Tag Archive | "Dennis Pitta"

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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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Breaking down the 2016 Ravens’ initial 53-man roster

Posted on 03 September 2016 by Luke Jones

Former Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett was easily the biggest surprise among several notable cuts on Saturday as the Ravens constructed their initial 53-man roster for the start of the 2016 season.

More changes are inevitable in the coming days as Baltimore has no clear-cut return specialist with third-year receiver Michael Campanaro being placed on injured reserve and rookie Keenan Reynolds being waived on Saturday. It remains to be seen whether general manager Ozzie Newsome will sign four-time Pro Bowl returner Devin Hester, who worked out and took a physical on Saturday morning.

The Ravens will certainly scan the open market for potential additions to enhance the roster that’s already been assembled. Beginning Sunday, they will also put together a 10-man practice squad with a number of Baltimore players who were cut over the weekend potentially returning to the organization.

Below is a look at the 53-man roster as it stood on Saturday evening with some early impressions:

QUARTERBACKS (2) — Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
Analysis: With Flacco practicing fully all summer, the Ravens will go with only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the seventh consecutive year. Journeyman Josh Johnson provided more competition for the backup job than anyone expected, but the distribution of playing time in the preseason never indicated that Mallett was in real danger of losing the No. 2 job.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (4) — Terrance West, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Kyle Juszczyk
Analysis: Whether the Ravens ultimately bring back Forsett or not, his release signals a changing of the guard as West is now in line to receive the bulk of the work to begin the season after a very strong summer. For now, the Ravens have only two healthy tailbacks as Dixon will need at least couple more weeks to recover from a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5) — Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore
Analysis: After so much discussion this summer about carrying six or seven receivers, the Ravens kept only five as preseason standout Jeremy Butler did not make the team and Campanaro and Chris Matthews were both placed on IR. On paper, this is one of the most talented receiver groups in franchise history, but health concerns with Smith and Perriman are legitimate until proven otherwise.

TIGHT ENDS (3) — Crockett Gillmore, Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams
Analysis: The season-ending injury suffered by veteran Benjamin Watson took some of the shine off this once-deep group, but Pitta and Williams did return to the practice field on Saturday. Suspended tight ends Darren Waller (four games) and Nick Boyle (10 games) are options later in the season, but it is unsettling that all three tight ends on the roster have had their share of injuries in recent years.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8) — Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, John Urschel, James Hurst, Ryan Jensen
Analysis: The biggest surprise in this group was the decision to retain Hurst after he struggled mightily in place of the injured Eugene Monroe last year and was driven back into the left knee of Flacco to cause the season-ending injury. The left guard spot remains under the microscope as Lewis and Urschel are the top candidates to start there following the offseason departure of Kelechi Osemele.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7) — Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Brent Urban, Willie Henry, Michael Pierce
Analysis: An undrafted rookie from Samford, Pierce earned a spot on the team with a strong training camp and a terrific preseason that culminated with a sack-strip and fumble recovery for a touchdown in New Orleans on Thursday night. Even after the season-ending injury to rookie third-rounder Bronson Kaufusi, the talent in this young group runs deep.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (6) — Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Albert McClellan, Za’Darius Smith, Matt Judon, Chris Carter
Analysis: The Ravens are counting heavily on Suggs and Dumervil to fight off Father Time, but the impressive preseason from Judon leads you to believe that he could be a real factor in the pass-rushing rotation as a rookie. Despite the overall depth, this group has some health concerns at the moment with Dumervil not 100 percent after offseason foot surgery and Smith out with an ankle injury.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (3) — C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Kamalei Correa
Analysis: As many predicted, the Ravens finally parted ways with failed 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown, who saw a total of just 10 defensive snaps after his rookie season. The small number of players at this position is deceiving as both McClellan and Carter have experience at inside linebacker and defensive back Anthony Levine practiced extensively as a hybrid linebacker this summer.

CORNERBACKS (7) — Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young, Will Davis, Maurice Canady, Sheldon Price
Analysis: The Ravens hope to have strength in numbers at this position, but Wright and Powers both struggled in the preseason and could be pushed by younger options as the season progresses. Price is the biggest surprise to make it among the youngsters, but the 6-foot-2 UCLA product practiced well in the spring and summer and has appealing size as an outside option.

SAFETIES (5) — Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Kendrick Lewis, Anthony Levine, Matt Elam
Analysis: Terrence Brooks didn’t have a stellar summer, but the 2014 third-round pick’s departure was surprising from a depth standpoint. With his return from knee surgery not believed to be close, Elam could still be placed on injured reserve with the thought of potentially designating him to return later in the season, but he needed to be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible for that possibility.

SPECIALISTS (3) — Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
Analysis: This will mark five straight years in which these three have been together, a rare example of long-term stability in the NFL. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg may rest easy with this trio, but the Ravens enter a season without a true return specialist for a second straight year, an obvious concern that’s prompted them to work out the 33-year-old Hester.

