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Jackson, Tyson, Reid headline Ravens’ final cuts to 53-man limit

Posted on 05 September 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens parted ways with return specialist Asa Jackson to headline a list of 17 moves that trimmed their 2015 roster to the 53-man limit on Saturday.

The fourth-year cornerback led the NFL by averaging 49.0 yards per kickoff return in the preseason, but fumbles in each of the last two games quickly forced the Ravens to move in a different direction. The 2012 fifth-round pick also failed to establish himself in the secondary, leaving his roster standing too vulnerable.

Two other notable veterans cut on Saturday were offensive lineman Jah Reid and defensive end DeAngelo Tyson. Long considered a bust as a former third-round pick, Reid was signed to a one-year contract in the offseason and had been competing as a backup. Tyson, a 2012 seventh-round choice, served as a member of the defensive line rotation over the last three seasons, but the Ravens instead kept Kapron Lewis-Moore and Christo Bilukidi as reserves.

The Ravens cut rookie fifth-round guard Robert Myers, who struggled over the summer and became the highest Baltimore draft pick to be cut at the end of his first preseason since 2009 fifth-round tight end Davon Drew. Baltimore kept only three reserves — John Urschel, James Hurst, and Ryan Jensen — behind its starting offensive line.

Despite having only two healthy running backs on their initial 53-man roster, the Ravens cut both Fitz Toussaint and rookie free agent Terrence Magee on Saturday. With rookie fourth-rounder Buck Allen struggling in the preseason, the Ravens could explore adding a veteran reserve behind 2014 Pro Bowl selection Justin Forsett as Lorenzo Taliaferro continues to recover from a knee injury.

After much discussion about him being on the roster bubble, third-year inside linebacker Arthur Brown made the 53-man roster along with special-team standouts Albert McClellan and Zach Orr.

A day after waiving Daniel Brown and Tom Nelson, Baltimore cut second-year receiver Jeremy Butler. who was a standout performer during spring workouts before a quiet summer.

Butler, 24, spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. The 6-foot-2 Tennessee-Martin product likely remains a candidate for the practice squad, especially with rookie Breshad Perriman still recovering from a knee injury. The Ravens now have six receivers on the active roster: Perriman, Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, and Darren Waller.

As expected, the Ravens kept defensive end Brent Urban on their initial 53-man roster, leaving him eligible to be placed on injured reserve with the designation to return after he suffered a torn biceps last month. Baltimore can move him to I.R. as soon as Sunday, which would open another roster spot.

Rookie outside linebacker Zach Thompson was placed on I.R. after sustaining a concussion in Thursday’s preseason finale.

The Ravens began the day by trading rookie free agent center Nick Easton to San Francisco for an unspecified draft pick.

Below are all of the moves made on Saturday:

LB Brennen Beyer
WR Jeremy Butler
CB Asa Jackson
G Kaleb Johnson
RB Terrence Magee
G Robert Myers
S Nick Perry
QB Bryn Renner
TE Konrad Reuland
FB Kiero Small
RB Fitz Toussaint

DT Micajah Reynolds
DE DeAngelo Tyson

Injured reserve
LB Zach Thompson

Terminated contracts as vested veterans
OL Jah Reid
CB Cassius Vaughn

Traded to San Francisco for 2016 conditional pick
C Nick Easton

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Ravens hurting on defensive line entering preseason finale

Posted on 31 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A defensive line once possessing great depth is suddenly a concern as the Ravens approach Thursday’s preseason finale in Atlanta.

After starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (right knee) and veteran reserves Lawrence Guy (knee) and DeAngelo Tyson (shoulder) all left Saturday’s preseason loss to Washington with injuries, the Ravens had just six defensive linemen on the field for Monday’s practice. Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged this could be problematic for Thursday’s preseason finale with the Ravens preferring to rest starters Brandon Williams and Chris Canty against the Falcons.

“It’s going to be tight,” Harbaugh said. “The idea that we go in there with 75 guys [on the roster] is really not 75, because it’s going to end up being 35 guys probably with the injuries [and veterans resting]. It’s going to be a strain on those guys. It’s a tough game, but it’s also an opportunity for those guys to show what they can do. They’ll be excited to play.”

