile, the starting inside linebacker was absent during the portion of practice open to media with a thigh injury. Smith finished Sunday’s game with nine tackles and a sack despite picking up a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.

Wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) was also absent from practice on Wednesday as was left guard Kelechi Osemele (back), who will be placed on injured reserve at some point this week.

Fresh off reinstatement following an eight-game suspension, second-year cornerback Asa Jackson was practicing and appears to have a good chance to be activated for Sunday’s game with Jimmy Smith currently ailing. The Ravens have a roster exemption that expires Monday before they must either place Jackson on the 53-man roster or waive him.

Rookie defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore also took the practice field for the first time as a member of the Ravens after he was selected in the sixth round of April’s draft and began the season on the non-football injury list while working his way back to full health. A Notre Dame product, Lewis-Moore tore his ACL in the BCS title game last January and now begins a 21-day window in which he can practice before the Ravens either place him on the 53-man roster or send him to season-ending injured reserve.

Since Jackson and Lewis-Moore aren’t currently on the 53-man roster, they did not appear on Wednesday’s injury report.

Coach John Harbaugh had no new information on the pending return of tight end Dennis Pitta, who could potentially return later this month from the dislocated hip he suffered in late July.

“I don’t know exactly [when he will be ready],” Harbaugh said. “When we talked about that time frame, that was a long time ago. Everything I’ve been told is that he is on schedule, but it’s still pretty vague and generic. We are getting close to that date. I’m interested to hear when he can start practicing again. I’ve been asking that question [and] haven’t gotten a yes yet. He’s closer than ever, obviously, and I have my fingers crossed — just like everybody else does.”

Meanwhile, the Bengals were without inside linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) and left tackle Andrew Whitworth (non-injury related) on Wednesday.

Here is Wednesday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Kelechi Osemele (back)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Jimmy Smith (thigh), LB Daryl Smith (thigh), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Marlon Brown (finger)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Rey Maualuga (knee), DT Devon Still (elbow), LT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury related)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Giovani Bernard (ribs), LB Mike Boley (hamstring), TE Jermaine Gresham (groin), G Kevin Zeitler (hamstring)

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Assessing the Ravens’ offseason veteran additions

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Assessing the Ravens’ offseason veteran additions

Posted on 24 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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

At 3-4 and below the .500 mark this late in a season for the first time in the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens face an uphill battle in advancing to the postseason for the sixth straight season.

Clearly at a crossroads as the first defending Super Bowl champion since the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers to hold a losing record after seven games, the Ravens made a number of offseason additions to reload a roster that dealt with free-agent departures, salary-cap casualties, and retirees. It’s time to revisit those moves to see how they’ve worked — or haven’t worked — as the Ravens try to regroup during their bye week.

Grades are included for free-agent signings and trade additions made prior to the start of training camp with the players listed in the order in which they were acquired. Contract terms are listed in parentheses for free-agent additions.

DE Chris Canty (three years, $8 million)
Grade: C+
Skinny: The Ravens needed a 5-technique defensive end and Canty has been solid, but he hasn’t offered as much as a pass rusher as the team would have hoped. Canty is fourth on the team with two sacks, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees has often replaced him with Arthur Jones in the nickel package for improved run support. 

DT Marcus Spears (two years, $2.75 million)
Grade: C-
Skinny: Hamstring and knee injuries have hampered the veteran defensive lineman, but Spears has offered very little when he’s been part of the defensive line rotation and has little pass-rush ability. It would be easy to envision rookie Brandon Williams wrestling away some of Spears’ snaps  in the second half of the season. 

LB Elvis Dumervil (five years, $26 million)
Grade: B+
Skinny: The three-time Pro Bowl selection has been more of a situational player with the run-stopping presence of Courtney Upshaw, but Dumervil has 27 quarterback pressures and is the league’s sixth-most efficient pass rusher, according to Pro Football Focus. He had a miserable day in Pittsburgh, but Dumervil has been the bookend pass rusher Terrell Suggs needed and an upgrade over former Raven Paul Kruger for a cheaper price.

S Michael Huff (three years, $6 million)
Grade: F
Skinny: Huff was benched after a disastrous performance in the season opener against Denver, forcing the Ravens to essentially go with two strong safeties in the secondary with James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam. The former Raider hasn’t taken a defensive snap since Week 4 and has brought very little to special teams, making it possible that he doesn’t even make it through the rest of the season before being cut. 

