Tag Archive | "Dennis Pitta"

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 11 loss to Dallas

Posted on 22 November 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens falling back into a first-place tie in the AFC North after a 27-17 loss to Dallas on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The defense squandering a first-and-30 on Dallas’ first touchdown drive was the turning point of the game, but Mike Wallace’s inability to get his feet inbounds on a deep pass inside the 5 on the ensuing possession was equally frustrating. Neither side of the ball could make the game-changing play.

2. If the second half of the Week 6 loss to the New York Giants wasn’t enough, Sunday offered another reminder of how valuable Jimmy Smith is to this defense. Without his game-changing talent in the secondary, the Ravens have an average group with no answer against an elite receiver.

3. The Ravens have certainly abandoned the run at times, but Week 11 doesn’t fit that narrative. Look at the play-by-play and you’ll find a spot or two for another run, but the ratio was skewed because of a multi-score deficit that led to 15 straight dropbacks to close the game.

4. On a day that produced a record 12 missed extra points, Justin Tucker remained perfect on the year and extended his league-long streak of 30 consecutive field goals. He hasn’t missed an extra point in his career. With kicking issues all over the place, don’t take that excellence for granted.

5. The secondary faced the bulk of the criticism on Sunday, but the linebacker coverage that’s been so good this year looked more like it did in 2015. C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr have done a much better job against the pass in 2016, but they struggled against the Cowboys.

6. It’s difficult to recall too many offensive linemen who have shown the ability to switch positions and still play at a high level like Marshal Yanda. Jonathan Ogden is the undisputed top offensive lineman in franchise history, but Yanda is an easy No. 2 on the list.

7. Dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice, Timmy Jernigan played a season-low 21 snaps. You wonder if him being less than 100 percent put too much on the plates of Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams in the battle against the best offensive line in the NFL.

8. Looking at his final numbers, Joe Flacco turned in a solid performance against the Cowboys, but the problem is that feels like it’s become his ceiling this season. In a game screaming for a big play, Flacco was 0-for-4 on pass attempts traveling more than 20 yards through the air.

9. It was disappointing to see Breshad Perriman follow the best game of his career by failing to record a reception and not even being targeted on 23 snaps. The 2015 first-round pick still has a long way to go to become a consistent threat in the passing game.

10. After forcing punts on the first four possessions, the Ravens were too conservative on third down the rest of the way. After blitzing or showing blitz on the first four third-down stops, Baltimore rushed four or fewer on four of the next five third downs without a single stop.

11. Despite the incredible resources pumped into the position, the Ravens have received very little from the tight end spot. Dennis Pitta’s return has been a great story, but he’s piled up no more than 40 receiving yards in any of the last five games.

12. I’m torn whether penalties are a bigger reflection on the coaching staff or on undisciplined — and potentially overmatched — players, but piling up 136 penalty yards is unacceptable when you’re trying to beat one of the best teams in the NFL. It’s a tired problem.

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 05 November 2016 by Luke Jones

Two rivals coming off their bye week and needing a win on Sunday.

The stakes are clear for both the Ravens and Pittsburgh when they meet for the 41st time in their regular-season history. Having lost four straight games in October, Baltimore is trying to turn its season around and pull even in the AFC North with the Steelers, who have dropped two consecutive games themselves.

Health is a hot topic for both teams as the Ravens expect to welcome back several key starters, a list including linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley and offensive linemen Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley. Meanwhile, the Steelers appear likely to have starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back under center less than three weeks after knee surgery.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens attempt to win their fourth straight game against Pittsburgh, which includes their victory in the 2014 postseason. The Steelers lead the regular-season series by a 21-19 edge, but Mike Tomlin’s team hasn’t won a game at M&T Bank Stadium since 2012. Counting the playoffs, Baltimore has won five of the last six meetings with its biggest rival.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Dennis Pitta will catch his first touchdown of the season while Darren Waller will make his first catches of 2016. Who would have guessed with the well-documented depth entering training camp that Pitta would be the only tight end to play in all of the Ravens’ first eight games? His production has slowed since surpassing the 100-yard receiving mark in Week 2, but he poses a problem for Pittsburgh linebackers who are weak in coverage. With Crockett Gillmore out, Waller is now the No. 2 option and is an imposing physical specimen offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg should utilize.