Should none of their injured defensive linemen return in time for Thursday’s game, the Ravens would be forced to rely heavily on rookie Carl Davis, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Christo Bilukidi, and Micajah Reynolds.

Jernigan injured his right knee on a legal cut block from Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses on the fourth defensive play of the game on Saturday. The Ravens are hopeful that the second-year defensive tackle will be able to play in the season opener on Sept. 13, but his status remains uncertain.

“It doesn’t look to be overly serious, but I can’t put any timetables on it,” Harbaugh said. “But it’s not something that’s going to keep him out [for an extended time]. It’s not going to be a surgery or anything like that.”

Durability continues to be a concern for the 2014 second-round pick as he had already dealt with a foot ailment earlier that prevented him from playing in the preseason opener. As a rookie, Jernigan missed a total of five games with knee and foot injuries.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees expressed some frustration earlier this month about Jernigan missing valuable practice time as he prepares to take the reins from five-time Pro Bowl selection Haloti Ngata at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot. No one doubts Jernigan’s ability, but the physical ailments are becoming a concern at this early stage of his career.

“I still believe he’s the guy that we drafted,” Pees said on Aug. 17. “I just wish we could get him out there a little more, but that’s not his fault.”

Should Jernigan not be ready for the opener, Davis would take his place on the starting line after receiving extensive action this summer. The third-round selection has been the Ravens’ most impressive draft pick with first-round receiver Breshad Perriman and second-round tight end Maxx Williams both dealing with health concerns.

Davis logged 36 defensive snaps and one tackle against Washington. He has has collected seven tackles and a pass breakup in three preseason games.

The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Iowa product says he has plenty of room for improvement and is still trying to learn the little tricks needed to succeed at the next level.

“Offensive linemen are smart. They’ve got so many different techniques,” Davis said. “I’m just learning how to play more physical every play. Every play counts. I’m trying to focus on making sure I don’t take any plays off and get better every play.”

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Injuries hit Ravens defensive line in third preseason game

Posted on 30 August 2015 by Luke Jones

After dealing with a slew of injuries on their offensive line in recent weeks, the Ravens were bitten on the defensive line in a 31-13 preseason loss to Washington on Saturday night.

Starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan injured his right knee on the fourth defensive play of the game and did not return. The second-year defensive lineman has shown much promise in his brief NFL career, but durability is becoming a concern as he was sidelined earlier this summer with a foot injury and missed five games as a rookie.

Rookie third-round pick Carl Davis replaced him on the starting defensive line.

The Ravens’ defensive line depth also took a hit on Saturday as defensive ends Lawrence Guy (knee) and DeAngelo Tyson (right shoulder) exited early with injuries. Tyson’s injury was of particular concern as he was writhing in pain and was later being consoled by teammates on the bench.

Baltimore is already dealing with the loss of second-year defensive end Brent Urban due to a biceps tear.

Offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (concussion) and cornerback Chris Greenwood (leg) also left the game with injuries and did not return.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not give any injury updates when asked after Saturday’s loss.

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Twenty Ravens players missing from Friday’s practice

Posted on 07 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were missing 20 players from their 90-man preseason roster as they practiced in shells and shorts on Friday afternoon.

A handful of veterans appeared to be awarded the day off as head coach John Harbaugh periodically does, but several notable players continue to nurse injuries.

Wide receivers Breshad Perriman (knee) and Marlon Brown (back) remain sidelined as the Ravens offense has worked without two of its top four wideouts for most of training camp. The first-round pick Perriman has missed seven straight practices after injuring his knee in the final 20 minutes of the first full-squad practice of the summer while Brown has now sat out five of the last six workouts.

Tight end Maxx Williams was also absent on Friday after being poked in the eye and leaving Thursday’s workout early.