OT Bryant McKinnie (two years, $6.3 million)
Grade: D
Skinny: Though McKinnie was technically re-signed, he spent almost two months on the open market as general manager Ozzie Newsome explored other options at left tackle before inking him in early May. McKinnie wasn’t the biggest problem along the offensive line before the Ravens acquired Eugene Monroe, but the 34-year-old wasn’t motivated to play at a high level after winning a Super Bowl and receiving a $2 million signing bonus, making his signing a clear mistake as he was dealt to Miami for a conditional late-round pick earlier this week.

C A.Q. Shipley (acquired for 2014 conditional draft pick)
Grade: D+
Skinny: Expectations weren’t very high for the former Indianapolis Colt, but it’s telling that Shipley hasn’t been able to unseat the struggling Gino Gradkowski at the center position. Shipley is undersized and is not a great option as a backup interior lineman, so it will be interesting to see if rookie Ryan Jensen leapfrogs him on the depth chart in the second half since he’s recovered from a broken foot suffered in the first week of training camp.

LB Daryl Smith (one year, $1.125 million)
Grade: A
Skinny: Not only did Smith make most people forget the embarrassing decision to sign troubled linebacker Rolando McClain, but he’s easily been the best bargain of the offseason as his signing was an afterthought that came on the same day the Super Bowl champions visited the White House. His two interceptions lead the team and he’s made everyone forget about the serious concerns that existed at inside linebacker during the offseason. Smith isn’t Ray Lewis, but he’s been as solid as a rock in the middle of the defense.

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Ravens prepared to contain Bills’ Manuel, read option

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Ravens prepared to contain Bills’ Manuel, read option

Posted on 26 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens spent time throughout the offseason preparing to stop the read option after the offensive attack took the league by storm during the 2012 season.

According to defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the Ravens spent every other day during organized team activities and training camp completing a read-option period during practices to prepare themselves for matchups like Sunday when they travel to Buffalo to take on rookie quarterback EJ Manuel and standout running back C.J. Spiller. Under new head coach Doug Marrone, the Bills’ have used the read option at points during their first three games, giving the Ravens their first look at the wide-open rushing attack since facing San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII last February.

“You enjoy a challenge. If you’re a football player, you don’t want the same thing every week,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “You want a little different [offense], and we love that we get the opportunity again to play against one of these up-and-coming quarterbacks [and] dual threat like EJ Manuel. It’s going to be a challenge.”

The Bills’ version of the read option appears to be working well on the surface with their rushing attack ranked fifth in the NFL, but the transition has been a work in progress as Manuel and Spiller haven’t always made proper reads and the offensive line’s blocking has been suspect. Of particular concern is Spilller, who is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry after averaging an astonishing 6.0 yards per rushing attempt a year ago.

Fortunately for Buffalo, backup Fred Jackson has picked up the slack by running for 169 yards on 32 carries, making him another dangerous weapon to watch for when the Bills try to run the read option. Patience and following one’s assignment is the key to slowing the novelty offense that hasn’t found the same success this season around the league as it did last year.

“Have good eyes,” said Pees, who credited mobile backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor for giving the Ravens a good look in practices. “That’s the No. 1 thing. When you’re playing any kind of option team, when you start looking at things you shouldn’t look at, that’s when you get beat. If I’ve got the quarterback, my eyes have got to be on the quarterback. It’s a little bit like in coverage. Most of the time when a guy gets beat in coverage, it’s because of the eyes.”

Manuel was sacked an astonishing eight times in the Bills’ loss to the Jets last Sunday, so the Ravens will be licking their chops to make life miserable for the rookie quarterback. However, pocket containment will be vitally important as Manuel is a bigger threat to take off and run compared to the three starting quarterbacks the Ravens have faced so far this season.

The Florida State product has carried 13 times for 76 yards in three games, but the Ravens rank sixth in the league with 11 sacks.

“You just definitely have to make sure we can contain him every time,” linebacker Daryl Smith said. “If whoever is coming off the edge, whether it’s an end or linebacker, if they take the inside move, the quarterback definitely can escape and has the speed to get out and get the first down or do whatever he wants to do. We’ve been talking about it this week and definitely have a plan to make sure we always have edges on the defense.”