2. Le’Veon Bell will not do much against the Ravens on the ground, but the Pittsburgh running back will burn them in the passing game. The Baltimore run defense is for real and allowing just 3.5 yards per game, but a returning Mosley — and his hamstring — will face a heck of a test in coverage with Bell’s ability to separate as a pass catcher. With the way Matt Forte had success as a receiver against the Ravens in Week 7, Roethlisberger won’t hesitate to look for the explosive Bell out of the backfield to help keep the Steelers on schedule despite little production in the running game.

3. Suggs will collect a sack to add to an impressive mark, but Baltimore won’t get enough heat on a hobbled quarterback otherwise. Suggs poked fun earlier this week at the injury drama often surrounding Roethlisberger, the kind of trash talk bringing back memories of the prime of this rivalry. The six-time Pro Bowl linebacker has backed up the talk over the years with 16 1/2 career sacks against the Pittsburgh quarterback. However, an improved Steelers offensive line won’t have too many issues against a pass rush that’s been largely unproductive without Elvis Dumervil this season.

4. The Ravens secondary will fare respectably against Antonio Brown, but the big-play receiver will still catch a second-half touchdown. As tremendous as Brown has been for several seasons, Baltimore has surprisingly done a commendable job against him, holding him to just one touchdown reception. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens defense approaches Brown as Jimmy Smith has traveled with him at times in past meetings. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will likely mix up coverages against Brown, but the Steelers wideout will still find a way to the end zone on Sunday.

5. Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense will show some signs of improvement, but it won’t be enough in a 24-20 loss. The Steelers are the better football team, but the Ravens winning wouldn’t be surprising after Ryan Mallett’s heroics in the most recent meeting between these teams last December. You never truly know with this rivalry. Improved health on the offensive line should help the offense, but John Harbaugh’s team just isn’t inspiring enough confidence and Pittsburgh is also feeling plenty of urgency with higher expectations for the season. The Steelers have better play-makers, and that will be the difference in a narrow defeat for the Ravens that will only add to the frustration level in Baltimore.

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Flacco questionable, seven other Ravens doubtful or out for Sunday’s game

Posted on 21 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens listed Joe Flacco as questionable to play against the New York Jets after he returned to the practice field on Friday.

Losers of three straight games, Baltimore can hardly afford to be without its franchise quarterback, who has dealt with a right shoulder injury this week. Taking part in a walk-through practice that did not involve helmets or shells, Flacco threw to Dennis Pitta from 10 to 15 yards away with plenty of zip on the football during the portion of practice open to media and did not show any discomfort.

“He looked good. He was throwing the ball well,” said Pitta, who teased his close friend about his absence from practices this week but added that he’d be surprised if Flacco doesn’t play. “He didn’t seem in any kind of pain. We’re excited to have him back out there, for sure.”

Flacco missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday after undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging exam earlier in the week. The 31-year-old signal-caller received treatment after participating fully in Friday’s workout and was not available to reporters.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was also designated as questionable to play and was a limited participant for the third straight day. As of Friday afternoon, he hadn’t been fully cleared from the concussion protocol.

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) is questionable after returning to practice on Friday and missing the Week 6 loss to the New York Giants, but the Ravens continue to be without wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps), Elvis Dumervil (foot), and C.J. Mosley (hamstring), and right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder). Dumervil and Mosley were officially ruled out on Friday while Smith, Suggs, and Yanda were all designated as doubtful.

The banged-up Ravens will certainly welcome their Week 8 bye after Sunday’s game.

“We have a lot of injured guys and guys who will need that time off,” Pitta said. “I think we’ll all welcome that time off to heal up and get ready to finish the season. It puts even more pressure on this game because everybody wants to go into that bye with a win. We certainly don’t want to lose four straight going into that bye and have to sit all week and think about it.”