Baltimore continues to deal with injury problems at the guard position with starter Kelechi Osemele (foot) and backups John Urschel (head) and Robert Myers (head) all out. Urschel and Myers both left Thursday’s practice with concussions, according to Harbaugh.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive linemen DeAngelo Tyson and Brent Urban were new absences due to unspecified reasons. Cornerbacks Tray Walker and Chris Greenwood remain out with hamstring strains.

Outside linebacker Zach Thompson (undisclosed) was also missing again.

The list of veterans believed to be receiving a day off on Friday included wide receiver Steve Smith, running back Justin Forsett, cornerback Lardarius Webb, linebackers Daryl Smith and Terrell Suggs, and defensive end Chris Canty.

Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

Already out for the season with a biceps tear, safety Matt Elam rounded out the collection of 20 players not participating in Friday’s workout.


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2015 Ravens training camp preview: Defensive line

Posted on 21 July 2015 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens set to begin the 20th training camp in franchise history in less than two weeks, expectations are high for John Harbaugh’s team as they eye their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.

As veterans report to Owings Mills on July 29th and the first full-squad workout takes place the following day, we’ll examine each position group entering the summer.

July 20: Quarterbacks
July 21: Defensive line
July 22: Running backs
July 23: Linebackers
July 24: Wide receivers
July 25: Tight ends
July 26: Cornerbacks
July 27: Offensive line
July 28: Safeties
July 29: Specialists

Below is a look at the Baltimore defensive linemen:

LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Chris Canty, Carl Davis, Brent Urban
BUBBLE: Lawrence Guy, DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Christo Bilukidi, Casey Walker

Synopsis: Replacing the greatest defensive tackle in franchise history won’t be easy, but the Ravens should feel good about the strength in numbers they have to fill the void left behind by five-time Pro Bowl selection Haloti Ngata. Brandon Williams enters his third season emerging as one of the best nose tackles in the NFL while 2014 second-round pick Timmy Jernigan will receive the first crack at replacing Ngata in the starting lineup. Though Chris Canty is near the end of his NFL career, this is an extremely young group that should give defensive coordinator Dean Pees a strong rotation once the regular season begins. With all 10 defensive linemen in camp figuring to have a shot to make to make the roster, the coaching staff and front office will have some difficult decision at the end of August.

One to watch: With Canty possibly in his final season and Pernell McPhee now in Chicago, the Ravens would greatly benefit from Brent Urban showing he’s fully recovered from last summer’s knee injury and ready to contribute as an active member of the defensive line rotation. Not only could the 2014 fourth-round pick push Canty for the starting 5-technique defensive end spot, but his 6-foot-7 frame makes him an intriguing option as an interior rusher in certain passing situations, a role McPhee often filled successfully in recent years.

One on notice: DeAngelo Tyson has been a consistent part of the rotation over the last three years, but the presence of Canty and Urban as well as the re-signing of the steady Lawrence Guy could spell trouble for the 2012 seventh-round pick. After starting four games in place of the injured Canty last October, Tyson was inactive for six of Baltimore’s final nine games counting the playoffs as Guy passed him on the depth chart. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, he’ll need a strong summer with so many other younger linemen in the mix and vying for a roster spot.

Sleeper: Casey Walker showed a mean streak during spring practices and is a former undrafted free agent from Oklahoma who was signed off the New England practice squad last December. At 6-foot-1 and 330-pounds, Walker has good size to play an interior line position and is one to watch as the Ravens evaluate which of their young linemen will be most effective against the run. He may lack the pedigree of other drafted players, but his toughness in the spring wasn’t overlooked by coaches.


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Dec 16, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (9) celebrates after kicking a field goal during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

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Five questions pondering Tucker, Upshaw, Ravens defensive line

Posted on 17 July 2015 by Luke Jones

On Fridays, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Orioles or Ravens (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or are the parameters now in place to work out a Justin Tucker contract extension? New England signed three-time Pro Bowl kicker Stephen Gostkowski to a four-year, $17.2 million contract with a $6 million signing bonus this week, which should provide the framework for general manager Ozzie Newsome to extend Tucker for the long haul. Tucker is six years younger, so he will likely command more money — and perhaps an extra year or two on a deal — the longer the Ravens wait. A deal in the neighborhood of five years and $21 million total with a $7 million signing bonus would seem fair for both sides to continue their relationship.