Looking for improvement from McKinnie

After appearing to be laboring during Wednesday’s practice, left tackle Bryant McKinnie appeared more active and mobile a day later as the Ravens hope to see improvement from the 34-year-old veteran.

The entire offensive line has struggled to block in the running game — an area that’s never been McKinnie’s biggest strength — but the left tackle has struggled in pass protection the last two weeks and was flagged for two facemask penalties in the first half of the win over the Texans.

“There’s always a work in progress in that area, and I think he’s working at it, trying to get better at what he does,” said offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who emphasized a need for everyone — including him — to improve. “He’s a professional and he’s trying to improve every single day. [Run-game coordinator Juan Castillo] does a great job with those guys. They work and they work extremely hard. I think Juan is getting him to the point where he’s moving in the right direction.”

McKinnie’s three-year tenure in Baltimore has been bumpy to say the least as he didn’t start a game in the regular season last year and reported to training camp overweight this summer and was held out of the first day of practice for veterans.

Thompson in mix as kick returner

With Pro Bowl return specialist Jacoby Jones still sidelined with an MCL injury in his right knee and No. 3 running back Shaun Draughn dealing with a high ankle sprain, the Ravens could have a new face in the return game in Buffalo.

Wide receiver Deonte Thompson has practiced on a limited basis for two straight days and is listed as the Ravens’ backup kickoff returner behind Jones on the depth chart. In his rookie season, the speedy wideout served as the kick returner before a critical fumble against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5.

“Deonte demonstrated a year ago that he has the skills to do that,” said Rosburg, referring to Thompson’s 25.9 yard per return average in 15 attempts. “He’s had success, too, and he understands it. He’d probably be pretty excited about that opportunity should it come his way.”

Should Draughn be inactive, the Ravens would likely turn to either Thompson or fellow wide receiver Tandon Doss, who returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown last week.

Ravens glad Miles now on their side

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg smiled when asked about the acquisition of former Cincinnati safety Jeromy Miles off waivers earlier this week.

A rookie free agent from the University of Massachusetts in 2010, the fourth-year safety can play in all phases of special teams and would figure to play a prominent role considering rookie safety Brynden Trawick was active for all of the Ravens’ first three games. With Miles serving as a prominent special-teams player in the Bengals’ units, the Ravens were very familiar with him.

“We’ve had to block Jeromy Miles for the last few years,” Rosburg said. “We’ve had him blocking us the last few years. We’re excited he’s on our team doing those things for us, because he’s been a force in our division. We’re really happy he’s on our team.”

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Texans

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Texans

Posted on 24 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 30-9 win over the Houston Texans Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Lardarius Webb tackles Andre Johnson after -1 yard catch on 3rd & 3 at Baltimore 11 (1st quarter)

4. Torrey Smith 24 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 7 (3rd quarter)

3. Torrey Smith 48 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 13 (3rd quarter)

2. Daryl Smith intercepts Matt Schaub pass intended for Owen Daniels, returns 37 yards for TD (2nd quarter)

1. Tandon Doss returns Shane Lechler punt 82 yards for TD (2nd quarter)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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MobTown Sports Beat Monday Ravens Roundup

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MobTown Sports Beat Monday Ravens Roundup

Posted on 23 September 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

 

The Ravens improved to 2-1 on the season yesterday with a one-sided, 30-9 win over the Houston Texans. After the way that the Texans handled the Ravens last season, there were a number of reasons to be concerned beforehand. Truth be told, I had a much worse feeling about what might happen against Houston than I did before the beat down the Ravens suffered in Denver in Week1. Hindsight however is 20/20, so here’s a quick rundown of what we know now after the Ravens latest victory:

5. Justin Tucker is Back on Track

…for now at least. Maybe it was the reception that Billy Cundiff received from the Ravens faithful last week that had Tucker out of sorts. Maybe it was just the presence of Cundiff in the building that infected Tucker’s right foot last Sunday. Regardless, Tucker made enough big kicks in his rookie year to have some equity built up with fans. That equity though wouldn’t have lasted through too many 0-for-2 performances like he had last week vs. Cleveland, especially if those misses began to cost the Ravens games.

While concern over the kicking game was mild at most, it was nice to see Tucker get back on track with a 3-for-3 game against the Texans, hitting from 28, 45 and 43 yards. Even though the two from 40+ came in late, low leverage situations, any concerns fans had about the Ravens kicking game can be shelved…for now.