Defensive backs Shareece Wright (thigh) and Kendrick Lewis (thigh) are also doubtful to play in Week 7. Wright hasn’t practiced since leaving Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants while Lewis was added to Thursday’s injury report as a limited participant, which often indicates an injury occurred during practice.

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) was listed as questionable after being a full participant in practice for the third straight day, but head coach John Harbaugh offered little insight on his status for Week 7. The first-round pick has missed three straight games and was a limited participant in two practices last week before sitting out the loss to the Giants.

“I like what we saw,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just see how he feels tomorrow after the work and see how he feels on Sunday.”

With seven players listed as doubtful or out, the Ravens could be in line to make a roster move or two ahead of Sunday’s game. Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro would be a potential option as he began practicing this week and is a good special-teams player.

Meanwhile, the Jets officially ruled out linebacker Darron Lee (ankle) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) and listed defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) as questionable after he failed to participate in Friday’s practice. Reports from New York indicated concern for the 2015 Pro Bowl selection’s Sunday status.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Walt Anderson.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds up to 17 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh)
DOUBTFUL: S Kendrick Lewis (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), QB Joe Flacco (right shoulder), RS Devin Hester (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (concussion), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

NEW YORK
OUT: TE Braeden Bowman (knee), LB Darron Lee (ankle), OL Brent Qvale (neck), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Ryan Clady (shoulder), OL Nick Mangold (knee), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)

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Energized Ravens offense knows pressure is on to produce

Posted on 12 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens players reacted differently to the firing of Marc Trestman than they did to Cam Cameron’s removal four years ago.

Cameron’s firing was shocking to players with just three weeks remaining in the 2012 regular season. Despite the annual outside complaints and speculation about his job status, Joe Flacco and the Ravens had found much success with Cameron guiding the offense for nearly five full years. What happened in the seven weeks that followed would make history, but the change served as a jarring wake-up call for the entire offense in the midst of what had already been a 9-4 season to that point.

With Trestman, however, the Ravens had won just eight of 21 games, never finding any meaningful stretch of prosperity in his brief tenure. Following Sunday’s 16-10 loss to Washington, the frustration in the locker room was apparent as the tone had seemingly shifted from “if” to “when” in terms of a potential firing.

Two days after John Harbaugh officially replaced Trestman with quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg, players expressed kind words about their former coordinator as a person and as a coach, but their opinion of the change was crystal clear. And nobody sounded surprised.

“It was difficult to see him go, but I think it was something that this offense needed,” said tight end Dennis Pitta, who experienced the Cameron firing and isn’t known for being overly critical. “We were in kind of a bad place. It didn’t seem like we were getting out of it. Hopefully, this will spark us. Marty is a great coach, and we have a lot of faith in him. He brings an energy and an excitement to our offense that we needed. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put it together and play much better going forward.”

“Energy” and “excitement” were the buzzwords uttered by multiple players about Mornhinweg during Wednesday’s media session. Trestman’s questionable play-calling was evident to even the casual observer, but it sounded as if his personality wasn’t inspiring an offense ranking 22nd in total yards and tied for 22nd in points per game entering Week 6.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace and Kamar Aiken immediately smiled when asked about their first impressions of the promoted Mornhinweg, citing his energetic personality. But that feeling will be fleeting if improved results don’t accompany the change.

Players predictably cited improved commitment to the running and taking more shots down the field as the anticipated changes in a system that can only be tweaked and not overhauled in the middle of a season. How it will play out on game day remains to be seen.

“It is just up to him as a play-caller and getting into the rhythm of the game and feeling when you do those things,” said Flacco, who was much more guarded than his teammates in discussing the change on Wednesday. “Obviously, you aren’t just picking things off the call sheet and calling them. There is a rhythm to it, and there is a reason for it. That is the biggest thing.”