2. Is it just me or does the hype surrounding Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo make you feel very lucky not to be a Bills fan? Taking nothing away from the former Ravens quarterback who was an acceptable backup and confidant for Joe Flacco, but it’s absurd to continue to see headlines about Taylor possibly becoming the Bills starting quarterback and simply shows how desperate teams without a franchise quarterback can be. With EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel as his only competition, Taylor is deserving of a chance to compete, but nothing about his play in the preseason or in very limited regular-season opportunities over the last four years suggested he has the ability to be a No. 1 quarterback.

3. Is it just me or will it be interesting to see how Courtney Upshaw performs in the final year of his rookie contract? Despite his weight being a sore subject in past summers, the 2012 second-round pick has been a mostly solid but unspectacular contributor for Baltimore in his first three seasons. Upshaw has profiled as a poor man’s Jarret Johnson, setting the edge and playing the run well, but I’m curious to see what kind of market there might be for the Alabama product. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are both on the wrong side of 30, but the free-agent loss of Pernell McPhee doesn’t leave the Ravens with any veteran depth behind them other than Upshaw. That said, the Ravens shouldn’t overpay to keep an outside linebacker who offers such little ability to rush the quarterback.

4. Is it just me or are you not buying Reggie Wayne as a good fit for the Ravens? The former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver says he wants to play one more year and has talked with several teams, but I don’t see this as a time when Baltimore needs a veteran receiver with his skill set as some have suggested. At this point in his brilliant career, Wayne profiles similarly to Steve Smith and is coming off a 2014 season in which he caught only 64 passes for 779 yards. If the Ravens are to add a veteran receiver to the picture, they’d be better off adding more speed to the outside in case Breshad Perriman is slow to develop. Wayne isn’t the player to do that.

5. Is it just me or could we see a couple talented defensive linemen left on the outside looking in at the end of the preseason? The Ravens will continue to hear questions about replacing five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, but there’s no shortage of talent on the defensive line, which could make for some interesting decisions when they trim the roster to 53. It wouldn’t stun me to see a healthy Brent Urban push Chris Canty to the bubble or to see rookie Carl Davis push a veteran backup such as DeAngelo Tyson off the roster at the end of August. With 10 defensive linemen sporting at least a decent chance to make the roster, Baltimore will likely need to part ways with at least a couple quality players from this group.

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Torrey Smith remains sidelined for Thursday’s practice

Posted on 04 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Hitting the practice field for the first time since the news of the Haloti Ngata suspension, the Ravens were again without starting wide receiver Torrey Smith on Thursday.

The fourth-year wideout continues to nurse a sore right knee that isn’t expected to keep him out of Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins. However, it remains unclear how close to 100 percent he will be as the Ravens desperately need a win over Miami to stay in good position in a crowded AFC wild-card race.

“The only way I’m not going to play is if I need crutches,” Smith said. “I’m good to go. We’ll see what happens, but hopefully everything works out.”

Wide receiver Marlon Brown (concussion) returned to the practice field while running back Justin Forsett (knee) made a brief appearance during the media viewing portion before returning to the indoor facility adjacent to the practice fields. Forsett downplayed the extent of his injury on Wednesday, describing it as general soreness, but he was once again listed as a non-participant on the official injury report.

Players missing from practice also included tight ends Owen Daniels and Crockett Gillmore (back), center Jeremy Zuttah (ankle), linebacker Daryl Smith, and defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson. Daniels and Smith received a veteran day off on Thursday while Tyson was summoned for jury duty.

Gillmore was a limited participant during Wednesday’s practice.

Cornerback Asa Jackson (turf toe) continues to practice and eyes a return from the injured reserve-designated to return list this Sunday. The Ravens currently have 52 players on their active roster with Ngata being moved to the reserve-suspended list, so they could elect to use his roster spot to activate Jackson.