4. Dirty Birds

After struggling with penalties last year, the Ravens still appear to have some work to do in that regard. The 2013 Ravens have 20 penalties for 181 yards through 3 games, including 10 for 87 yards in yesterday’s affair. Despite their most penalized performance of the season vs. Houston, the Ravens still managed to win the “penalty battle” as the Texans racked up 14 for 113 yards.

3. Cheering for Laundry

On the day that Ed Reed returned to Baltimore as a member of a new team, and Ray Lewis returned to be honored by the Ravens, it was the guys who suited up in their places that stole the show. James Ihedigbo picked up 9 tackles, 2 for a loss along with 2 defended passes and simply seemed to be everywhere while covering Ed Reed’s old spot. Daryl Smith, playing in Ray Lewis’ former domain plucked a Matt Schaub pass away from a waiting Owen Daniels, and at a time where the Ravens offense was struggling to make hay, made some on his own, hustling it 37 yards to pay dirt.

For all of the Ravens off-season pick-ups, Daryl Smith might have been the least heralded. He was grabbed on the same day the Ravens visited the White House and his signing went basically under the radar. If he continues to play like he did on Sunday, he could be the team’s most impactful addition. It’s also pretty encouraging that his big play came defending a tight end, which has been an issue for the Ravens of late.  

2. Doss is a Boss

What more can you say about a guy who was shown the door by the team when they pared down to their final 53 men, only to come back with an emphatic impact? Life out of football, brief as it may have been, seems to have brought out the best in Tandon Doss who is making the most out of his second chance with the Ravens. Maybe in the coming weeks Doss can become more a part of the Ravens passing game, and finally show fans those hands we heard so much about from the team about throughout his first 2 seasons. It’s not like the Ravens offense couldn’t use a pair of hands that they can trust between the hash marks.

1. Who Says Joe Flacco Can’t Act?

While Joe Flacco’s increased, post-Super Bowl public profile has led to some pretty clunky performances as a pitchman in various commercials, Flacco’s acting skills were on full display yesterday. After last season’s debacle at the hands of the Texans, JJ Watt and the rest of the Houston pass rush broke the huddle with their ears pinned back more often than not on Sunday. Flacco used that aggression against the Texans inducing 5 encroachment or defensive offsides penalties on the anxious Texans defense.

Elsewhere in the AFC North

The Bengals picked up a big win and remain tied with the Ravens at 2-1 atop the division. For now at least, it’s shaping up to be an interesting battle between these 2 for the division. They’ll meet again in Week 17 this year, maybe with something actually on the line this time.

The Steelers looked really bad to start against the Bears on Sunday night, but showed some real resilience closing the gap from 24-3 to 27-23. It looked like Pittsburgh had really found their resolve in the face of an 0-3 start. In the end though, their comeback attempt was little more than a chance for Ben Roethlisberger to cough up the ball in a late critical situation…it’s kind of their thing.

Leave it to the Browns to all but announce that they’re going into full tank mode by trading RB Trent Richardson and skipping right over Jason Campbell on the depth chart to 3rd stringer Brian Hoyer to replace injured starter Brandon Weeden, and then pick up a win on Sunday. There are even reports that the Browns are shopping receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little. Of course the Browns can’t even tank right. If they had only known that the best way to win was to actually try to lose, they could have saved themselves and their fans years of heartache.

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Defensive picture becoming clearer for Ravens in throwback win

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Defensive picture becoming clearer for Ravens in throwback win

Posted on 22 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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

BALTIMORE — It was fitting for future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to be present Sunday to witness a vintage defensive performance by the Ravens in their 30-9 win over the Houston Texans.

On a day in which the offense once again struggled to move the ball with any level of consistency, the Ravens leaned on their defense to handle the heavy lifting in a way similar to yesteryear when Lewis would dominate in the middle of the defense and Reed would lurk in the secondary. Assuming Lewis’ vacated spot in the defense this season, veteran inside linebacker Daryl Smith provided the defensive highlight, picking off a Matt Schaub pass and sprinting 37 yards for the first touchdown of his 10-year career to turn a 6-3 deficit into a lead the Ravens wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the afternoon.

The defensive touchdown was one more than the Texans provided all day as the Ravens have now gone back-to-back games without allowing a touchdown for the first time since 2010.

Just like old times.