Even if players weren’t surprised by the decision, one only hopes they still took a long look in the mirror on Monday.

Trestman wasn’t committing costly penalties to blow up drives on a weekly basis.

He wasn’t failing to block for Flacco.

And the 60-year-old certainly wasn’t dropping passes in critical situations.

Identifying Trestman as the problem is fair, but only if the remaining group — Harbaugh, Mornhinweg, and the players — finds the solution and fast. The training wheels are off, and it’s time for the offense to pedal faster down the street or fall into the bushes.

If it’s the latter, maybe this group just isn’t as good as we thought it could be and it will be unfortunate that Trestman had to take the fall.

“I think we just need to do what we keep doing, but just turn it up a notch,” Wallace said. “We’re in every single game. It’s just a matter of making one play here, one play there. We just need to get over the top. That’s what the coaches are trying to do to get us there. You have to explore every single situation. Unfortunately, that means some people lose their jobs. I’ve been there before myself.

“That’s football. It’s the business we’re in. Everybody knows it when you sign up, so nobody’s hanging their head or anything like that. It’s unfortunate, but everybody knows.”

And the Ravens know it’s now on them with their biggest excuse officially out the door.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on Week 2 win in Cleveland

Posted on 19 September 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens completing the second-largest comeback in franchise history with a 25-20 victory at Cleveland on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After a quiet performance in the opener, C.J. Mosley came up with the game-saving interception in the closing seconds, but he also added six tackles — two for losses — and a quarterback knockdown. This was the kind of high-impact performance we didn’t see from Mosley last season.

2. You had to feel good for Dennis Pitta having that kind of game in his return to the place where he suffered his second career-threatening hip injury. He took full advantage of the defense respecting the Ravens’ speed and effectively worked underneath against Cleveland.

3. It will be interesting to see how Kenneth Dixon fares when he returns, because the running game hasn’t been getting it done. Averaging 3.0 yards per carry, the Ravens need better blocking from their offensive line, but neither Justin Forsett nor Terrance West looks like a true No. 1 back.

4. His return for a defensive two-point conversion grabbed the attention, but Tavon Young is quietly playing at a high level for a rookie fourth-rounder. Sharing time with Anthony Levine as the slot cornerback, Young made two key open-field tackles on the final defensive series of the game.

5. Never one to shy away from being aggressive, John Harbaugh forgoing a 45-yard field goal try to go for a fourth-and-2 to start the second quarter was a panic move, especially with a running game that’s been abysmal in those spots. Take the points from your high-paid kicker that early.

6. Others have played well, but Timmy Jernigan has been Baltimore’s best defensive player through two games. The 2014 second-round pick leads the team with two sacks, four tackles for a loss, and five quarterback hits and has provided a much-needed interior rush presence.

7. The presence of veterans Steve Smith and Mike Wallace figured to impact the production of Kamar Aiken, but the leading receiver last season has been an afterthought so far with just two receptions on three targets. The Ravens would certainly like to get him more involved.

8. I was impressed with Browns rookie Corey Coleman, who caught two touchdowns and went over 100 receiving yards. With Josh Gordon coming off suspension, Cleveland could have had a fun little passing game if not for the left shoulder injury to Josh McCown that’s believed to be serious.

9. For a team that regularly says it takes pride in being physical, the Ravens sure like to use shotgun formations and run outside in short-yardage situations.

10. It’s no secret that third-down defense was an issue on Sunday, but Dean Pees’ unit deserves credit for settling down midway through the second quarter. After the Browns converted six of their first seven third downs, the Ravens made stops on six of the final eight.

11. Not lost in victory was poor clock management late. First, Forsett ran out of bounds with 3:00 left. The Ravens proceeded to take their final timeout, throw an incompletion, and kick a field goal with 2:53 remaining instead of forcing Cleveland’s final timeout or taking it to the two-minute warning.

12. We always talk about Joe Flacco having an even-keeled personality, but you could tell how fired up he was after the win, complimenting his teammates for being a “bunch of freaking men” in coming back. No matter their deficiencies, the Ravens always have a chance with him at the helm.