“You can’t really tell out here in practice until the bullets start flying if he’s back to where he was,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “But he seems to be moving well and doing fine. I think he’ll really help us back there, at least basically in the slot.”

There were no changes to Miami’s injury report from the previous day except for the addition of linebacker Chris McCain (ankle) as a limited participant.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), RB Justin Forsett (knee), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Torrey Smith (knee), DT DeAngelo Tyson (non-injury), C Jeremy Zuttah (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Tramain Jacobs (thigh), LB Albert McClellan (thigh), LB Courtney Upshaw (hand)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Marlon Brown (concussion), WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (wrist)

OUT: LB Jonathan Freeny (hamstring), CB Jamar Taylor (shoulder)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Nate Garner (illness)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Charles Clay (hamstring), CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle), WR Brian Hartline (knee), LB Chris McCain (ankle), C Samson Satele (ribs), WR Mike Wallace (chest)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Daryn Colledge (back), T Ja’Wuan James (neck), LB Jelani Jenkins (shoulder)

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Ravens-Cowboys preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 15 August 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will try to build on an encouraging performance in their preseason opener as they travel to Texas to take on the Dallas Cowboys in their second preseason game of the summer.

Observers were abuzz over an impressive 10-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown in the starting offense’s only work of the night against San Francisco, but the Ravens have acknowledged throughout the week that they can’t put too much stock into one possession. Even with plenty of strides already taken throughout training camp to grasp new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system, there is plenty of work remaining before the Ravens kick off the regular season against Cincinnati on Sept. 7.

“You have an opportunity to really see progress,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “You’re in a crucible, and every single day, it’s all you do. It’s wall-to-wall football. It’s morning to night. You go to sleep and you wake up, and you’re back at football. There’s no escape. There’s nowhere to hide, [and] there’s nowhere to run. It’s all football all the time, so you make progress rapidly, but you have to because you have a long way to go.”

Harbaugh confirmed starters are expected to receive more playing time against the Cowboys than they did against San Francisco, but the first units will receive their most extensive work against Washington in the third preseason game next weekend.

The Ravens are expected to continue giving running back Ray Rice first-team reps along with top backup Bernard Pierce before focusing more on the latter next week with Rice suspended for the first two games of the regular season.

“Normally, in the second preseason game you get a quarter, maybe a little more than a quarter,” Harbaugh said. “Some of that will be individualized for different players; we’ll have some play counts for a few guys, including Joe [Flacco] and some of the defensive players. We’ll see how it goes, but basically, about a quarter is what you’re looking at — maybe more. It could get close to a half; it could even be a half for some of the starters.”

Saturday will be the first preseason meeting between the Ravens and the Cowboys, but Baltimore owns the 4-0 edge in the regular season and will be making its first visit to AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Ravens are 43-29 all-time in the preseason and have a 16-9 preseason mark in the Harbaugh era.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Saturday night’s game against Dallas.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is not expected to play in the second preseason game as he’s been sidelined with a lower back injury since July 25.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: CB Lardarius Webb (back), G Will Rackley (head), DT Terrence Cody (hip), DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles tendon), DE Brent Urban (knee)
DOUBTFUL: CB Asa Jackson (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Owen Daniels (unspecified)
PROBABLE: LB Daryl Smith (groin), S Brynden Trawick (back), OL Ryan Jensen (leg)

Five players to watch Saturday night

1. C Jeremy Zuttah

While many pointed to the success of right tackle Rick Wagner in the first preseason game, the new Baltimore center appeared to make calls at the line successfully as the starting offense ran the ball effectively and protected Flacco. Zuttah isn’t dramatically bigger than 2013 starter Gino Gradkowski, but he’s held up well physically as a run blocker and in pass protection. The offensive line will remain under heavy scrutiny through the early portion of the series, but the reviews for Zuttah have been positive and the overall concern at the center position last year at this time appears to be a distant memory.

“The thing about Jeremy, he is a professional in every way,” offensive line coach Juan Castillo said. “He is smart, and he studies the game. For him, too, it’s a different technique, and he’s been working very hard at the fundamentals and trying to do the things the way we do it here in Baltimore.”