“I just remember catching it and just running as fast as I could, trying to get in there,” said Smith, who finished with a game-high 10 tackles. “I’m not a dancer or nothing like that. I just gave them a little something and just went on back to the bench and got ready and lined back up.”

Smith may epitomize this Baltimore defense better than anyone with his unassuming, quiet demeanor, which is a dramatic change from the in-your-face style of Lewis and the bravado of past Ravens defenses. Even the brash Terrell Suggs has quieted down in 2013 as the Ravens move on from the Lewis era while still having high expectations for themselves.

That diminished bravado may have come in handy after the Ravens allowed a franchise-worst 49 points and seven touchdown passes in their humbling 49-27 defeat to the Denver Broncos in the season opener. All the talk of the Ravens having a better defense than a season ago seemed silly after watching Peyton Manning carve up the secondary, but neither the coaching staff nor players panicked after Week 1.

They’ve certainly rebounded in a major way. Shutting down the Cleveland Browns offense is one thing, but holding the Texans to just three field goals will demand attention from future opponents.

“We played better,” said coach John Harbaugh when asked to explain what’s changed for his defense since the big loss to the Broncos. “The biggest difference is [that] we haven’t given up the big plays.”

Dean Pees’ unit held the Houston offense without a play of 20 or more yards on Sunday after giving up nine plays of 20 or more in their season-opening defeat. For the second straight week, the play of the front seven stood out as the Ravens collected three sacks and seven quarterback hits while holding the Texans to 264 total yards overall and only 107 after halftime.

Houston quarterback Matt Schaub finished with only 194 yards on 35 passing attempts as he settled for short-to-intermediate passes for much of the afternoon as veteran wideout Andre Johnson dealt with a leg issue in the second half.

The Texans were just 3-for-12 on third down with no stop bigger than safety James Ihedigbo’s pass breakup of a pass intended for tight end Owen Daniels on third-and-goal from the Baltimore 9 on the opening drive. The play held Houston to a field goal on a 16-play drive and set the tone for what would be an exceptional day for the Ravens defense.

“You’ve got to get off the field on third down, and we did that today,” said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who collected his first sack of the season on Sunday. “Hopefully that’s something that we’ll continue to be successful at and, really, we just want to continue to get even better in all phases.”

It’s not a perfect defense by any means with some vulnerability in the secondary in which the Texans were either unable or unwilling to test, but the Ravens defense is looking as good as advertised in the summer after two convincing performances to rebound from the debacle in Denver. The strength of this unit is its front seven, which was particularly impressive on Sunday considering defensive end Chris Canty didn’t play and backup nose tackle Terrence Cody exited in the first half.

For the most part, the Ravens have controlled the running game and created consistent pressure on quarterbacks through the first three games of the 2013 season, and that’s a formula to not only help out an imperfect secondary but to keep you in games when your offense is sputtering as it has so far this season.

The Ravens continue to be a work in progress on offense — and that’s putting it kindly after they were held to 236 yards on 57 offensive plays against Houston — but their defense is getting the job done to win games right now. An 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by Tandon Doss certainly helped, but the defense has paved the way for victory in each of the last two weeks, which is exactly what the Ravens hoped for when they brought in the likes of Elvis Dumervil, Canty, and Smith in the offseason.

“Each week, we want to concentrate on getting better, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Smith said. “And each week, we’ll grow together, we’ll gain more chemistry, we’ll learn to trust each other more, and I think we’ve done that the last two weeks. We just have to continue to do that.”

Harbaugh and the Ravens can only hope the offense follows suit as it’s difficult to depend on touchdowns by your defense and special teams to put you in position to win every week, but you’ll take a victory however you can earn it against an AFC contender like Houston. The Ravens defense did to the Texans what they’re used to achieving against their opponents — they zapped the life right out of the them as the game progressed.

Questions and concerns continue to remain about the offense and how it will produce enough to put the Ravens in good position to win most games, but the picture is becoming clearer for the defense.

And you have to like what you see.

“We’re not satisfied by any means,” said Suggs, who collected a sack for the third straight game. “We know we’ve still got to work, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

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Our Ravens/Texans “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Texans “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 22 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each (Tim Horsey played the role of Ryan Chell for Week 4.)

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 30-9 win over the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Gino Gradkowski

 

4. Dean Pees

 

3. Haloti Ngata

 

2. Torrey Smith

 

1. Daryl Smith (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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