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Ravens are perfect so far ­– and even that isn’t good enough

Posted on 19 September 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

So, the Baltimore Ravens – the same ones who limped to a 5-11 finish last season – have begun this 2016 campaign with renewed optimism and have been perfect through the first 120 minutes and two wins over the downtrodden of the National Football League.

Sure, the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns might only win six games combined over the next 15 weeks, but the Ravens found some fortitude on Sunday on Lake Erie after a start so dreadful that even Joe Flacco acknowledged that the offensive guys were “MFing each other” similarly to you and your friends, wherever you were watching the game. You never want to spot a team – even a team as dismal as the current Brownies – a three-touchdown advantage.

But, the Ravens dug out and the defense tightened up after a few dramatic gaffes, including allowing rookie Casey Coleman to get behind the defense and then a Isaiah Crowell 85-yard scamper through the middle of the field that had the Browns faithful believing an upset was brewing on a beautiful day in Cleveland.

But, alas, there are very few beautiful days in the Land of Cleve – especially when it involves the Browns.

The two-point block by Lawrence Guy and the long runback by Tavon Young after the second Coleman TD grab not only put the Ravens on the board, but in the end it proved the difference in a tight game when the Browns needed a touchdown – not a field goal – in the final minutes of the game.

That phantom taunting call on Terrelle Pryor was also a massive factory in keeping defeat and sadness on the factory of losses by Lake Erie. Sometimes just being the Browns gets you the Charlie Brown treatment.

Flacco and the offense kept chipping away. And the Ravens found some ways to move the chains and get back in the game.

The inspirational story of the weekend involved the loss of longtime defensive line coach Clarence Brooks to cancer on Saturday morning before the team boarded the plane to Cleveland. He was a larger-than-life figure for players than spanned the Ravens timeline from Rob Burnett to Haloti Ngata to Brandon Williams. He was also a tremendous person, coach, leader and gentleman.

But the story of the young season on the field so far involves a decorated Ravens veteran who is showing that his comeback is for real. Dennis Pitta led the team in receptions and yards on Sunday, showing his old ability to create seams in the defense and making a perfect target for Flacco in tough 3rd down spots.

A month ago, we were wondering if Flacco would have any healthy targets beyond Kamar Aiken. Now, he’s almost a forgotten man in an offense that has seen Steve Smith get back into the action, along with Pitta, and the emerging speed of Breshad Perriman has made for more weapons than we imagined.

Again – these are two, visibly bad football teams the Ravens have victimized over the past two Sundays. And Jacksonville, now 0-2 and reeling after another offseason of expectations of improvement, is waiting next weekend in North Florida (or is it South Georgia?).

The Ravens surely can’t “prove” much in beating bad football teams.

But, the wins are now stacking up and the Ravens own a piece of first place in the AFC North, while the Cincinnati Bengals will now play from third place after a stinging loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

They’ll get their cracks at their might division rivals but this isn’t a bad recipe to have a few games against the JV while the others slug it out among themselves for a little while. Besides, the Ravens need some seasoning and some time to begin to gel as a unit. At least they lined up properly and for the most part avoided penalty issues.

And defensively, there is potential. If you’ve seen the difference in the middle of the field with Eric Weddle and C.J. Mosley and Brandon Williams, then you know better days could be ahead. (Just eliminate all memories of that Crowell run!)

Perhaps Terrell Suggs will get better and find some semblance of his old form. The young offensive line still needs to open up some holes in the running game. It’s also been two games of Flacco taking as much punishment as you’d want to see him take, especially after the knee injury last fall.

And anything inside the 38-yard line feels like an automatic three points for Justin Tucker, who through a handful of kicks has done nothing but instill confidence in winning close games.

So if you’re a Ravens fan, this is no time for skepticism.

The team is 2-0. They’re playing another 0-2 team this weekend.