2. S Terrence Brooks

It was no secret that Brooks was lagging behind in the competition at free safety due to concerns with him grasping the intricacies of the defense, but injuries to Webb and Jackson at the cornerback position have prompted the Ravens to take a look at the Florida State product in the nickel spot, a position he played with the Seminoles. The shift is more of a reflection on how shallow the cornerback depth is at this point, but Brooks may find the nickel and dime packages as his best chance to see the field for meaningful defensive snaps to start his rookie season.

“Everybody is an option right now. We’re just trying to find guys,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees on the No. 3 cornerback spot. “We’re moving guys around a little bit. We have two more games to experiment with where we want to put guys and see where they fit getting ready for the season. The first two games are [about] playing everybody [to] see what we have, and then after that, we have to start honing in. But we’ll move a bunch of guys around. Terrence is playing well; he’s playing hard. He’s a multi-position guy like all of our guys really are. It’s a possibility.”

3. WR Kamar Aiken

The 2013 practice squad member has turned plenty of heads and certainly took advantage of his opportunity in the preseason opener with four catches for 46 yards on six targets and 29 offensive snaps. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound wideout appears to be competing closely with Deonte Thompson for a potential roster spot, but Aiken has outplayed the incumbent member of the 53-man roster and can further improve his chances by building on what he did against the 49ers. Of course, special-teams contributions will play a major part in determining whether Aiken finds himself on the active roster.

“He is explosive and he’s big,” offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “I tell you, in all my years in the league, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen as competitive a situation as we have at receiver right now. I would have no chance telling John [Harbaugh] which five or six I would want right now, and that’s a good thing as a coach.”

4. DL DeAngelo Tyson

The 2012 seventh-round pick has been a steady member of the defensive line rotation in his first two seasons, but season-ending injuries to young defensive ends Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore may force the Ravens to use Tyson more exclusively at the 5-technique spot to spell veteran Chris Canty. The University of Georgia product can play multiple spots on the defensive line, so it will be a blow to their overall versatility in the trenches if Pees must use Tyson outside, but his presence has become much more important with the overall depth taking a hit this summer.

“The next guy will be up, and we’ll find a way to do it,” said Harbaugh about the injuries to Urban and Lewis-Moore. “There are always going to be injuries. You adapt, you adjust and you fill out your positions.”

5. TE Crockett Gillmore

The Ravens insist the veteran tight end Daniels isn’t injured, but it’s clear there are some physical concerns with him missing two straight practices following an off-day and not showing great separation while running routes in practices. These factors could open the door for Gillmore to receive more opportunities with the starting offense against Dallas and beyond. It’s been an inconsistent summer for the Colorado State product as a blocker and as a receiver, but that’s to be expected from a third-round pick who will be counted on to be used to some degree with neither Daniels nor starter Dennis Pitta considered particularly strong blockers.

“Crockett is a good football player,” Pitta said earlier this summer. “He’s a tough kid and he’s big and physical and a great blocker at the point of attack. I think that’s what stood out the most this early on. He’s going to be a valuable asset for this offense moving forward.”

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Ravens-Rams preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 28 August 2013 by Luke Jones

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The Ravens have reached the light at the end of the preseason tunnel as they’ll conclude the summer against the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night.

From an entertainment standpoint, the preseason finale has rarely been one in which you can cut the electricity with a knife as Joe Flacco has already been confirmed by head coach John Harbaugh to be a spectator on Thursday. The starting quarterback won’t be alone as many starters will not take the field at all at the Edward Jones Dome in a game that means nothing for players who have already sewn up spots on the 53-man roster.

Of course, Harbaugh and the coaching staff will be expecting a strong performance from the players who will see action, many of whom are fighting for no more than a few jobs.

“We’re getting ready to go play St. Louis,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to do our best to go out there and try to win that game within the parameters of what helps our football team going forward into the regular season.”

In all reality, most roster decisions have already been made with the preseason finale not doing much to change the dynamics of the 53-man squad that must be finalized by Saturday at 6 p.m. Players with no realistic shot of making the team are hoping to put forth a good performance that might garner attention from other teams looking to fill out their rosters and practice squads in the coming days.