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Several notable players back at practice as Ravens prepare for final cuts

Posted on 03 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens counting down the final hours before trimming their roster to the league-mandated 53-man limit, they welcomed back several notable players to the practice field on Saturday morning.

Tight ends Dennis Pitta and Maxx Williams, nose tackle Brandon Williams, guard John Urschel, and safety Kendrick Lewis were all present and working after lengthy absences due to various injuries. Pitta hadn’t practiced since breaking a finger in a scuffle with rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa on Aug. 1.

“He looked fine today,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Certainly, he has to get his timing back and work the rust off, if you want to use that term, and get going. He’s back today, and he’ll be back all next week, and I expect him to be ready to go.”

Meanwhile, Brandon Williams had been sidelined since getting banged up in the second preseason game on Aug. 20. Urschel, Lewis, and Maxx Williams had been missing since suffering injuries in the Aug. 11 preseason opener.

The Ravens were again without outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot surgery), who also missed Tuesday’s practice and did not appear in the preseason. That looks to at least be a mild concern with the season opener only a week away and Dumervil not having logged much practice time this summer.

“It’s all in the doctors’ hands and Elvis’ hands,” Harbaugh said. “He came off the [physically unable to perform list], and he worked a couple of days. I really don’t have an answer for that. It just depends how it progresses and how it feels. When he’s cleared to practice fully, he will be out there.

“I support him practicing fully; it won’t be until he is ready.”

Other players missing from Saturday morning’s session included wide receivers Chris Matthews and Michael Campanaro, offensive linemen Ryan Jensen and De’Ondre Wesley, cornerbacks Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, and Carrington Byndom, linebackers Victor Ochi and Za’Darius Smith (ankle), defensive tackle Carl Davis (ankle), safety Matt Elam (knee), and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee).

After The Sun reported that defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore had been waived, the 2013 sixth-round pick was not on the practice field, but the Ravens hadn’t announced an official move. Offensive lineman Blaine Clausell was present and working despite his agent, Brett Tessler, announcing that he’d been waived by the organization.

The absences of “bubble players” such as Campanaro, Matthews, and Ochi were notable ahead of Saturday’s 4 p.m. roster deadline, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean they’ve been cut, either.

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Ravens “grateful” Dixon’s knee injury won’t sideline him for long

Posted on 29 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Running back Kenneth Dixon is expected to miss the start of the regular season, but the Ravens are relieved not to have lost the talented rookie for a longer period of time.

The fourth-round pick sustained a medial collateral ligament tear in his left knee when former Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata tackled him short of the goal line late in the second quarter of Saturday’s preseason game. The good news is that the injury did not require surgery and is expected to only cost Dixon about a month of action.

“It is going to be a loss for a little while,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “But I was grateful for the fact that it is not going to be more than a few weeks.”

Leading the Ravens with 107 rushing yards on 22 carries in the preseason, Dixon has turned more than a few heads despite beginning training camp behind Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, and Terrance West on the depth chart.

Though weighing only 212 pounds, Dixon has shown surprising physicality that’s impressed the coaching staff in addition to his quickness. Of course, the 22-year-old was a four-year starter at Louisiana Tech, making him more experienced that the typical rookie running back entering the NFL.

“A very mature player for his age — just a guy that always has a smile on his face,” Harbaugh said. “He always comes to work. He’s very eager to learn, and then he’s very elusive and very strong. I think he pushed the pile one time, along with some of his teammates, five or 10 yards. He’s a hard-running guy.I think he’s a guy that can create yards on his own. He also pass-protects, and he catches the ball. He’s got a chance to be really good.”

Dixon has shown plenty of promise, but this is the third injury for which he’s missed time since being drafted in April. A lingering hamstring issue kept him out for the start of spring workouts and a minor knee injury suffered on the first day of training camp sidelined him for about a week.

Faith in tight ends after losing Watson

Despite losing veteran and projected starter Benjamin Watson to a season-ending Achilles injury on Saturday night, Harbaugh is confident in his remaining tight ends.

Third-year tight end Crockett Gillmore is healthy again after missing the start of the summer with a hamstring injury and undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason. The Ravens are also expecting veteran Dennis Pitta (broken finger) and 2015 second-round pick Maxx Williams (undisclosed) to return to the practice field soon after lengthy absences in the month of August.

“Dennis has missed a lot of time, so we have to get him back out there,” Harbaugh said. “I do think he can practice and play with the time [before the season opener], but we have to get him out there. He was not out there today. Maxx Williams is going to be back out here practicing shortly. His issue, we had to rest it for a few weeks. He will be back out here practicing shortly after the New Orleans game.”

Harbaugh also said that second-year tight ends Darren Waller and Nick Boyle remain in the organization’s plans despite their pending suspensions to begin the regular season. Waller will miss the first four games while Boyle will serve a 10-game ban.

Perriman preview?

Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman only returned to practice on a limited basis last week, but Harbaugh hasn’t ruled out the possibility of the 2015 first-round pick receiving some live-game reps in the preseason finale, a game in which few starters play.

“If he can play, he will play,” Harbaugh said. “I do want to see him out there playing before he gets in a regular-season game. It would be something that we would want to see him do if we can. That will be up to the doctors.”

Perriman suffered a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in June after missing his entire rookie season with an injury to his right knee.

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Sizing up the 2016 Ravens roster before the third preseason game

Posted on 26 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the “dress rehearsal” of the preseason now upon us, it’s time for our newest look at the Ravens’ 53-man roster with the last projection taking place after the first preseason game.

My current look at the roster suggests 46 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the preseason roster lists 19 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying extensive talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of keeping a balanced number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers or safeties isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens will look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their respective offensive or defensive positions.

The Ravens must trim the roster from 90 players to 75 on Aug. 30 and will go down to the regular-season number of 53 on Sept. 3.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are part of the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 26.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco
BUBBLE: Ryan Mallett, Josh Johnson
LONG SHOT: Jerrod Johnson
Skinny: If the backup competition were based solely on summer performance, Josh Johnson would likely be in the lead despite Mallett’s skill set more closely resembling Flacco’s. Harbaugh said Mallett hasn’t yet locked up the job, but I’m still not convinced that his roster spot is in real jeopardy, either.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Stephen Houston
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Lorenzo Taliaferro
Skinny: Keeping four tailbacks is unusual, but Forsett’s experience is too valuable and the upside of the three young backs is too enticing to pass up. It remains to be seen how the carries will be distributed, but the rookie Dixon flashes the look of a potential home-run hitter out of the backfield.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro
BUBBLE: Jeremy Butler, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Chuck Jacobs, Dobson Collins, Darius White
Skinny: Trying to find roster room for Butler is likely one of Baltimore’s biggest headaches now, but what does the preseason standout offer that’s truly unique from the other six on the projected roster? Reynolds is improving, but it still looks like too tall of an order to keep him on the 53-man roster.

TIGHT ENDS (7)
LOCK: Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Daniel Brown
SUSPENDED: Nick Boyle, Darren Waller
Skinny: Health is a concern here as only the 35-year-old Watson has avoided missing extensive practice time this summer. Pitta is more of an unknown than you’d like, but Harbaugh did not indicate that his roster spot was in danger while bemoaning his long-term absence due to a broken finger.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (15)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Rick Wagner, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Alex Lewis
BUBBLE: Ryan Jensen, Vlad Ducasse, De’Ondre Wesley, James Hurst
LONG SHOT: Anthony Fabiano, Matt Skura, Jarell Broxton, Blaine Clausell, Stephane Nembot
Skinny: This eight-man group would leave the Ravens light at offensive tackle, but Lewis can play there and Yanda can certainly move out to right tackle in a game-day pinch. Wesley would appear to be a good candidate to land on the practice squad if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Brent Urban
BUBBLE: Willie Henry, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Michael Pierce
LONG SHOT: Trevon Coley
INJURED RESERVE: Bronson Kaufusi
Skinny: It’s been an underwhelming summer for Henry, but it’s difficult envisioning the Ravens cutting a fourth-round pick in his rookie season. Lewis-Moore has improved from last season, but keeping more than six defensive linemen is difficult with so many needs elsewhere.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Kamalei Correa
BUBBLE: Arthur Brown
LONG SHOT: Kavell Conner, Patrick Onwuasor
Skinny: Brown hasn’t done much to distinguish himself as worthy of making the team this summer, making it the potential end of the road for the disappointing 2013 second-round pick. The versatility of this overall linebacker group is a strength with a few players like Correa able to play inside or outside.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (9)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za’Darius Smith, Albert McClellan, Matt Judon
BUBBLE: Chris Carter
LONG SHOT: Victor Ochi, Brennen Beyer, Mario Ojemudia
Skinny: With McClellan and Orr now playing bigger defensive roles, Carter might be a good fit as a veteran easing some of their workload on special teams. Ochi is an intriguing prospect who has barely played in the preseason, making you think the Ravens are trying to sneak him onto the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young
BUBBLE: Will Davis, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady, Kyle Arrington
LONG SHOT: Julian Wilson, Carrington Byndom
Skinny: The Ravens would probably like to find room for Price or Canady, but they have safeties who can play the nickel and dime spots. Arrington’s extended absence due to a concussion has really hurt his chances of making the team after his salary was already cut this offseason.

SAFETIES (6)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Kendrick Lewis
LONG SHOT: None
INJURED RESERVE: Matt Elam
Skinny: Elam seems like a logical candidate to land on injured reserve where the Ravens could potentially activate him after Week 6 if there’s a need at safety. Coaches like Lewis, but he has missed a lot of time this summer, making you wonder if he’s losing his grip on a roster spot.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Wil Lutz
Skinny: There’s still nothing to see here with Lutz occasionally easing the workload of Tucker and Koch during practices.

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