I’m not sure if they’re a Super Bowl contender at this point but they don’t need to be. Not until January, anyway. And right now, there’s nothing to suggest that this team can’t win 10 games this season and be involved in the tournament.

It’s as good of a start as is possible.

The Ravens are perfect so far.

So my fellow purple friends, simply enjoy the prosperity. I remember last season when there was none to enjoy.

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 17 September 2016 by Luke Jones

Winning on the road isn’t easy in the NFL.

Even in John Harbaugh’s first five seasons that included a Super Bowl title, three AFC championship game appearances, and at least one playoff victory each year, a 21-19 road mark in the regular season was solid but hardly sensational. However, an 8-16 record away from M&T Bank Stadium over the last three seasons is a clear reflection of a team having only made the playoffs once over that stretch.

After their Week 1 victory against Buffalo, the Ravens take their show on the road for the first time in 2016 against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore seeks its eighth win in the last nine trips to Cleveland. The Ravens lead the all-time regular-season series with a 25-9 mark and are 12-5 at FirstEnergy Stadium dating back to the year it opened in 1999. The teams split a pair of games in 2015, but the Ravens have won 14 of the 16 games played in the series during the Harbaugh era.

1. The defensive line will pay tribute to the late Clarence Brooks by holding Cleveland to under 3.0 yards per carry. Coming off a 2015 season in which they rushed for an average 4.0 yards per attempt, Cleveland averaged 5.7 yards per rush against Philadelphia, snapping off four runs of 16 yards or more. That said, Brandon Williams and the Ravens front were stout against Buffalo in giving up only 2.7 yards per carry and will surely want to honor the memory of their longtime defensive line coach, who died Saturday. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson will find little room throughout the afternoon.

2. An ineffective pass rush will lead to a long touchdown pass to Browns receiver Corey Coleman. The defense will be without Elvis Dumervil and possibly Za’Darius Smith, once again leaving defensive coordinator Dean Pees little choice but to blitz to generate pressure. It won’t be easy for a rusty Terrell Suggs going up against nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, either. The Ravens know they must disrupt Josh McCown in the pocket after he threw for over 450 yards in a game against them last year, but he’ll get too much time at some point and the speedy Coleman will shake free for a big score.

3. The Baltimore running game still won’t click fully, but Terrance West will lead in rushing against his old team. West received more carries than veteran starter Justin Forsett in the opener, but the former found little running room, averaging only 2.7 yards per pop. With a one-possession lead in the second half, offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will lean on West to wear down an inexperienced Cleveland front. The average still won’t be where the Ravens want it, but West will run for 65 yards to help protect the lead with Forsett chipping in 50 of his own against the Browns.

4. Dennis Pitta will catch his first touchdown in 33 months. The veteran tight end downplayed his return to the place where he sustained his second hip fracture and dislocation two years ago, but there wouldn’t be a more appropriate place for him to make his first touchdown reception since Dec. 8, 2013. After surprisingly playing 82 percent of the offensive snaps against Buffalo while making a key 27-yard reception, Pitta will build on that solid performance with a red-zone score. Concern about his health will remain in observers’ minds, but you have to be happy for the 31-year-old in his comeback.

5. Joe Flacco will play how he usually does against the Browns in a 23-13 victory. In 15 career games against Cleveland, the 31-year-old has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions while averaging roughly 215 passing yards per game. Trestman won’t ask Flacco to take many chances in this road game, but the quarterback will be efficient while, most importantly, protecting the football. Some will complain about another grind-it-out performance lacking style points, but the Ravens will happily leave Cleveland holding their first 2-0 start since 2009.

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Ravens-Bills: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 11 September 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A new season and new hope.

The memories of 20 players on injured reserve and nine losses by a single possession a year ago will be wiped away Sunday when the Ravens open their 21st season against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Though head coach John Harbaugh is relying on several key veterans returning from significant injuries in 2016, the Ravens were preparing to make history by starting rookies at left tackle and left guard with first-rounder Ronnie Stanley and fourth-rounder Alex Lewis, respectively. According to Elias, it marks the first time since 1995 that an NFL team has started rookies at those two positions in a season opener.