Potential competitions remain for the third running job, the No. 3 tight end, and the fourth safety job if the Ravens elect to keep each of those positions. And, of course, much attention will be paid to the wide receivers currently on the bubble, but you have to wonder how many conclusions the coaching staff can draw from the wideouts playing with reserve quarterback Caleb Hanie and potentially the newly-signed Dayne Crist.

Harbaugh was asked Tuesday how many times he could recall roster spots being decided by just a play or two made in the preseason finale.

“Probably not often, in all reality,” Harbaugh said. “But I would say in this game, there are a couple of those. There are a couple guys that, perhaps if they really, really play well, they could really play themselves on [to the 53-man roster]. Or, guys could play themselves off. It’s possible.”

The Ravens will be meeting the Rams for the fourth time ever in the preseason as St. Louis enters the game with a 3-0 all-time mark in the exhibition contests. Baltimore leads the all-time regular-season series by a 3-2 margin and won a 37-7 blowout in St. Louis in the teams’ last meeting in 2011.

Harbaugh is now 15-8 in preseason games with the Ravens holding a 42-28 overall mark in the preseason. Baltimore has won 14 of its last 19 preseason games.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to produce an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released.

Of course, the final preseason game will include many players sitting out due to Harbaugh’s preference with the regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos just a week from Thursday night. This estimated report does not reflect any of the veterans who will watch from the sidelines and is only an indication of the team’s current health.

Inside linebacker Jameel McClain (neck), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee), and outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton (wrist) are no longer on the active roster and are no longer included in the injury report.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: WR Deonte Thompson (foot), LB Pernell McPhee (knee), OL Ryan Jensen (foot), TE Dennis Pitta (hip)
DOUBTFUL: TE Ed Dickson (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Arthur Jones (personal health issue), QB Tyrod Taylor (head)
PROBABLE: G Marshal Yanda (shoulder), CB Lardarius Webb (knee)

Five players to watch Thursday night

1. RB Delone Carter

While few fans are enthused to watch the fourth and final preseason game consisting of few starters, the contest will offer the first glance of Carter, who was acquired from Indianapolis in the David Reed trade. At 5-foot-9 and 232 pounds, Carter is a low-to-the-ground power runner with the reputation of being effective at the goal line and in short-yardage situations, two areas in which the Ravens struggled at times last season.

The real question may be how much of an impact Carter can bring to special teams as the potential No. 3 running back with third-year veteran Anthony Allen strong in that regard and Bobby Rainey having intriguing potential as a backup return specialist. Much discussion of last impressions being made in the preseason finale is overblown, but Carter has only had a couple practices to show off his ability, meaning Thursday will be critical for his potential future in Baltimore.

2. WR LaQuan Williams

It’s difficult to predict whether the performance of any of the bubble receivers on Thursday night will carry much stock in final roster decisions if the likes of Hanie and Crist are under center, but Williams hasn’t followed up his strong performance in the preseason opener in the way he would have liked. Always a good special-teams player, Williams has lacked consistency as a wideout this summer and saw rookies Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette receive opportunities with the first-team offense in recent weeks while he only received a few token reps here and there.

A standout play or two on special teams would likely put an exclamation point on his case for a spot on the 53-man roster for the third straight season, but Williams would like to leave a lasting impression as a wide receiver as well. The coaching staff has always been complimentary of his work ethic, but Williams doesn’t have the impressive height or blazing speed of other receivers with which he’s competing and his value on special teams can only go so far with so much uncertainty at the wide receiver position as a whole.

3. DE DeAngelo Tyson

It’s remarkable to think how far the defensive line has come since last season when Tyson was seeing critical snaps in the second half of Super Bowl XLVII after Haloti Ngata went down with a knee injury. The 2012 seventh-round pick hasn’t necessarily had a poor summer, but he is clearly seventh in the pecking order of a deep group of options with various skills against the run and pass.