Stanley was expected to start from the moment general manager Ozzie Newsome made him the Ravens’ earliest first-round pick of the last 16 years, but Lewis emerged out of necessity with third-year lineman John Urschel missing extensive time with a shoulder injury in training camp. Urschel was a full participant in practice this week, but Baltimore declared him inactive for Sunday’s game, electing to go with just two reserve offensive linemen for Week 1.

There were a couple of other mild surprises on the Ravens’ list of deactivated players. Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), veteran cornerback Jerraud Powers (ankle), and rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) had already been ruled out on the final injury report of the week, but the Ravens deactivated cornerback Will Davis and running back Buck Allen, who are both healthy.

Baltimore will have just two active tailbacks — Justin Forsett and Terrance West — and chose to activate young cornerbacks Maurice Canady and Sheldon Price instead of Davis.

As expected, veteran tight end Dennis Pitta is active and set to play in his first game in nearly two years, completing his improbable comeback from the second devastating right hip injury of his career.

With Dumervil out, the Ravens will be leaning on younger options such as Za’Darius Smith, Matt Judon, and Kamalei Correa to help pick up the pass-rushing slack opposite veteran Terrell Suggs, who is making his return from last September’s season-ending Achilles injury.

Meanwhile, Buffalo had no surprises among its seven inactives.

The Ravens and Bills are meeting for the seventh time ever in the regular season with each team previously winning three games. However, Buffalo has not won in Baltimore since the 1999 season.

Counting his time with the New York Jets, Bills head coach Rex Ryan is aiming to win his sixth consecutive season opener, but the former Ravens defensive coordinator is 0-3 against Baltimore as a head coach.

With former Ravens such as Tyrod Taylor and and Ed Reed making their return to M&T Bank Stadium as members of the Bills, there was quite a bit of catching up during pre-game warmups. Quarterback Joe Flacco chatted with his former understudy at length, and Harbaugh spent time talking to his former All-Pro safety, who is now in his first year as an assistant defensive backs coach. Reed was celebrating his 38th birthday on Sunday.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys with white pants while Buffalo dons white tops and blue pants for the 2016 opener.

Sunday’s referee is Brad Allen.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore called for party cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 80s, winds up to 11 miles per hour, and no chance of precipitation.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
LB Elvis Dumervil
CB Jerraud Powers
RB Kenneth Dixon
RB Buck Allen
OL John Urschel
DT Willie Henry
CB Will Davis

BUFFALO
S Colt Anderson
CB Kevon Seymour
QB Cardale Jones
WR Walter Powell
RB Jonathan Williams
LB Bryson Albright
C Patrick Lewis

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Dumervil officially declared out, Pitta questionable for Sunday

Posted on 09 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The effects of the new injury report rules for 2016 were evident on the final update released by the Ravens ahead of Sunday’s season opener against Buffalo.

As expected, linebacker Elvis Dumervil, cornerback Jerraud Powers, and running back Kenneth Dixon were declared out for Week 1, but tight end Dennis Pitta, guard John Urschel, tight end Maxx Williams, and cornerback Shareece Wright were all listed as questionable despite participating fully in practices all week. The NFL has eliminated the “probable” designation, which used to mean a player had a 75 percent or better chance of playing.

Teams will now use the “questionable” label — previously used for “50-50” situations — for any player who is uncertain to play in the game and “doubtful” for anyone considered unlikely to participate.

“Usually, you figure out who’s going to play and who’s not going to play pretty much,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “If you don’t know, you’ll see when they give you the report an hour-and-a-half before game time, you see who is actually going to play. I think it’s much ado about not much.”

Dumervil had already ruled himself out of the opener on Wednesday, but the Pro Bowl edge rusher’s absence opens the door for younger options such as Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon to see more pass-rushing opportunities. Albert McClellan will start at the strong-side outside linebacker spot in the base defense while Terrell Suggs will make his long-awaited return to the rush linebacker spot.