Tyson’s fate will come down to the simple numbers as the coaching staff decides whether players at other positions would be better fits for roster spots than keeping Tyson as a seventh defensive lineman. Statistics usually aren’t a great indication of how well a defensive lineman has fared, but Tyson’s two tackles reflect the quiet preseason we’ve observed from the Georgia product.

4. TE Billy Bajema

Following the Ravens’ decision to terminate the contract of veteran Visanthe Shiancoe last weekend, many assumed this opened the door for rookie Matt Furstenburg to be the No. 3 tight end, but veteran Billy Bajema is a reliable blocking tight end with some ability as a pass catcher when given opportunities. He saw a great deal of action late last season when Ed Dickson was sidelined with a knee injury and held up well as the blocking tight end behind Dennis Pitta.

In most cases, teams will go with the younger, cheaper option when rookies and veterans are evenly matched in a competition for a roster spot, but the Ravens were using Bajema over Furstenburg with the starting offense prior to the free-agent signing of Dallas Clark a couple weeks ago. Bajema is also a positive special-teams contributor, which is something that shouldn’t be overlooked when the Ravens make their final decision on a potential third tight end.

5. S Anthony Levine

Fellow safety Omar Brown might be more of a household name after a strong 2012 preseason, but Levine has appeared to receive more opportunities with the starting special-teams units during the preseason, which could be an indication of which way the Ravens are leaning for the fourth safety spot — if they decide to keep one. Levine is bigger than Brown and was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad last November before eventually going on injured reserve, which paved the way for Brown to be promoted in December.

This might be a rare roster battle that comes down to a matter of who can make a play or two in the preseason finale to sell the coaches on a potential decision. Levine has eight tackles this summer while Brown has five; however, Levine has made one special-teams tackle but appeared to be one of the guilty parties to misplay his lane assignment in the Ted Ginn Jr. 74-yard punt return for a touchdown last week in Baltimore.

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Will the Ravens defense improve in 2013?

Posted on 01 April 2013 by jeffreygilley

Four weeks ago, everyone outside of Baltimore was skeptical of Ozzie Newsome. First, Anquan Boldin was traded to the 49ers. Shortly after, Paul Kruger signed with the Browns and Dannell Ellerbe left for Miami. Ellerbe was viewed as the top priority for the Ravens but the Dolphins were willing to pay more for his services.

But that was just the beginning. Other key players including Carry Williams Ed Reed also joined other teams. Bernard Pollard is also no longer part of the team. Pollard was released and has since signed with the Tennessee Titans.

All of these players were critical to the Ravens regular and postseason success. Despite that, I believe the defense will be better. But then again, it’s not difficult to improve when the Ravens ranked in the high teens and low 20’s in most defensive categories.

Despite these losses, can the Ravens defense improve in 2013? The short answer is yes. The reason? Versatility.

All of the free agents the Ravens have signed this offseason have the ability to play multiple positions. Chris Canty and Marcus Spears can play almost every position on the defensive line and Michael Huff can play any position in the secondary.

The additions of Canty and Spears give the Ravens a scary rotation along the defensive line. Pernell McPhee and Arthur Jones will also be vital parts of that rotation. Even Deangelo Tyson could get playing time.

With Canty, Spears, McPhee, Tyson, and Jones in a rotation at the 3-4 defensive end and defensive tackle spots, Haloti Ngata can play more nose tackle, which is his favorite position.

Add Elvis Dumervil to that equation and I would be shocked if the Ravens don’t come close to leading the NFL in sacks. Dumervil and Suggs will consistently command attention on the outside. In turn, opportunities will open up for Ngata, McPhee, and the rest of the Ravens defensive lineman on the inside.

The only question mark for the Ravens defense to me is the secondary. With Carry Williams departure to Philadelphia and Lardarius Webb’s return from injury, Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham might have to play larger roles this season.

Inside linebacker could be viewed as another area of need but the additions to the defensive line should help the middle of the defense. The Ravens could also look to the draft for a young inside linebacker. Candidates would include Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, or Florida linebacker Jon Bostic in the later rounds.

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