Despite missing more than a month of training camp with a broken finger, Pitta is set to make his return to live-game action for the first time in two years. The 31-year-old is attempting to come back from two catastrophic injuries to his right hip.

“He’s put in a lot of work. It’s been a long road for him,” Harbaugh said. “It will be great to see him come out of that tunnel with the smoke going. I’m sure it will be a big moment for him, too, and I’m looking forward to seeing him play. I’m glad he’s on our side.”

Buffalo officially ruled out two backup players: safety Colt Anderson and cornerback Kevon Seymour. Rookie third-string quarterback Cardale Jones was listed as questionable with a shoulder issue.

The Bills learned Friday that right tackle Seantrel Henderson dropped his appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Henderson’s agent has said his client was using marijuana to relieve the effects of Crohn’s disease.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Brad Allen.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid-80s and only a 10 percent chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), CB Jerraud Powers (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Dennis Pitta (finger), G/C John Urschel (shoulder), TE Maxx Williams (knee), CB Shareece Wright (foot)

BUFFALO
OUT: S Colt Anderson (foot), CB Kevon Seymour (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Ryan Groy (ribs), QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder), RB Jonathan Williams (ribs)

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Pitta set to play in first game for Ravens in nearly two years

Posted on 09 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens will welcome several players back to action on Sunday from season-ending injuries suffered last year, but no one’s return appeared as improbable as that of Dennis Pitta.

Having suffered a second dislocation and fracture of his right hip on Sept. 21, 2014 in Cleveland, the tight end’s career appeared to be over. But after two long years of rigorous rehabilitation and difficult decision-making, the 31-year-old will take the field against Buffalo for only his eighth game since Super Bowl XLVII.

Even the stoic Pitta anticipates some emotion as he takes the field at M&T Bank Stadium.

“I’m sure it will be,” Pitta said. “There was definitely a point in all of this that I had to accept the fact that I probably wouldn’t run out of that tunnel ever again. Being able to do that this Sunday will be emotional but very exciting for me.”

It was a strange summer for Pitta, who broke a finger in a camp scuffle with rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa on Aug. 1 and missed more than a month of action. The 2010 fourth-round pick looked good in spring practices and over the first few days of training camp, but it remains how unclear just how extensively offensive coordinator Marc Trestman plans to use him in the offense.

A strong rapport with close friend and quarterback Joe Flacco should minimize the challenge of Pitta’s extended training camp absence, but head coach John Harbaugh expressed disappointment late last month about the veteran missing valuable reps to regain his timing.

Pitta was listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week, but he was a full participant in practices this week.

“I’m feeling pretty fresh, actually. I’ve been through training camp a lot,” said Pitta, who returned to practice on Sept. 3. “Obviously, it’s tough to miss that amount of time, especially when I haven’t played in a while. I’ve gotten a week or so under my belt and I feel comfortable with everything that I’m doing. I feel good with where I’m at.”

Considering the nature of his second hip dislocation and fracture on an innocuous non-contact play in which he caught a short pass and collapsed simply trying to turn up the field, everyone will be holding their breath as Pitta admitted his wife, Mataya, and his parents remain nervous about him playing again.

Even a few weeks ago, his potential return was still considered more of a bonus with so much depth at the position, but veteran Benjamin Watson suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on Aug. 27 and young tight ends Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams have also dealt with ailments in their brief careers, creating more of an interest in Pitta’s presence. Flacco and the Baltimore passing game would certainly welcome his ability to work the middle portion of the field once again.

It’s quite a change from the general tone of much of the last two years.

Was there a particular moment that stood out along the way when Pitta thought his career was over?

“I think the second time I dislocated my hip was one of those instances where I thought, ‘Man, I don’t think I’ll be back out there,’” said Pitta, smiling and proving he still has his dry sense of humor. “For a long time after, I didn’t know how I would recover having done that twice. I didn’t know even if I would get to the point where I felt good enough to play again. It took a long time. Fortunately, now I’m in that position.”

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